Posts from our progressive community

Justin, Meet Edmund

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 06/13/2016 - 10:13

When I think of Israel's headlong plunge into fascism and our government's indifference (or worse) to it, I can't help but think of Edmund Burke's classic warning:

All that is needed for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
Only never let it be said that this prime minister is guilty of the sin of doing nothing. No, he and our government have joined the effort to censure those who campaign to boycott, divest and sanction Israel for its half-century long oppression of the Palestinians and the theft of the Palestinian homeland.
Jeez, remember how we got our knickers in a bunch over the supposed remarks by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that called for Israel to be wiped off the map? Oh my lord, there were going to be sanctions. Israel demanded the US attack Iran. What a mess. (BTW, read this account from the Washington Post that clarifies what was actually said and what was meant - it's not what you've been led to believe)
Anyway, we got up on our hind legs in righteous indignation. We were not going to sit by and tolerate these threats (or supposed threats). Iran was going to be taught a lesson.
Of course the supposed threat was laughable. Iran has no nuclear weapons although they were interested in perhaps building a few. That seems to have been part of the Sunni v. Shiite tensions. Israel, by contrast, has dozens of nukes and the ability to deliver them, pretty much at will. Hard to imagine the Ayatollahs wanted to see Iran turned to glass.
So the Iranian threat was empty rhetoric at worst. Ahmadinejad (no longer in power) was no Avigdor Lieberman, currently the second most powerful man in the Israeli government.  That rabid rightwinger did threaten another country, Egypt, with genocide. He proposed destroying Egypt's Aswan dam and sweeping the Egyptians into the sea. He's now the defence minister which also gives him responsibility for keeping Israel's boot on the Palestinian's neck. Bet you he hates that job.
Then there's Netanyahu's agriculture minister, Uri Ariel, who thinks it would be agriculturally wise to for Israel to now annex Area C of the Palestinian West Bank. Area C may not sound like much but it's 60 per cent of the West Bank.
The proposal triggered a storm of protest (none from Ottawa, of course) when word got out that Ariel was calling for the expulsion of 300,000 Palestinians. Nothing of the sort, he says.
On Thursday, a spokesperson for Ariel clarified that the minister was misquoted on the issue of Palestinians in Area C: Rather than saying that he wants to remove a few thousand Arabs from Area C, he said that only a few thousand Arabs live there, and their numbers are not high enough to prevent an Israeli annexation of the area.

We have to aspire to the annexation of Area C. These are areas where there are no Arabs at all, except a few thousand who don’t constitute a significant numerical factor,” Ariel said.

Ariel also said the Israeli right is unconcerned over recent peace overtures by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu since they will eventually come to nothing. Nonetheless, Ariel, who opposes Palestinian statehood, carped that by invoking a desire for a two-state solution, Netanyahu is fueling the notion held by many Israelis that the creation of a Palestinian state is inevitable.

Gee, that sounds like ethnic cleansing. Good men nothing.
Of course those numerically irrelevant Palestinians have it easy compared to their brethren in the prison camp known as Gaza. They've got an epidemic of skin problems caused by drinking their own contaminated water. Here's an updated account on the state of suffering of these besieged Palestinians.
The 1.8 million Gazans are the victims of the Israeli strategy of Dahiyeh, the calculated destruction, in flagrant violation of the laws of war and human rights, of essential civilian infrastructure - water, sewer and electrical utilities, hospitals, schools and such. The Israelis perfected the technique in the Beirut suburb from which it gets its name and they practiced it on Gaza three times. (It's also the template our other ally, the Saudis, are using against the Houthi civilians in Yemen).
Good men nothing.
The Trudeau government would rather censure the B/D/S movement than do anything about the evolution of this fascist state of Israel. Our government is onside with this. We just can't pretend any more. We can't look the other way forever. Netanyahu promised in the elections in March last year that there'll never be a Palestinian state while he's prime minister.  There's one thing, maybe the only thing, on which Netanyahu's words have to be taken at face value.
What we're witnessing is incremental ethnic cleansing. When Gaza becomes completely uninhabitable the population will either have to die or be relocated, perhaps to Jordan. As Israel continues to swallow up the West Bank there'll be no viable homeland there for Palestinians either.
With governments such as that we have now and the one we just sent packing, we, all of us, are complicit in this. 
I was mistaken about Edmund Burke. He was talking about evil triumphing when "good" men do nothing. We're running short of good men these days.

