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Egg On His Car

Politics and its Discontents - Sun, 01/18/2015 - 06:05
... but not on his face. Yes, our peripatetic and staunch, uncritical supporter of all things Israeli, Foreign Minister John baird, was spared the ultimate humiliation during a visit to the West Bank city of Ramallah today to meet with Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki.

The protesters, who were waiting as Baird left Malki's office, were kept well back and Baird was not hit, authorities say. One media report says only one of the eggs landed on the roof of his car.

Protesters held signs reading: "Baird you are not welcome in Palestine."Here is some raw footage of the event, which many Canadians will look upon rather wistfully, I suspect, given that at home, members of the Harper regime have a far more nuanced relationship with the public, appearing only before carefully vetted, friendly groups:

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Stephen Harper and the Ghosts of Scandals Past

Montreal Simon - Sun, 01/18/2015 - 05:01

By proroguing the budget until April, and presumably cancelling any plans for an early election, Stephen Harper has guaranteed himself a visit from the Ghosts of Scandals Past.

And I'm not just talking about Mike Duffy, or Dean del Mastro who will be sentenced later this month.

Or his old friend Bruce Carson who will also have his day in court on corruption charges...

Or even a possible appearance by the ghost of Pamela Wallin.

Because now he's also facing the prospect of having to confront the ghost of Arthur Porter...
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Stephen Harper, Alberta, and the House of Saud

Montreal Simon - Sun, 01/18/2015 - 04:56

Well let's face it, it's not a great time to be an Albertan. Their Great Leader Stephen Harper's oily obsession with creating a Greater Albertonia his leading them to disaster.

Once they were living high off the bitumen, and lording it over the rest of us. Now the wheels are falling off their monster trucks, and they're heading for a recession. 

But when they look around for somebody to blame, maybe they should take a close look at their House of Harper and it's warm relationship with the House of Saud.

Because then they might ask themselves, as Jeffrey Simpson does, why are they supporting those who are destroying their economy?
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What He Says They Mean

Northern Reflections - Sun, 01/18/2015 - 03:29

Watching the Harper government serve up a pre-election budget has become a drama in the Theatre of the Absurd. That's because -- as Tim Harper wrote last week in the Toronto Star -- for Stephen Harper, politics trumps math:

The new Conservative math is political math.
There’s another name for it. It’s a shell game.
Finance Minister Joe Oliver appears ready to arbitrarily set a future oil price — one that neither he nor Prime Minister Stephen Harper can predict — that will allow him to proceed with voter-friendly promises in an election year.Even as he pushed the budget date into April, he told a Calgary audience Thursday that he will balance this budget, then run surpluses in the years to come, rising to over $13 billion by 2019-20.
The Harperites find themselves in this predicament because they predicted a surplus based on $81a barrel oil. And they spent the surplus before it materialised. Moreover, they've based their whole re-election strategy on a balanced budget and tax cuts from their non-existent surplus:

They have to balance the budget so they can make good on a promise Harper made on a chilly early April day in Vaughan almost four years ago — the doubling of the limit for Tax Free Savings Account contributions to $10,000, a vote-friendly initiative that was contingent on the deficit being eliminated.
In the short term, there is a cost. The finance department has estimated that the existing TFSA program, introduced in 2009, cost the government more than $400 million in foregone revenue in 2013.
But that figure will be in the tens of billions when accounts are drawn on in the years to come.Similarly, an adult tax fitness credit is tied to the balanced budget.Then there is the matter of other pre-election spending, such as money that should go to veterans and the ongoing costs of an air mission against Islamic State in northern Iraq.
There is an old adage about not counting your chickens before they hatch. The same rule applies to surpluses.

When former MP Bill Casey went to Harper to complain that he had altered the Atlantic Accord, Harper told him that the words in the accord "mean what I say they mean." The same rule seems to apply to budget numbers.

PSA, Life Hacks

Sister Sages Musings - Sat, 01/17/2015 - 22:44



I generally post about politics, but today, I’d like to share with you what has become known as a “life hack”.  That’s like a shortcut, for all you old codgers out there, who probably already know this.


I am of a certain age, as they say.  I like to keep my . . . → Read More: PSA, Life Hacks

The Great Pope Francis: Not as Good As Advertised

Montreal Simon - Sat, 01/17/2015 - 20:38

I did have such high hopes for him. He did seem to be the best Pope I have ever seen.

