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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.

Related posts:


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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Scottish Independence: The Triumph of Hope Over Fear

Montreal Simon - Sun, 09/07/2014 - 02:08

With less than two weeks to go before the Scottish independence referendum a new poll has shown the YES side ahead for the first time. 

Some 51% of those who have made up their mind and intend to vote back an independent Scotland while 49% plan to vote no, the YouGov poll suggests.

The poll of 1,084 people, carried out between 2 and 5 September, is the first and only serious study to put the Yes campaign ahead, and suggests the pro-Union camp has lost its lead - once regularly in the double-digits.

Sending a shockwave rolling across Britain, and sending David Cameron's ghastly Con government, and almost the entire British establishment, into a state of almost total panic.
Read more »

thank you, charley richardson! your legacy lives on

we move to canada - Sun, 09/07/2014 - 00:30
On Labour Day, I happened to see this on Twitter:

I am on my union's labour-management committee, the group that meets monthly with management to discuss members' concerns and try to resolve issues. I was intrigued and followed the link that Rank and File had posted.

To my surprise, the original "how to" advice was written by the late Charley Richardson, who passed away in 2013. I knew of Charley, mostly by his outsize reputation, from another part of his life: along with his wife Nancy Lessin, he co-founded Military Families Speak Out.

MFSO is now defunct, but the organization did tremendous work advocating for veterans and against wars for oil and profit. As it happens, MFSO bears a special place in my own anti-war activism. Shortly after the US invaded Iraq, while we were waiting to emigrate to Canada, Allan and I attended an MFSO event in New York. The tiny Judson Memorial Church was packed to the rafters, people applauding and weeping as parents, spouses, and siblings of soldiers testified to the terrible treatment they endured, and to the real motives behind the wars. I never forgot that meeting, although it would be many years before I reconnected with its mission.

Years later, working with the War Resisters Support Campaign, I often heard about Richardson, Lessin, and MFSO. They were incredibly supportive to the families of soldiers and veterans, whether or not they were active in the military, had finished their tours, or had deserted. A friend and comrade of mine was close with the Richardsons, and that's how I learned that Charley, only in his late 50s, was dying. Here is his obituary in the Boston Globe.

Now, more than a year after Charley's untimely passing, I had stumbled on some of his wise and practical advice. Digging a bit deeper, I learned that part of Richardson's legacy as a labour educator has been archived and preserved as "The Charley Richardson Guide to Kicking Ass for the Working Class".

And here, perhaps, is the best part of the story. I shared the article with our labour-management committee team. The response was strong and positive. We prepared for our next meeting with new resolve, and we had the strongest, most effective labour-management meeting I've seen since joining the team more than a year ago.

Thank you, Charley Richardson!

Eleven years and six months later, Steve finally gets his wish

Creekside - Sat, 09/06/2014 - 23:22

Finally, eh?

A small deployment of 100 "special ops" at first to be sure, but still a significant addition to the ongoing campaign to fund and arm the Mujihadeen, al Qaeda, Al Nusra, ISIS/ISIL/Islamic State, and whoever comes after them next. Blowback. It's a never-ending job. 

Here John bomb-bomb-bomb-Iran McCain poses with Free Syrian Army rebels in 2013, in photos purportedly released by ISIS . McCain disputes claims these men are IS-related. McCain press secretary : "If the individual photographed with Senator McCain is in fact Mohamed Nour, that is regrettable."

"I believe there are ways to get weapons to the opposition without direct United States involvement,” McCain said in 2012 during his Mideast tour with Lindsay Graham. "The bloodshed must be stopped, and we should rule out no option that could help to save lives. We must consider, among other actions, providing opposition groups inside Syria, both political and military, with better means to ... to fight back against Assad’s forces."In Syria, you see, IS are the good guys fighting against Basher Assad, while across the border in Iraq, they are the bad guys. 

Here they are rolling across the Iraq border in their column of 43 shiny yellow Toyota Hiluxes, allegedly a gift to 'moderates' from the US, in another photo of disputed origins.

