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And They Call That Brilliance

Northern Reflections - Sun, 10/12/2014 - 07:14

                                             http://www.thethingswesay.com/

Last month, Finance Minister Joe Oliver announced the Conservatives job creation plan -- to cut Employment Insurance contributions to small businesses. Tom Walkom writes that the "plan" represented yet another attack on the Employment Insurance regime in Canada:

Under Oliver’s plan, small-business owners will see their employment insurance premiums cut by about 15 per cent over the next two years.
Lower payroll taxes, the finance minister said then, would encourage these small businesses to hire more workers.Oliver’s claims were supported by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, a lobbying group, which said the measure would create about 25,000 person-years of employment over an unspecified period.
This week the Parliamentary Budget Office released a cost-benefit analysis of Oliver's plan:

In a report released Thursday, it says that the two-year, $550-million tax break will produce only 800 net new jobs.That works out to $687,500 per job.
There was another way to use Employment Insurance to create jobs:

Instead of lowering EI premiums overall (which, according to the parliamentary budget office, would have created 10,000 net new jobs), the government made a bow to its key small-business constituency.
But, as always the stated aim of the policy was not its real aim. Oliver was buying the votes of small business, not creating jobs. Nothing illustrates the corporate juggernaut better than what has happened to Employment Insurance in the last 25 years:

During the 1990s, Jean Chrétien’s Liberals used the employment insurance surplus to pay down the deficit and offer tax breaks to corporations.

When he took power, Prime Minister Stephen Harper did much the same. In 2008, the EI fund’s $57.2 billion surplus was quietly absorbed into general government revenue. Even now, the Conservatives are reluctant to relinquish their hold on the EI windfall. The parliamentary budget office estimates that over the next three years, Ottawa will collect $6.4 billion more in EI premiums than it will spend on the unemployed.

That's because only 38% of Canadians are now eligible for Employment Insurance.

And they call that brilliance.


Why So Much Ignorance In This Age Of Technology?

Politics and its Discontents - Sun, 10/12/2014 - 07:11
I have always thought it ironic that in this age of interconnectedness, when we have almost unlimited sources of information at our disposal, so many of us are abysmally ignorant of the things that should matter. The level of civic disengagement in North America, for example, has facilitated the devolution of so many of our democratic institutions into mere channels of undue influence for the minority, ensuring that the needs of the many are subjugated to the wants of the few. Inaction on climate change, the ongoing degradation of ecosystems, the ever-widening disparity of incomes and the erosion of social programs are but the more egregious examples of this decline.

John Cruickshank, the publisher of the Toronto Star, attributes this phenomenon to 'distraction.' In his paper, he writes about a recent Toronto Ted Talk (not yet available on the Ted site) in which he examined the problem through the lens of young people who, both in Canada and the United States, have a voter participation rate of about 40%. However, he points out that the lack of voter participation is merely the most obvious manifestation of the level of engagement:
Voting’s just the marker. More critical are civic interests, habits and knowledge: The debates in the lunchroom about taxes and spending or public meetings over a new airport or a mega-quarry. The less visible indicators of democracy’s vitality.

It’s no coincidence youth voting is so similar in the U.S. and Canada. It’s not a question of national culture. And don’t blame “the kids today.” It’s a decades-long shift. It spans generations and geography.

And it appears to be driven by the devices and content that now dominate and consume our waking lives — our smartphones and tablets, our laptops and PCs and, at least for a little while longer, our TV screens.All of these devices, while potentially quite useful, also have a tremendous power to distract. How many times, for example, will you be at the computer when the email signal rings and you switch immediately to it? Or how about a link or a popup in an article that takes you far away from your intended purpose? (I'll just take a minute to watch that footage of George Clooney going to his Venice wedding. Oh yeah, now what was I just doing?)

All of which is to say that news has a far more tenuous grip on us than in days of yore. For Cruickshank, it becomes a simple equation:
No news habit. No engagement.Those who have learned to pursue the news become politically active.
The drift away from substance actually began, he says, with the proliferation of cable channels that, for the less-than-committed consumer of news, offered a welcome alternative. Much Music, MTV, etc. had an allure that the nightly news didn't.
As soon as alternatives emerged, more and more younger people failed to learn news skills and habits.

They were looking for distraction, not information about the world.

But even if this population only reluctantly followed the news, their political behaviour was just like that of the most committed news junkies. They voted: 80 per cent of eligible voters went to the polls in the Canadian federal election of 1958 — the year the CBC television signal first went coast to coast.Canadian citizens aged 65 and older were still voting at the 80-per-cent level in the federal election of 2011. But the participation rate of each successive age group Boomers, X’ers and Millennials were lower by a greater and greater margin.

