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Justin Trudeau and Those Who Would Destroy the Dream

Montreal Simon - Mon, 11/16/2015 - 05:24

He's at the G20 summit in Turkey, doing a great job of repairing this country's soiled reputation, and getting mobbed by his many admirers.

And making us look cool again in the eyes of the world, instead of the slack jawed residents of the insane asylum Harperland, or the Army of the Walking Dead.

But back home his enemies are already using the bloody tragedy in Paris as a weapon to try to destroy him.

Led of course, by the chunky chicken hawk and religious fanatic Jason Kenney.

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Let's Hope He's No Fool

Northern Reflections - Mon, 11/16/2015 - 05:13

It didn't take long for Justin Trudeau to be tested. On Friday night, the gauntlet was on the ground -- thrown, not by Canadians, but by terrorists in the streets of Paris. Michael Harris writes:

For Justin Trudeau, mass murder in Paris is his trial by ordeal as prime minister. It didn’t take very long. At the end of the month, Paris was supposed to be the glittering venue where a new, young prime minister, and an impressive delegation, would announce to the world that the old Canada is back. No more fossil awards, no more climate change denial on behalf of oil companies or the Koch Brothers, no more corporate-driven “facts” on the environment, no more beating the war drums. Canada was not shaking its finger at the world anymore, but offering an embrace.
But that's the kind of world we live in -- a world where someone else's mistakes come back to bite you. Now the French, unsurprisingly, have vowed to conduct a "pitiless war." But Andrew Bacevich, writing in the Boston Globe, reminds us where pitiless war in the Middle East has gotten us:

“It’s not as if the outside world hasn’t already given pitiless war a try. The Soviet Union spent all of the 1980s attempting to pacify Afghanistan and succeeded only in killing a million or so Afghans while creating an incubator for Islamic radicalism. Beginning in 2003, the United States attempted something similar in Iraq and ended up producing similarly destabilizing results. By the time the US troops withdrew in 2011, something like 200,000 Iraqis had died, most of them civilians. Today Iraq teeters on the brink of disintegration.” 
There will be all kinds of pressure on Trudeau to join the continuing March of Folly. He's young. But let's hope he's no fool.

Ezra Levant's Grotesque Visit to Paris and the Wages of Bigotry

Montreal Simon - Mon, 11/16/2015 - 00:22

As if the people of Paris hadn't suffered enough, as if they hadn't seen enough ugliness.

Well now that horror show just got a little uglier.

Because the self styled Rebel Commander Ezra Levant is in the City of Light, sowing his darkness.

And he couldn't be more disgusting. 
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A Must-See. The Charlie Hebdo Cartoons

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 11/15/2015 - 12:39
The Independent has reprinted the cartoon responses of  Charlie Hebdo's Joann Sfar. They're really inspirational. A lot of us can use a bit of this wisdom.

The Sea is Coming. Vancouver is Fighting Back with Sand Bags - For Now.

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 11/15/2015 - 12:22
Take pity on the multi-millionaires whose homes line the waterfront in Vancouver's West Point Grey neighbourhood. Those magnificent homes are generally low lying and the rising sea is closing the gap.

Rising sea level, high tides and the threat of storm surge recently had Vancouver municipal crews out sandbagging beautiful Locarno Beach.

It held, this time.

But sandbags won't hold the sea back forever and, as seen from these photos, the beach itself wasn't defended from inundation and erosion. It's the erosion from successive and worsening events, not flooding, that causes the real and lasting damage. It's the erosion that sculpts the shoreline.

It could be worse. Think of all those stars in Malibu who built their incredible mansions along the once spectacular beaches.

Those beaches are now gone, taken by the rising sea.

Now the seas reach out to the concrete barricades at the edge of their lawns. In some areas the sea has taken the lawns as well. Not hard to figure out what's next.

It's hard to imagine what the salt spray is doing to their houses. I live a block from the sea and I have to deal with a bit of corrosion. These places in the picture above, they'll have saltwater corrosion everywhere inside their homes and out. Their window glass must be horribly etched.