Top GOP Senator Lindsey Graham warns of 'inevitable' next attack :
 "The seeds of 9/11s are being planted all over Iraq and Syria". Yup. Although actually you're still working off having invaded Iraq after the last one.
"Speaking to reporters at the NATO summit on Friday, Harper condemned the "barbaric acts" of ISIS, the jihadist group behind recent beheadings of American journalists."Harper offered no comment on the 19 beheadings committed by our ally Saudi Arabia last month - some of them for "sorcery and witchcraft" - presumably because Canada has "two contracts totalling $14.8-billion awarded to General Dynamics Land Systems Canada of London, Ontario for the 2013-14 fiscal year to supply Saudi Arabia with military armoured vehicles.""The Canadian government hopes that over time, ISIS could be pushed back into Syria"  where they will be our friends again.
Durka, durka, durka, Steve.

Southern Ontario Skins: A Cast of Stooges Part X

Anti-Racist Canada - Sat, 09/06/2014 - 12:19
While the lead writer of the ARC Collective is planning on taking a hiatus for a month or so to recharge the batteries on a beach somewhere in Baja soon, it wouldn't seem right to leave when there are still a couple to loose ends to tie up.

Then again, we don't expect this particular loose end to remain tied for very long.

Our readers have been following a series that we lovingly refer to as the "cast of stooges" where we provide a running account of some of the misadventures of the Southern Ontario "Skinheads." One of those stooges, Jeremy Crawford, can't seem to help continuing to make a clown out of himself and a fool out of the rest of the SOS, particularly Max "Come at me bro!" Hynes who founded the gang.

In one rather epic and very well read piece on the blog, we posted the email exchanges between ourselves and Crawford who inexplicably believed that we were the SOS or, at the very least, would be willing to help him get in touch with Hynes and then member Brodie Walsh (who later had his own problems one can read herehere, and here). Eventually Crawford figured things out, but not before we were able to string him along for more than a month. Suffice it to say he was a little bit upset.

Now to get an understanding of why Crawford took so long to figure out who we really were, here is a recent example of Crawford thinking:

First, one would think that a prerequisite of running a prison gang like the Aryan Brotherhood would be the ability to spell Aryan. Second, we appreciate his simple logic, if one could refer to this line of thinking as logic: "Black are all criminals who sell drugs. You can trust me because I'm a former federal inmate jailed for selling drugs and possessing illegal weapons."

That being said, we didn't think we would hear from Crawford directly anymore. He's dumb as a brick, but even he knows when to quit, right?



Oh Jeremy Crawford. You are just a national treasure!

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In Case You Missed It, the Nuclear Option is Back

The Disaffected Lib - Sat, 09/06/2014 - 11:37
Vlad Putin is going for his nukes and we need to grasp our role in getting him there.  Russia is re-arming with a new class of nuclear submarines, a new and possibly illegal inter-continental ballistic missile and a new strategic bomber. 

Our sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine are working.  They're hammering the Russian economy which, in turn, destabilizes the state.  In case you don't get it, a destabilized nation just brimming with nuclear weapons is never a good idea.

NATO has been ratcheting up the pressure on Russia by announcing plans to establish two new bases on Russia's doorstep and the formation of an all-arms (naval, air and land) rapid reaction force specifically targeted at Russia. 

Putin doesn't much trust the West nor have we given him any reason that he should.   NATO's blunt-minded (and fortunately outgoing) Secretary-General, Andy Rasmussen, is pushing for the establishment of two military bases on Russia's borders.  It's the sort of thing that Hadrian would have done to keep the Picts at bay.  He's also spinning the idea of a rapid reaction force just in case Moscow gets frisky.  Little does Foggy Rasmussen seem to understand that his own homeland, Denmark, would probably fare poorly in a shooting war with Russia and that, maybe destabilizing Russia with provocative military installations and threats of rapid reaction forces really isn't in Europe's best interests.  Winter is coming.

But surely a cool customer like Vlad Putin wouldn't do something insane like resort to nukes, would he?  Maybe, maybe not.  The folks at aren't convinced.

