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Land of the Free

Dawg's Blawg - Sun, 12/07/2014 - 14:49
No, not that barbarous fake one. This one. Ég get andað!... Dr.Dawg

Excuses, excuses

accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 12/07/2014 - 10:39
Shorter Leona Aglukkaq:
It's absolutely essential that we align our greenhouse gas emissions policies with the U.S. if that means delaying regulations which could limit pollution from the tar sands. Also, it's absolutely essential that we refuse to align our greenhouse gas emission policies with the U.S. if they're committing to targets which could limit pollution from the tar sands.

Sunday Afternoon Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 12/07/2014 - 10:32
Assorted content for your Sunday reading.

- Walden Bello discusses the need for our political system to include constant citizen engagement, not merely periodic elections to determine who will be responsible to implement the wishes of the elite:
Even more than dictatorships, Western-style democracies are, we are forced to conclude, the natural system of governance of neoliberal capitalism, for they promote rather than restrain the savage forces of capital accumulation that lead to ever greater levels of inequality and poverty. In fact, liberal democratic systems are ideal for the economic elites, for they are programmed with periodic electoral exercises that promote the illusion of equality, thus granting the system an aura of legitimacy.
To reverse the process requires not just an alternative economic program based on justice, equity, and ecological stability, but a new democratic system to replace the liberal democratic regime that has become so vulnerable to elite and foreign capture.

First of all, representative institutions must be balanced by the formation of institutions of direct democracy.

Second, civil society must organize itself politically to act as a counterpoint and check to the dominant state institutions.

Third, citizens must keep in readiness a parliament of the streets, or “people power,” that can be brought at critical points to bear on the decision-making process: a system, if you will, of parallel power. People power must be institutionalized for periodic intervention, not abandoned once the insurrection has banished the old regime.- As a prime example of the problems with the status quo, Eric Lipton exposes how U.S. Republican elected officials see their main job as repeating and amplifying the message of their oil-sector backers. Bronwen Tucker points out that the Harper Cons are likewise taking the side of the tar sands over people and the planet. And Dean Baker notes that the most recent set of international trade agreements goes far beyond even earlier versions in limiting health and environmental regulations.

- Meanwhile, Tyler Cowen offers some suggestions as to how technology could blunt the impacts of income inequality. But it's hard to see how those theoretical possibilities would accomplish much if not accompanied by a concerted effort to spread the benefit around - rather than merely being allowed to evolve in ways that favour the people in control of current capital and technology.

- Indeed, David Kynaston observes that a shift toward private education has only exacerbated inequality in the UK. And every bit of attention and funding directed toward corporatized education represents resources not put toward something more important - such as food for hungry children.

- And finally, the ILO reminds us that it's corporate decision-making rather than anything beyond employers' control that's led to the growing gap between the executive and shareholder classes and people working for a living.

Journalists First

Northern Reflections - Sun, 12/07/2014 - 07:52

Except for the occasional episode of The Nature of Things, I don't watch CBC Television. But I do listen to Radio 1. The Gomeshi Affair has revealed deep seated problems at CBC Radio. So I read Noah Richler's piece in today's Toronto Star with interest. Richler writes:
There are many bright lights at the CBC and some very accomplished journalists and perhaps even good managers, without question, but these are up against the obdurate culture of an institution under siege. Fighting to remain the same is not an option. Only radical change will save the place. Great swathes of CBC airtime are handed over to single people. You would think, listening to CBC Radio, that only Eleanor Wachtel had ever read a decent foreign novel; that Bob McDonald was our only adjudicator of science and that Peter Mansbridge is the only person who can read the news.

Similarly, Jian Ghomeshi was awarded every single trendy arts beat in the country ad nauseam. Did we really need the allegations of his beating women to discover that Rick Mercer could do the Scotiabank Giller job better? Will the latter now do that show forever?