Mirroring their increasing failure to develop news skills.Cruickshank has some specific suggestions on how to reverse this terrible trend, which I will leave you to discover by reading his article.

You may also find these two brief videos about his Ted Talk of interest:



Recommend this Post

Stephen Harper and the Climate Change Charade

Montreal Simon - Sun, 10/12/2014 - 06:14


With every day that passes, the devastating consequences of climate change become more obvious and more alarming.

The galloping horsemen or signs of the impending apocalypse. 

Flooding, famine, disease and war to name but a few.

Only to be joined by the latest one: the fish are swimming towards the poles.
Read more »

Stephen Harper and the Big Business of War

Montreal Simon - Sun, 10/12/2014 - 03:09


In the fog of war there are some things about Stephen Harper's plan to use airstrikes to defeat the ISIS crazies that are already abundantly clear.

One, they make him look as if he's taking decisive action, even though so far they are proving notoriously ineffective. 

Two, they are REALLY expensive. 

In a crazy sort of way.

And three, so far the only clear winner is the U.S. military industrial complex, and Harper's really good friends at Lockheed Martin. 
Read more »

Something We Are Not Supposed To Think About In The War On ISIS

Politics and its Discontents - Sat, 10/11/2014 - 15:50


The Guardian reports the following:

Australian Super Hornets pulled out of an air strike on an Islamic State target in Iraq when the risk of killing civilians became too high, defence officials have revealed.

RAAF aircraft have carried out three missions in Iraq since joining the battle against Isis but have not fired on any targets, it was confirmed in a briefing given by the chief of the defence force, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, the chief of joint operations, Vice-Admiral David Johnston, and the officer commanding No 82 wing, Group Captain Micka Gray.

Johnston said an Australian combat “package” of F/A-18F Super Hornets had tracked a target on the first night of the missions, with plans to fire on it, but the risk of collateral damage was too high.

“They had identified a target which it was tracking, that particular target moved into an urban area where the risks of conducting a strike on that target increased to a point where it exceeded our expectations of the collateral damage so it discontinued the attack at that point,” he said.
This is clearly something that Harper Inc. et alia want us to pay no attention to.Recommend this Post

Has the Worm Turned? Are Conservatives Beginning to Fold on Climate Change?

The Disaffected Lib - Sat, 10/11/2014 - 11:17


Grist.org scribe David Roberts observes the GOP is beginning to wobble on climate change.  He says this may be the time to ramp up the pressure on the Right.

In the following passages, I've replaced Roberts' references to GOP or Republicans with "Conservative" or "Tory."  It still seems to make sense.


I have said before, the Conservative position on climate is unstable, both intellectually and politically. You can’t credibly deny the science at this point, but if you accept it, “do nothing about it” is an incoherent response. They’ve only gotten away with it for this long because the media and the public don’t care enough to press them on it.Climate hawks are always predicting that now, finally, is the time when that position will start to crumble. I’ve predicted it myself, and been wrong, or at least premature.Nonetheless, it really does feel like something is starting to happen. The Tory's incoherent climate shuck-and-jive is under pressure and the cracks are starting to show. The conservative base is convinced that climate change is a U.N. plot for world government. Meanwhile, mainstream elites in [Canada] and virtually every other country in the world, along with every major scientific institution on the planet, say climate change is a real problem. This puts some Conservatives in a bit of a pickle.There are many Conservatives in the House of [Commons] ...who have no reason to care about anything but what the base wants. They are elected with sufficiently large and safe majorities that their only real worry is attack from their right. And of course there are lots of conservative commentators, pundits, and gasbags who make a living appealing to the base and have no incentive whatsoever to challenge it.There are some in the conservative fold, however, who need either the votes or the support of people outside the right-wing bubble. And to people outside the bubble, “climate change is a hoax” has started to look like a crazy conspiracy theory.However, no conservative is allowed to endorse taxes or pollution regulations of any kind, ever. Opposition to “big government” is far more fundamental to the coalition than anything to do with climate change, one way or the other.So Conservatives reaching outside the bubble need a way of appearing not to deny the science, but not quite accepting it either, while absolutely denying anything should be done about it. It’s not pretty to watch. ...the minute the Tory's position(s) on climate change are put under the slightest pressure, babbling incoherence follows. They jump from “no climate change” to “climate change but it’s not caused by humans” to “caused by humans but too expensive to solve” to “quit talking about science I want to talk about job-killing regulations LA LA LA!” And so on, back and forth among them, with no thought of how they contradict one another. It’s an intellectual train wreck.The more the media and the public start caring about this, the more they push, the more trouble the Conservatives will face. Once you leave behind truculent denialism and acknowledge that climate change is a real problem, you are on a slippery slope. Oddly, the best summary of this dynamic comes from, of all places, a Republican consultant and energy lobbyist, Mike McKenna:“If you really believe the apocalyptic rhetoric coming out of the White House, then you’ve got to do something,” he said, echoing a point often made by climate advocates. “You’re morally required to do something. It is untenable, politically, philosophically, ideologically and from a common-sense basis to say, ‘We agree that everything is going to hell, but we don’t think anything should be done about it. Or we want to sit around and wait for another six months to figure out what to do.'”Couldn’t have said it better myself.What's going on in the States could also be underway in Canada.  When the Montreal Gazette breaks ranks to lambaste Harper for ignoring the peril to Canada and Canadians posed by climate change something just might be afoot.Harper conservatism is plainly vulnerable on climate change and it should be made a prominent issue in the 2015 elections.  It's a damned shame that neither the Liberals nor the NDP have a coherent, meaningful policy of their own to use against Harper.
 