It's a curious thing to observe. We have a neighbourhood of fine but low-lying waterfront homes at the south end of town and a row of far bigger but also quite exposed and low-lying "McMansions" just north of me. The homeowners to the south are in a jam. Once or twice every year a high tide worsened by a storm surge and a mountain river overflowing its banks leaves them inundated and cut off. The municipality won't grant a permit for any construction in that area, not so much as a garden shed. And, if your house burns down or eventually succumbs to the effects of repeated flooding, your only option is to leave. Doesn't do much for the property values.

There's an article in the Toronto Star about the American experience. That's where you see living, breathing socialism for the rich in action in the Carolinas.
Another report in the series lightly explores the reality of sea level rise in Canada.

Provincial and local governments are still working from the now very old estimate of 1-metre of sea level rise this century. One municipal engineer I discussed this with said it's probably going to be 2-metres, perhaps even 3, but no one wants to go there because preparing for 1-metre is more than we're prepared to tackle.

Cognitive dissonance? Sure, especially in places like Miami where they're building condos and shopping malls with abandon even as sea level rise threatens to take down the local sewer and water systems. We're somewhat better but not very much.

People don't want to pay taxes to build systems that may protect some rich dude's waterfront property twenty years from now. Politicians, looking at their finite terms in office, don't have much incentive to bring down upon themselves the wrath of reluctant taxpayers just to "do the right thing."

It takes a good while for reality to set in. The Dutch struggled for decades to hold back the sea from land they had reclaimed in the past. Only recently have they begun to accept that parts of their shorefront is going to have to be surrendered to the sea. That is notional wealth lost, destroyed. There is no salvage. Folks have to write off their assets and start over. Governments aren't going to be able to cover their losses, not for very long.

An Encouraging Sign Amidst The Terror

Politics and its Discontents - Sun, 11/15/2015 - 12:07
While the right seems hell-bent on exploiting the Paris massacre, it is heartening to see that some of the people most affected, the French, are demonstrating that they won't be so easily manipulated
French mourners in the city of Lille, which is north of Paris, sent anti-immigrant bigots scurrying away after they tried to intrude on a vigil for victims of Friday night’s terrorist attacks, the Independent reports.

The vigil began at 3 p.m. local time but was quickly interrupted by about 15 members of far-right group, the French National Front. The group angered grief-stricken vigil attendees by shouting, “Expel Islamists,” throwing firecrackers and unfurling an Islamophobic banner.

But the bigots were quickly forced to leave when the crowd of hundreds turned on them and forced them to retreat. Security forces intervened before tensions escalated further, according to the British publication.
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Of Courage and Cowardice

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 11/15/2015 - 10:22

I'm beginning to fear that our society is more seriously, intractably divided than I had imagined.

The Harper Decade of Darkness was spent focusing on the dark art of wedge politics  with fear mongering and appeals to base instincts and biases. These are the tools Harper employed on his supporters. He made them fear the "other" lurking about waiting to pounce on rightwing righteousness.

Harper knew that he didn't have to get that many voters to claim power, even an outright majority. He knew that, with the fearful and the bigots, he was a shoo-in.

In the wake of the Paris bombings I've read a lot of rightwing reaction to Justin Trudeau's decision to end Canada's participation in America's hapless bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria. They uniformly slam Trudeau for cowardice.

Cowardice? What is that but a fear reaction in the face of some threat of death or bodily harm? If withdrawing those six CF-18s is cowardice then sending them must somehow be courageous. When it came to Harper I never saw any sign of courage. In fact the only event I can remember is when Harper bolted into the janitor's closet leaving his caucus to possibly face the gunman firing outside. That was cowardice. Ordering a little dollop of jet fighters hither and yon isn't courageous, it's politically expedient.

Yet as I read these remarks there was something almost Tea Partyish to them. They seemed disconnected from fact. I began to sense that Harper may have actually radicalized at least a good segment of the rightwing base which may ensure that we'll remain a sharply divided society. These types are quite venomous. We've had their kind on the Left also but we didn't really tolerate them much less cultivate them. The Right, however, may see these radicals as the building blocks for their restoration and I think that should worry all of us.

The presence of a radical right could well surface if the moderates seek to reclaim the Conservative Party from its Reform wing. We'll just have to wait as the leadership candidates emerge.  If the radical right is cultivated, mobilized for the leadership contest, then I think we're looking at the continuation of a sharply divided society for years to come and just at a time when we need social cohesion more than ever.