The point is that there are huge numbers of qualified and entertaining Canadians ready to be discovered that the CBC is shutting out by its reliance on just a few people to do the work. Indeed, one of the pleasing effects of the vacant seat at Q is that — as is ordinary, for instance, at the BBC — the audience has been enjoying multiple hosts. It would be proper for listeners to be treated to more of this, but this too is unlikely as the CBC’s complacency in this regard is exacerbated by the tendency to chase the grail of high ratings that celebrity brings to it in its ailing state.
Unfortunately, CBC Radio has followed the American model. If Peter Jennings or Morley Safer could become stars south of the border, why not encourage that culture in Canadian broadcasting?  The powers that be concluded that we no longer needed any more gravel voiced Norman DePoes,  bespectacled Knowlton Nashes or non-photogenic Peter Gzowskis. Stars they weren't. But they were journalists first.

We would do well to return to the maxim Journalists First.

10 reasons you should participate in write for rights on wednesday, december 10

we move to canada - Sun, 12/07/2014 - 06:00
This Wednesday, December 10, is Human Rights Day. The date was chosen to commemorate the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948, the first document of its kind.

Every year on December 10, Amnesty International holds a global letter-writing event: Write For Rights (in Canada). Thousands of people around the world write letters calling for action for victims of human rights abuses, and offering comfort and support to political prisoners.

Here are 10 reasons you should participate in Write For Rights 2014.

1. It's easy. Amnesty makes it really easy to participate. Read, type, send.

2. You can do do it from any computer. No meetings to attend, no schedule to keep. Just more of something you do all the time anyway: typing.

3. It's free. No need to donate money. The most this will cost you is postage.

4. You'll feel good about yourself. Enjoy that warm buzz you get from voluntarily helping other people. There's nothing quite like it.

5. You can choose how much to participate. Write one letter, write two letters, write three. Spend 10 minutes writing or spend an hour.

6. You can choose what to focus on. Write about an issue in your own country. Write about an issue in your country of origin. Write for children, or for women, or for LGBT people, or for workers, or for environmental activists, or for another issue that you care about.

7. You're busting stereotypes. We supposedly live in a selfish age where all we care about is I, me, mine. Challenge yourself to say it ain't so.

8. It works globally. Every fight against injustice begins with someone shining a light in a dark place. Be that light.

9. It works locally. When political prisoners are released, they often attest to the difference letters from strangers made in their lives: that knowing they were not forgotten helped them survive.

10. You enjoy your own human rights every day. Why not use them to help someone who can't?

Write for Rights in Canada

Write for Rights in the US

Write for Rights internationally.

On Facebook

Twitter: #Write4Rights

Is It Time To Shame Those Who Still Support the Cons?

Montreal Simon - Sun, 12/07/2014 - 02:32

It was a magnificent and moving sight, fourteen beams of light reaching into the sky from the top of Montreal's Mount Royal.

One for each of the women murdered at the École Polytechnique, in the shadow of the mountain where I want my ashes scattered, twenty-five years ago.

But as beautiful as that sight was, for some reason it also reminded me that I live in the darkness of Harperland.

Where the points of light are few and far between, and all is ugly and CRAZY.
Read more »

In the Time of the "Official Truth" There's No Room for Journalism

The Disaffected Lib - Sat, 12/06/2014 - 10:01

John Pilger looks at what the Western media offer up as journalism and sees instead propaganda.  He sees the essence of the mainstream media as not information but power.

