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from the front lines, day eight

we move to canada - Mon, 07/11/2016 - 18:52
Another amazing day!

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Amerika's Untermensch

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 07/11/2016 - 12:58

Today they're loosely gathered as the Tea Party. A decade or two before that they were called White Trash. To America's founding fathers they were were called "manure" or "offscourings" a term for human faeces. They're as American as apple pie.

I've just ordered Louisiana State University professor Nancy Isenberg's new book, "White Trash, the 400 year untold history of class in America." For now we'll have to be content with Crawford Kilian's review in today's Tyee.

Isenberg ...makes a persuasive case that 16th century England saw North America not as a source of wealth like Mexico and Peru, but as a dump. Colonization advocates like Richard Hakluyt proposed exporting petty criminals, prostitutes and those who were simply poor, just to get them out of the way.

Hakluyt and his colleagues saw them as "manure," better exploited overseas than costing money in British jails. Their function would be to clear land and push the Aboriginals back. The survivors would breed new generations that could be impressed into the army and navy as cannon fodder.


...They were "squatters" and "crackers" (derived from the expression "crack a fart"). They were human waste, trash -- at best, compost to support worthier people.

Poor whites had formed a kind of slave class in the early years of the colonies, before Africans largely displaced them. They weren't even considered much use. Their children were malnourished and sick. Today we would call them stunted, kept from full physical and intellectual growth by lack of food.


...The Founding Fathers believed in class and race divisions as sincerely as anyone. Equally sincerely, they believed their own class had been bred to rule; "democracy" was a dirty word. Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of the American colonies' Declaration of Independence, supported a vague ideal of "yeomen" farmers, free whites who would support their families on their own land, fight the wars of the ruling class, but never challenge their rulers.

The reality, of course, was a handful of great landowners employing a landless class of poor whites, and not a yeoman in sight. (The great 18th century criticism of slavery was that it undercut poor whites' willingness to do the same work done by slaves.)


...As Isenberg notes, poor whites were able "to refashion the redneck and embrace white trash as an authentic heritage." By the end of the 20th century, Bill Clinton (a white trash Rhodes Scholar) was both president and "Slick Willie," attracting voters by entertaining them with his sax playing and his sexual adventures. Then came Sarah Palin, and now Donald Trump.

But these were all exceptions. Most poor whites settled for regular blue-collar jobs. When the economy became stagnant in the 1980s, they saw their real incomes stagnate also -- assuming their jobs didn't move to Mexico or China. They found themselves competing for jobs with black people.

As Lyndon B. Johnson once observed, "If you can convince the lowest white man he's better than the best colored man, he won't notice you're picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he'll empty his pockets for you."


...Some working-class whites who go into police work bring such an attitude with them and find it often intensified by police culture itself. Hence the tendency of white American police officers to shoot black American civilians in disproportionate numbers: 102 unarmed blacks in 2015, five times the rate of killing unarmed whites. Black hostility to police is therefore predictable.

The current spate of police killings, and the killing of five Dallas police officers by a black army reservist with mental health problems, are also predictable. Isenberg's book, a chronicle of deaths foretold, shows how such violence became not only predictable but a way of life.

What is impossible to predict is a way out of this four-century nightmare.

Monday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Mon, 07/11/2016 - 06:25
Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Joseph Stiglitz writes about the political consequences of economic policies which have siphoned wealth to the lucky few, and writes that it's long past time to start challenging the corporate power which has made citizens into an afterthought:
(L)arge portions of the population have not been doing well. The neoliberal agenda of the last four decades may have been good for the top 1%, but not for the rest. I had long predicted that this stagnation would eventually have political consequences. That day is now upon us.

On both sides of the Atlantic, citizens are seizing upon trade agreements as a source of their woes. While this is an over-simplification, it is understandable. Today’s trade agreements are negotiated in secret, with corporate interests well represented, but ordinary citizens or workers completely shut out. Not surprisingly, the results have been one-sided: workers’ bargaining position has been weakened further, compounding the effects of legislation undermining unions and employees’ rights. 
While trade agreements played a role in creating this inequality, much else contributed to tilting the political balance toward capital. Intellectual property rules, for example, have increased pharmaceutical companies’ power to raise prices. But any increase in corporations’ market power is de facto a lowering of real wages – an increase in the inequality that has become a hallmark of most advanced countries today. 
Across many sectors, industrial concentration is increasing – and so is market power. The effects of stagnant and declining real wages have combined with those of austerity, threatening cutbacks in public services upon which so many middle- and low-income workers depend. ...The result of all this downward pressure on wages and cutbacks in public services has been the evisceration of the middle class, with similar consequences on both sides of the Atlantic. Middle- and working-class households haven’t received the benefits of economic growth. They understand that banks had caused the 2008 crisis; but then they saw billions going to save the banks, and trivial amounts to save their homes and jobs. With median real (inflation-adjusted) income for a full-time male worker in the US lower than it was four decades ago, an angry electorate should come as no surprise. 
Politicians who promised change, moreover, didn’t deliver what was expected. Ordinary citizens knew that the system was unfair, but they came to see it as even more rigged than they had imagined, losing what little trust they had left in establishment politicians’ capacity or will to correct it. That, too, is understandable: the new politicians shared the outlook of those who had promised that globalization would benefit all. - Meanwhile, Carla Power examines the lack of social mobility in the UK as a contributing factor to the Brexit vote. And Thomas Edsall discusses how growing inequality and financial precarity have fuelled the rise of right-wing populism generally.