He did say some great things about capitalism and climate change. 

But it turns out Pope Francis is not as good as I thought. Just more of the same.

Or just another old reactionary.
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This Changes Everything? I Doubt It.

The Disaffected Lib - Sat, 01/17/2015 - 14:00
I finally got around to finishing Naomi Klein's "This Changes Everything." While it's insightful it didn't break much ground and was disappointing in discussing just how we'll ever "change everything."  Klein gets it.  There's more than climate change at work threatening mankind.  She has a handle on over-population and over-consumption, resource shortages and such but she seems to pin her hopes on some sort of uprising in the miasma emanating from our excesses.  I'm unconvinced.

When I look at the world today, I think that, barring some planet-wide epiphany, some massive revolutionary change, we're hooped.  

I try to stay current with developments in environmental science, the latest reports and such.  Many of these studies are behind paywalls but you can usually find the executive summary and a few informative reviews to put the pieces together.

The past six months have seen new science that has certainly dimmed my outlook.  There was the World Bank study that found we have already locked in 1.5C warming for our grandkids even if we stopped carbon emissions today. What that means is that all of our ongoing and steadily increasing carbon emissions are adding to that 1.5C.  It seems to confirm projections that we're heading for 4 to 5C of warming by the end of this century and nobody contends that's survivable.

In September we received the Living Planet Report 2014 of the WWF, the Global Footprint Network and the Zoological Society of London that found we have lost half of the wild life on our planet since the early 70s.  Half of it is gone.  We're now working our way on the remaining half.  How can that be?  It's easy.  Mankind is now consuming renewable resources at more than 1.5 times their replenishment rate.  When we're taking that much, what's left for all other life forms?  Certainly not enough to sustain them.  We won't do without so they have to until they can't.  We get politely concerned when lakes dry up or rivers no longer reach the sea but we're talking about habitats that other animals and plants cannot live without. Sometimes, as in the collapse of global fisheries, we go at them directly for our own consumption.  Sometimes it's our pollution, especially nitrogen and phosphorous discharge, that kills them off.  If you're a non-human life form today you have to contend with climate change impacts, loss of resources and habitat, human predation and the steadily accumulating pollutants and contaminants of many varieties.

Then there were the reports released this week, apparently for the World Economic Forum, Davos.  The WEF released its "Global Risks 2015" report. The future it foresees is increasingly challenging, an "increasingly complex risk environment for which the world is "insufficiently prepared."  Inter-state wars, resource wars which are wars for survival, are the predominant threat to global security in the coming decade.  Water wars are the prime culprit.

Most troubling for me was the report on the 5-year study of the nine key factors that "ensure a livable planet for humans."  We're already in serious trouble on four of the nine and the trend is not encouraging on the others.

The report reinforces a conclusion I reached some time ago that climate change/global warming is not a stand-alone problem but one symptom of a much greater disorder that confronts and threatens the continuation of mankind.  The comments of the lead author, published in The Guardian, speak for themselves about the mess we're in.

Since 1950 urban populations have increased seven-fold, primary energy use has soared by a factor of five, while the amount of fertiliser used is now eight times higher. The amount of nitrogen entering the oceans has quadrupled.

All of these changes are shifting Earth into a “new state” that is becoming less hospitable to human life, researchers said.

“These indicators have shot up since 1950 and there are no signs they are slowing down,” said Prof Will Steffen of the Australian National University and the Stockholm Resilience Centre. Steffen is the lead author on both of the studies.

“When economic systems went into overdrive, there was a massive increase in resource use and pollution. It used to be confined to local and regional areas but we’re now seeing this occurring on a global scale. These changes are down to human activity, not natural variability.”

We are clearing land, we are degrading land, we introduce feral animals and take the top predators out, we change the marine ecosystem by overfishing – it’s a death by a thousand cuts,” he said. “That direct impact upon the land is the most important factor right now, even more than climate change.

“If the Earth is going to move to a warmer state, 5-6C warmer, with no ice caps, it will do so and that won’t be good for large mammals like us. People say the world is robust and that’s true, there will be life on Earth, but the Earth won’t be robust for us.