The world is facing the prospect of major war, perhaps nuclear war – with the United States clearly determined to isolate and provoke Russia and eventually China. This truth is being turned upside down and inside out by journalists, including those who promoted the lies that led to the bloodbath in Iraq in 2003.The times we live in are so dangerous and so distorted in public perception that propaganda is no longer, as Edward Bernays called it, an “invisible government”. It is the government. It rules directly without fear of contradiction and its principal aim is the conquest of us: our sense of the world, our ability to separate truth from lies.The information age is actually a media age. We have war by media; censorship by media; demonology by media; retribution by media; diversion by media – a surreal assembly line of obedient clichés and false assumptions.Pilger observes that the collapse of mainstream media, their all too willing surrender to messaging and propaganda in lieu of journalism, has proven to be an extremely deadly affliction.  The American and British pogrom on Iraq is an example....had journalists done their job, had they questioned and investigated the propaganda instead of amplifying it, hundreds of thousands of men, women and children might be alive today; and millions might not have fled their homes; the sectarian war between Sunni and Shia might not have ignited, and the infamous Islamic State might not now exist.Even now, despite the millions who took to the streets in protest, most of the public in western countries have little idea of the sheer scale of the crime committed by our governments in Iraq. Even fewer are aware that, in the 12 years before the invasion, the US and British governments set in motion a holocaust by denying the civilian population of Iraq a means to live.Those are the words of the senior British official responsible for sanctions on Iraq in the 1990s – a medieval siege that caused the deaths of half a million children under the age of five, reported Unicef.  The official’s name is Carne Ross. In the Foreign Office in London, he was known as “Mr. Iraq”.  Today, he is a truth-teller of how governments deceive and how journalists willingly spread the deception.  “We would feed journalists factoids of sanitised intelligence,” he told me, “or we’d freeze them out.”The handmaidens of suppression have done their job well.  Consider the effects.  In 2013, a ComRes poll found that a majority of the British public believed the casualty toll in Iraq was less than 10,000 – a tiny fraction of the truth. A trail of blood that goes from Iraq to London has been scrubbed almost cleanThe most effective propaganda is found not in the Sun or on Fox News – but beneath a liberal halo. When the New York Times published claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, its fake evidence was believed, because it wasn’t Fox News; it was the New York Times.The same is true of the Washington Post and the Guardian, both of which have played a critical role in conditioning their readers to accept a new and dangerous cold war. All three liberal newspapers have misrepresented events in Ukraine as a malign act by Russia – when, in fact, the fascist led coup in Ukraine was the work of the United States, aided by Germany and Nato.
Pilger questions whether we're being conditioned for war.  He's not alone.  In August, the leading German financial newspaper, Handelsblatt, warned that we're being "mentally mobilized" to accept war with Russia. “If you wonder,” wrote Robert Parry, “how the world could stumble into world war three – much as it did into world war one a century ago – all you need to do is look at the madness that has enveloped virtually the entire US political/media structure over Ukraine where a false narrative of white hats versus black hats took hold early and has proved impervious to facts or reason.”Parry, the journalist who revealed Iran-Contra, is one of the few who investigate the central role of the media in this “game of chicken”, as the Russian foreign minister called it. But is it a game? As I write this, the US Congress votes on Resolution 758 which, in a nutshell, says: “Let’s get ready for war with Russia.”Pilger concludes by apparently calling on journalists to heal themselves, something that strikes me as unimaginable until we first break up the corporate media cartel.“When the truth is replaced by silence,” said the Soviet dissident Yevtushenko, “the silence is a lie.”It’s this kind of silence we journalists need to break. We need to look in the mirror.  We need to call to account an unaccountable media that services power and a psychosis that threatens world war.In the 18th century, Edmund Burke described the role of the press as a Fourth Estate checking the powerful. Was that ever true? It certainly doesn’t wash any more. What we need is a Fifth Estate: a journalism that monitors, deconstructs and counters propaganda and teaches the young to be agents of people, not power. We need what the Russians called perestroika – an insurrection of subjugated knowledge. I would call it real journalism.It’s 100 years since the First World War. Reporters then were rewarded and knighted for their silence and collusion. At the height of the slaughter, British prime minister David Lloyd George confided in C.P. Scott, editor of the Manchester Guardian: “If people really knew [the truth] the war would be stopped tomorrow, but of course they don’t know and can’t know.”It’s time they knew.
Canada is in no better position that Britain or the United States.  If anything, our corporate media cartel - Sun Media, PostMedia, Bell, CTV, the G&M - don't even make much of an effort any more to conceal their conservative/corporate alignment.  Their cartel has to be broken up if we're to preserve a democratic Canada for future generations.As I wrote in July, 2013:Concentrated, corporate owned media and politics are mutually corrupting because each can, and invariably will, do the other invaluable favours all at the public expense.  For both of them, it's "win-win."  For you, it's all "lose-lose."You can't have a corporatist state and a democratic state at the same time.  You can't end corporatism when you have a corporatist government operating under the cover of a corporate media cartel.  Can't be done.Democracy cannot exist without an informed electorate.  To achieve an informed electorate the voting public must have ready access to the broadest range of views and voices: left, right, and everything in between.  The public needs information to empower them to make informed decisions.The corporate media cartel in service to a corporatist state doesn't sell information.  It peddles messaging, slanted information, groomed information, that is of itself a form of misinformation. 
In December, 2012, I wrote a piece, "Freedom of the Press, Freedom From the Press," that reflected on Canada's media cartel and how it flogs messaging that is tantamount to propaganda, undermining Canadian democracy.Here's a link to the item dealing with the Handlesblatt article, "Warning from Germany - We Are 'Mentally Mobilizing' for War."In October, 2013, I posted an item about the role of Canada's media in misleading Canadians, "Our Democratic Deficit Begins in Canadian Newsrooms."If you don't hear about this ongoing and dire threat to Canadian democracy from Justin Trudeau or Tom Mulcair, it's no oversight.  They're fine with the status quo.  They're fine with the corporate media cartel.  They either see no purpose in dismantling the corporate media cartel or they consider it in their personal best interests to allow our media predators to gorge themselves on the Canadian public undisturbed. 

