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About That Man Behind The Curtain

Politics and its Discontents - Tue, 10/07/2014 - 10:15


While some of the electorate gets all primed to receive the bauble of tax breaks next year, responding as intended to the carefully orchestrated neo-liberal siren call to worry only about oneself and one's own, others who can see beyond the the next paycheck and their own backyard are concerned about our collective well-being.

The Globe and Mail has a story detailing a report by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development of the Harper regime's abysmal failure in its environmental responsibilities.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government is not doing enough to reduce carbon emissions, fight climate change and regulate oil and gas emissions, a series of audits from a federal watchdog have found.The report is really a document of the absolute contempt shown by the regime for anything that could be construed as an impediment to commerce. The specific indictments include the following:
- Canada is not on pace to meet its emissions reductions targets.

- Oil sands monitoring has met delays – including on a key pollutant (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.” PAHs, as they’re known, are a key pollutant linked to fish deformities.)

- The federal government has no firm plan to monitor the oil sands beyond next year.

- An emissions-reduction committee hasn’t met in three years

- The rules around a key environmental protection are murky, i.e. the federal government has no clear guidelines about which projects require an environmental assessment.When we go to the polls next year, I know that at least some of us will remember these inconvenient truths that puncture the sanctimonious and dishonest government rhetoric that we are constantly being fed.Recommend this Post

thank you, thomas mulcair and the new democrats: thank you for saying no to war

we move to canada - Tue, 10/07/2014 - 09:30
Today I feel so much better about living in Canada. Once again, we have a political party that says no to war. A political party that says no to letting the US dictate Canadian foreign policy. I now feel much better about voting NDP in the next federal election... which can't come soon enough!

It's a shrewd political move on the part of Thomas Mulcair, polarizing the field with the Liberals and Conservatives on one side and the New Democrats on the other. I have no doubt it's politically motivated, but why should I care about motives, when the end result would be diplomacy, humanitarian aid, and no war?

Listen to his speech. Thank you, Tom Mulcair!

The Last Thing an F-35 Driver Will Ever Want to See

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 10/07/2014 - 08:55

It's no secret where the F-35 is intended to operate - in the highly-defended airspace of just two countries, China and Russia.  The F-35 and its big brother the F-22 were designed to defeat sophisticated air defences, at least what would have passed for sophisticated at the turn of the century.

It's hard to fault the intended targets of America's stealth armada for responding to what, for them, is a potentially catastrophic threat.  And so they have.

They had a look, several looks, at what Lockheed and its sub-contractors were up to. It's believed they hacked a lot of computers, stole a lot of code and design secrets. Then the Americans made the incredibly stupid mistake of allowing a state-of-the-art stealth drone, the RQ-170, fall into Iranian hands almost intact.

The "bad guys" know more about America's stealth technology than America's allies do and probably ever will.  That's not a particularly good thing - for us, at least. They figured out a lot of the weaknesses and vulnerabilities in what are now America's "venerable" stealth warplanes. That has allowed them to develop some impressive air defence systems - multi- and broadband radars, long distance electro-optical sensors, multi-sensor anti-aircraft missiles.  They've also fielded their own stealth warplanes.

Here's the Russian entry, the Sukhoi PAK-FA.  This is designed to give the F-22 all it can handle.  It could also give the F-35 absolute fits.



Like the F-22, the Sukhoi is long-range, very fast and features thrust-vectoring nozzles.  Unlike the F-22, the Sukhoi's engines are set well apart to enhance control inputs and the nozzles can rotate through 360 degrees.  At the 5:30 mark in the video the Sukhoi appears to demonstrate a completely controlled flat spin.

Another feature of the Russian plane is that it appears to have a combination leading-edge extension/canard which probably remains fixed in stealth mode but comes into operation for close in air-to-air combat.

And, lest we be tempted to berate the Russians for stealing everything the Americans invented, it was a Russian mathematician who devised the calculations for stealth cloaking - all the ratios and angles, etc.  Some clever American engineers stumbled across the Russian paper, had it translated and turned it into this (which is Russian for "math"):


The Lethal Cult of Growthism

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 10/07/2014 - 08:46


Even though the political spectrum has been compressed into the hardtack of neoliberalism there remain at least notional differences between left, centre and right in our national body politic.  Yet if there is one reason for us to reject the lot of them, it's their obsessive embrace of perpetual, exponential economic growth.

