Posts from our progressive community

Stigma persists despite decriminalization

Dammit Janet - Mon, 09/08/2014 - 12:08
In the UK, there is continuing, yea, endless, blather about fetal viability and therefore abortion time limits.

This comes up every time there is a report on the survival of an extreme neonate. Here's some info on these births, aka "miracle babies." (Spoiler alert: only 1% have fully "able-bodied lives.")

But no matter.

They are talking about viability again, who sets the rules for abortion time limits, does UK need abortion law reform. Yada-yada.

Here's Clare Murphy, a director at the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, the UK equivalent of Planned Parenthood, with a radical notion.
Murphy believes that we need a reform of abortion law, but rather than shorten the time limit, suggests it would be more helpful to remove it entirely.

“In an ideal world we would do what Canada has done: take abortion out of criminal law altogether and regulate it like other aspects of women’s reproductive healthcare. Canada has no time limit on abortion – it hasn’t seen an increase in later abortions. In fact, the proportion is similar to that of the UK,” she explains.
Well, yeah. But those are just facts.

Then the columnist indulges in a little fantasy.
I suspect that in Canada, it’s easier to have a discussion about abortion. If I thought of it as an entirely medical matter, I wouldn’t be scared to mention it to my friends and I’m sure they’d feel more comfortable asking me for any support they needed. We can’t afford to stigmatise it when it could affect us all.That suspicion would be wrong. Abortion is as stigmatized in Canada as in most other places.

The difference is that we have have no law on it.

But yeah, the rest of the world would do well to follow our lead on this.

Totally the Same

Dammit Janet - Mon, 09/08/2014 - 11:37
Sad story. With bonus despicably dishonest reporting.

A Pennsylvania woman has been sentenced to up to 18 months in prison for obtaining so-called abortion pills online and providing them to her teenage daughter to end her pregnancy.

Jennifer Ann Whalen, 39, of Washingtonville, a single mother who works as a nursing home aide, pleaded guilty in August to obtaining the miscarriage-inducing pills from an online site in Europe for her daughter, 16, who did not want to have the child.
Terrible situation, but reporting is OK so far. There are some details on how difficult and expensive it would be to access abortion at a clinic.

After taking the pills, the daughter had complications, was admitted to hospital, where nosy-parkers called the police. And now here they are.

Did you catch the key point there?

The story continues.
The Pennsylvania case follows the prosecution of a Florida man who pleaded guilty to tricking his girlfriend into taking an abortion pill. He was sentenced in January to 13 years in prison and $28,500 restitution. In June, Florida toughened state law to allow for prosecutions in the death of non-viable fetuses.Totally the same, right? Mother tries to help her daughter end unwanted pregnancy. Man tries to trick girlfriend into abortion/miscarriage.

And this is a Reuters story that has been picked up by every MSM outlet I can find.

But the Fetus Freak media has a bit of additional information: the woman got off easy.
In addition to the prison sentence, Montour County Court of Common Pleas Judge Gary Norton ordered Whalen to pay a $1,000 fine and perform 40 hours of community service upon her release.  The maximum penalty for performing an illegal abortion in Pennsylvania is seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine.
And don't forget: this is the same RWNJ demographic who goes batshit over parental consent regulations. They demand the right to give withhold consent to their children needing abortions.

These people want the right to force their children to bear children but want parents who help their children avoid bearing unwanted children to go to prison.

OK then.

You Know It's Not Working for Us. It's Been Over For a Long Time.

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 09/08/2014 - 11:36
Naomi Klein's new book, This Changes Everything, will be out next week.  The theme of the book is change or be changed.  Klein argues that the only way mankind will survive climate change is to change the economic model that plagues us and potentially dooms us - good old, free market capitalism.

To do that we'll need to change the way we're organized, socially and politically.  Governments have stopped responding to the public interest, yielding instead to neoliberalism.  They have surrendered a good deal of our sovereignty to corporatism and globalization.  Through that they have enabled the transfer of wealth and political power from labour to capital ensuring the rapid growth of inequality of wealth, income and opportunity and the decline of social mobility.  All of this has occurred through the degrading of our democracy and, unless we throw this over, our grandkids could be looking at a future of corporatist feudalism. 

Three years ago I concluded that Karl Marx was right, that capitalism is self-destructive.  At the end of the day it collapses under its own weight.  It self-destructs.  The markets are falling into chaos. This is by no means to say there's not a role for capital.  There is, just not the role it has assumed today.  We need a reformed capitalism, one functioning under a different economic model.  Even Adam Smith, in The Wealth of Nations, realized that growth-based economics of the sort we're enslaved to couldn't function for more than 200-years before transitioning to a stable or steady state.

Smith recognized a limit to economic growth. He predicted that in the long run, population growth would push wages down, natural resources would become increasingly scarce, and division of labor would approach the limits of its effectiveness. He incorrectly predicted 200 years as the longest period of growth, followed by population stability.