What Are We Getting Ourselves Into?

The Disaffected Lib - Sat, 10/11/2014 - 10:09


Before long the Middle East will look like a parking lot for Western jet fighters. The place will be awash in Hornets and Super Hornets, F-16s, F-22s, Eurofighters and Rafales and Tornados.  They'll be flying about over Syria and Iraq searching for something, anything to bomb into rubble and pulp.

Nobody thinks that airstrikes are going to win this "conflict" with IS or ISIS or ISIL or whatever they happen to be called this week or next.  We'll run out of targets first. Then what?

The job unfinished, we will probably succumb to "mission creep."  Airpower didn't do the trick, let's switch to the ground game.  It will be sold to us as a choice in which we have no other choice.  We'll do it because we must.

At this early point it's timely for us to dwell a bit on just what we've gotten ourselves into.  Is this a war or, as I suggested a few days ago, just a bunch of battles strung together a bit incoherently?  Do we have an actual enemy or are we just banging away at the group fronting for the actual enemy we work so hard to avoid recognizing?

Are we standing, unaware, on the very edge of WW III?  That's not my question but it is being asked in some very high places.

Dr. Anthony Cordesman, of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, rebukes the US in a paper he published on Thursday.  On the great difficulty of implementing coalition-based strategy, he writes: "This is particularly true when the US fails to honestly address its own problems and mistakes, minimises the costs and risks involved, and exaggerates criticism of its allies."

...But ask him about that Franz Ferdinand moment and suggestions pour out of him.  Syria could shoot down a Turkish aircraft; the humanitarian dimension could be messed up; human displacement - "you can surely count on people to not understand that intervening to deal with a few thousand people can displace hundreds of thousands"; if IS advanced to a position from which it "threatened all of Iraq"; Iraq's Sunnis could refuse to co-operate with the new Shiite dominated government in Baghdad; if violence broke out between Turkey and its Kurdish minority and Iraq's Kurds attempted to join in; if the Assad government in Syria was to stop up its bombing of rebel forces "it could become a political problem too big to ignore"'; and lastly, if IS was to lash out with a campaign of terrorist attacks that would provoke demands to escalate the coalition campaign.

"Fully agreeing" with the idea that the conflict has been miscast as war in two countries, rather than as a regional or even bigger conflict, veteran White House adviser and CIA analyst Bruce Riedel's response to questions was a dire email in which he posits the current crisis in a seriously global framework.

"Al Qaedaism, the ideology, is stronger today than ever, thanks to the failure of the Arab Spring [which we welcomed] and the battlefield has expanded from Mali to Pakistan and beyond to Australia and Europe," he writes.

"The worst nightmare for me is a terror attack that provokes Indo-Pakistan war; second, is a Mubai-like attack in a Western city."

Another veteran observer of the region warns this is going to take years, possibly decades to play out and during that interval could well spill out across the Middle East/South Asia region.

"There is a serious risk that the entire region will blow up," Lakhdar Brahimi warned in an interview with Der Spiegel magazine, in which he predicted dire consequences for Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon. "The conflict is not going to stay inside Syria.  It will spill over into the region.  It's already destablising Lebanon [where there are] 1.5 million refugees."  