Ever the one to administer bracing doses of Geopolitics 101 to his opponents, especially those inclined to underestimate his nerve, President Vladimir Putin, at a youth forum north of Moscow last week, reminded the world that "Russia is one of the most powerful nuclear nations. This is a reality, not just words." (Indeed it is.)

Fifteen days earlier, on Aug. 14, at a conference in Yalta, the Russian president had told the assembled factions of the State Duma that he soon planned to "surprise the West with our new developments in offensive nuclear weapons about which we do not talk yet." This came as Russian strategic nuclear bombers and fighter jets have been accused of violating the airspace of the United States and Western European countries with mounting frequency, while under the surface of the world's seas Russian and U.S. nuclear submarines have been involved in confrontations recalling the worst days of the Cold War. As NATO leaders convene for their summit in Wales, Russia just announced that its strategic nuclear forces will hold exercises of unprecedented dimensions this month. And the Kremlin, for its part, just declared that it will amend its military doctrine to reflect Russia's growing tensions with NATO. What this means exactly remains unclear, but in view of the rising tensions with the Western alliance, it cannot be good.

...But Putin would never actually use nuclear weapons, would he? The scientist and longtime Putin critic Andrei Piontkovsky, a former executive director of the Strategic Studies Center in Moscow and a political commentator for the BBC World Service, believes he might. In August, Piontkovsky published a troubling account of what he believes Putin might do to win the current standoff with the West -- and, in one blow, destroy NATO as an organization and finish off what's left of America's credibility as the world's guardian of peace.
In view of the Russian leader's recent remarks and provocative actions, the scenario Piontkovsky lays out becomes terrifyingly relevant. Worse, if the trigger events described come to pass, it becomes logical, maybe even inevitable.

Here's the chilling scenario the experts envision.

Not a massive launch of intercontinental ballistic missiles at the United States or Western Europe, which would bring about a suicidal atomic holocaust, but a small, tactical strike or two against a NATO member that few in the West would be willing to die to protect. Piontkovsky surmises that, in such a conflict, the nuclear-armed country with the "superior political will" to alter the geopolitical "status quo" and -- most importantly -- with the "greater indifference to values concerning human lives" would prevail. Any guesses which country that would be?

But what would trigger a Russian attack? According to Piontkovsky's scenario, it could be something as simple as a plebiscite: the Estonian city of Narva, overwhelmingly ethnically Russian and adjacent to Russia, deciding to hold a referendum on joining the Motherland. To help them "freely express their will" at the polls, Russia could send in a brigade of "little green men armed to the teeth," much like it did in Crimea in March. Estonia would thereupon invoke Article 5 of the NATO charter -- "an armed attack against one or more [NATO members] … shall be considered an attack against them all" -- and demand that the alliance defend it. Speaking in the Estonian capital of Tallinn on the eve of NATO's summit in Wales, this is just what Obama promised. "The defense of Tallinn and Riga and Vilnius is just as important as the defense of Berlin and Paris and London," he said.

Suddenly, the most terrifying nightmare becomes reality: NATO faces war with Russia.
How would Putin then react? Piontkovsky believes that NATO would balk at attacking Moscow over a small country remote from NATO's heartland and the hearts of its citizens. Piontkovsky imagines the course of action open to Nobel Peace Prize laureate Obama as he contemplates unleashing a planetary holocaust over a "damned little city no one has even heard of" while the American public cries out, "We don't want to die for fucking Narva, Mr. President!" Piontkovsky also cites a German public opinion poll asking what Berlin should do if Estonia enters an armed conflict with Russia: 70 percent would want their country to remain neutral.

Piontkovsky then tries to envision the situation in which Putin would find himself if NATO intervened to drive his little green men from Narva. Would Putin commit suicide by letting his missiles fly against the United States? No. Rather, he would respond with a limited nuclear strike against a couple of European capitals -- not London or Paris, but smaller ones, presumably in Eastern European countries that have only recently joined NATO. Warsaw, against which Russia has already conducted a drill simulating a Russian nuclear attack, first comes to mind. Or, say, Vilnius, Lithuania's capital. The point is, Putin would bet on decision-makers in Washington, Berlin, London, and Paris not retaliating with nuclear weapons against Russia if it had "only" hit a city or two most Westerners have barely heard of -- and certainly do not want to die for.'s worth remembering that since 2000 Russian nuclear doctrine has foreseen the deployment of battlefield nuclear weapons to de-escalate a conflict with NATO, if Russian forces were about to suffer defeat in a conventional conflict -- which shows that the Kremlin has already been betting that neither Obama nor the leaders of other nuclear powers would push the button if they could avoid it.