I don't think that Smith got it wrong at all.  What he predicted was right but we haven't had the wisdom to abandon our addiction to perpetual exponential growth. 

Klein argues that we're nearing a sink or swim moment and that the very threat posed to our society by climate change is also the opportunity for us to learn to swim. 

It's been written that the 21st will be a century of revolution and we're already seeing that in rebellions, social unrest and the rise of failed states.  18th century economics, 19th century industrialism and 20th century geo-politics are what has brought us to this perilous state.  Overall they worked fairly well for us for a couple of centuries but they also created the conditions in which mankind's population - around a billion at the start - has burgeoned to 7+ billion en route to 9 or more.   Somewhere at around the 3-billion mark these institutions developed a toxicity that has steadily worsened over the past 30-years.  Today their legacy has become over population, over-consumption, environmental degradation, resource depletion, species extinctions - on and on and on.

Unfortunately the broad sweeping reformation of the sort envisioned by Klein will be taken by the powerful defenders of the status quo as revolutionary.  There are many vested interests who do not want to accept change and they're supported by every political party in Canada today.  Somehow these institutions that have driven us to the cliff edge have to be taken down.  Therein lies the struggle.  But it's a struggle in which we don't really have much choice.

On The Training of Marine Mammals (a.k.a. MPs)

Politics and its Discontents - Mon, 09/08/2014 - 09:41

As I mentioned in a blog post the other day, I am currently reading Tragedy in the Commons, a book that examines the gross deficits to be found in Canadian parliamentary democracy. One of the recurring complaints of the former MPs interviewed for the book is the lack of independence afforded them, ethereby rendering them unable to effectively represent the interests of their constituents, interests that are routinely superseded by the chief priority of the party, which is to gain and maintain power.

Former Conservative Member of Parliament Brent Rathgeber, now sitting as an independent, is intimately acquainted with such impotence, and has written a book, set to be released this month, detailing his experiences under iron grip of the Harper cabal.

Entitled Irresponsible Government: The Decline of Parliamentary Democracy in Canada, the book

outlines how MPs have seen their powers fade away, reduced to “cheer-leading and barking on command” while the PMO has grown stronger over decades, under Mr. Harper and his predecessors, with little oversight.

While perhaps hardly new or shocking to those who have followed the machinations of the regime over the years, an insider's view does reaffirm the commonly-held perceptions of Mr. Harper's leadership:

The book offers a glimpse into the tightly controlled Conservative caucus, where backbenchers are given little say and punished – a relocated office, a less desirable committee, the cancelling of travel junkets – for stepping out of line.

Indeed, there aren't even any votes in the Tory caucus:

Under Mr. Harper, the Conservative caucus is more of a pep rally, says Rathgeber. Most play along in the hopes of rising to Cabinet, and so willingly submit to uttering prewritten talking points they are given, lobbing softball questions at ministers, and a myriad of other indignities that rob them of both their independence and any spine they might have.

Rathgeber questions the decline of ministerial responsibility, at one point saying cabinet ministers Peter MacKay and Tony Clement should have resigned over their handling of the F-35 and G-8/G-20 summits, respectively. He touches, too, on the responsibility of Mr. Harper for his own staff, pointing to the agreement between Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy, of which Mr. Harper has disavowed knowledge. “Leaders lead, they do not perpetually search for scapegoats”.

Lest those whose whose allegiances are with one of the other two major parties feel smug, the independent MP offers this:

Opposition MPs may like it, he said. “But if and when they become the government they will summarily dismiss all ... the suggestions designed to stir discussion about how to renew democracy contained in his book.

In that, I fear he is all too correct.Recommend this Post

#GordNation admantly against Transit Choices now!

The Winnipeg RAG Review - Mon, 09/08/2014 - 08:30
Two birds of a feather? Gord Steeves and Scott Fielding.

Image Source: Twitter
Gord Steeves and Scott Fielding are two rightwing city politicians that are alumni of Katz's inner circle - the Executive Policy Committee (EPC).

Both distanced themselves from Sam Katz yet, like our Mayor in the past, both want to stall on rapid transit.

They stand for the sad status quo of having a rapid transit line running only halfway to the the U of M.  This is a project which had a shovel ready plan back in 2004.

After years of dithering we got half the project done and have been promised $375 million in federal and provincial funds. Gord and Scott want to stall on this, which  may jeopardize the funding.

 So, we must ask ourselves, who are these clowns?

A history of bad moves and even worse ideas

Gord's in the news now for his mayoral campaign, which features a radical Hard Right agenda that includes selling off city assets and enacting even more draconian measures against the downtown downtrodden than Winnipeg's already infamous for.

He stepped down as councillor for St. Vital in 2011 to run for the provincial Conservatives in the Seine River ridding. Unfortunately for him he got trounced by over 8 percentage points by Dipper Theresa Oswald in the middle class, south end riding.