Analysing the global misreading of how events might unfold in Syria, Brahimi harped back to an earlier assignment in his career": "It reminds me a lot of 1999 - then, I resigned from my first assignment as a UN special envoy to Afghanistan, because the UN Security Council had no interest in Afghanistan, a small country, poor, far away.  I said one day it's going to blow up in your faces - it did [and] Syria is much worse."

And as for the notion implicit in the rhetoric of Obama and his coalition cheerleaders, that Syria somehow is to be rescued by and into the civilised world, Brahimi thinks otherwise - "It will become another Somalia.  It will not be divided as many have predicted.  It's going to be a failed state, with warlords all over the place."

Of exclusion and political debate

Trapped In a Whirlpool - Sat, 10/11/2014 - 09:54
While many disagree, to me D!onne Renee's brash move to crash the stage was a thing of beauty.
Read more »

Saturday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sat, 10/11/2014 - 09:38
Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- The Star criticizes the Harper Cons' selective interest in international cooperation - with war and oil interests apparently ranking as the only areas where the Cons can be bothered to work with other countries. And Catherine Porter reports that the Cons have demonstrated their actual attitude toward global cooperation and development by making huge cuts to foreign aid.

- Geoff Dembicki interviews Corinne Lepage about France's rightful resistance to oil lobbyists. But while it's well and good for individual countries to register their willingness to stand up to the fossil fuel industry, that doesn't much help when multilateral agreements limit a country's authority to act on its values. And on that front, Brent Patterson laments the impact of CETA on oil and gas regulation, while Murray Dobbin writes that the CETA looks like a prime example of a step taken solely for the benefit of the oil industry and other corporate interests:
While there has been attention paid to some key provisions of CETA -- such as its investor state rules, its impact on Canadian drug pricing and its curbs on governments' ability to buy local -- there has been almost nothing in the media about CETA's chapter on domestic regulation. But a new Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report on CETA suggests there should be, because the articles of that chapter seem designed to kill efforts to regulate the resource industry. In other words just as governments need to get deadly serious about reducing our dependence on fossil fuels they are tying their own hands through new restrictions on their right to regulate.

CETA's domestic regulation chapter would be more aptly called "Gifts for the Oil and Gas Industry." These CETA provisions are so biased in favour of corporations it is easy to picture industry execs sitting at the elbows of CETA's negotiators, guiding their pens as they draft the agreement. Short of an international treaty banning all government regulations outright, CETA gives the oil and gas industry virtually everything it has been asking for, for decades. Of course these anti-regulation gifts are also available to other sectors, including the mining industry, but given the special place in Harper's universe reserved for Alberta's oil patch it's not hard to see where the impetus came from.
...
CETA places an absolute value on the ease with which corporations can get approval of their projects. It demands that parties ensure "that licensing and qualification procedures are as simple as possible and do not unduly complicate or delay the supply of a service or the pursuit of any other economic activity." (Art. 2, Sec. 7) Requiring that oil and gas companies do environmental assessments, archaeological studies or get approvals from different levels of government is clearly a process that could be made simpler by doing away with these requirements altogether. Obligations to consult with the public and First Nations certainly complicate the regulatory process and cause delays.

Whether or not governments have simplified their licensing processes to the absolute maximum extent possible and are not causing "undue" delays or complications would be up to a panel of trade lawyers to decide in the event of a dispute. They could look at examples from the most deregulated jurisdictions to determine what is "as simple as possible." China, for example, allows corporations to ignore requirements for environmental impact assessments (EIA) and just pay a small fine after the fact.- Katherine Scott writes about the challenge of identifying and measuring poverty, but rightly concludes that we should be seeking to eradicate it in any form. And Carol Goar discusses how the Cons' war on science has resulted in the destruction of extremely important work on the spread of poverty in Canada.

- Meanwhile, Mike De Souza highlights the Environment Commissioner's findings about the Cons' gutting of federal environmental review processes. 

- Finally, Gerald Caplan observes that the Cons' hype of the Canadian Museum of Human Rights is in stark contrast to their contempt for the real thing.

China's Mounting Cancer Crisis

The Disaffected Lib - Sat, 10/11/2014 - 08:59

Their proper name is PM2.5 and they embed themselves deep into lung tissue. They're a real bugger.  And, once again, small particulate pollution in northern China has hit 20-times the World Health Organization maximum healthy threshhold.

The WHO says particulate levels should not exceed 25 micrograms per cubic metre of air.  Beijing is currently at 300 with neighbouring areas hitting upwards of 500.