Unfiltered Hatred

Politics and its Discontents - Mon, 06/13/2016 - 09:42
I don't feel completely right posting this video in which a hatred-spewing 'Christian' pastor, Stephen L. Anderson of the Faithful Word Baptist Church, offers his evaluation of the Orlando massacre. However, we cannot turn away from such evil ranters; their malignity only grows if left unchallenged and not held to account.

I will warn you, though. It is not easy listening to such obscenity:

Recommend this Post

happy birthday to me

we move to canada - Mon, 06/13/2016 - 09:37
Apparently I have been alive on this planet for 55 years. That seems completely impossible. Yet there it is.

As always on my birthday, I feel incredibly fortunate to be alive and living such a good life. Thanks for still reading my (now occasional) blather.

Monday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Mon, 06/13/2016 - 09:24
Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Cynthia Kaufman discusses Moses Naim's theory that while a transnational ruling class has managed to exercise almost total control over the functions of government, it's set to lose power over the public at large. And 63Mag interviews Jennifer Hollett about the future of progressive activism and organizing in Canada.

- Sophia Harris reports on yet another round of fee increases from Canadian banks which will do little other than goose their already-massive profits. And Kelly Crowe highlights the pharmaceutical industry's track record of secrecy and falsified test results.

- Jim Bronskill writes that the Canada Border Services Agency's "Border Security" show has at long last been cancelled due to its blatant and inexplicable infringement on privacy rights.

- Tom Parkin calls for the Libs to get moving on ending the Charter abuses imposed under C-51. And Vincent Gogolek worries that Justin Trudeau's promises about improved transparency and access to information are about to be replaced by even more means of suppressing information.

- Finally, Bill Graveland reports on Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond's observation that child protective services need to be able to track at-risk children across provincial borders.

False Hope and the Great Illusion - Life in the Ghetto of Neoliberalism's Predator State

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 06/13/2016 - 08:58

Chris Hedges figures we're fattened lambs being prepped for slaughter by the agents of corporatism, those we ourselves put in office.  He writes, of course, of America. Canadians, naturally, don't have a care in the world on this stuff. Don't we?

The aims of the corporate state are, given the looming collapse of the ecosystem, as deadly, maybe more so, as the acts of mass genocide carried out by the Nazis and Stalin’s Soviet Union.

The reach and effectiveness of corporate propaganda dwarfs even the huge effort undertaken by Adolf Hitler and Stalin. The layers of deception are sophisticated and effective. News is state propaganda. Elaborate spectacles and forms of entertainment, all of which ignore reality or pretend the fiction of liberty and progress is real, distract the masses.

Education is indoctrination. Ersatz intellectuals, along with technocrats and specialists, who are obedient to neoliberal and imperial state doctrine, use their academic credentials and erudition to deceive the public.

The promises made by the corporate state and its political leaders—we will restore your jobs, we will protect your privacy and civil liberties, we will rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, we will save the environment, we will prevent you from being exploited by banks and predatory corporations, we will make you safe, we will provide a future for your children—are the opposite of reality.

The loss of privacy, the constant monitoring of the citizenry, the use of militarized police to carry out indiscriminate acts of lethal violence—a daily reality in marginal communities—and the relentless drive to plunge as much as two-thirds of the country into poverty to enrich a tiny corporate elite, along with the psychosis of permanent war, presage a dystopia that will be as severe as the totalitarian systems that sent tens of millions to their deaths during the reigns of fascism and communism.
Thank Freya that's only America. But, wait, is it really? Sure our cousins to the south are going through a rough patch. Having to choose between Drumpf and Hillary isn't pleasant. Talk about an election where everybody is holding their noses to vote. Who will it be - Bad or Worse?
Besides, it's America. They're flamboyant, always doing everything to extremes. It's easier to see the rot that way. You've got to dig around a little more to see it in Canada. It's still there but it's understated, seemingly gentler, less offensive.
Some of the stuff he chronicles is found here. Manufactured news spun and flavoured and dished up by our corporate media cartel. We've sure got that. Monitoring of the citizenry - I haven't heard Justin say he's dismantling the pipeline secret police his predecessor set up. Have you? CSIS is still in the domestic surveillance business, right? If you haven't heard anything to the contrary, it is.
Inequality - of wealth, income and opportunity - that's still going on. That's a self-perpetuating problem if left unattended. Neoliberalism? Yes, it's alive and well in the True North. 
Then there's the kicker, what Hedges calls "the looming collapse of the ecosystem." It's happening even if you didn't notice it on your commute to work this morning. This CO2 chart from NASA tells you everything you never wanted to know. Since 1950 we have been in a man-made environment unlike anything known for the last 400,000 years.  All my life and, I'll bet, all yours too has been in that unprecedented territory.