Some people say we can adapt due to technology, but that’s a belief system, it’s not based on fact. There is no convincing evidence that a large mammal, with a core body temperature of 37C, will be able to evolve that quickly. Insects can, but humans can’t and that’s a problem.”

Steffen said the research showed the economic system was “fundamentally flawed” as it ignored critically important life support systems.

It’s clear the economic system is driving us towards an unsustainable future and people of my daughter’s generation will find it increasingly hard to survive,” he said. “History has shown that civilisations have risen, stuck to their core values and then collapsed because they didn’t change. That’s where we are today.”

The two studies, published in Science and Anthropocene Review, featured the work of scientists from countries including the US, Sweden, Germany and India. The findings will be presented in seven seminars at the World Economic Forum in Davos, which takes place between 21 and 25 January.

All of these studies that are coming in point to one conclusion.   We, mankind, have painted ourselves into a very dangerous corner and there may no longer be a way out.  We cling to forms of organization - economic, industrial, social and political - that outlived their utility as far back as the 70s when we began expanding past the limits of our environment.  Whether we even have the ability to solve our challenges isn't the issue.  What's holding us back is a complete lack of will, especially among those we empower and rely upon to safeguard our nation and our children.  

International Criminal Court Launches Probe. Israel Seethes and Squirms.

The Disaffected Lib - Sat, 01/17/2015 - 11:19

A prosecutor from the International Criminal Court has opened a probe into possible war crimes in the Palestinian territories.  Israel wasted no time lashing out, threatening to dismantle the ICC.

Potential cases [prosecutor Fatou] Bensouda could take on include allegations of war crimes by Israel during last summer's Gaza war where the Palestinians suffered heavy civilian casualties. Israel's settlement construction on occupied Palestinian lands could also be examined.

The cases could also include alleged war crimes by Hamas, which controls Gaza, including the firing of thousands of rockets at Israeli residential areas from crowded neighborhoods.

[Israeli prime minister, Benjamin] Netanyahu also said that, "unfortunately, the move turns the court into part of the problem, rather than part of the solution," Netanyahu concluded. "It's a scandalous that only days after terrorists slaughtered Jews in Paris ... the ICC opens an inquiry against the Jewish state, and only because it defends its citizens against Hamas, a terrorist organization that is partnered with the Palestinian Authority."

Describing the court's statement as hypocritical and supportive of terror, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman the decision was "scandalous," stemmed political and anti-Israel motives and was an attempt to "harm Israel's right to defend itself against terror." He added that Israel would take international action to have the ICC dismantled.

Lieberman said that it was impossible to compare the Israel Defense Forces, which "does everything possible to avoid harming innocents," with "terror organizations which fire from areas populated by civilians against areas populated by other civilians." 
Lieberman, true to form, is talking out of his ass.  The assault on Gaza last summer was a textbook case of the Israeli tactic, Dahiyeh, the deliberate and massive targeting of civilians and the essential infrastructure upon which civilians depend.  It begins with airstrikes to take out sewer and water plants, indispensible to urban living.  Next up are hospitals and schools.  Finally residential areas are targeted and attacked.  Dahiyeh  takes its name from the Lebanese suburb of Beirut where Israel introduced the atrocity.  That this is a deliberate. calculated policy authorized by the highest Israeli authority was revealed by documents released by Wikileaks.

RCMP union--solidarity forever?

Dawg's Blawg - Sat, 01/17/2015 - 08:21
The Supreme Court of Canada has spoken: RCMP officers have the right to form a union. My brothers and sisters in the labour movement are overjoyed. But I cannot join in the celebrations. No right is abstract and universal: all... Dr.Dawg

Saturday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sat, 01/17/2015 - 07:47
Miscellaneous material for your weekend reading.

- Gerald Caplan writes that we all bear some responsibility for growing inequality - and how we'll need to use our electoral power to reverse it:
(S)elf-sacrifice is not going to be the key to reducing inequality, with all the great damage it inflicts on society. Government needs to act, and Mr. Mackenzie offers perfectly realistic policies to any party that is seriously committed to greater equality. For example, the tax break on stock options generously provided by our government is worth a cool half-trillion to the top 100 – a nice day’s “work,” for sure. And since federal corporate taxes, an affordable 29 per cent only 15 years ago, now stand at 15 per cent, we can expect Mr. Mackenzie to report even higher rewards for his hearty band next January.