From Wiki:

The IARC and WHO designate airborne particulates a Group 1 carcinogen. Particulates are the deadliest form of air pollutiondue to their ability to penetrate deep into the lungs and blood streams unfiltered, causing permanent DNA mutationsheart attacks, and premature death.[4] In 2013, a study involving 312,944 people in nine European countries revealed that there was no safe level of particulates and that for every increase of 10 μg/m3 in PM10, the lung cancer rate rose 22%. The smaller PM2.5 were particularly deadly, with a 36% increase in lung cancer per 10 μg/m3 as it can penetrate deeper into the lungs.

Some bright light thought this would be an ideal time to host a cycling race, the Tour of Beijing.  Yeah, right.

In preparation for next months' APEC leaders summit, Beijing is planning to sharply restrict vehicle use and to get neighbouring areas to shut down polluting facilities.

...most locals were not wearing protection Friday, and several people said they believed Beijing was being hit by natural haze, rather than pollution.

Even so, sitting in a Beijing park 82-year-old Liu Shuying said: "There are too many cars.  I don't wear a mask because I'm not afraid of death."

If you have an area in which tens, perhaps hundreds of millions of people are exposed, year after year, to massive levels of atmospheric carcinogens that are embedded in lung tissue you have a mass cancer problem on your hands.


Something To Be Thankful For This Weekend

Politics and its Discontents - Sat, 10/11/2014 - 08:28


The National Energy Board inspires little confidence in many of us, often appearing less an independent regulator of the energy industry and more an extension of the Harper regime's tarsands' agenda.

It is therefore both a surprise and a delight to read that they are actually showing a bit of backbone when it comes to Enbridge's Plan 9 line reversal to bring tarsands crude to the East for refining:
The National Energy Board has slammed the brakes on Enbridge Inc.’s plan to start shipping western oil to Montreal this fall through its reversed Line 9 pipeline, saying the company failed to install shut-off valves around some major waterways.

In a sharply worded letter to Enbridge this week, NEB secretary Sheri Young said the board is not convinced the company has met the safety conditions which the regulator set when it approved the plan to reverse the pipeline’s direction of flow last March, and that Enbridge cannot begin shipping crude until it addresses those concerns.
Infamous for the Michigan spill four years ago that saw 3.3 million litres of diluted bitumen go into the Kalamazoo River, a spill whose repercussions are still being felt, Enbridge has proven itself less than a sterling protector of the public good, and appears to have learned little from the disaster, as evidenced by the Line 9 concerns:
At issue is the company’s approach to safety when the pipeline crosses “major water crossings.” Once it designated a river or stream as a major water crossing, Enbridge was required to install valves on both banks so the flow of crude could be quickly shut off in the event of a pipeline break.

The regulator said Enbridge had failed to provide clear justification for why it designated some streams as major water crossings but not others. It must now go back to identify which waterways involve major crossings, based on whether a spill would pose significant risk to the public or the environment.And here is a sobering statistic:
Currently, only six of the 104 major water crossings it has identified have valves within a kilometre of the banks on both sides, the regulator noted.
Adam Scott, project manager with Toronto-based Environmental Defence, appears to have taken an accurate measure of the company's integrity:
“They clearly just figured they could get this thing rubber-stamped, and push through without actually improving the safety of the pipeline. So we’re happy to see the NEB has said no.”

Mr. Scott said it appears from the NEB letter that Enbridge will be required to reopen construction on the line to install valves at all the major water crossings that it identifies.
A small victory in the overall scheme of things, perhaps, but one sufficiently sweet to savor.Recommend this Post

Gazette Calls Out Harper on Climate Change

The Disaffected Lib - Sat, 10/11/2014 - 08:19
It's one of the grand old English-language papers in Canada, the Montreal Gazette, and its editorial board has had enough of waiting for the Harper regime to act on the threats Canada faces from climate change.