Saturday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sat, 12/06/2014 - 09:14
This and that for your weekend reading.

- Reviewing Darrell West's Billionaires, Michael Lewis discusses how extreme wealth doesn't make anybody better off - including the people fighting for position at the top of the wealth spectrum:
A team of researchers at the New York State Psychiatric Institute surveyed 43,000 Americans and found that, by some wide margin, the rich were more likely to shoplift than the poor. Another study, by a coalition of nonprofits called the Independent Sector, revealed that people with incomes below twenty-five grand give away, on average, 4.2 percent of their income, while those earning more than 150 grand a year give away only 2.7 percent. A UCLA neuroscientist named Keely Muscatell has published an interesting paper showing that wealth quiets the nerves in the brain associated with empathy: if you show rich people and poor people pictures of kids with cancer, the poor people’s brains exhibit a great deal more activity than the rich people’s. (An inability to empathize with others has just got to be a disadvantage for any rich person seeking political office, at least outside of New York City.) “As you move up the class ladder,” says Keltner, “you are more likely to violate the rules of the road, to lie, to cheat, to take candy from kids, to shoplift, and to be tightfisted in giving to others. Straightforward economic analyses have trouble making sense of this pattern of results.”

There is an obvious chicken-and-egg question to ask here. But it is beginning to seem that the problem isn’t that the kind of people who wind up on the pleasant side of inequality suffer from some moral disability that gives them a market edge. The problem is caused by the inequality itself: it triggers a chemical reaction in the privileged few. It tilts their brains. It causes them to be less likely to care about anyone but themselves or to experience the moral sentiments needed to be a decent citizen. 
Or even a happy one. Not long ago an enterprising professor at the Harvard Business School named Mike Norton persuaded a big investment bank to let him survey the bank’s rich clients. (The poor people in the survey were millionaires.) In a forthcoming paper, Norton and his colleagues track the effects of getting money on the happiness of people who already have a lot of it: a rich person getting even richer experiences zero gain in happiness. That’s not all that surprising; it’s what Norton asked next that led to an interesting insight. He asked these rich people how happy they were at any given moment. Then he asked them how much money they would need to be even happier. “All of them said they needed two to three times more than they had to feel happier,” says Norton. The evidence overwhelmingly suggests that money, above a certain modest sum, does not have the power to buy happiness, and yet even very rich people continue to believe that it does: the happiness will come from the money they don’t yet have. To the general rule that money, above a certain low level, cannot buy happiness there is one exception. “While spending money upon oneself does nothing for one’s happiness,” says Norton, “spending it on others increases happiness.” - Lucinda Platt discusses the devastating effects of poverty on childhood development - while noting that more than half of children experience poverty at some point.

- CBC News reports on the continued growth of food bank use in Saskatchewan - a fact which seems to be entirely in keeping with Brad Wall's plans. And Will Chabun reports on a new CCPA/Parkland Institute study showing that the Sask Party's determination to privatize liquor sales will make it far more difficult to fund adequate social programs or other public priorities in the future. 

- Meanwhile, thwap highlights how we face both constant demands to borrow for the sake of meeting consumer expectations, and severe punishments for giving in to that pressure.

- Kathleen Mogelgaard examines what's needed for a climate change summit to be successful. And the Cons' familiar distraction tactics (with the obvious goal of continuing to facilitate pollution from the tar sands) have absolutely no place in accomplishing anything useful - while their international lobbying to avoid having anybody else make up for the Cons' negligence may not be working out as planned.