Canada's political parties, or the tattered remnants that we know today as Conservative, Liberal and New Democrat, are merely following a "it's the economy, stupid" script that guides the political leadership in most, if not all, Western countries.  The Guardian's Zoe Williams explores growth-focused politics in Britain and you may find what she has to say applies very much to Canada.

The big idea of the three main parties is the same: not capitalism, or neo-liberalism, or social democracy – but growthism. This term was coined by the author Umair Haque to describe the pursuit, above all other things, of economic growth. Never mind who it benefits, who gets left behind or what it destroys; never mind if its practices are unfair or unsustainable: if the numbers go up, everyone is happy, and if they’re not happy, give them a tax break.

If they’re still not happy – maybe because they don’t earn enough to warrant a tax break – dismiss them as failures (if you’re a Conservative); boost their income with money borrowed from somewhere else (if you’re Labour); or promise to raise taxes on the rich by trivial amounts, knowing this is a promise you’ll never be called upon to keep (if you’re a Lib Dem).

Many ordinary people hate growthism: from the doctors heckling Jeremy Hunt at the Royal College of GPs last week, to the midwives going on strike for the first time in their 133-year history; from the Ukip voters who blame it all on the EU, to the Mumsnetters who just want politicians to be people with “authenticity”. They hate it not because it’s rightwing or leftwing, not because it lets in too many foreigners or creates inequality, but because it is not a worthwhile endeavour in itself. It’s just not worth the candle.

...Green party membership is up 45% this year, over 20,000 for the first time – Natalie Bennett, the party leader, highlights a surge in Young Greens of 100% since March. But if the Greens haven’t captured the whole of the progressive side, it is because they are seen to answer only half the problem. As illustrated by the political pressure group Compass and the thinktank New Economics Foundation, current politics fails, and will always fail, to meet two challenges: climate change and inequality.

I have watched in dismay as the party I once supported gradually, over a period of years, parted company with its progressive element and their once recognized values.  Even as I disengaged from my former party I was shocked to see the New Democrats also slip their moorings in a shameless quest for power at the expense of principle. 

If you listen to them now they sound like three parrots sharing a shit-stained perch, squawking endlessly "growth, growth, growth."  They're oblivious to the very world we live in and the changes that are rapidly overtaking us.  They're incapable of meeting the challenges that beset the lives of most of us.   Harper used to smear Ignatieff, claiming he was in it for himself.  They all are - Harper, Trudeau and Mulcair - and that's why we must accept at some point and sooner rather than later, that we have to get free from this political caste.

At this point it might be useful to repost a YouTube video clip from the past of David Suzuki giving a useful explanation of why exponential growth of the sort cherished by our political class is, in a word, suicidal.





They Want a Revolution in How We Live

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 10/07/2014 - 07:50


Eleven Nobel laureates have joined forces to call for revolutionary change in everything from how we live, how we work and how we travel.

Only by switching to smarter, less greedy use of resources can humans avert wrecking the ecosystems on which they depend, the laureates will argue.

The state of affairs is “catastrophic”, Peter Doherty, 1996 co-winner of the Nobel prize for medicine, said in a blunt appraisal.

He is among 11 laureates scheduled to attend the four-day huddle from Wednesday – the fourth in a series of Nobel symposia on the precarious state of the planet.

From global warming, deforestation and soil and water degradation to ocean acidification, chemical pollution and environmentally-triggered diseases, the list of planetary ailments is long and growing, Doherty said.

...The worsening crisis means consumers, businesses and policymakers must consider the impact on the planet of every decision they make, he said.

Underpinning their concern are new figures highlighting that humanity is living absurdly beyond its means.

According to the latest analysis by environmental organisation WWF, mankind is using 50% more resources than nature can replenish.

...“The peril seems imminent,” said US-Australian astrophysicist Brian Schmidt, co-holder of the 2011 Nobel physics prize for demonstrating an acceleration in the expansion of the universe.

The threat derives from “our exponentially growing consumption of resources, required to serve the nine billion or so people who will be on planet Earth by 2050, all of whom want to have lives like we have in the western world,” said Schmidt.