False hope and great illusion - is that all that's keeping us going? Is that what's propping up the state? Given the way our civilization is responding to this looming ecological collapse what else could there be? It's a house of cards.
Hedges argues that our only hope now is to take our fate into our own hands. New political movements, civil disobedience and more.
It is time to step outside of the establishment. This means organizing groups, including political parties, that are independent of the corporate political machines that control the Republicans and Democrats.

It means carrying out acts of sustained civil disobedience. It means disruption.

Many who work within ruling class structures understand the corruption and dishonesty of corporate power. We must appeal to their conscience. We must disseminate the truth.

We have little time left. Climate change, even if we halt all carbon emissions today, will still bring rising temperatures, havoc, instability and systems collapse to much of the planet.

Let us hope we never have to make the stark choice, as most of the [Warsaw] ghetto fighters did, about how we will die. If we fail to act, however, this choice will one day define our future, as it defined theirs.


Politics and its Discontents - Mon, 06/13/2016 - 06:26

If there is any good to come from this terrible massacre, let it be the realization that the things that may set us apart are small indeed compared to the bonds that unite us.Recommend this Post

It's Later Than We Think

Northern Reflections - Mon, 06/13/2016 - 04:51

The real battle in the United States won't be between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Chris Hedges writes that the real battle is between corporate power and ordinary citizens. And, if ordinary citizens are to win the battle, they must understand their opposition:

The reach and effectiveness of corporate propaganda dwarfs even the huge effort undertaken by Adolf Hitler and Stalin. The layers of deception are sophisticated and effective. News is state propaganda. Elaborate spectacles and forms of entertainment, all of which ignore reality or pretend the fiction of liberty and progress is real, distract the masses.

Education is indoctrination. Ersatz intellectuals, along with technocrats and specialists, who are obedient to neoliberal and imperial state doctrine, use their academic credentials and erudition to deceive the public.

The promises made by the corporate state and its political leaders—we will restore your jobs, we will protect your privacy and civil liberties, we will rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, we will save the environment, we will prevent you from being exploited by banks and predatory corporations, we will make you safe, we will provide a future for your children—are the opposite of reality.
The Citizens United  decision has allowed the corporate elite to establish a huge propaganda machine:

The corporate state, operating a system Sheldon Wolin referred to as “inverted totalitarianism,” invests tremendous sums—$5 billion in this presidential election alone—to ensure that we do not see its intentions or our ultimate predicament.

These systems of propaganda play on our emotions and desires. They make us confuse how we are made to feel with knowledge. They get us to identify with the manufactured personality of a political candidate. Millions wept at the death of Josef Stalin, including many who had been imprisoned in his gulags. There is a powerful yearning to believe in the paternal nature of despotic power.
But, if the Trump and Sanders campaigns prove anything, it's that ordinary citizens are beginning to wake up to the fact that they've been played for chumps. There is some hope. But time is short:

But we still have options. Many who work within ruling class structures understand the corruption and dishonesty of corporate power. We must appeal to their conscience. We must disseminate the truth.

Climate change, even if we halt all carbon emissions today, will still bring rising temperatures, havoc, instability and systems collapse to much of the planet.
It's later than we think.

The Orlando Massacre and the Hatred that Kills

Montreal Simon - Sun, 06/12/2016 - 17:51

I am sure that by now most of you have heard the horrible news. 

A gunman entered a gay nightclub in Orlando, and opened fire on the innocent.