- Finally, Ian Welsh writes that while it might seem obvious that police violence should be discouraged and punished, the complete lack of consequences for police officers killing civilians reflects an authoritarian culture working as intended rather than a failure of the system in its present form.

One May Smile And Be A Villain

Northern Reflections - Sat, 12/06/2014 - 07:16

With Industry Canada's approval of Burger King's takeover of Tim Horton's, Oakville officially became the home of the Whopper. But Gerald Caplan writes that the real home of the Whopper is Ottawa. And, while several past governments might lay claim to telling  the biggest whoppers, the Harper government is certainly in the running for the gold medal:

But last week the government finally won the gold medal for perhaps the most despicable act ever of deceit and outright lying. And wouldn’t you just know, given the Harper record, that it was Canada’s veterans they lied to.

Stephen Harper and his government have seemed inexplicably indifferent to vets returning from war zones with post-traumatic stress disorder. According to the latest Defence Department stats, 160 military personnel committed suicide between 2004 and March 31, 2014. That compares to the 138 Canadian soldiers killed in combat in Afghanistan between 2002 and 2014. It’s a stunning comparison, isn’t it? By any measure it’s a crisis of epidemic proportions, and yet the government refused to take it seriously. Rhetoric? Of course; a great deal. Money? Some. Yet no serious attempt to deal with the problem. It’s truly baffling.
So, two days before the auditor general lambasted the Harperites for the delays in getting services to the victims of PTSD, Julian Fantino announced that $200 million dollars were going to be spent on providing those services. However:

The $200-million money is not for the next six years at all. It’s for the next 50 years, as the government was soon forced to acknowledge, maybe $4-million a year. According to Scott Maxwell, executive director of the activist Wounded Warriors Canada, the 50-year figure “has never been mentioned in any briefing, in any press release or conference.” The government wilfully covered up the truth from beginning to end.
Othello got it right.  One may smile and smile and be a villain.

The Montreal Massacre and the Con War on Women

Montreal Simon - Sat, 12/06/2014 - 05:19

And now it has been twenty five years, since that that snowy day in Montreal, when a man with a gun stole the lives of so many young women.

And this year that sad anniversary has never seemed so poignant and painful, with all the stories in the news about the never-ending violence against women.

As if we had learned nothing, as if they had died for nothing.

As if we had forgotten that it was that same bestial, senseless, cowardly hatred that drove their killer to unleash his murderous violence upon them...
Read more »

Political speech : Support the troops

Creekside - Sat, 12/06/2014 - 03:03

In May 2012, David Pugliese wrote about how senior managers at Veterans Affairs Canada received almost $700,000 in bonuses and extra pay in 2011 "even as their department came under fire for failing to help former soldiers." A Con official advised him the bonuses are set by the Treasury Board and senior management at Veterans Affairs. Pugliese : 
"Next year's payouts could be even larger, since the government is tying those to the savings managers can find in their departments. An estimated 800 jobs will be lost at Veterans Affairs over the next three years."Chronicle Herald, yesterday : Veterans Affairs: Managers reaped rewards after cuts"Veterans Affairs Canada managers made hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses for cutting costs as the department shed hundreds of jobs.In 2011-12, the department paid $343,000 to 60 managers under what appears to be a new program for “Savings/Spending Targets.Bonuses ranged from $2,376 up to $14,728, and averaged about $5,700 per person. The following year, $243,000 was paid out to 55 managers, an average of $4,400 each."
Chronicle Herald, Dec 4 : Harper dismisses massive job cuts at Veterans Affairs amid calls for Fantino’s removal 
"According to departmental performance reports filed with the Treasury Board, Veterans Affairs had the equivalent of 4,039 full-time employees in 2008-09. That number fell to 3,050 by 2013-14.More than half of those cuts came from a program called Health Care and Re-Establishment Benefits and Services.The program is in charge of helping with the physical, mental and social well-being of veterans and to “provide access to employment support, health benefits, home care and long-term care.”Last year, there were 1,536 employees in that division, down 619, or almost 30 per cent, from 2009."
Vancouver Sun, May 2014 : Tories spending $4M more on veterans ads to counter 'misinformation': Fantino"Veterans Affairs is spending an additional $4 million on advertising this year — including television spots throughout the NHL playoffs ... The TV ads emphasize efforts to move soldiers smoothly from military to civilian life...."
David Pugliese : Wounded vets asked to sign form saying they won’t criticize the military on social media"The Canadian Forces is requiring physically and mentally wounded soldiers to sign a form acknowledging they won’t criticize senior officers or discourage others in uniform with their comments on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.The form, given to military personnel who are transferred to the Joint Personnel Support Unit, was sent to the Citizen by military members upset with what they see as a threat to their right to speak out about the failure of the Department of National Defence and Canadian Forces to take care of the wounded."CBC, March 2014 : Veterans don't have social contract, Ottawa says in lawsuit response