We are poised to do more damage to the Earth in the next 35 years than we have done in the last 1,000.”


Climate Science Goofs - Again

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 10/07/2014 - 07:48


The climate scientists got it wrong, badly wrong.  You could say they were out by a country mile (if anyone still remembers what that is).

This time it's ocean temperatures or, to be more accurate, ocean warming.  And, as usual, the scientists underestimated the amount of heat absorbed in the top half-mile of our oceans since 1970 by as much as 58 per cent.

The study, by Paul J. Durack of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and others, found that the underestimation was the result of decades of spotty sampling of water temperatures in the Southern Hemisphere, home to three-fifths of the world’s oceans. Until 2004, when a worldwide system of autonomous floats, called Argo, became operational, there were relatively few temperature measurements south of the Equator.“We potentially may have missed a fair amount of heat that the ocean has been taking up,” Dr. Durack said.Sea-level rise linked to climate change is related in part to increased melting of ice sheets and in part to the fact that water expands as it warms. So the finding that more heat has been taken up by the oceans may lead to revisions in estimates of the rate of sea-level rise. The finding also may affect assessments of how sensitive the climate is to the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the researchers said.

Municipal and state officials are tossing around ideas to get Boston ready for up to seven feet of sea level rise by 2100.  One idea is to begin preparing parts of the city to become the Venice of the U.S.  In these areas roads would be transformed into canals.

Tuesday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Tue, 10/07/2014 - 07:28
This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Ezra Klein discusses how a corporate focus on buybacks and dividends rather than actually investing capital leads to less opportunities for workers. Nora Loreto offers her take on precarious work in Canada. And Lynne Fernandez and Kirsten Bernas make the case for a living wage in Manitoba and elsewhere.

- Paul Krugman writes that if the Republicans manage to take both houses of Congress, we can expect them to turn voodoo economics into the default means of evaluating policy choices.

- Murray Mandryk crunches some numbers and finds that the main effect of the much-ballyhooed SaskPower carbon capture and sequestration project is to transfer a massive amount of money from the public to the oil sector. And SaskWind follows up by pointing out that it's already possible to secure better value for money investing in wind power.

- Andrew MacLeod exposes how the B.C. Libs want to take another step in silencing non-profits - this time by giving outsiders (and particularly those with enough money to fund constant court proceedings) the ability to force any non-profit to comply with their view of the public interest. And Vaughn Palmer notes that it's nothing new for the Clark Libs to bully people using the power of the state and the public purse.

- Finally, Karl Nerenberg writes that the purpose of the latest Iraq war is simply to defend the legacy of failure arising out of previous ones. And the Star-Phoenix' editorial board argues that it's time to stop the march to war before it's too late.

War and Righteous Christian Warriors. . . . .

kirbycairo - Tue, 10/07/2014 - 06:09
Stephen Harper's motivations to have Canada get involved in the new war in Iraq are essentially two fold. On the one hand Harper is a religious fanatic who has, for many years, hungered to demonstrate his Christian righteousness in war with the 'barbarian heathens.' Harper's other motivation is a last ditch effort to get himself reelected through a portrayal of himself as a Putin-like strong-man. Because of the nature of these two motivating factors, they probably are not subject to reversal. On the one hand Harper's religious fanaticism is, though never talked about by the mainstream media, very real. He would take any genuine opportunity to simplify the world into the "good" and the "bad" and put himself in the place of a Christian warrior wielding the sword of god in the name of righteousness. On the other hand, it is clear to almost everyone (and maybe even to himself) that if things kept going the way they were, Harper had no chance for reelection, so he is deeply committed to any kind of war as a path to another stint in power.

The strategy, however, is not without glaring pitfalls. For a war to be a path to reelection within the context of modern Western democracies it requires two basic principles - it must be short and it must be successful. However, I have heard no credible military strategist (even the ones who are in favour of this war) who say it can be short. And they uniformly admit that to stop ISIS with a military effort will require a great deal more than simple airstrikes. In fact, only a couple weeks into this war and we are already seeing analysts saying that these bombing efforts are not having their desired effects and may even be making the situation worse. Furthermore, anyone who is actually honest and familiar with recent events knows that Western military efforts in the Middle East have only increased instability. Therefore, we can fairly easily conclude that Harper's involvement in this war will leave him with a troubling dilemma. As it becomes clear that bombing ISIS will not bring about the desired effect, the West will either have to abandon the effort or increase and widen the war. If Western nations like the UK and the US start putting "boots on the ground," Harper will either have to commit Canada to a similar effort or demonstrate a troubling hypocrisy. He has made such efforts to tell us that this is a "noble" (read Holy) war, and that Canada doesn't sit on the sidelines, that if he doesn't commit ground-troops with other nations his publicity strategy will be exposed as a fraud. And as sheep-like as the Canadian public can be, I think a troop commitment in Iraq will be a career-ending move by any politician.

