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How the Fearsome Become the Fearful

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 04/14/2015 - 10:08
A Weapon of Weakness?

How did we become indentured to a culture of fear?  Fear-mongering has become a modus operandi in today's morally corrupt, visionless politics.  It is the stock in trade of authoritarians like our own Stephen Harper and it's effective.

The thing is democracy cannot thrive in the presence of a culture of fear.  It may not even be sustainable in that toxic milieu.

The culture of fear quickly comes to dominate aspects of how we are governed, how the nation state operates.  It even extends into national security structures and how we wage wars.  Until recently war was an interval of conflict between periods of peace.  In case you haven't noticed, peace is gone.  We've descended into a state of permawar, low-intensity conflict fought not to win a peace but out of fear to strike at groups we deem, often incorrectly, as a threat to our society.

I'm doing an online course on remote-control warfare.  It's an awkward term that incorporates drone or autonomous warfare, special operations warfare and for-profit wars waged by corporate entities, the modern version of mercenaries.  It's a 21st century type of warfare that can be dangerously corrosive of democracy.

In better times states jealously guarded their monopoly on violence so integral to the state's ability to meet its cardinal responsibility to protect the citizenry. Now wars have become more complicated engaging state actors with a confusing and shifting mix of non-state actors that run the gamut from militias to rebels to insurgents to organized crime, even banditry.  States have likewise lost their monopoly on lethal, war-waging weaponry and technology.

Some speculate that this dystopian era will end the classic 'nation state' that has evolved in the Westphalian interval.  State sovereignty, borders, the use of lethal force pretty much wherever and whenever, demands a different political reality.

I was struck in reading the transcript of a lecture by prof. Bill Durodie, University of Bath, by a passage that resonates with some central themes I've been canvassing on this blog for several years.  Here are some excerpts.

Since the end of the Cold War not only have we become disenchanted with science, but some suggest that our social networks have become much more fragile or eroded. People no longer participate in the political democratic process in the same numbers as they used to. We've become disengaged from the decision-making processes of our own society. And at the same time, many of the informal social networks that provide a social glue and identity to people, whether they are families, neighbourhoods, communities, trade unions, out of hours clubs, teams, and associations all of those have seen a steady decrease in membership too. 

So what we're now seeing is a world in which we've become disenchanted with the benefits of science, disengaged from the decision-making process, and disconnected from one another. Put together, these make up what some people are describing as a culture of fear, but lends itself towards a politics of fear, whereby people always imagine and project the worst in relationship to any new development. And it's within that broad context that we need to understand the discussions occurring about science and technology and its application to warfare today. Drones and remote technologies are used in a very dystopian, negative way some will accuse.

In summary, if we ask the question, is technology a demon in the contemporary period or the saviour in terms of protecting real lives in the combat space, I think the correct answer is neither. There's a lot of hype about technology from both sides of the spectrum. Risk management, we should remind ourselves, is a means to achieving an end not an end in itself. And the danger is to view technology as the solution to problems or the problem itself. What we need is a clearer sense of purpose and direction for anything that we are doing in society, including the conduct of war

If we look at recent missions in Afghanistan or Iraq, what is strikingly obvious is that the purpose of the mission itself has being confused. Was fighting in Iraq to get rid of Saddam? Was it to bring democracy to the region? Was it to liberate women? All of these aims were thrown into the pot together. And the consequence is that there is a confusion as to what it is that we are fighting for. 

If we look historically, it's quite clear that when a society is very clear as to its aims and objectives, it is actually able to put up with remarkable acts of barbarism. The atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki must rank as some of the most devastating and barbaric acts of human history. But set within a context of the Second World War, where a narrative had been framed and people bought in to the notion that we were in a civilizational struggle, these events went, if not unnoticed, certainly uncriticised for a remarkable period of time. 

Today, far less dramatic incidents, such as drone strikes in Pakistan, bring forward much more criticism. And that's because we live in a period in which we're unclear as to what the purpose and objective is in the first place. If technology is really going to be used to a positive benefit, rather than simply feeding into dystopian narratives, we need to clarify our purpose as a society and engage a much greater layer of the population in a discussion as to what it is that we're trying to achieve.