So even though they are a relatively small minority, LGBT people are now the victims of the worst mass murder in American history.

And while I'm still so stunned by that act of senseless, brutish violence,  and so angry, I don't really feel like writing anything.

I feel I have no choice but to say this.
Read more »

Standing with Pride

Fat and Not Afraid - Sun, 06/12/2016 - 16:00

Sunday never seems to be a good news day lately; too many shitty things happening overnight at clubs. I went to work today and kept an eye on the news feeds about the Orlando, Florida gay nightclub massacre and was overwhelmed with how supportive so much of what I saw was. Still, it's not enough. I saw a lot of tweets today that hit home, hard; the gay agenda is still just to survive. If after the Sandy Hook elementary school shootings America couldn't change how it dealt with guns and gun violence, there's no hope. The only explanation for what happened today was not enough thoughts and prayers after the LAST mass shooting. People in power who speak against the LGBTQ community and also promote the 2nd Amendment are a HUGE part of the problem. Religious extremism is too, from all the big Abrahamic faiths. And on and on.

It's Pride month around the world right now and even the Sault and Subury are having events, though Sud's isn't until July for some weird reason. Across vast nations thousand and thousands of people are marching, dancing and singing to show the world that love is love, you can't hate someone for their own good, can't kill us all. Gay pride started as a protest against lives lost and injured in the Stonewall Riots. It's morphed and evolved over the years into flashy pageantry and a place of politicians to score points with The Gays, but at it's core it's about visibility. We're here! We're Queer! Etc. 

After today's events, with 50+ gay folk gunned down in cold blood at nightclub by someone asshole with an assault rifle, I feel the only thing I can do is take that last little step out of the closet. For most of you this will be no surprise at all; I've been open about my bisexuality with people outside family for a while. I've known I've like both women and men for a long, long time. My first real girl crush was in highschool (of course!) but I've never been able to have a Real Relationship (TM). I settled down with Ryan pretty quickly but that doesn't mean women haven't continued to spark interest over the years. It doesn't mean that I don't care about the LGBTQ community where I live, and abroad. It does mean that I have a ton of privilege that comes from being a bisexual woman who married a man. It means that it's been fairly easy for me to pass as straight, to just coast along and not worry too much about certain things. 

Well, enough of that. Visibility honours the past and preserves the future. It's a step I can take, sure footed and thankfully safe. I'm old enough now I don't have to fear backlash, and it's just time. I don't need to pick a team and being bisexual doesn't make me a cheater or insatiable (in fact my libido runs towards the other end). Next month when Sudbury has their pride parade I'm going to be there as a visible member of the bi community. Enough with the jokes and erasure. Enough with closets. Enough with the tears and the blood and suffering. Enough. 

Our Progress

Slap Upside The Head - Sun, 06/12/2016 - 15:09
The LGBT community is a community of fighters. We may never make sense of the tragedy in Orlando, but look at the reaction; look at the outpouring of love, compassion, and support. Compare it to the widespread indifference after the 1973 UpStairs Lounge attack, which claimed 32 lives. That’s our progress. And that’s what we […]

Could This Be Our Biggest Blunder on Climate Change?

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 06/12/2016 - 15:08

In the early years of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC, we were introduced to what was presented as a long-distance, multi-generational phenomenon. We were told if we didn't change our ways things would be pretty rough for those who would follow us two or three generations down the road.

Take Arctic sea ice, for example. The IPCC warned us, not that long ago, that if we continued with our usual fossil energy pattern the Arctic could be "ice free" by 2100. To forestall that we were told we needed to sharply cut our carbon emissions and rapidly transition to a clean energy economy.

2100, they might as well have said 4100. A number of studies have shown that it's human nature to see numbers as distant as 2100 as almost irrelevant. People will sacrifice if necessary for their children's survival. They might even entertain some sacrifice if they perceive a realistic prospect of harming their grandchildren. But 2100, 84 years from now? Who cares? They can't connect themselves to that. It's too distant. Why should they sacrifice now for something that might, might benefit people they can't even envision that far down the road?

You know what does work, what does motivate people? You may see it soon enough. What works is when people see what's barreling down on them - here, now, or in the next ten to twenty years. That gets their attention.