Scott Fielding, by contrast, quit Sam Katz's EPC as various (politically toxic) boondoggles came to light. Fielding was noteworthy as a potential candidate for leader of the Manitoba Conservatives who decided not to run. Scott's also noteworthy at the local level for spearheading a petition against completing the (half-finished) Southwest Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line until some indefinite point in the future. Predictably, rapid transit supporters had a field day over it.

The flip flop & endorsement

Two weeks ago - on August 25, 2014 - Fielding came right out and endorsed Gord Steeves for Mayor. When I reiterated how dumb of an idea it was to stall on the half-finished Southwest BRT line  - which includes $375 million in earmarked Federal and Provincial funds - Scott chimed in with this enlightened response:

@The_Analyst1 @gordsteeves ya and I told you you are completely wrong and that our roads need to be fixed first...
— Scott Fielding (@ScottFielding25) September 2, 2014
Gord Steeves was once a supporter of finishing the southwest BRT line. Regrettably, in the course of running a radical Right campaign he's flip-flopped. While he supported getting the job done on the BRT line in May of this year he announced on August 22 that he wants to call a quits now to focus on (non-rapid transit) infrastructure.

He made it even clearer in a September 4 tweet.

Image Source: TwitterThe take home

Two elite politicians oppose getting the job done on the southwest BRT line. Under Gord Steeves we'll have a half-assed BRT line, running only halfway to the U of M, indefinitely so we can focus on "infrastructure".

While these elite politicians tell us that they want to focus on "infrastructure" now they ignore that the rapid transit line is infrastructure and a very critical type at that. They also ignore that the transitway project includes $175 million for road and sewer repairs.

If you want to send a message to folks who'd jeopardize a project years in the making, feel free to sign the petition for real road relief and transit choices.

Winnipeg City Council: Support real road relief through transit choices & halting new suburbs.

 Let's show the pols Winnipeg doesn't like half-assing stuff.

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Monday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Mon, 09/08/2014 - 07:35
Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Bryce Covert writes that U.S. workers are receiving a lower share of economic output than at any point since 1950 - and that the decline in wages has nothing to do with the quality or quantity of work:
Workers aren’t earning less because they’re slacking off — just the opposite. Their productivity increased 8 percent between 2007 and 2012 while their wages actually fell, a trend that has been going on since at least 1979. And they’ve been speeding up since the recession, increasing their productivity last summer at the fastest pace since 2009.

The productivity has helped out corporations. They saw record high profits last year, rising to $1.68 trillion, and they have been rising steadily for some time, more than fully recovering what they lost to the financial crisis. Yet workers are getting little of that money. Profits have risen nearly 20 times faster than workers’ incomes since 2008, and on the whole workers have seen a lost decade of stagnant wage growth.- Meanwhile, Rachel Aiello reports on the Cons' challenge in trying to explain how the trickle-down policies they've pushed have produced nothing but a widening income gap, while Mark Gongloff addresses the similarly disastrous effect of austerity and corporatism in Europe.

- Carol Goar highlights one more economic trend crying out for explanation and remediation, asking whether the part-time and precarious jobs consistently generated by the Cons' anti-labour policies are the new normal for Canadian workers.

- But naturally, the Cons have no interest whatsoever in actually addressing the concerns of workers - as they're too busy using public money to subsidize the promotion of weapons exports.

- Finally, John Millar discusses the effects of poverty and inequality - along with the urgent need to dedicate public resources to eliminating both:
Here's what the evidence says about the devastating outcomes of poverty: poorer health, more chronic disease, more avoidable deaths, social injustice, increasing demand and costs for healthcare services and reduced productivity of the workforce. On a large scale and over the long-term, inequality can also slow the economy and erode democracy, political and social stability.
Economists call what we need "a judicious redistributive approach" -- that is, to raise government revenues via natural resources, taxes on the wealthy (income, estates, capital), regulation of offshore tax havens, and taxes on externalities, such as pollution, tobacco, alcohol and sugar. Governments should direct these revenues toward social investments such as income support, education, healthcare and infrastructure.
We are paying dearly for inaction. It would cost taxpayers less to eradicate poverty than to continue to pay for poverty-related policing, corrections, housing and healthcare. In B.C., the estimated cost to implement a poverty reduction plan is $4 billion annually, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Right now, poverty costs the province up to $9.2 billion per year. Businesses and governments must take measures now to reduce poverty and inequities. It is time for concerned citizens to demand action.

In Pursuit Of Andrea

Politics and its Discontents - Mon, 09/08/2014 - 06:07

My post yesterday on Andrea Horwath's leadership shortcomings provoked a series of thoughtful responses that I am reproducing below, on the assumption that the majority of blog readers don't necessarily return to a post to see the ensuing commentary. I hope you enjoy reading the reactions as much as I did:

Kirby Evans September 7, 2014 at 12:01 PM

She will hold on for two reasons - 1. corruption of the process, and 2. because seldom does any party have the courage to stand up for principle and dump their leader. Look how long Hudak held on for and I bet he could have survived another leadership review. One of the many drawbacks of the Party system is that it systematically undermines political courage with a garrison mentality.