- Charlie Sorrel points out that U.S. municipalities are increasingly squeezing revenue from fines and penalties out of the working class rather than making any effort to collect fair taxes from those who can afford to pay them.

- Adam Allington examines the National Institute on Retirement Security's research finding that women are disproportionately likely to face poverty due to lower wages and greater care-giving responsibilities. 

- Finally, Kristy Kirkup reports on Cindy Blackstock's efforts to get the federal government to recognize that fair treatment for First Nations services is an obligation to be met immediately, not an option to be approached when it's convenient. 

Sometimes, A Blessing Is A Curse

Northern Reflections - Mon, 07/11/2016 - 05:20


Jason Kenny has headed back to the Calgary Stampede, proudly waving to the crowds. But, Michael Harris writes, it's easy to spot the phonies:

Jason Kenney is taking part in a parade — riding in the back of a 1958 Ford Fairlane, with an army tank behind him, and a gas-guzzling 1959 Caddy in front carrying fellow-delusional Michelle Rempel. I guess the cars were interesting. (At least Premier Notley rode a Pinto that wasn’t made in Detroit – the kind with four legs, not an explosive gas tank.)
Like Stephen Harper, Kenny claims to be a son of Alberta. But Kenny was born in Ontario -- Oakville to be precise. And he has had an interesting political journey, claiming various residences along the way:

As for his resumé, Kenney left university to work for the Saskatchewan Liberal Party. That led to an odd post for a guy who would one day run the right-wing Canadian Taxpayers Federation, and after that, spend so much time at Harper’s side dismantling Canada: Kenney became executive-assistant to Ralph Goodale, now Canada’s public safety minister in the Trudeau majority government.

Later, Kenney bounced around like a rubber ball, from Liberals, to Reform, to Canadian Alliance and finally to the CPC. He then entered a decade of celebrity and someonehood as cabinet minister, organizational Machiavelli, and heir apparent in the event Harper had died of fright reading political polls in 2015.
He has always had a nose for the main chance. And his nose brings him back to  Alberta to, he says, "unite the right." But Albertans may not buy the package:

Kenney’s conversion on the road to being a mere MP smacks of the worst kind of political opportunism. Someone should ask Kenney when he decided to save Alberta — before or after the Harper government’s crushing loss? And what will he tell the voters of Calgary Midnapore? They thought they were voting for a federal MP. Will they really believe that he always wanted to be a provincial messiah for a discredited Conservative party but just forgot to tell them about it when he was soliciting their vote? What would he have done had Dear Leader won the federal election, returned to Alberta to perform a by-pass operation on the beating heart of Conservatism, or settled down into some jammy ministerial post in Ottawa?

On the face of it, there is monstrous presumptuousness operating here, exactly the kind that consigned the Alberta PC’s last carpetbagger, Jim Prentice, to the ash-heap of political history. Does Kenney really think that Albertans will swallow the story that the carnage in the oil patch is Notley’s doing? And why would Wild Rose want to unite behind a man whose party couldn’t get a single pipeline built after a decade in power, and which aligned itself with a PC party in Alberta that mismanaged one of the greatest resources on earth and then told Albertans they were the problem when the bitumen hit the fan?
On the weekend, Kenny got Stephen Harper's blessing. Sometimes a blessing turns out to be a curse.

 Image: flickr.com


Michael Harris On The Many Delusions of Jason Kenney

Montreal Simon - Mon, 07/11/2016 - 03:33


As we all know only too painfully, Jason Kenney is trying to reinvent himself as the Saviour of Alberta.

Even though he was born in Ontario, has spent the last twenty years in Ottawa, and couldn't save anything or anyone.

Including apparently HIMSELF.

For as we also know, he just got that other Ontario cowboy Stephen Harper to give his campaign a plug or a blessing...
Read more »

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