A divided society is not simply unpleasant. It's a weakened society, one that invites, even rewards, somewhat more extreme political ideologies. This, in turn, makes it more difficult to find the common ground that unites all of us. Politics becomes a feud. I so hope we don't succumb to that.

Cross your fingers.

Where Is Justice To Be Found?

Politics and its Discontents - Sun, 11/15/2015 - 08:10
For Adam Nobody, the answer appears to be 'nowhere.' Last week retired judge Lee Ferrier ruled at a police disciplinary tribunal that Toronto police Const. Babak Andalib-Goortani should lose five days' pay for his brutalization of Nobody, characterizing it as fleeting and physically minor. a strange way indeed to regard Nobody's broken nose and broken cheekbone.

The judge felt that Andalib-Goortani has already "suffered enough."

It is an assessment at odds with Toronto Star readers, a few of whose missives of outrage I reproduce below:
Police officer Babak Andalib-Goortani has essentially had his allowance docked as a punishment for his behaviour during the G20 protests in Toronto. The judge who heard his appeal apparently felt that the man wasn’t really bad, just naughty, “barely over the line of wrongfulness.” After all, he wasn’t the only police officer to wade into crowds after hiding or removing his name badge, and he’s suffered a marriage breakup, mental stress due to his criminal prosecution, and the loss of his home.

None of these hard times, it seems to me, came about because of what he did. They happened because he was caught, and that only if we discount all the other people in the world who suffered the same troubles without the excuse of legal proceedings in their lives.

If all we want from our justice system is punishment for criminals, which is what legal proceedings did determine the man is, then it’s arguable that he has already paid a price. If we want an offender to take responsibility, feel remorse, and genuinely try to address whatever in him lead to his mistake, with the goal of being welcomed back into a supportive community, neither Andalib-Goortani nor the rest of us are served by this judgment.

He has been judged to be a victim of an attempt to hold our police to civilized standards of behaviour. This does no favours to the man himself, our police, or the rest of us.

Jim Maloy, Barrie

Well, I guess it’s official: we live in a police state.

That a police officer, convicted of brutally beating an innocent, passive fellow citizen, should keep his job is utterly unbelievable – that is, assuming that we do live in a “free and democratic society,” as our constitution proclaims.

What’s happened in this case is called police impunity: the right of police officers to do anything they wish, no matter how criminal, with little or no consequence. The text of Judge Ferrier’s ruling could have been read out in Moscow or Beijing without anyone thinking it abnormal.

Because it’s poppy-time, I cannot help asking: Is this the kind of society that our brave soldiers, sailors, and aviators fought and died for?

Steven Spencer, Pickering

Like prosecutor Brendan Van Niejenhuism I was stunned that convicted Andalib-Goortani was simply docked five days pay for his assault with a weapon.

The retired judge assigned to the Police Tribunal, Lee Ferrier, simply confirmed by his irrational and unfair decision that justice is certainly not for all, but that there is one law for the police, and another for the average citizen.

It’s telling that in the 47-paragraph decision, not one line addressed the impact on the victim of the assault or the impact on public confidence in policing, but was devoted entirely to how Andalib-Goortani is a victim because of his assault on Adam Nobody. Too bad he lost his house and marriage because of his criminal actions, he should have lost his badge and his job too, if not sent to jail.
Until the police complaint system is overhauled, and pro-police biased judges are removed from the process, justice is just a catchphrase for unfair, and worthy of nothing but ridicule.

Gerry Young, TorontoRecommend this Post

Sunday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 11/15/2015 - 07:26
This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Robert Reich writes about the growing disconnect between the few well-connected people who have warped our political and economic systems for their benefit, and the rest of us who are on the wrong side of that system:
(C)orporate executives and Wall Street managers and traders have done everything possible to prevent the wages of most workers from rising in tandem with productivity gains, in order that more of the gains go instead towards corporate profits. Public policies that emerged during the 1930s and the Second World War had placed most economic risks squarely on large corporations. But in the wake of the junk bond and takeover mania of the 1980s, economic risks were shifted to workers. Corporate executives did whatever they could to reduce payrolls: outsource abroad, install labour-replacing technologies and use part-time and contract workers.