Lorne September 7, 2014 at 12:11 PM

You may be right, Kirby, but in the process she might have to resurrect her capacity for 'fancy footwork' to convince the rank and file that she is worthy of any further trust.

The Mound of Sound September 7, 2014 at 1:02 PM

I expect Kirby is right. If it was my call, I'd cast her into the burning bowels of hell!

Anonymous September 7, 2014 at 2:47 PM

The false narrative that the Ontario NDP went right-wing (by being honest and pragmatic on fiscal matters) and that the economically right-of-centre Ontario Liberals became the true "progressive" voice (and somehow transformed into a totally different party by changing their leader) was a magnificent achievement by the Liberal Party and their enablers. Even a lot of traditional NDP supporters fell for this deceptive trick. It should be held up as a model in marketing and public relations classes.

Lorne September 7, 2014 at 3:02 PM

Unfortunately, Anon, it seems to me and many others that Horwath's refusal to support, for example, the Liberal proposal for a made-in-Ontario pension plan, something that she originally promoted, was but one example of her strange drift away from the kind of principled vision the NDP is traditionally associated with.

Anonymous September 7, 2014 at 3:23 PM

In due time, we will see how un-progressive the Ontario Liberals' "most-progressive-in-decades" budget actually is, and that their pension scheme is like most of their policies and programs: sounds good in theory, but in practice would be done half-assed, would cost way too much (with money being shovelled out the door to arms-length board members and outside consultants), and would mostly benefit the wealthy elites instead of society as a whole. Their scandelous record is full of examples.

Lorne September 7, 2014 at 3:51 PM

Time will tell if your prediction is correct, Anon. Of course, one could argue that had Horwath not forced the election, the NDP would still be in a position (i.e., holding the balance of power) to ensure that the kinds of excesses you forecast could not take place.

Anonymous September 8, 2014 at 12:42 AM

That the ONDP held the balance of power was an illusion. The Liberals kept making promises to the NDP in order to get their support on bills, then kept breaking all (or almost all) of those promises. If the NDP kept falling for these lies, they would have rightly been considered chumps.

Kirby Evans September 7, 2014 at 5:30 PM

I am amazed that some people still stand up for Horwath. Though I was never under any illusions about the Liberal Party being particularly "progressive," I know empirically that the NDP moved to the right. My local NDP candidate, a person I have met and who works with a number of my friends, appeared in public more than once speaking about the need to cut public jobs and control their supposedly rich pensions. He simply assured voters that the NDP would make the cuts more humanely and practically than Hudak.

Here is all we need to know - when the Liberals talked about increasing the minimum wage, Horwath disappeared from view for several days saying the she had to consult small business about the issue. When the Liberals introduced an Ontario pension (unarguably a once in a lifetime chance to build an important part of our social system) just as Jack Layton had once done with respect to the national child-care, Horwath decided to bring the government down. HOrwath not only moved the party to the right but she decided to play political games in a typical party attempt to gain seats instead of standing up for policies that will make significant long term improvements to people's lives. And, of course, her gambit failed miserably.

Don't make the bet Ms. Horwath, if you can't pay the bookie. Time to hang your head in shame and quit.

Scotian September 7, 2014 at 10:51 PM

And yet again you demonstrate why I find you always worth the time to read Kirby Evans. I was astounded that she did not offer her resignation after Wynne got that majority, because she threw away the balance of power for zero more seats and barely 1 percent increase in the polls, this despite having one of the best pre-election environments for a possible NDP government in Ontario since Rae's in 1990. I watched with increased amazement and disgust as she tried to replicate the Layton gambit in her Province with far less skill and trust from within her party, and clearly the Ontario Dipper leadership after watching what it got Layton and Canada with Harper wanted no repeat with Hudak in Ontario. This was not some massive marketing scheme cooked up by those somehow both near omnipotent and yet incompetent Liberals, this was a disaster made almost totally by Horwath herself, and an entirely foreseeable one at that.

The NDP in both Ontario and federally needs to either rediscover their roots or stop any pretense of being a party of the people, by the people, and for the people. You cannot claim to be both a party of strong left/progressive ideological convictions and a pragmatic centrist. It is time for the NDP to stop trying to eat their cake and have it. In doing so they are the reality of the image of the Liberals they love to portray their electoral rivals as, a party that stands for nothing but its own powerlust while pretending to have progressive principles.

It will be very interesting to see what happens with Horwath, for it will tell a lot about where the ONDP is headed. Will they show good judgment or will they allow someone who is clearly far more motivated by powerlust (one can have such while wanting to use it for principled means btw, but it still doesn't make it a good thing especially in a leader, Layton being an excellent example of this IMHO) than by good political judgment and leadership. We shall see. It is telling though that Hudak showed better accountability and personal responsibility for his failure than Horwath has, given just how disconnected in many respect Hudak was from reality. The ONDP is not in a good place at the moment, and I also wonder how much from that may spill over onto their federal cousins by the time of the next election, which given how powerful Ontario looms in the seat count of the HoC is not a small consideration, especially for the NDP and their traditional seats in that Province.