Florida. When it comes to climate change many Floridians have been dead from the neck up until very recently. Three words - sea level rise - and the switch was flipped. The governor may still be brain dead but people with those lovely waterfront homes and condos woke up from their collective coma. They began to understand that the seas were going to rise and this was not a good thing when you own low-lying waterfront property. They began to understand the climate change Trifecta - sea level rise, high tides and storm surges. People began to learn what that holds in store even for their utilities - electricity, fresh water and that all important one, sewage.

Let's go back to the Arctic and that sea ice business. 2100 was the date until just a couple of years ago when the US Navy said its people figured the Arctic would be ice free for navigation by 2020, perhaps even as early as 2016. Guess what? It's going to be ice free for navigation this year and, if not, next year for certain. What ever happened to 2100? In 2010 they were telling us 2100. They were only out by 84 years. How in hell did that happen? What else did they get wrong? Plenty, it seems.

Back in 2010 we talked a lot about "tipping points." The idea was that we had to keep man made warming below 2 degrees Celsius if we wanted to avoid triggering these tipping points that would launch us into runaway global warming. These tipping points were triggers that would activate natural mechanisms that would release masses of greenhouse gases far in excess of anything man ever emitted.

That magical 2C target? Well that was a political number ginned up by - you guessed it - the same people who said the Arctic would be ice free by 2100.

At the Paris climate summit last December, even our politicians could no longer put up with that 2C nonsense. So they came up with a new nonsensical figure, 1.5C. That was the new, "never exceed" number to avoid catastrophic global warming.

The scientific community was quick to point out that, with the existing atmospheric loading of persistent greenhouse gases, we've already locked in 1.5C of warming. In a combination of sarcasm and anger they pointed out that it was a great target but it meant decarbonizing our economy and our societies now, immediately.  In other words, that horse has left the barn. Our enviromin, Ms. McKenna can say she's going to close that barn door but she's just blowing smoke up our backsides.

How could the IPCC get it so wrong? How could they warn of an ice free Arctic in 2100? How could they not see it coming by 2016? Here's an explanation. They were working on man made emissions. They didn't factor in tipping points and natural feedback loops. Humans may have pulled the pin but the grenade that's going off up at the pole, that's a natural feedback loop. That's nature's doing. It's part of runaway global warming. No point fretting about tipping points when the canoe has already turned turtle.

This is where the scientific debate on global warming comes in. Scientific debate? What debate? That's over, surely. 97% of climate scientists have reached a powerful consensus, right? Oh sure, they've agreed that 1) climate change is very, very real, and 2) that climate change (or the aspects of it that were in dispute) is man made. But that's not today's debate. The current debate is whether we can arrest global warming or have we already left it too late.

Climate science is tough, demanding work. It's not for the faint-hearted. There have already been casualties. Some just can't bear it and leave the field, taking a teaching post or doing industrial research. Some have succumbed to depression, something akin to climate PTSD. Some, like Guy McPherson, have thrown in the towel and now spend their time chronicling tipping points we've already passed. (A word of caution. The information at that link will be deeply unsettling. Proceed with care.) The rest, those who soldier on, figure out whether we can still arrest global warming and how we can prepare for what's coming. There aren't a lot of cheerleaders in that crowd.

Hydrologist Robert Ellison put the struggle this way:

"This is a cultural clash for the hearts and minds of people and at stake is the future of the planet." Can you imagine sitting down to that grim notion at your desk every morning?

We allowed climate science to be politicized, transformed into another front of our culture wars. What madness.  Along the way the narrative got hijacked, ginned up, corrupted.

What if we had said, forget about 2100, you'll be taking a hammering by 2020 or 2025? In other words, this isn't some abstract notion that may affect people that aren't even born yet. This is a reality and you will have to deal with it.

2020 that's the predicted arrival date of what's being called "climate departure." Think of it as the abrupt transition from "old climate" - the climate you've known all your life - into a "new climate." One of the hallmarks of this new climate is that every year of the new climate will be hotter than the hottest year ever experienced in the old climate. There won't be any cool years, only very hot years.