Many of the arguments the government employed in favour of sending war planes to northern Iraq also apply to the necessity of acting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions: climate change is a growing threat to global peace and security; only through international cooperation will the emergency be brought under control; Canada would be an freeloader if it failed to do its part in the global effort.
But since taking office, the Harper government has ignored these compelling reasons for fighting climate change. Time and again, it has buried its head in the sand.
This lack of action was underscored again this week when Canada’s Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development issued a report documenting the federal government’s lamentable record. Among the findings are that the government did in fact draft regulations for emissions in the oil and gas sector that were initially promised in 2006, but has never made them public or to implemented them. While Environment Canada has taken steps to monitor the impact of oilsands exploitation on air, water and biodiversity, plans for continuing this crucial work after 2015 are unclear. Rules for conducting environmental assessments are applied haphazardly. The ground rules for public input in environmental-assessment processes are onerous and viewed as a barrier by many participants.
An audit of Environment Canada found regulations to cut emissions have been delayed, best practices have not been followed, the department is not evaluating the effectiveness of regulations in place, there is a lack of coordination with the provinces and there is no plan for meeting reduction targets. As a result, Canada will miss its emissions reductions targets for 2020, agreed to at Copenhagen in 2009.
Add to this the Conservative government’s track record of villainizing environmental activists, cutting departments and agencies that safeguard Canada’s natural resources and curtailing the right of federal scientists to speak to journalists — the latter transgression decried in a separate study this week by Simon Fraser University and Evidence for Democracy.
It is noteworthy that the federal environment commissioner is not an environmental group or think tank ideologically opposed to the Conservatives and their drive to exploit Canada’s oil riches. Julie Gelfand is a federally appointed watchdog who has a background in the mining industry, conservation and government. This is criticism from an insider — a knowledgeable one.
...The Harper government has shown it views environmental regulation as a threat to its ambitions to transform Canada into a global energy superpower. 
...Harper spoke in the House of Commons this week about Canada losing credibility on the international stage if it failed to contribute to the mission against IS. If only he would apply his own logic to the fight against climate change, Canada and Canadians would be much better off.



When Journalism Fails

Northern Reflections - Sat, 10/11/2014 - 06:57

                                                        http://www.today.com/

 Apparently, many journalists -- including Andrew Coyne -- believe that Stephen Harper's decision to join the bombing brigades in Iraq is justified. Michael Harris believes that Harper's decision is folly and that the reaction to it illustrates "the slow collapse" of Canadian journalism. After all, when it comes to war in the Middle East, Harper has a record. That record includes not only his full throated campaign to join George Bush's invasion of Iraq, but also his support for military action in Libya:

Harper helped bomb Moammar Gadhafi out of power, even though regime change was expressly excluded from the UN mandate. The prime minister had his million dollar fly-over of the Parliament buildings to celebrate his ‘mission accomplished’ moment. It was all downhill from there. The dictator was not replaced by nation-building democrats, but by the armed thugs of the Misrata militias. Since 2013, their accomplishments have included ethnic cleansing and torture.

Libya is now so dangerous that not even the United Nations nor the U.S. maintain a presence there. Harper never talks about Libya anymore — a place he proudly bombed — except to say we’re not responsible for the current chaos. But with the dust of the Libyan fiasco not yet settled, Harper buys into a mission that is eerily like it. Canada will help bomb another evildoer into the dust and save the day. Like we did in Libya — for a cool $100 million.
You would think that, when journalists looked at the record, they would smell a rat. But Canadian journalists have endured the same fate as journalists everywhere  -- and the ignorance which is a consequence of their fate:

Writing in The Guardian, reporter Anjan Sundaram offers a theory to explain our shrinking knowledge, explaining along the way how genocide in the Congo never quite got on the radar of Western editors:

“The Western news media are in crisis and are turning their back on their world. We hardly ever notice. Where correspondents were once assigned to a place for years or months, reporters now handle 20 countries each … As the news has receded, so have our minds.”
Harper thrives because, in his world, Ignorance is Strength. But in the real world, Harris writes, Harper is "a thundering bozo." When journalism fails, that's what we get for leaders -- thundering bozos.

Lipstick and Lies

Fat and Not Afraid - Sat, 10/11/2014 - 06:30

Have you ever had a reaction to something someone did or said that was so strong it surprised you? Not a trigger, that's not what I'm talking about, but a gut reaction of NOPE that blindsided you? That happened to me Friday morning while trying to get the four of us out the door to our various destinations. Kat was playing with her crayons, picked one up, rubbed it across her lips and said "Look mom! Wipstick! I beautiful." Wait, what? In that moment between thinking and speaking there was room for a lot because the human brain is a marvelous computer. I know my jaw dropped, then clenched. Thinking back on it now I get tense across the shoulders and my hands want to make fists. What am I angry at?  Whoever it was who said "Here, try this!" instead of "Not for babies" when she was showing interest in make-up. Y'know, 'cause she's TWO.

I didn't waste my breath with "Oh Katherine, you're far too young to begin buying into the beauty myths and garbage societal expecations for your gender! You have been and will always be beautiful without any help at all from any make-up! It's just a collection of toxic colours that will poison your body and weaken your confidence. You don't need it. Noone needs it. "

What I said was "Kat, you are beautiful without lipstick. It's not for babies." She tried again, making a kissing sound this time, and I said no, it wasn't for her, and why didn't she draw with the crayon instead? Distracted, I won for a time. For now. A few minutes or maybe months more of breathing room in the ongoing battle to keep my daughter from becoming...something.