As we get into these low-intensity permawars, it's increasingly difficult to maintain effective civilian control over our armed forces.  Wars are now fought increasingly in the shadows, remotely.  It becomes harder and more complex to ensure effective oversight and there are political leaders who very much like it that way.  Outsource it to the commercial sector and oversight becomes almost meaningless.

Another Hot Year, Even Hotter for 2016

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 04/14/2015 - 09:04
Word from Australia that this year and next will probably see record-breaking temperatures.

Sea temperatures around Australia are posting "amazing" records that climate specialists say signal global records set in 2014 may be broken this year and next.

March sea-surface temperatures in the Coral Sea region off Queensland broke the previous high by 0.12 degrees – a big jump for oceans that are typically more thermally stable than land. Temperatures for the entire Australian ocean region also set new highs for the month, the Bureau of Meteorology said.

The unusual warmth off Australia comes as the Pacific Ocean remains primed for an El Nino event, as the bureau reported last month.

If such an event occurs, the underlying warming from climate change will get a further boost from natural variability, making 2014's ranking as the hottest year on records going back to the 1880s likely to be short-lived, according to Andy Pitman, head of climate research at the University of NSW.

"If we do get an intense El Nino, it will blitz the records," Professor Pitman said. "The climate is on a performance-enhancing drug and that drug is carbon dioxide."

As Flat as Piss on a Platter

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 04/14/2015 - 08:40
As oil spills go, Harper's "world class" oil spill response team couldn't have asked for better conditions than they faced last Wednesday in Vancouver's English Bay.

There was nothing to obstruct crews getting at the spill and deploying their booms and equipment.  The waters were calm.  It was day time.  It happened not all that far away from the Sea Island Coast Guard station.  The best part is that it was a small spill, what should have been a piece of cake for our world class guardians.

And still they screwed it up.

It could have been so much worse.  Imagine a heavily loaded tanker floundering on the rocks overnight in the midst of the sort of West Coast winter storms that fell giant trees in coastal forests.  Imagine that heavily loaded tanker breaking up in the Douglas Channel or Hecate Strait.  That is to imagine catastrophe of an incalculable scale on a multi-generational time span.

Do you realize that those world class oil spill recovery vessels can't leave the pier in our winter storms and their booms are useless in those conditions?

That oil spill in English Bay should have been like a kindergarten field day. Everybody should have come away with a shiny blue ribbon.  Only they screwed it all up.

Environment Minister Mary Polak told the B.C. legislature on Monday that in the event of a marine spill “we are led in a unified command structure by the federal government through the Canadian Coast Guard.”

However, the minister said the province and other emergency response agencies were forced to act outside their usual roles due to the Coast Guard’s inaction.

“As a result of our repeated requests for an improvement in that situation, I can tell the members that the Coast Guard certainly stepped up their involvement, took back over the leadership of incident command as of Friday morning,” Ms. Polak said.

Of Leaders and Eunuchs

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 04/14/2015 - 08:18
One of these three has balls:  Tommy Boy, Junior, or Hillary.  And the winner is - Hillary!

Even though her duel at the ballot box isn't until November of next year, Democratic presidential frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, has wasted no time in serving notice that the fight against climate change will be front and center in her campaign.

In fact, Hillary's is the first ever presidential campaign to make combating climate change a core issue.

Our boys, Mulcair and Trudeau, get to strut their stuff this year and, like the wee geldings they are, climate change seems to be something they're not too keen to talk about.  Oh Canada, indeed.

Dawgtion: Five Great Reasons to Jump in for the Home Stretch!

Dawg's Blawg - Tue, 04/14/2015 - 08:14
We’re in the home stretch for the auction to support Dr. Dawg; bidding closes on at 3:00 p.m., Wednesday, April 15th. Here are five indisputable arguments for getting your bid in. REASON 1: BECAUSE IT WAS EASTER ONLY A WEEK... Balbulican

Springtime in Harperland and the Battle to Take Canada Back

Montreal Simon - Tue, 04/14/2015 - 07:34

Well Spring has finally arrived in the little corner of Canada where I live. 