Climate departure is supposed to set in first in areas such as the Caribbean, Central America and in equatorial regions elsewhere. Insufferable heat will be one problem but heat brings any number of knock-on effects - severe weather events of increasing intensity, frequency and duration; disease and pest problems; disruption of freshwater resources, on and on and on. If you haven't been following conditions across Central America you should know that they're already on the ropes, have been for years. Here, here, and here.

Climate departure will spread, sort of like the "creeping damp," until it's everywhere by 2047. It's not to say that cold places will be as hot as more tropical regions. They won't. They'll just be consistently hotter than they ever were prior to the "new climate" era.

As the Telesur article points out, America will soon be facing a major climate migration problem on its southern borders as today's trickle of migrants, about 10,000 a year, becomes a tide of people in search not of better paid jobs but survival. In case you're wondering, America is not planning to throw open her doors to a horde of climate migrants. I don't want to get into how they're planning to stop them.

In other words, our great blunder, this illusion about distant events in 2100, long after we're safely gone, may be erased from our minds by climate events overtaking our serenity and ease over the next five to ten years. Will that be enough to shake us out of our complacency toward climate change? Will we become willing to accept what must be done to upgrade our own economy, our society, even our governance? I don't know but we won't have long to wait for the answer.

Sunday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 06/12/2016 - 10:36
This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Lisa Phillips writes about the desperate need for Canadian courts to ensure a fair tax system, rather than allowing technicalities and loopholes to win out over the principle that everybody should pay a fair share:
With some exceptions, Canadian judges have defaulted to a literal reading of tax law that is based on 19th-century English precedents. This approach stresses, above all, the right of property owners to rearrange their affairs to minimize tax.

In the United States, the courts took a different tack, ignoring transactions that were designed purely to escape tax. By the 1970s, the English judiciary was also moving in this direction. In a series of landmark cases, they recognized that taxpayer liberty must be balanced with the need to distribute the cost of government services fairly, according to Parliament’s intentions. Canadian courts have been slower to leave 19th-century England behind.
Frustrated by our judiciary’s passive approach, the government added a general anti-avoidance rule to the Income Tax Act in 1988. The rule gives judges explicit authority to override tax planning that abuses the law by defeating its purpose. Yet, in many cases, our courts are hesitant to follow through....Such rulings bear a share of the responsibility for eroding the integrity and fairness of Canada’s tax system. They signal that tax planners can be aggressive in pushing the limits of the law, creating a thriving market for new avoidance ideas. As soon as one implausible story succeeds, the race is on to manufacture more. Authorities struggle to keep up and understandably wonder whether it is wise to invest their limited resources to challenge these ventures in court. Rewriting the tax law to close technical loopholes must be done carefully. By the time it is done, tax planners have already moved on to the next gambit. It is easy to point the finger at lawyers and accountants as enablers. It is true that these professionals make a handsome living from helping their clients to reduce tax bills. Some will admit privately their discomfort with deals that seem to make a mockery of the progressive income tax. But, in most cases, they are only doing what the courts have licensed. Until the judiciary also sends a stronger message, we can expect a culture of aggressive planning to persist. - Allan Holmes observes that a lack of access to high-speed Internet service represents a serious barrier to full public and economic participation for people living in poverty. And Don Pittis contrasts the compelling arguments against exploitative payday lending with the implausible claim that anybody is better off living in inescapable debt, while Nicholas Kristof laments the blight of debtors' prisons for poor individuals who have no prospect of paying off gratuitous fines.

- Felicity Hannah points out that self-employment tends to lead to poverty. And Kathryn May reports on a PIPSC study showing the dangers of outsourcing federal government services to precarious workers.

- Juliane Kippenberg discusses the International Labour Organization's efforts to eliminate abuses in global supply chains - despite the greediest efforts of the corporations who profit from them.

- Finally, Alex Press notes that the Trans-Pacific Partnership stands to enrich biotech companies at the expense of both farmers' incomes and biodiversity. And Ben Parfitt looks at the Peace River - with its combination of landslides, toxic fracking chemicals and earthquake risks - as an alarming example of happens when multiple environmental factors are all subject to insufficient analysis and regulation.