This month - December - the government is again attempting to have the vets' case in the British Columbia Court Of Appeal dismissed on the grounds that they have no particular social contract or covenant with returning troops because the promise made by Tory PM Robert Borden in 1917 was just "political speech":"The defendant pleads that the statements made by Sir Robert Borden and the coalition government in 1917 were political speeches that reflected the policy positions of the government at the time and were never imended to create a contract or covenant."Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino's office released a statement Wednesday saying the government doesn't comment on issues that are before the court..

The Main Reason Stephen Harper Hates Kathleen Wynne So Much

Montreal Simon - Sat, 12/06/2014 - 01:21

I can only guess why Stephen Harper hates Kathleen Wynne with a passion that makes you want to pick up the phone, and call the police. 

Because I'm not a psychiatrist specializing in the treatment of clinical psychopaths, who can't feel the pain of others. Or be rehabilitated.

But I know do enough about him and his morally depraved Con cult to come up with a short list of possible reasons:
Read more »

Are there no workhouses?

Creekside - Fri, 12/05/2014 - 23:59
Some holiday cheer from the Canadian neo-liberal think tank, Frontier Centre for Public Policy :

 Transcript :
"Labour laws in Canada are supposed to protect workers from exploitation and ensure their safety. But they are not always helping teenagers who are entering the workforce for the first time. Most provinces require that anyone younger than 16 or 14 obtain a permit to work or have written permission from their parents. Children under 12 are almost never allowed to work unless they might be helping on a family farm.  Teens who do work face many restrictions, including how many hours and which hours they're allowed to work. Some of these rules seem rather unnecessary. In Alberta, 12 to 14 year olds are forbidden from working more than 2 hours on a schoolday. Two hour workshifts four days a week are more disruptive than 4 hour shifts two days a week.
Minimum wage laws also make it more difficult for young people with no experience to find their first job. In the UK there's a lower minimum wage for people between the ages of 18 and 20 and for those under 18.  Teenagers who live at home are often able to accept lower wages than adults.
It's time for governments to show more consideration for the needs of young people when developing labour policies."Yes, why aren't more 12 year olds working four days a week for less than minimum wage?

I first got interested in FCPP back in 2007 when the Cons tapped them for policy advice on electoral reform. This was amusing because FCPP didn't seem very keen on electoral reform, although they were pretty big on private health care, denying the existence of climate change, disbanding the Canadian Wheat Board, and promoting bulk exports of water to the US.
Harper liked them well enough to give a guest speech at one of their fundraisers in Winnipeg in 2009 . This was the same year FCPP and the Fraser Institute co-sponsored the first Canadian tour of Lord Christopher "Global Warming is a Hoax" Monkton 
Currently on their main page they are featuring one of their research fellows, Wendell Cox,  also a fellow at the Heritage Foundation and Heartland Institute, and author of The Wal-Mart Revolution: How Big-Box Stores Benefit Consumers, Workers, and the Economy.
These free marketeers are pretty ubiquitous in our media. From just the past few days :
CBC : 'Greenpeace dropout' Patrick Moore defends Kinder Morgan pipeline   Climate change denier and not founder of Greenpeace Patrick Moore is environment chair at FCPP
Financial Post : When emissions disappear, so do jobs by a senior FCPP research fellow
Global News is running a half-hour weekly podcast on Alberta politics with the VP of FCPP 

So, who are you getting your news from lately?.


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