And these are by no means the most troubling issues for Harper where this war is concerned. What if, as history demonstrates, this war dramatically increases the instability in the region? What if it strengthens al-Assad's power in Syria? What if Turkey gets drawn into the war in a significant way, making Western nations obliged to be more actively involved? And perhaps most dauntingly, what if this effort makes Canada a target of a successful and significant terrorist attack on home soil? This will make Harper's military efforts toward righteousness a significant political liability.

What seems clear to me is that history teaches us that this war will do nothing to reduce instability in the Middle East. Western military efforts in the region have done nothing but make the situation worse. This is because the narrative that Western leaders continually tell us about the Middle East  is simply false. Militant, Anti-Western Islam doesn't exist simply because "they" hate our democracy and our decadence. Oh, of course there are always crazy people out there in all religions who do all sorts of terrible things. But to create large, unified forces you need something more than a twisted religious fervor. At the risk of committing "sociology," it should be clear to anyone with common sense and even a mild familiarity with the situation that it is generations of injustice that has fed the ranks of militant, anti-western Islamic organizations. If men like Harper really wanted to solve these problems they wouldn't be screaming out a call to war. The solutions are fairly simple, support a just and equitable solution to the Palestine problem, give them their land back and give them a proper state and make them stake-holders in prosperity and peace in the Middle-East. Stop supporting dictators in countries like Saudi Arabia and UAE, and compel those dictators to creating more democratic and equitable societies. Then take all the billions of dollars that you are spending on bombs and war planes and put it into development in the region (schools, hospitals etc.) These efforts will not solve all the problems immediately, but over time such solutions will rob the radical, violent groups of their constituency and give reasons to commit to a peaceful and just society rather than to a life and death in some kind of 'holy-war.'

Harper is surely betting on his war efforts to run fairly smoothly at least until the next election rolls along. Because Conservative strategists can't be stupid enough to think that they can register a huge an immediate military victory, they must be thinking that all that has to happen is that things don't go terribly wrong over the next 12 months and their leader will come out smelling like a rose while the opposition will look like terrorist enablers. And on the surface that must look like a good strategy. The so-called 'quagmire' problems that I have been talking about here could take a number of years to develop, and Harper only needs a relatively short window of renewed popularity to get reelected. However, once again there is a significant problem here. Everything running "smoothly" means the war not registering significantly in the public mind. The problem with that is that then the 'strongman' leader effect cannot play in the public mind. This means that the things that are leading to Harper's general unpopularity will still be there. Thus Harper's strategy runs the very real risk of being a zero sum game, and at worst (if things go horribly wrong) being a total political disaster for him.

Of course, with a man like Harper, most of this may not even register. His fanaticism might be trumping all these potential downfalls. Instead Harper may only be living in space in which he is a righteous Christian warrior doing God's work. We all know how well that worked for Tony Blair.

One Last Assault On Labour

Northern Reflections - Tue, 10/07/2014 - 05:26

                                                   www.nationalpost.com/

Jim Stanford writes that, by resurrecting Bill C-377, the Harper Party is making one last assault on labour. The bill died in the Senate last year when Conservative senators, led by the now retired Hugh Segal, revolted and refused to pass the bill because -- according to Segal -- it was "flawed, unconstitutional and technically incompetent."

The revived bill is still probably unconstitutional because "it almost certainly violates provincial constitutional authority and federal privacy standards." But whether or not a bill could pass constitutional muster has never been a Harperite concern. So the prime minister's minions plan to charge ahead.