The Mound of Sound September 7, 2014 at 7:42 PM

Amen to that, Kirby.

Anonymous September 8, 2014 at 12:47 AM

The Wynne Liberals are going to cut frontline public jobs, cut public services and sell off public assets. Meanwhile, they will keep rewarding the public sector exectutives, high-level bureaucrats and outside consultants, They will also keep the no-strings-attached corporate tax cuts that have been provent to not stimulate the economy or create local jobs.

Recommend this Post

Things Could Get Very Nasty

Northern Reflections - Mon, 09/08/2014 - 05:36


Canada's job creation numbers have been dismal. Carol Goar writes:

The numbers are striking. Since last autumn, Canada has created 50,000 part-time jobs but lost 20,000 full-time positions.What was once a whisper — are we becoming a nation of part-timers? — has swollen into a worried chorus.
A report by Randall Bartlett and Derek Burleton for the Toronto Dominion Bank acknowledges the growth in part time work. But both economists conclude that, as the American economy picks up, Canadians will return to full time work. Goar, however, questions their research:

  • The authors don’t examine the possibility that employers have permanently scaled back their payrolls to reduce their exposure to risks beyond their control.

  • They don’t take into account the structural changes that have reshaped the Canadian workforce: globalization, outsourcing, the hollowing out of the manufacturing sector, the sharp increase in income inequality, the westward shift in the country’s economic fulcrum and the influx of hundreds of thousands of foreign workers.

  • And they summarily dismiss the idea that this might be the new normal. But to millennials, it is a real fear. This is all they’ve known since they entered the labour force. They suspect it is all they ever will know.

  • The so called "recovery" doesn't feel like one:

    Workers are skeptical. This doesn’t feel like a normal recovery. Five years after it began, employers are still making do with part-timers, temporary workers and contract employees. Skilled workers who lost their livelihood during the recession are now doing low-wage service jobs. College and university graduates can’t get an economic foothold. A new business model seems to have taken hold.
    The report is long on hope -- perhaps because the authors recognize that, if the trend in part time employment continues, we have the tinder that could start a revolution. And, then, things could get very nasty.

    150 cities + 500 arrests = whatever it takes for $15

    we move to canada - Mon, 09/08/2014 - 05:00
    Last Thursday, fast-food workers in more than 150 US cities went on strike. Some 500 workers were arrested for civil disobedience, including this man, José Carillo, an 81-year-old McDonald's worker.

    In Detroit, there were so many arrests that the police gave up: they ran out of handcuffs.

    There's a very short video compilation of some highlights from the day here on Facebook. And here's another good video, this one of the Chicago action, where 51 workers were arrested.

    Steve Nickelback and the Rebranding of Stephen Harper

    Montreal Simon - Mon, 09/08/2014 - 02:58

    Well as you know the young fanatics in the PMO are desperately trying to improve  Stephen Harper's image. Frantically trying to put a fresh coat of lipstick on it, before the next election campaign.

    But it's all going horribly wrong. 

    Trying to portray Harper as a Great Strong Leader, who is almost as fresh and just as pretty as Justin Trudeau, AND a Mr Nice Guy, just isn't working eh?

    No matter how hard they try. No matter how hard the PMO pit bull Jenni Byrne screams or grunts...

    So now a former PMO member has come up with the wildest and most desperate idea  yet.

    Rebrand Harper as Steve Nickelback. 
    Read more »

    Sunday Morning Links

    accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 09/07/2014 - 09:25
    Assorted content for your Sunday reading.

    - The Tyee's recent series on important sources of inequality is well worth a read, as Emily Fister interviews Andrew Longhurst about precarious work and Sylvia Fuller about the role of motherhood.