The hockey goals have been fished out of the once frozen canal where they sank after the ice melted.

And biking season is here at last...

Which would be perfect if I didn't live in Harperland, where winter never really ends.

And you can still be hit by this kind of icy chill.
Read more »

Tuesday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Tue, 04/14/2015 - 07:05
This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Paul Krugman highlights the policy areas where we need to look to the public sector for leadership - including those such as health care and income security where we all have a strong interest in making sure that nobody's left behind. And Andre Picard reminds us of one of the major gaps in Canada's health care system, as expensive prescription drugs can make for a devastating barrier to needed care.

- Meanwhile, Paul Buchheit duly criticizes the combination of increasing wealth for the lucky few in the U.S., and increasing poverty at the bottom of the income scale.

- Warren Bell looks back at the years of deliberate attacks on environmental protection that led to the English Bay oil spill crisis, while Tim Harper argues that Canada's federal government would be a great place to start cleaning up the mess. Kai Nagata notes that public outcry over exactly the types of issues raised by English Bay may have succeeded in stopping the Northern Gateway pipeline. And Andrew Leach rightly makes the point that Stephen Harper bears personal responsibility for Canada's pattern of delay and denial on greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas sector:
Over the course of the prime minister’s time in office, oil prices have gone from the $50s to the $140s, down to the $30s, back above $100, back to the $40s and sit around $50 today. We’ve had proposals for regulations, cap-and-trade, and regulations again, but it seems that no policy which would restrict GHG emissions from the oil sands can get to the finish line. Why? It’s not prices, and it’s not the oil and gas lobby. It’s one thing – a prime minister who, to use MacDougall’s words, hasn’t seen fit to instruct, “the entire team (to put) its shoulder to the wheel until victory is achieved,” and a policy is imposed.

Stephen Harper is happy to see these difficult policy choices pushed to a later date and, in so doing, will have us make exactly the mistakes he said we wouldn’t make again – promising aggressive action and not delivering it. When the world meets in Paris in late 2015, Canada will still likely not have policies imposed on its oil sands sector and, despite the oil price crash, will still expect emissions to increase far beyond our Copenhagen commitment. Will the world, again, be willing to take the word of a prime minister, whoever it may be, who says we won’t make the same mistake three times?- Scott Clark and Peter DeVries see the Cons' false balanced budget legislation as being absolutely hilarious in light of their track record of fiscal mismanagement. But Rick Smith notes that the Cons' anti-labour zealotry is rather less amusing - particularly as C-377 gets pushed through the legislative process yet again (minus the amendments which would have made it at least somewhat less toxic).

- Finally, Brent Patterson offers yet another example of how trade agreements can severely limit democratic decision-making, as Argentina stands to lose hundreds of millions of dollars for prioritizing usable water above a profiteer's revenue stream.

The Vindication Of Thomas Mulcair

Politics and its Discontents - Tue, 04/14/2015 - 06:14
Some will remember the abuse heaped upon NDP leader Thomas Mulcair back in 2012 when he said that Canada was suffering from the same Dutch disease that afflicted the Netherlands after natural gas fields boosting that nation's currency reduced the competitiveness of its exports back in the 1970s. The culprit in Canada was the unrestrained exploitation of its oil fields, leading at one point to our dollar being valued higher than the American one. Exports suffered, manufacturing continued to decline, and the Harper regime gleefully denigrated the NDP leader for an inconvenient truth.

It would seem that Mulcair's analysis has been validated by both statistics and analysis.

Says Bank of America Merrill Lynch economist Emanuella Enenajor,
"The currency's appreciation of almost 60 per cent over the last 15 years has really hurt the manufacturing sector".The fact that oil prices have now dropped is not having the salutary effects one might hope for:
Just because low oil prices are reducing transportation and energy costs, and the floundering loonie is making Canadian exports attractive again — it doesn't mean the sector will bounce back immediately.