The Kremlin is probably right.

Saturday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sat, 09/06/2014 - 08:39
This and that for your weekend reading.

- Andrew Jackson writes that public investment is needed as part of a healthy economy, particularly when it's clear that the private sector isn't going to put massive accumulated savings to use. Bob McDonald notes that we'd be far better off using public money to fund basic research instead of funnelling it toward the business sector. And Ed Keenan looks to Ontario for examples of how far more money is flowing into questionable corporate handouts than toward basic human needs.

- Meanwhile, Lana Payne exposes the Cons' efforts to both downplay and reduce the federal funds available to improve both economic and social conditions if they had any interest in getting things done:
Martin serially underestimated the size of federal surpluses, surpluses the Conservatives quickly spent when they took power, mostly on reckless corporate tax cuts. The Conservatives then continued the trend started by Martin, who had reduced federal corporate taxes to historic lows. Apparently not low enough for the Conservatives, who lowered them again and again.

This has been the extent of Canada’s tax debate for a generation: tax cuts. Even the political left has bought into the mantra, to a certain extent. Political parties, for the most part, want to avoid having an adult conversation on what a fair tax system in Canada would look like.And, as a result, there is little to no fiscal room to build and deliver on the needs of the next generation of Canadians or to meet the demands of an aging population.

The Conservatives have continued the austerity agenda, slashing programs and services and laying off more than 20,000 employees.  They have overstated the size of the deficit. Indeed, for the first three months of fiscal year 2014-15, the federal government has been in official surplus.

The parliamentary budget officer (PBO) has been critical of the federal government’s continued austerity, noting that the measures have slowed economic growth and resulted in fewer jobs. The PBO has also predicted a $7-billion surplus for 2015.

These slash-and-burn austerity policies have served to keep the expectations of Canadians low, but they have also fundamentally changed and diminished the role the federal government has played in Canadian society.

This, of course, has been the point and some of the rationale behind the reckless tax cuts — empty the federal coffers, strangle the expectations of Canadians and then repeat.- Linda McQuaig writes about the costs of allowing corporations to engage in tax-evasion maneuvers like the Burger King/Tim Hortons takeover:
We’re always told we should try to lure corporations here with low taxes. But such a strategy — even if it did result in some benefit to Canada — is ultimately self-defeating.

The more we cut our tax rates, the more other countries feel obliged to cut theirs. Round and round it goes, with less and less revenue for vital public programs everywhere. It’s a race to the bottom only corporations can win.

Instead, we should be supporting the Obama administration in its efforts to stop international corporate tax dodging. The White House is now locked in a fierce battle with powerful corporations over tax inversion schemes and also over the U.S. corporate tax rate, which — at 35 per cent — is one of the highest in the world. Corporations want it slashed.

The outcome of this showdown will affect us all. If the multinationals succeed in coercing the mighty United States government to cut its corporate tax rate, it will be much harder for less powerful countries to resist the corporate tax-cutting juggernaut.

The race to the bottom will be on in earnest — with the corporate world happily handing out steroids.- Mike De Souza reports that the Cons refuse to let Health Canada or its scientists talk about the effects of oil-industry toxins on Alberta residents (other than to dismiss out of hand the research which actually shows harm to human health caused by the tar sands).

- Finally, Rick Salutin highlights the foreign policy that's actually threatening us at home at abroad:
Yes, there’s a threat of domestic 9/11-type attacks by ISIS: either in the name of global proselytization or to teach the West what it’s like to be bombarded at home. But it’s the predictable result of western policies since 9/11: invasions, occupations, brutalizations in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. Western leaders and policy mavens knew these would elicit further 9/11s. That’s what I find despicable. They surely try to stop them but eventually some will probably get through — and they’re prepared to accept those, along with the terrorization of their own populations, as the price of their agenda.