    - David Cole asks just how corrupt U.S. politics have become, while Frances O'Grady observes that U.K workers don't believe for a second that their employer can't afford to pay living wages. Robert Reich sees Detroit as a prime example of wealthy individuals shirking their responsibility to pay for the public goods they enjoy. And Joseph Stiglitz notes that gross imbalances in political influence result in markets and other institutions serving only the privileged few rather than the general public:
    What we have been observing – wage stagnation and rising inequality, even as wealth increases – does not reflect the workings of a normal market economy, but of what I call “ersatz capitalism.” The problem may not be with how markets should or do work, but with our political system, which has failed to ensure that markets are competitive, and has designed rules that sustain distorted markets in which corporations and the rich can (and unfortunately do) exploit everyone else.
    Markets, of course, do not exist in a vacuum. There have to be rules of the game, and these are established through political processes. High levels of economic inequality in countries like the US and, increasingly, those that have followed its economic model, lead to political inequality. In such a system, opportunities for economic advancement become unequal as well, reinforcing low levels of social mobility.
    Thus, Piketty’s forecast of still higher levels of inequality does not reflect the inexorable laws of economics. Simple changes – including higher capital-gains and inheritance taxes, greater spending to broaden access to education, rigorous enforcement of anti-trust laws, corporate-governance reforms that circumscribe executive pay, and financial regulations that rein in banks’ ability to exploit the rest of society – would reduce inequality and increase equality of opportunity markedly.
    If we get the rules of the game right, we might even be able to restore the rapid and shared economic growth that characterized the middle-class societies of the mid-twentieth century. The main question confronting us today is not really about capital in the twenty-first century. It is about democracy in the twenty-first century.- On the bright side, people can generally recognize corruption where it exists, as Thomas Frank points out what happens when corporate scams are put to the test in court: a California jury refused to accept a prosecution argument that mortgage lenders cared whether loan applications were accurate (in a trial aimed only at punishing borrowers while painting banks as victims). But Yves Smith makes clear that the greediest of the greedy are only getting more insistent on securing perpetually larger rents over growth in equity.

    - Alison writes that a botched war after he first tried to push Canadian troops to Iraq over public objections, Stephen Harper has finally managed to get that done - while scrupulously ignoring any of the lessons that should be obvious from the U.S.' previous disastrous stay. And Peter Bergman and David Sterman observe that the politicians shrieking about North Americans being recruited into foreign fighting forces are doing so without any basis in reality.

    - Finally, Michael Spratt slams the Cons' counterproductive spin on crime:
    How can a government so keen to combat lawlessness make such a botch of its own laws? How can a government composed of law-and-order types be so astoundingly ignorant of how the law actually works?

    The answer seems obvious: This government doesn’t really care about fighting crime, about victims, about respecting our most fundamental law — the Constitution. What they do care about is politics — and for Stephen Harper, wrapping himself in his crime-fighter cape is a lot more important than passing laws that work, or make sense.

    That the Conservatives are indifferent to the pursuit of justice is something demonstrated by their actions, not their words. They cut the Department of Justice’s research budget by $1.2 million. According to an internal government report, the Justice Department’s research budget was slashed just as an internal report for the deputy minister was warning its findings “may run contrary to government direction” and have “at times left the impression that research is undermining government decisions” and is not “aligned with government or departmental priorities.”

    Why stop at suppressing the dissenting opinions of the experts when you can stifle them altogether?

    Let's Ditch NATO While We Still Can. Seriously, It's Turning Ugly.

    The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 09/07/2014 - 09:15

    New Rule:  Don't get into mutual defence treaties with countries you're not prepared to die to defend.

    How many NATO member nations can you name?  This isn't a game.  It's important, deadly serious, because Canada is obliged to go to war to defend them if and when they're eventually attacked.

    Who wouldn't be proud to see Canadian soldiers lay down their lives in the defence of Slovenia?  In fact there are 27-countries we're obliged to go to war to defend.  On the outside, for now, but looking to get in are Cyprus, Macedonia, Georgia and, naturally, the Ukraine.  Under debate are Finland, Kosovo, Serbia, Moldava (yeah, Go Moldava, Go!) and maybe the Swedes.

    There's talk of expanding the franchise to even more places that have bugger all to do with the "North Atlantic" or even the northern hemisphere for that matter including Mexico, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Brazil and maybe even South Africa.

    Here's the thing.   The more countries you add from ever more distant corners of the world, the greater your chance of being dragged into a war to defend one or more of them.  Cover enough territory and, before long, you'll be in a permanent state of war.

    Here's another thing.  These newcomers have a nasty habit of taking your treaty obligations to them far more seriously than their own treaty obligations to the Alliance.  They want under NATO's umbrella, they just don't want to hold it.

    Here's one more thing.  Some of these countries just happen to be in places where they wind up getting attacked - a lot - often by armies that just need to get through to fight another country.  Now we may like to tell ourselves that sort of thing is long gone.  Really?

    Just one more thing.  NATO is no longer just about "state versus state" warfare. No.  Today's NATO is willing to go after non-state actors - terrorists, insurgents, crime cartels, the lot.  

    And maybe, if we can squeeze it in, one more thing to ponder.  NATO was supposed to be a defensive alliance.  Mutual defence.  I defend you, you defend me.  Neo-Nato has morphed into a war waging alliance.  We do floors and windows now.  We don't have to be attacked to go into action.  We see something we don't like, we go for our guns.  Think Kosovo, think Libya, think of the Alliance's response to the Ukraine fiasco.

    When you transition from being a defensive alliance into a war waging alliance you become an offensive military alliance.  We used to see the Soviet dominated, Warsaw Pact as an offensive military alliance - the very threat for which we needed NATO.  Now we're becoming the Warsaw Pact of the 21st century. Which means we're going to be perceived as a hostile threat by countries not in the club.  Wait till they see us flying those F-35 nuclear strike bombers.