You can't just turn the lights back on in the factory and start sending the widgets out the door again.

When the energy sector started to lose steam, the old stalwarts of the economy weren't there to pick up the slack.

"The Dutch disease that Canada has experienced has been more than a decade in the making, and I think it has really hurt business confidence," added Enenajor.Of course, with an election in the offing, expect the Harper regime to give no quarter, evidenced by party stalwarts like the redoubtable, predictable and hyper partisan Pierre Poilivre:
"The leader of the NDP calls [the natural resources] sector a disease!" Pierre Poilievre sneered at Mulcair across the floor of the House of Commons last week.
Here is the interview with Emanuella Enenajor:

Recommend this Post

Another Ben Stein?

Northern Reflections - Tue, 04/14/2015 - 05:57


Joe Oliver's proposed balanced budget legislation is so inane it's hilarious. Like most Harperian legislation, the proposed bill leaves lots of unanswered questions. Scott Clark and Peter DeVries write:

In his speech, Mr. Oliver stated that the only deficit his balanced-budget law would consider acceptable would be one that results from a recession, or an extraordinary circumstance (like a war or natural disaster) with a cost exceeding $3 billion in a year. Within 30 days of a published deficit, the Finance minister would be required by law to testify before the Commons Finance committee and present a plan to return to balance. That plan would include an automatic freeze on operating spending and a five per cent cut in the salaries of cabinet ministers and deputy ministers until the budget is balanced again. Departments that helped create the deficit would see their budgets cut.

But recessions never end quite on schedule. The Harper government has posted deficits in every year since 2008-09. The deficits in 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11 were definitely due to the recession and the stimulus measures implemented. But what about the deficits recorded in the following years — when the economy was technically out of deficit but still too sickly to provide the kind of revenue growth that would have lifted Ottawa into the black?

Would those late-game deficits have to be offset by spending reductions under Mr. Oliver’s rule, despite the economy’s fragility? Would there be an automatic freeze on departmental operating budgets and salary reductions for ministers and their deputies? Who decides when a recession ends? Should only structural deficits be outlawed? If so, who decides if a deficit is caused by structural factors and by how much?

And what qualifies a circumstance as ‘extraordinary’? Wars, floods, tornadoes — those seem obvious enough. But what about another threat to central Canada’s automative sector? Would another $14 billion bailout qualify as a legitimate government response to an ‘extraordinary’ event?
Harperian policy has never been rooted in wisdom. It's always been about buying votes. And this legislation is aimed at Harper's base -- which is upset at a government that has never balanced the books.

Oliver presents his proposal with a straight face. And his deadpan delivery suggests that he has a future as a stand up comic. Perhaps he'll become another Ben Stein -- an economist who became famous for his flat, nasal droning in movies like Ferris Bueller's Day Off,  and Dave and in television shows like The Wonder Years.

Eduardo Galeano: ¡Presente!

Dawg's Blawg - Tue, 04/14/2015 - 05:40
The brilliant and beautiful Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano left us yesterday. Let others assemble the capsule biographies to mark his passing: there will be many such tributes. I can speak only personally about this loss. My loss. Excerpts from a... Dr.Dawg

Featured Today at the Dawgtion: "Journey Under Glass", Autographed First Edition

Dawg's Blawg - Tue, 04/14/2015 - 04:00
10th and final lot! “Journey Under Glass” (Penumbra Press, 2004). “If nothing is constant but change, then everything for the marvelling consciousness is a journey, a process of transformation in which we may choose to drift or, if we... Balbulican

More Con Lies: Vancouver Oil Spill Worse Than Estimated

Montreal Simon - Tue, 04/14/2015 - 03:16

As I'm sure you know by now, I never believed what Cons like James Moore and Greg Rickford had to say about that oil spill in Vancouver's English Bay.

Especially when they and the Harper Coast Guard said that only about 3,000 litres of toxic bunker had leaked out of that freighter, and that all but six litres had been recovered.

And sure enough it turns out that estimate was too CONservative. 
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Why Does Stephen Harper Want to Turn Us Into Bloody Amerika?