Anyone who dabbles in the field for even a moment knows there are lots of ideas for reducing inequality. Some are political non-starters but others are quite simple and workable. Knowing what to do is not the issue. The issue, as usual, is the political will to attack the problem frontally. The NDP is so far proposing a distinctly modest increase in corporate taxes, which is more than its opponents. As of now, with an election less than a year away, the big winner once again, and still champion, is inequality.- Marc Lee rightly challenges the theory that any steps to deal with climate change should exacerbate inequality by being revenue-neutral.

- But Susana Mas reports that the Cons are once again refusing to consider any increases in revenue, and using their failed bet on an oil-dependent economy as an excuse to cut even further into Canada's public services.

- Karl Nerenberg notes that in addition to having the only plan to combat inequality, the NDP is also the only one party is willing to treat voters like adults. But it's worth noting that the NDP isn't the only party with a relatively detailed policy document: the difference is that the NDP has enough respect for members and the public alike to make its policy work readily accessible, while the Cons force non-members to go on a scavenger hunt (or at least search their site from the outside) to find theirs.

- Finally, Stephen Maher recognizes that the greatest threat we face from acts of terror lies in the people who would use the excuse to crack down on civil rights and freedoms.

Election Law? What Election Law?

Northern Reflections - Sat, 01/17/2015 - 07:38

There has been lots of speculation recently about whether Stephen Harper will break his own fixed date election law -- for the second time. It's remarkable, Andrew Coyne writes, that a man who insisted on the law should have such little regard for it. What is even more remarkable is that Canadians -- in general -- also have little respect for the law:

Not only does he not feel bound by it, but neither do the rest of us seem inclined to insist that he should. We have all somehow come to accept that it is perfectly normal, even acceptable, for the government — the government! — to disobey the law if it feels like it, as if the laws that are binding upon the rest of us were not binding upon the governments that pass them. This is surely an astonishing state of affairs, in a democracy, a measure not only of the corrupting effects of power but of how the rest of us have been corrupted along with it.
It is, indeed, an astonishing state of affairs. But it's worth remembering that, for Stephen Harper, "contempt of Parliament" was merely a matter of being out voted. And, given the fact that he won the election that contempt triggered, Canadians seem to believe that contempt comes down to votes.

Coyne correctly observes that:

We should not have to wonder whether the laws Parliament passes are of any worth or meaning, or whether the government we elect will seek refuge in fine print and Clintonian wordplay to wriggle out of them. We should not have to worry that our government is trying to con us. We are entitled to some expectation of good faith, and if we have lost even that then the implications are a lot worse than an untimely election call.
We are in deep trouble.

More On The Amanda Lang Imbroglio

Politics and its Discontents - Sat, 01/17/2015 - 05:46
The Star's John Semley offers his thoughts on the inadequacy and ineptitude of the CBC's response to the Amanda Lang scandal:

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Stephen Harper and the Issue that Will Destroy Him

Montreal Simon - Sat, 01/17/2015 - 03:50

Gosh. What a difference a day makes. Yesterday I wrote about that nightmarish Ipsos Reid poll that suggested that Stephen Harper had risen from his political grave, and was heading for another majority.

And I said that I couldn't wait for another poll, to see if the numbers were more encouraging.

And whether the sagging economy might take him down with it.

And in that regard the news couldn't be better. 
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Stephen Harper and his Ghastly Boyfriends in Saudi Arabia

Montreal Simon - Sat, 01/17/2015 - 00:36

In the latest chapter of the grotesque love story between Stephen Harper and the backward rulers of Saudi Arabia, today I have both good news and bad news.

The good news is that the brutish flogging of the blogger Raif Badawi has been at least temporarily postponed. 

The case of a Saudi blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes has been referred to the Supreme Court by the king's office, the BBC has learned. Blogger Raif Badawi's wife said the referral, made before he was flogged 50 times last Friday, gave him hope that officials would end his punishment. A second round of lashings was postponed for medical reasons.

And the bad news? Saudi Arabia is still the same barbarous country. 
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Musical interlude

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 01/16/2015 - 18:59
Kaskade & Adam K - Raining


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