Junuary in Ottawa

Dawg's Blawg - Sun, 06/12/2016 - 07:39
Our Simcoe Street party yesterday. We have one every year to celebrate the coming of summer. Meanwhile, in Nuuk…... Dr.Dawg

An Unsettling Experience

Politics and its Discontents - Sun, 06/12/2016 - 06:30
At a time when CEOs are comparing Donald Trump to fascists like Hitler and Mussolini, the experience I had yesterday must surely qualify as deeply disturbing.

I entered a local grocery store to meet my wife, who had been shopping there. She told me that she had seen a man wearing a Trump t-shirt like this one:

It was when she told me who was wearing the repugnant apparel that I reacted with both shock and outrage: a judge who sits the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Toni Skarica.

The former Ontario Progressive Conservative MPP and Crown prosecutor was appointed to the bench in 2012 by former Justice Minister Rob Nicholson.

Later on in the store, he passed by us, so I took the opportunity to opine in a rather loud voice: "What a disgrace. What kind of person wears a t-shirt like that?"

He ignored my comment, probably seeing it as a badge of honour for so bravely promoting his 'hero.' However, a young woman who heard me said, "It hurts my eyes to look at it."

And the point here is not that someone is promoting a racist and a demagogue - in our open society, that is permitted. What is not permitted, however, is for judges, who are required to be impartial and refrain from politics, among other restriction, to openly trumpet their support. Here is what the Canadian Superior Court Judges' Association has to say about judicial impartiality:
It is not enough for the judiciary, as an institution, to be independent - individual judges must be seen to be objective and impartial. In their personal lives, judges must avoid words, actions or situations that might make them appear to be biased or disrespectful of the laws they are sworn to uphold. They must treat lawyers, clients and witnesses with respect and must refrain from comments that suggest they have made up their minds in advance. Outside the courtroom, judges do not socialize or associate with lawyers or other persons connected with the cases they hear, or they may be accused of favouritism. Judges typically declare a conflict and withdraw from a case that involves relatives or friends. The same is true if the case involves a former client, a member of the judge's former law firm, law partners or a former business associate, at least until a year or two has passed since the judge was appointed and those ties were severed.

Judges often choose to avoid most forms of community involvement. A judge may undertake community or charitable work but cannot offer legal or investment advice. Judges cannot take part in politics, either as a party member, fundraiser or donor, and many choose to relinquish their right to vote. While judges have been more willing in recent years to make public speeches or agree to media interviews, they refrain from expressing opinions on legal issues that could come before them in a future case. Judges are forbidden from being paid to do anything other than their judicial duties, but can accept appointments to serve on royal commissions, inquiries and other official investigations.Although I am not sure whether that ban on political involvement includes advocating for politicians in other countries, I am certain of the following:

Justice Skarica, through his support of a candidate who has been shown to be a pathological liar, racist and demagogue, has raised very legitimate concerns about his judgement, his character, his values and, ultimately, his fitness to sit on the judiciary. I will be sending a letter of complaint about him tomorrow to the Ontario Court of JusticeRecommend this Post

Pay to Play in BC with farmland

Creekside - Sun, 06/12/2016 - 05:30
1. BC has no restrictions on foreign donors to political parties.
2. BC has no restrictions on foreign ownership of farmland.
3. Legislation protecting farmland is a provincial responsibility.

In 1974, BC passed Agricultural Land Reserve legislation to protect farmland but two years ago Christie Clark's government weakened its mandate :

National Farmers Union : Losing Our Grip 2015 Update : How Corporate Farmland Buy-up, Rising Farm Debt, and Agribusiness Financing of Inputs Threaten Family Farms

"On May 30 2014, the BC government weakened BC's farmland protection legislation by passing the Agricultural Land Commission Amendment Act. The new law creates two tiers with reduced protection for 90% of the Agricultural Land Reserve : the Interior (1,528,968 acres), Kootenay (392,557 acres), and the North (2,210,783 acres). These three regions of BC are the most affected by oil, gas, and coal industry development."
Foreign companies buying B.C. farmland to earn carbon credits ...
Last year it came to light that the UK chemical company Reckitt Benckiser bought 10,500 hectares of agricultural land in the ALR in Northern BC and planted it with over 7 million trees to offset the carbon emissions of its manufacturing operations. 