I wasn't expecting to have to worry about this so soon. I wasn't expecting people close to me to tell me to calm down and that I was being ridiculous for being upset about it. I'm sorry (I'm not) but she's my daughter, and she's TWO, and I feel that I'd be doing her a disservice if I blindly allowed her to just fall into current gender roles and expectations. Make-up's purpose is to a) make money for companies off of women's (commercially created) low self-confidence/esteem and b) uphold the dangerous notion that women are sexually available at all times. We can tell ourselves all we want that 'I do it for me, because *I* like it" or "It's just a part of my daily routine" or whatever, but unless you've actually taken the time to sit yourself down and analyze why exactly you wear the stuff, and for who and be honest with yourself, I'm going to say no, it's very likely you're not wearing it for  yourself, you're wearing it for the people around you; your boss and/or coworkers because it's expected of you in order to be seen as professional, for your partner because you want to look 'nice' for them, like you 'tried', and just because hey, women wear make-up, even for something as simple as a trip to the store for a loaf of bread. Our bodies are seen as public property, to be commented on and critiqued by complete strangers, on a daily basis. Women have a very fine line to walk between wearing enough make-up, and not enough, and for heaven's sake it had better look natural, like we didn't even try, or the illusion is ruined.

Katherine is two. She is, IMO, far too young to be thinking about playing around with make-up of any kind. Ryan agrees with me and will be helping me to discourage her from this particular imaginary play for a while. We understand that it's likely inevitable and that prohibiting it will only make it seem even more desirable, so an outright ban isn't feasible. We are hoping that friends and family will help us out and also not play along, and continue to compliment and encourage both our kids on things that have nothing to do with their physical appearance. If Kat grows up to be the most feminine of women, that's fine by me as long it's a conscious choice and not how she feels she *has* to be. The same goes for Gabe; there's more to being a man than big muscles. To quote another mommy-blogger, "I really have no desire to add to the messages she will be inundated with her entire female life, that makeup makes you look better, prettier, sexier, and that is what women do."

 

 

Some Critical Thinking About The War Against ISIS

Politics and its Discontents - Sat, 10/11/2014 - 06:12


Contrary to what governments want their citizens to do, that is precisely what the following Star letter-writers are engaging in as they ask the right questions and point out what should be obvious about the war on ISIS terrorism:

Chantal Hébert overlooked the sanest voice in Parliament when she analyzed the stands of the three main parties on the war against Islamic State. She accused Stephen Harper, Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau of electioneering rather than clear thinking. Too bad she didn’t mention Elizabeth May’s brilliant speech on the issue. While agreeing with Harper that Canadians support the need to address the evils of terrorism, she reminds us that recent history has shown that wars have only made matters worse; that we need to sign the arms trade treaty in order to keep the weapons out of the hands of terrorists; and we need to figure out what leads these young men to such acts of extremism. She also points out that a decision about going to war needs much more than a single day of debate in the House of Commons.

Katy Austin, Elmvale

The Conservatives’ fundamental argument to justify the use of CF-18 war planes against the Islamic State in Iraq is a moral argument. ‎Their claim is that Canada will demonstrate and build national character through air attacks against the militants. They argue we have a duty to ourselves above all others to strike Islamic State since our action will be morally right.

But is national character ‎really the main test to use when making a decision about bombing Iraq? Is it not better to test the decision against strategic security questions such as: Is it really our fight and not the fight of regional powers? Why did previous massive military interventions in Iraq and other places fail to end the threat? Why expect a different outcome this time? Why aren’t the militaries of Saudi Arabia or Egypt deployed instead since both these regional states are amply supplied with American war planes by the U.S.?

Brad Butler, Etobicoke

In view of the beheading of innocent American and British nationals and the many brutal atrocities committed by Islamic State, it is difficult to remain passive and uninvolved. There is a natural and visceral desire to punish or destroy — as an act of revenge or to teach them a lesson. So bombs away!

But is this the best and most logical reaction? The answer is clearly No!

History has many examples to show that bombing will not provide a beneficial long-term result. While bombing will slow or momentarily halt an Islamic State advance in Iraq, it will not provide a victory over that foe. Nor will it have a beneficial result in Syria. Well-trained and motivated boots-on-the-ground (primarily Iraqi and Kurdish boots) are needed to thwart the Islamic State’s advances in Iraq. Reaching out to moderate Sunnis is also needed. Syria is another complicated matter and a no-win situation.

