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Sunday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 01/24/2016 - 07:17
This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Lana Payne highlights how Kevin O'Leary's obliviousness to inequality makes him a relic. But Linda McQuaig notes that however distant O'Leary may be from the public, he's not that far removed from all too many Conservatives.

- Gerald Caplan points out that even a campaign where the Cons managed to earn the committed disapproval of up to 70% of the country doesn't seem to have led anybody to learn any lessons. And Michael Harris reacts to the Cons' sudden attempt to deny the existence of the record they were so desperately defending just months ago.

- Emily Badger responds to the poisoning of Flint by asking whether the U.S. would have accepted similar damage to more privileged segments of the population. And Rachel Browne observes that this weekend's shootings represented just the latest tragedy for La Loche - if the first to receive sustained outside attention.

- Al Jazeera reports on the alarming - and continuing - buildup of plastic waste which stands to outweigh all the fish in our oceans within a few decades.

- Finally, Marvin Shaffer is the latest to discuss why revenue-neutral carbon taxes only ensure that we don't take steps to mitigate the long-term damage done to our planet:
While we are already experiencing some impacts and costs of climate change, the most extensive and significant costs will be borne by future generations. So if we are going to pay a tax in recognition of the costs we are imposing on future generations, those payments shouldn’t be returned to us in the form of income or sales tax breaks.

Any reasonable notion of equity would demand that carbon tax revenues be directed to measures that benefit those who will be bearing the costs of what we do. They should be dedicated to measures that will help offset the emissions we are generating, prepare for and mitigate the climate change impacts we know we are causing, and support the research that ultimately will be needed to reduce the impacts and costs of what in all likelihood will be increasing concentrations of carbon in the atmosphere far beyond what our targets call for.

There are legitimate concerns about the inefficient use of earmarked funds. But that calls for vigilance in the manner in which funds are invested so that we do the best we can for the future generations. It doesn’t support the redirection of funds to the present generation at the expense of those who will bear the costs of what we do.

Marcel Aubut, Sean Penn & GAE

Dammit Janet - Sun, 01/24/2016 - 06:36
What do they have in common with each other?

All three have been exposed as men who harm women, along with their histrionic narcissism and their inability to grasp why their actions are violent.

Exhibit 1: Marcel Aubut: our DJ! blogpost on complaints lodged against him.  For decades people working with Aubut tolerated his preening ego.  They were also conveniently indifferent to his sustained sexual harassment of hundreds of athletes, journalists, officials, lawyers, staff members, etc. etc. 

After an investigation that unfolded quickly and efficiently, the Canadian Olympic Committee recognized that Aubut created a toxic environment through his abusive actions, and that its organization was negligent in not addressing the issue judiciously.

Three senior staff were punished for not handling the Aubut situation correctly.  However, the abuser himself has yet to suffer any consequences for his behaviour, nor has he taken responsibility for the harm he did.

Exhibit 2: Sean Penn 

Though Penn has been indefatigable in his efforts to establish himself as a saviour and a serious thinker, most recently as putative writer for Rolling Stone - he's still the same poseur previously known as a really *bad date*. Like George C. Scott, Penn has physically and mentally abused his partners. His explosive, violent temper and eggshell ego are epic. But he always gets a pass, because he's a privileged white man with connections and admirers.  

One hopes when Charlize Theron abruptly ended their relationship, she made the point that she doesn't suffer violent men gladly and that he got off relatively lightly, having dropped the mask and ceased to amuse her with his malignant charade. 

Exhibit 3: Gregory Alan Elliott

This summarizes why charges of criminal harassment were filed against him.
Now, let's get a few facts straight: Elliott is not on trial for having a difference of opinion with someone. He is on trial for criminal harassment. He tried repeatedly to contact Guthrie even after she had explicitly asked him to leave them alone. He monitored Guthrie's movements via Twitter, shadowed events she attended, and flooded any hashtag she participated in. He made it clear that he was following her every move by publicly commenting on her tweets, even after she had blocked him. He sent messages to people who interacted with her online, making it clear that he was observing everything she did.Though the judge found the complainants' testimony honest and credible, the bar for proving malice aforethought and deliberate criminal intent was set very high because the women fought back against the bully's campaign of harassment.  The tweet below addresses that perception; click on link to see how GAE supporters aka Men's Rights Activists and crusading gamegaters, responded.