    So, you see, NATO has become a monster that we no longer control.  It now controls us.  We are now part of an offensive military alliance that threatens some very powerful nations.  We may be on the verge of becoming a permanent warfare state just like our cousins to the south.  The F-35 should cinch the deal.

    Desperate Times Call for Desperate Opinion Pieces…

    Left Over - Sun, 09/07/2014 - 08:06

    Justin Trudeau may be the next big thing – but Stephen Harper’s still Nickelback Politics, like music, is about sound and vision. What will voters want to hear in 2015?

    By Andrew MacDougall, for CBC News Posted: Sep 07, 2014 5:00 AM ET Last Updated: Sep 07, 2014 5:31 AM ET


    How did we guess that MacDougall was a former paid Harper hack – and using Nickleback as a metaphor for the Cons is about as perfect as it gets..they both truly suck..and what has Nickleback done lately? As for Trudeau, to act as if he is the one and only threat to the Harper Reich is pathetic –  hopefully the NDP can come up the middle and once again surprise the pundits with a win, or more sensibly,  a coalition…

    All this right wing gibberish, that conveniently ignores the ‘other’ parties, does nothing for either the Glibs or the Cons (interchangeable, in my view, on most things) and acting as if they are the only two parties out there to contend with is a shallow and desperate choice for the CBC to really is getting to the point where any Canadian media cannot be trusted…..I get that the Cons are squeezing the budget at the CBC, but this is  beyond belief, and worthy of Conrad Black’s/Barbara Amiel’s  sort of editorial content.  Although, to be fair, they did use the metaphor of  arguably the worst band in Canada, and, since the Harper regime is arguably the worst ever in Canada, perhaps it is more than appropriate…


    When "Can Do" Meets "No, You Can't"

    The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 09/07/2014 - 08:02

    "You've got to deal with the fact that it's happening.  And what are you going to do with those of us on the edge?"
    Grayson Chesser's ancestors came to Chesapeake Bay four centuries ago.  Now he's watching his seaside town of Saxis succumb to sea level rise
    All along the ragged shore of Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic coast of Delmarva Peninsula, north into New England and south into Florida, along the Gulf Coast and parts of the West Coast, people, businesses and governments are confronting rising seas not as a future possibility.  For them, the ocean's rise is a troubling everyday reality.
     In cities like Norfolk, Va., and Annapolis, Md., coastal flooding has become more frequent.  Beyond the cities, seawater and tidal marsh have consumed farmland and several once-inhabited islands.  Here in Accomack County alone, encroaching seawater is converting an estimated 50 acres of farmland into wetlands each year...
    In many places, including much of the U.S. Eastern Seaboard, an additional factor makes the problem worse: The land is sinking.  This process, known as subsidence, is due in part to inexorable geological shifts.  But another major cause is the extraction of water from underground reservoirs for industrial and public water resources.  As aquifers are drained, the land above them drops...  
    The rich and famous are not spared either.  Last year, Vanity Fair published an article exploring what's already happened to the beachfront homes of Hollywood's big names in Malibu.  

    The stars have lost their fight to save their magnificent beach and now they're fighting to defend their homes - for a while longer.

    The "old money" homes of Nantucket aren't being spared either.

    Harper’s politics of cynicism….

    Trashy's World - Sun, 09/07/2014 - 07:33
    … and an empty shelf in the pantry where “ethics” used to be… Wandering around the Interweb, I found this cutting piece that brilliantly sums up the CPC modus operandi as follows: The Harper Government is a public relations oriented government. The machine seems to operate in the following manner; get the youngsters in the […]

    Is Andrea's Day Of Reckoning Drawing Nigh?

    Politics and its Discontents - Sun, 09/07/2014 - 06:26

    Andrea Horwath, the current leader of the Ontario NDP, about whom I have written the odd past post, may indeed soon be facing the consequences of her recent decision to force an Ontario election that ran the risk, happily averted, of the election of a right-wing Progressive Conservative Party under former leader Tim Hudak. While Hudak was speedily dispatched for his loss, Andrea has thus far been dancing around the choices she made that so inflamed so many party members and supporters.

    Today, Martin Regg Cohn's column suggests that the tune to which Horwath has been gamboling may change abruptly starting next weekend:

    Ahead of a formal leadership review scheduled for November, Horwath will face the NDP’s provincial council this coming Saturday and Sunday to explain her controversial tactics — before, during and after the election.

    “Andrea is fighting for her life,” says one long-time party worker who has sat in on the party’s internal machinations in recent months.

    “Among a very large section of the activist base there is little more than contempt for her,” said the NDP loyalist, who requested confidentiality to speak candidly about the manoeuvres.