A new set of laws and regulations facilitated this transformation. Trade agreements, for example, encouraged companies to outsource jobs abroad, while enhancing protections for the intellectual property and financial assets of global corporations. Government budgets that prioritise debt reduction over job creation have undermined the bargaining power of average workers and translated into stagnant or declining wages. Some insecurity has been the result of shredded safety nets and disappearing workforce protections.
Given these changes in the organisation of the market, it is not surprising that corporate profits have increased as a portion of the total United States economy, while wages have declined. Those whose income derives directly or indirectly from profits – corporate executives, Wall Street traders and shareholders – have done exceedingly well. Those dependent primarily on wages have not.

Britain is not as far along the path toward oligarchic capitalism as is America, but it is following the same trail. Markets do not exist without rules. When large corporations, major banks and the very rich gain the most influence over the composition of those rules, markets invariably tilt in their direction – adding to their wealth and their political influence. Unaddressed and unstopped, the vicious cycle compounds itself.- Meanwhile, Brent Patterson notes that even the Globe and Mail is calling for the Libs to put the brakes on the Trans-Pacific Partnership before we sign away even more decision-making authority to the corporate sector.

- Mariana Mazzucato points out that everybody can benefit from an entrepreneurial public sector. And Katie Herzog reports on the massive economic development and job growth we'd expect from a transition to renewable energy.

- Andrew Jackson reminds us that the Libs' much-hyped "middle class tax cut" serves mostly to shuffle money around the top 10% of the income scale, and suggests using any increased revenue to actually help the people who need it most.

- Finally, Andrew Defty examines the causes and effects of reduced party membership in the UK. And David Ball discusses the snowflake organizational model which offers one means of reaching more people than the relatively small number already engaged in politics.

A half-pregnant pause

Trapped In a Whirlpool - Sun, 11/15/2015 - 05:35
It seems the new government is intent on keeping it's promise to end Canada's participation in the IS bombing mission, that's a good thing. A kept promise is usually so.
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Justin Trudeau and the Day the Cons Came Back From the Dead

Montreal Simon - Sun, 11/15/2015 - 05:26

It seems only too tragic that just ten days after being sworn in as Prime Minister after promising to restore our Canadian values, and bring back sunnier days, that Justin Trudeau should be hit by the darkness of the Paris massacre.

Only too ironic that the son of Pierre should have to choose so soon between emotion and reason. 

The deadly terror attacks in Paris will not lead Canada to change course on its two main policies in relation to Syria: welcoming 25,000 refugees this year and ending Canada’s bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria.

And of course only too ghastly that the horrible tragedy in the City of Light should bring the Cons back from the dead.
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Closer To Home Than They Realize

Northern Reflections - Sun, 11/15/2015 - 03:15

It's been surreal to watch and listen to Stephen Harper's former cabinet ministers distance themselves from their boss. Bob Hepburn writes:

Let’s start with Rona Ambrose, the new interim party leader. Without a hint of insincerity, Ambrose insists her caucus will no longer engage in the “nastiness” of the old Harper government and will be more “constructive, effective” in working as the Official Opposition.Also, Ambrose has completely reversed herself on the need for a public inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women. For years, the Tories refused to hold an inquiry into what the RCMP says are more than 1,200 cases of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. Now she is all in favour of an inquiry, saying it “is an absolutely non-partisan issue, it should never be political.” 
And then there's Tony Clement, who deep sixed the long form census:
Next is Tony Clement, the former industry minister who cancelled the long-form census of 2011, a move widely denounced inside and outside of government. Clement was relentless in implementing the change, insisting it was needed to protect citizen privacy.Now Clement is expressing regrets, saying in hindsight that “I would have done it differently.”
And, of course, there's Kellie Leitch, who -- academically at least -- is supposed to be very bright:
Then there’s Kellie Leitch, the former labour minister at the centre of one of the lowest points in the Tory campaign. She hit that point when she joined cabinet colleague Chris Alexander in announcing “a snitch hotline” to report “barbaric cultural practices.” In reality, Leitch was urging Canadians to target Muslims in their neighbourhoods.Now Leitch, who apparently dreams of succeeding Harper, says the plan was misunderstood and not communicated very well.
Hepburn writes that the Conservatives must really think voters are stupid. Given the results of the election, and their own pronouncements, it's pretty clear that stupidity is closer to home than the former Harperites realize.


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