Western Investor May 31 2016 B.C BC's largest land agent really deals in water
From verdant farmland to oceanfront and lakefront escapes, world demand is turning to what the West Coast has in abundanceLandQuest Realty Corp. ... said the biggest international demand is for farmland ...  China-based buyers were the first foreign climate-driven investors to begin buying B.C. farmland, primarily for hay crops. “We market British Columbia to the world.” Despite the growing international interest, Osborne confirms that Canadians still make up about 85 per cent of LandQuest buyers, and this demand ranges from farms and ranches to urban retreats and trophy recreational titles.
BC Finance Minister Mike de Jong said he was not in favour of a tax on foreign investment, fearing it sends the wrong message to the Asia Pacific investors B.C. has been courting for years.
Under public pressure for the inclusion of real estate companies in her recent trade junket to Malaysia and Korea, unregulated foreign investment in urban housing, undisclosed $20K per donor private-access-to-Clark Liberal fundraising events, and her yearly $50K salary top up from the BC Liberal Party, Christie Clark's government began officially tracking foreign ownership of BC farmland for the first time yesterday.
h/t RossK@The Gazetteer for Western Investor link

Donald Trump: The Fraud and the Con Artist

Montreal Simon - Sun, 06/12/2016 - 04:38

Donald Trump likes to claim that he's a great businessman, who is going to protect American jobs, and that all his employees love him.

He even claims that the Mexican-Americans he is attacking in such a racist manner, will also love him.

Because he's also going to provide them with gazillions of jobs.

But as it turns out, the last thing anyone should do is work for Herr Hair Drumpf.
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Those Who Could Stop It Remain Silent

Northern Reflections - Sun, 06/12/2016 - 03:08

In Israel, the voices arrayed against the Netanyahu government are becoming louder. Murray Dobbins writes:

In the space of two days, new critics emerged from within the highest positions of Israel state power. Moshe Ya'alon -- until recently the Israeli Defence Minister -- and Major General Yair Golan, the Israeli army's deputy chief of staff, confirmed what many of Israel's most vociferous (and vilified) critics have been saying for years: that Israel is heading down the road of extremism and racism.

Golan issued a warning that linked attitudes and actions in pre-war Germany with trends in Israel today. ''It's scary to see horrifying developments that took place in Europe begin to unfold here,'' he said.

And political commentator Michael  Brizon has entered the fray:

Israeli political commentator Michael Brizon, who writes under the pseudonym B. Michael, concluded the failure of Western governments to criticize what is happening in Israel is itself a new form of anti-Semitism. Writing in a Haaretz op-ed titled ''Yet Again the Jewish People Face Great Danger and the World Is Silent,'' Brizon lamented the fact that the greatest danger to Israel is now from within, not from its traditional enemies. ''With our very own hands, we anointed the Huns who rule over us."

The irony for Michael is palpable: Israel's promise has been lost, he wrote, and ''all that remains is a big mouth, brandished fist, and endless hidden hatred, militarism, paganism, and self-righteousness. And the world is silent.''

That silence is what terrifies Michael: ''...if you persist in your silence, you indifferent world, that will be categorical proof that you really are anti-Semitic, exactly as we've always been told.''
Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, is not bothered by Netanyahu's policies:

As if to prove the point, just days after this piece was published, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order intended to punish companies and groups that join the BDS campaign -- the Boycott, Divest, Sanction campaign to peacefully pressure Israel to comply with international law and recognize Palestinian rights.

''If you boycott Israel, New York will boycott you,'' Cuomo said. Officials have been directed to compile a list of companies and groups that have signed on to the BDS campaign.

The Trudeau government is also opposed to the BDS movement.

The Holocaust happened because those who could have stopped it remained silent.


The F-35 Fiasco and the Shape of Aerial Warfare to Come

Montreal Simon - Sun, 06/12/2016 - 02:35

I'm glad to see the Trudeau government has told Lockheed Martin to take its threat to blackmail us, and shove it. 

And that if it doesn't provide the jobs it promised, the company that wins the contract for new fighter jets, will provide them instead.

But what I find so ridiculous about this whole F-35 fiasco, is that whatever plane Canada chooses is going to be obsolete in a matter of years.

For this is the shape of aerial warfare to come...
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