    As many are aware, the more tantalizing the prospect of power became, the more willing Horwath was to recast her party as a centrist-right entity, thereby destroying, of course, any prospect the former 'party of principle' had of being perceived as anything more than a group of populists who wanted to form the government for the sake of being the government. Her gleeful abandonment of the balance of power her party held in the last legislature to pursue the heady power that only the office of the premier can offer has led many to perceive her as a traitor to the party:

    It’s no secret that the top leadership of the Canadian Labour Congress has undisguised contempt for Horwath after she refused to support a public pension plan for Ontario (along the lines of an enhanced CPP) which the labour movement holds dear. The CLC’s new leader, Hassan Yussuff, viewed Horwath’s actions as a personal betrayal and is known to have described her as “a coward” who should be dumped.

    Most of the Ontario Federation Labour’s member unions are also deeply unhappy with Horwath’s moves, not least her refusal to meet them as a group.

    “If the vote were held next week, she wouldn’t hold on,” predicts one party veteran.

    And there are also other reasons for party members' disaffection:

    In anticipation of a leadership review, Horwath’s team rammed through changes at a pre-election council meeting allowing her inner circle to reclaim — and reallocate — any unused delegate slots 45 days before the November convention. The move was widely seen as a naked power grab orchestrated by the leader’s office, contravening party rules that constitutional changes can only be agreed at full conventions.

    By flouting the rules, Horwath has riled grassroots members who were already apoplectic about an opportunistic campaign platform that lacked the party’s imprimatur and descended into pandering.

    While Ontario provincial politics may seem of little relevance to those living in other parts of country, the fact is that the lessons of arrogance are universally applicable. Perhaps Andrea's fate, whatever it turns out to be, will be instructive to others. Recommend this Post

    Dipper Drift?

    Northern Reflections - Sun, 09/07/2014 - 05:29


    In yesterday's Toronto Star, Chantal Hebert suggested that, if recent events in Ontario are an indication of the party's future, the NDP may be drifting back to third party status. In the recent provincial election, traditional Dippers voted Liberal to stop Tim Hudak:

    In the provincial campaign, the platform put forward by Tory leader Tim Hudak went a long way to convince many progressive voters to stick with the Liberals rather than risk facilitating a Conservative victory by giving their vote to the third-place NDP.
    And in the race for mayor of Toronto, Olivia Chow has slipped to third place:

    It should come as no surprise that a Forum Research poll that suggested Mayor Rob Ford (Open Rob Ford’s policard) was still in the running for re-election — with Olivia Chow running third — was followed by a Nanos poll that showed that John Tory had consolidated his lead on his main rivals.For scores of Toronto voters, ousting Ford from office this fall comes before loyalty to a political brand.
    Could the same thing happen into the 2015 federal election?

    To many, the first-place Liberals come across as a safer haven than the third-place NDP, regardless of the comparative skills of their leaders or even their respective policies.

    With every passing month, NDP hopes that a barrage of Conservative attack ads will chip away at Trudeau’s credibility are fading. After more than a year, they have yet to make a dent in the Liberal lead in voting intentions

    The New Democrats’ own efforts at portraying the Liberals as Conservatives in disguise are also falling short.
    It's quite possible that Justin could stumble. And he is still policy lite. But, faced with the devil they know, many Dippers might hold their noses and vote Liberal.

    Progressives in Toronto need a voice, and NOW magazine ain’t it | #TOpoli @nowtoronto

    Posted by Sol Chrom - Sun, 09/07/2014 - 05:24

    @m_hollett This from one of the Einsteins behind Horwath's faux populist tack. How'd that work out, Mike? #TOpoli
    Sol Chrom (@sol_chrom) September 05, 2014

    So it seems the deep thinkers at NOW have noticed that Olivia Chow’s campaign is faltering.

    Naturally, they’ve got the answers. (They’re smarter than us, you see. They’re The Oracles and the Source of All Wisdom, didn’t you know.) According to Enzo DiMatteo, it’s because

    “somewhere along the line the decision was made to sell Chow as a pragmatist.”

    Right. So here’s a writer for NOW magazine, calling out the “progressive” candidate for making a strategic decision to play down the leftie roots and come over all “pragmatic.”

    But wait! What’s this? Just a few weeks ago, they were shitting all over us for not falling in behind Andrea Horwath for doing the same thing, except back then it was ‘populism.’ Then when that blew up in their faces, they sneered at us for letting ourselves get played. As John puts it, apparently we’re just too stupid to appreciate their genius.

    Hey, NOW brain trust: do you even listen to yourselves talking? With ‘allies’ like you, the left doesn’t need enemies. Condescending weenies.

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    Tagged: Andrea Horwath, arrogance, hypocrisy, NDP, NOW magazine, olivia chow, progressive politics in Toronto, Toronto politics

    When the truth is considered a "gaffe"

    Trapped In a Whirlpool - Sun, 09/07/2014 - 05:16
    Much has been made of the Harper Government's use of provocateurs to get opposition pols to disclose their true feelings on the issues.
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