His defence argued *honest* belief with regard to GAE's entitled sense that what he did was not wrong.  That bar is set low, as with many sexual assault cases. Also, GAE's complete pattern of harassment and incitement to others to do the same, could not be entered into the record.

When he was acquitted, the judge made it clear the decision did not mean GAE was innocent of wrongdoing as charged.  Yet, to borrow the words of Anne Thériault, GAE "mobilized his mob" to attack anyone who wasn't bellowing for his glorious vindication.

A reminder that, like predators Aubut and Penn, it's likely GAE's abusive actions won't be his last.  This exposes what he does: he harasses women and claims that he is the victim.

It's also a chilling warning to women: patriarchy may appear to be in its death-throes, but men who have enjoyed privilege or aspire to it, will do anything to crush those they view as insubordinate or unwilling to meet their demands, and those who have the temerity to challenge them. 

As some of us at DJ! painfully learned, this type of malevolence is not limited to a specific political ideology.

Capitalism's Crisis . . . .

kirbycairo - Sun, 01/24/2016 - 06:34
Economic and political instability are often impulses to change. Long waves of capitalism (originally outlined by Nikolai Kondratiev and then taken up by thinkers like Joseph Schumpeter and Ernest Mandel) have low and hi points. When you are headed to the bottom of one of these waves, capitalism is headed for a structural adjustment. This occurred in the wake of the first "Great Depression" (or what is now sometimes referred to as "The Long Depression") in the late 19th century. One of the reactions to this depression was the Progressive Movement, and one of the legislative responses was the anti-trust (or what should be called the anti-monopoly) laws. Another structural change came in the 1930 when smart capitalists realized that capitalism was a threat to itself and if it wasn't adjusted we were headed toward chaos. The smart centre-left politicians like FDR knew that a safety net was needed to make capitalism more functional. Meanwhile even smart Conservative politicians like Churchill understood that the one of the threats of a declining capitalism was the rise of Fascism.

When the long post-war boom ended, capitalists took the opportunity to shift the socioeconomic system away from the gains of the 1930s, and they used the process of globalization to make it difficult for nation-states to respond to the growing inequality and middle-class stagnation. But with the depression ushered in by the 2008 crash we see a new process of adjustment. Once again capitalism has become a threat to itself. In the wake of bank corruption, wealth decline, and staggering inequality, the Neo-Liberal narrative is clearly breaking down. The retreat of governance away from attempts at generalized wealth creation, at fair taxation, at infrastructural investment (as well as health and education) has meant that our governments have actively conspired to impoverish the people (something governments have always been good at). But the timing of this conspiratorial relationship is optically poor because it has placed government squarely in the role of being a point man for the rich at precisely the moment when capitalism is failing the vast majority of the world's population.

The threats that we now face are multi-fold. It is not clear that capitalism's growth at all cost impetus can be reformed at all, let alone reformed in time to save us from total environmental disaster. In the short term, perhaps the more pressing question is whether we can avoid the mistakes of the 1930s and the fall into fascism. If you take a rational view of fascism, it is not at all clear that we are avoiding this fall. The current crop of GOP candidates in the US demonstrates that the Americans are slipping fast and I am certain that Sinclair Lewis is spinning in his grave. Russia has been lost to fascism for some years already and China is a fascist dictatorship par excellence. Canada has already had a ten year dalliance with this ideology and with Kevin O'Leary on the horizon (a man who has threatened to outlaw unions and jail their supporters, something he couldn't do without martial law), we are teetering on the edge of a precipice.

In capitalism, as with any system, sometimes cooler head prevail sometimes they don't. The appeal of rightwing populism (the foundation of fascism) is obvious when you are dealing with a monstrously ignorant population under which seethes hidden feelings of racism. Though Canadians managed to reject this attitude in the last election, we see how easily and quickly racists and fascists come out of the woodwork once a political leader offers them the space by legitimizing hate speech. In the US, the rapid decline toward fascism is even more obvious and circus-like. We will know in a few months from now just how bad things are. Considering that even the more moderate GOP candidates are frighteningly fascist in tone and strategy, it doesn't look good.

Capitalism is in the trough of a wave. But this time the trough could end the world. It will take a great deal of courage from Socialists and Social Democrats to avert disaster, and there is no way capitalism in its present form can survive much longer.