But, Stanford writes, that strategy has been failing throughout the country:

 In addition to the C-377 debacle, several other labour issues unfolded badly for the Conservatives (and their provincial counterparts) in the last year. Ottawa backtracked dramatically on its Temporary Foreign Worker program in the face of public outrage – opposition led by unions. In Ontario, PC leader Tim Hudak self-immolated in fiery anti-union rhetoric. In B.C., Premier Christy Clark’s attempt to paint the teacher’s union as public enemy number one backfired; she finally withdrew (after a needless three-month strike) her plan to unilaterally seize control over classroom sizes. Even in Alberta, the least unionized province, new Premier Jim Prentice quickly abandoned two confrontational (and likely unconstitutional) anti-union pension bills, told by MPPs they were hurting badly in their constituencies.
As in so many other areas, the tide is turning against the Conservatives. Unions are increasingly being seen as:

an institutional bulwark on the side of all those who work for a living, defending vulnerable people within a social order that is increasingly lopsided. As unions succeed in that effort, the political value of union-bashing will continue to erode.
But don't expect the Harperites to get that message.


Stephen Harper and the Con ISIS Enablers

Montreal Simon - Tue, 10/07/2014 - 04:23


So great is Stephen Harper's contempt for Parliament, that even on the day when it debated his plan to take us to war, he didn't even bother to show up.

No doubt preferring to stay at home, and prepare himself psychologically so he can control himself, and his bowels, when the special moment arrives.

And after eleven years he FINALLY gets his War in Iraq.

So in his place in the Commons today we got John Baird, and this special moment.
Read more »

Yes, it is astonishing

Cathie from Canada - Tue, 10/07/2014 - 00:11
The US Supreme Court basically ruled today that all those lower court decisions authorizing gay marriage in a number of states are constitutional.
In celebration, Andrew Sullivan has written The Astonishing Actual History Of The Gay Rights Movement, from the despair of AIDS to today's victory:

Using the institutions and self-knowledge and smarts that had somehow defeated the plague, gay men charted a future when nothing like this would happen again, when gay men would never be parted from their spouses on their death beds, when gay men’s physical and psychological health would never be treated as insignificant, when gay men would never suffer the indignity that so many endured in front of our eyes. And so we built the case for marriage equality and for open military service as a recognition of the self-worth our survival had given some of us, and to pay some kind of tribute to those who had fallen.

We went, in other words, from about the deepest hole you can imagine to a determination not just to get out of it, but to see the mountaintop in our lifetimes.

...We are on this mountaintop together, even as so many dead lie round.

On political calculations

accidentaldeliberations - Mon, 10/06/2014 - 18:44
I haven't seen anybody else question the most self-congratulatory aspect of Stephen Harper's position on a new Iraq war, and at least a few commentators seem to have been willing to swallow it whole. So let's address the question of which leader has the most obvious political reason to position himself the way he has:
I urge all Members to consider and support the motion we have presented. I do this, Mr. Speaker, in recognizing that, in a democracy, especially one approaching an election…there is rarely political upside in supporting any kind of military action, and little political risk in opposing it.Of course, for an opposition leader, Harper is right to recognize that there's little upside in falling in line behind a government call to arms. But for the government, the calculations are rather different: instead, one might make the argument that based on past performance, any PM seeking re-election should be giddy about the prospect of both a bump in personal support, and the ability to label opposition parties as unpatriotic for disagreeing on any issue.

Which means that some war - any war - can easily be seen as Stephen Harper's best chance of shaking up a political scene which had turned against him in order to create some hope of appealing to somebody beyond his rapidly-shrinking base.

But what about the long-term political dangers of owning the war for himself? Well, those would never really materialize to the extent Harper could strong-arm other parties into co-owning the war. And even then, the choice to limit Canadian involvement to air strikes makes any bloodshed unlikely in the time leading up to the next federal election.

So the Cons' chosen level and type of involvement in the new Iraq war makes a world of political sense, allowing Harper to start up the jingoism with minimal risk of losses. But by the same token, it looks rather less logical to the extent anybody actually feared that ISIS was the existential threat Harper claims it to be. 

Now, one can fairly make the point that the other parties' choices are also consistent with rational political positioning. But a leader as hyperpartisan as Harper - whose party has the most to gain from pushing military action of any kind, and the most to lose from not forcing the issue - should hardly be taken seriously when he claims that political upside isn't at the centre of his own choices.

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