In other words, they don’t invade or attack to stop future 9/11s. They accept future 9/11s as the cost for invasions and attacks with other purposes.

Such retaliations can arise in any society that’s been buffeted by outsiders, though they’re easier to mount in the globalized era. They already occurred in Ireland and Algeria. They often come from religion-based groups because those have deep roots and seem better able to survive repression than secular resistance movements. Occupiers like the U.S. are willing to risk the retaliation since, though terrifying and barbaric, it doesn’t menace them existentially: neither economically nor militarily. They’ll survive, and meanwhile have an excuse to tighten the screws on domestic dissent, further eroding personal security.

Tragedy In The Commons

Politics and its Discontents - Sat, 09/06/2014 - 08:07
I know that I am hardly alone in sometimes thinking that the insights and observations of progressives have a Cassandra-like quality to them; we think we can see patterns auguring ill for our country and our democracy, but warnings are largely ignored by a quiescent or alienated proportion of the population, the latter so turned off by the cupidity and corruption that seems to abound in the political world that they have just disengaged and decided to pursue other aspects of life that seem more worthwhile.

One can argue that it has always been thus; others can, quite cogently, argue that the process of alienation has vastly accelerated under the Harper regime, the result of a cabal that has made an art out of vilification, dirty tricks and divisiveness as it relentlessly pursues its raison d'être, the retention of power for its own sake.

I have just started reading Tragedy in the Commons, written by Alison Loat and Michael MacMillan, who founded Samara, a non-profit devoted to strengthening democracy in Canada by improving political participation.

Here is a brief excerpt from it about the role of the MP as offered by a former Liberal:

The truth is: you're there to develop policy that is self-serving and beneficial to your party in order to keep you in power and get you re-elected...

That bald statement epitomizes the monumental task before those who seek a renewed democracy, one that offers both hope and the opportunity to feel a part of something larger than themselves, something truly worthwhile.

While I was intending this post as a lead-in to more commentary on how the Conservatives have so abjectly failed in the above regard, other duties summon me, so for now I will leave you with this brief video:

Recommend this Post

How Many McJobs Go With That?

Northern Reflections - Sat, 09/06/2014 - 06:08


When Burger King gobbled up Tim  Hortons two weeks ago, Joe Oliver crowed about Canada's low corporate tax rates. But, Linda McQuaig writes, Oliver was telling whoppers, not selling them:

One might be left with the impression that the corporate creator of the Whopper plans to invest a whopping $11 billion in Canada. Now there’s a whopper for you — but it’s not inside a bun.

The truth is that the Burger King-Tim Hortons deal is just a paper transaction that, apart from enriching some stockholders, likely will provide zero benefit for Canada, in terms of job creation or additional revenue for the public purse.
Certainly, south of the border, Americans were unimpressed:

Burger King is clearly trying to take advantage of a popular U.S. tax scheme known as “tax inversion,” whereby a corporation takes over a foreign company to get around U.S. tax laws requiring corporations to pay tax on their worldwide incomes. Canada doesn’t have such a requirement, making it easier for companies headquartered here to avoid taxes through “transfer pricing” — that is, shifting profits to offshore tax havens.

The Obama administration has been trying hard to clamp down on this “unpatriotic” tax inversion scheme, whereby some of America’s wealthiest corporations have managed to dodge billions of dollars in taxes.
The American president understands that this is all about a race to the bottom. And he would appreciate a little help from Canada:

The more we cut our tax rates, the more other countries feel obliged to cut theirs. Round and round it goes, with less and less revenue for vital public programs everywhere. It’s a race to the bottom only corporations can win.

Instead, we should be supporting the Obama administration in its efforts to stop international corporate tax dodging. The White House is now locked in a fierce battle with powerful corporations over tax inversion schemes and also over the U.S. corporate tax rate, which — at 35 per cent — is one of the highest in the world. Corporations want it slashed.
But the Harperites have always been bottom feeders. No one appears to have asked, "How many McJobs go with that? And will they be filled with Temporary Foreign Workers?


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