A Graphic Illustration Of Humanity's Hubris

Politics and its Discontents - Sun, 01/24/2016 - 06:27
People of a certain age will remember the commercial with the tagline, "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature." Heedless of that warning, that's exactly what we continue to think we can do, despite all of the evidence to the contrary.

Some will take false comfort in blaming this year's weather disasters on a strengthened El Nino, ignoring why it is so strong; others will insist that climate change mitigation will destroy the economy. Still others will wait for a technological deus ex machina to save us all.

Perhaps they all should look at the latest evidence that nature always has the final say, and that our piddling opinions, rationalizations and magical thinking account for absolutely nothing in the larger scheme of things:

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Take A Pass

Northern Reflections - Sun, 01/24/2016 - 03:15

Soon, Justin Trudeau's Liberals will have to decide whether Canada will join the Trans Pacific Club. Murray Dobbin writes that recent studies indicate that the cost of membership in these so called free trade clubs is high:

By focusing exclusively on exports and abandoning any policy initiative aimed at strategic industrial development, Canada's economy has been going backwards in terms of value-added industries. According to the National Post's John Ivison, "the oil and gas sector's share of total exports has increased to 23 per cent in 2014 from 6 per cent a decade earlier, just as a manufacturing industry like the automotive sector has slipped to 14 per cent from 22 per cent." The trade deficit for 2015 was dismal. From October 2014 to October 2015 it reached $17.4 billion, the worst one-year total on record.
That's because, despite all the hype about free trade, these deals have always been -- first and foremost -- about investor protection:

Investment protection agreements are not primarily about trade -- they provide "investors" (that is, transnational corporations) with extraordinary rights that trump the sovereignty of those countries that sign them. But it only works at all if you have a capitalist class that actually takes advantage of these rights -- by taking risks, investing in innovation and engaging in aggressive overseas marketing -- such as the nine non-North American countries that are partners in the TPP. Otherwise we simply agree to become a punching bag for transnational corporations doing business here in Canada.

Rather than investing in other countries, Canadians have lost control of their own companies to foreigners:

As for foreign direct investment (FDI) positive numbers presented by "free trade" supporters are also extremely misleading. While most people assume that foreign investment means new production and jobs, in Canada it doesn't. In 1998, the Investment Review Division of Industry Canada prepared a report that looked at FDI in Canada. In 1997, it reached $21.2 billion -- the second-highest total on record. However, according to the study, fully 97.5 per cent of that total was devoted to acquisitions of Canadian companies. And 1997 was not an aberration. On average, between June 1985 and June 1997, 93.4 per cent of FDI went to acquisitions. In 2001 the figure was 96.5 per cent (Mel Hurtig, "How Much of Canada Do We Want to Sell?" Globe and Mail, 5 February 1998).
History tells us that, on balance, free trade has not been good for Canada. The simple truth is that the big countries -- most importantly, the United States -- set the rules in their favour. Some don't dispute this fact. But they insist that Canada still needs to join the club for defensive reasons.

Gus Van Harten, who teaches trade law at Osgoode Hall, disagrees. There are, he writes, seven good reasons for Canada not to sign on to the TPP:

1. The TPP would give special protections to foreign investors at significant public cost, without compelling evidence of a public benefit.

 2. When the TPP refers to "foreign investors," we should understand that to mean large multinationals and the super-wealthy.

3. The TPP is worse than existing agreements such as NAFTA.

4. Anything new and apparently better in the TPP, compared to NAFTA, is very likely lost because the TPP adds to, instead of replacing, existing trade agreements. 

 5. The TPP would make it easier for global banks to resist regulation.

6. The TPP is incompatible with the rule of law.

7. The TPP is disrespectful of domestic institutions, including the courts. 
Put simply, Mr. Trudeau and Company should take a pass on the TPP. 

Donald Trump: I Could Shoot Somebody and Still Be Popular

Montreal Simon - Sat, 01/23/2016 - 22:54

Lordy. If Donald Trump's head keeps swelling I'm afraid he is going to have to get a new comb over or caterpillar.

For there he was today shooting his mouth off, trumpeting his lead over all the other Republican candidates.

And actually claiming that he could kill someone, and STILL not lose any votes.

Read more »


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