Harper has committed our soldiers to this battle for three reasons: in order to satisfy a U.S. request, to appease his political base and to inflate his image as a decisive leader. None of those reasons is sufficient to get involved in a combat role with CF-18s and support personnel. Iraq has requested support with training, weapons and humanitarian assistance. That should have been Canada’s response.

Bombing will have a strategic impact for the Islamic State similar to the Sept. 11 attacks for the U.S. — namely to motivate, recruit and engage a sleeping element. Perhaps that was the underlying reason for the beheadings. If so, Islamic State has won this stage. Is this a sign of its future success?

Dennis Choptiany, MarkhamRecommend this Post

Harper's War and the Song of the Chicken Media

Montreal Simon - Sat, 10/11/2014 - 05:16


Well it's the Thanksgiving Day weekend in Harperland, and we all have so many reasons to give thanks.

Especially Great Leader.

He finally got some good job numbers.  

As short-lived and as dubious as they may be.

"As a stand-alone report, this is no doubt highly impressive, but given the rising turmoil in the rest of the world, not to mention growing questions over the reliability of the jobs data, these results may not have much lasting impact," BMO economist Doug Porter said in a note to clients.

And his war numbers are so good, the MSM is singing his praises, and suggesting that while he may lose the war, he WILL win the next election.
Read more »

Terry Tremaine Now Serving Contempt Sentence

Anti-Racist Canada - Fri, 10/10/2014 - 19:59
As one of our readers pointed out, Terry Tremaine isn't serving time because of hate speech posted online. He's serving time for contempt, something our friend and frequent, frustrated, reader Tomasz Winnicki is himself intimately aware of.

That fact hasn't stopped Fromm from engaging in a bit of online histrionics:


Uh, no Andrew Heck. All Canadians don't eventually end up in jail. Thanks for playing though.

One thing we find a little curious though is the date in which Tremaine was locked up:


You mean to tell us that Fromm, he who claims to speak for poor, maligned, boneheads, that he couldn't be bothered to update his followers on Terry Tremaine's status for almost 2 weeks?

Well, Fromm is a busy man. We're sure that he had more important things that he was preoccupied with at the time:



Musical interlude

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 10/10/2014 - 19:55
Moloko - The Time Is Now

Respectability vs RESPECT: Part Two

Dammit Janet - Fri, 10/10/2014 - 13:15
This and this are connected.

Different women, separated by class, professional status, age, resources and geography.

The connection between these women: they shared an intimate and sexual space with men who did not respect them. These men, feeling unjustly deprived of 'their' entitlements,  deliberately and malevolently harmed and tried to injure them by exploiting the double standard about women's sexual expression that still persists in this 21st century.

In the case of *Nicole* and *Kim* in Halifax, the vindictive actions of a man who felt justified to impugn the respectability of his ex-lover, and to physically endanger her (and her house-mate) were documented by the victims.  Yet the crown attorney declined to pursue criminal charges for what *Adam* did.

As for Lori Douglas in Winnipeg, the first inquiry that thrust her into public view was dropped but a newly formed Canadian Judicial Council panel will be looking at her case - again.

There was one basic question that was never adequately addressed. Given that Douglas testified she had no knowledge of the proposition Jack King presented to his client — an 'invitation' for Chapman to have sex with her — nor had she consented to his initiative, was her spouse effectively trafficking her, and setting her up to be sexually assaulted as well?

It's a moot point now: King died last April, and that aspect of the complicated inquiry was dropped.

It appears to me that it is these women's respectability that is being judged, rather than the criminal actions of vengeful men.

Remember the Rehtaeh Parsons case?  Media attention put a spotlight on the reluctance of the RCMP to adequately investigate the multifaceted and unrelenting sexualized violence that led to her suicide. It forced the police to bring to justice those responsible for her harassment.

Once again, media attention has stirred the police into some semblance of action.  Kim and Nicole's criminal harasser may yet be brought to trial.

Douglas and her lawyers took legal recourse in order to expose the bullying tactics of the original CJC panel for what they were: unvarnished misogyny.

Last word: this exchange of tweets captures how women's respectability is viewed through a sexist lens and why women are challenging the double standard.


From @fortyfs' timeline, here.

Reminder: Respectability vs RESPECT: Part One.

Chasing Ice - Again

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 10/10/2014 - 09:19
You may have watched the 2012 documentary,  Chasing Ice.  This clip is of the calving event shown in the documentary except that it presents the ice field in the perspective of Manhattan.



It's when the ice sheet is presented with a Manhattan graphic overlay (@ 3:40 mark) that the enormity of the calving strikes home.

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