Montreal Simon - Tue, 04/14/2015 - 01:35

I try not to watch too much American TV news, because what's happening in this diseased Harperland is crazy enough.

And because every time I do watch it these days, it seems another black man is being killed by a white police officer for no sane reason.

And when I see someone handcuff a human being after shooting him six times in the back, as the South Carolina police officer Michael Slager did to Walter Scott, makes me almost physically ill... 

Because as I've said before, my heroes are healers not killers.

And this too could only happen in cruel, crazy, blood soaked Amerika. 
Read more »

So true

Cathie from Canada - Mon, 04/13/2015 - 22:08
A commenter on Christie Blatchford's latest Duffy story says:Duffy should have been put in charge of payments to veterans and thalidomide victims so efficient is he at getting the money out there.Yes, at least then Duffy's greediness would have done somebody some good.
And earlier I predicted that the Duffy trial wouldn't blow back on Harper. I'm now optimistic that I was wrong. As more and more sleaze is revealed, more Canadians will ask the greater question -- what kind of judgement did Harper show in appointing this man to the Senate in the first place?
As Montreal Simon observed last week:what's also now clear is that Duffy's lawyer is trying to join the two men at the hip. And while that may or may not save Duffy it will almost certainly damage Harper.

Attention, Young People: Here Is Why You Should Vote

Politics and its Discontents - Mon, 04/13/2015 - 12:04
This brief but powerful video should be viewed by all those who are politically disengaged, especially our young citizens:

H/t OperationMapleRecommend this Post

Monday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Mon, 04/13/2015 - 08:36
Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Lonnie Golden studies the harm done to workers by irregular schedules. And Matt Bruening comments on how Missouri, Kansas and other states are passing draconian restrictions on benefits by trying to get the middle class to envy the poor.

- Meanwhile, Scott Santens expands on the connection between increasing automation and a basic income which could ensure that people displaced from jobs by technological advancement aren't left without a livelihood. And Sara Mojtehedzadeh talks to Guy Standing about a basic income as a means of relieving against reliance on precarious work:
What is the “precariat”?

The precariat consists of a growing proportion of our total society. It is being habituated to accept a life of unstable labour and unstable living. Often they’re unable to say what their occupation is, because what they’re doing now might be quite different from what they were doing three months ago. (They) have to do a hell of a lot of work that doesn’t get counted (i.e. job training, travel time, job applications). People in the precariat find themselves in the situation where the level of their education and qualifications is almost always higher than the sort of labour that they’re going to be able to obtain. This is the first time in history when an emerging part of our citizens are losing rights. (With) many of the benefit cuts, there is no due process. I think that leaves scope for tremendous amounts of injustice.

You warn that the precariat is also very vulnerable to poverty traps.

People in the precariat rely very heavily on money wages. You cannot apply for benefits until two weeks after you’ve lost a job, for example.The gap between losing a job can be months, not weeks or days. Now, if you think about it, that means there’s very little incentive to take a low-paying job, especially as you could then subsequently be unemployed again.

For you, a big part of the answer is a guaranteed basic income for all. Why?

In terms of social justice you could say, look — everybody should receive a dividend from the investments of past generations to give us the security to develop our capabilities. But in addition, a basic income would be a modest way of redistributing income, because we’ve got chronically unequal societies. There is no other way in which the precariat could obtain basic security. - But Sunny Freeman notes that the Cons are in fact likely to push more Canadians into debt and other poverty traps if their false balanced budget law has any substantive effect. And Seth Klein warns against following the path toward a zombie policy whose harms are well known.

- Mike Blanchfield reports that the Cons have turned Canada into one of the most miserly countries in the world when it comes to supporting international development. And Michael Harris writes that despite hundreds of millions of dollars in ad spending trying to convince us otherwise, the Cons don't rate any better on competence than they do on ethics or values.

- Finally, Lauren Dobson-Hughes argues that an election campaign is the wrong time for civil society groups to try to influence public policy, while offering an alternate suggestion as to how the spotlight of a campaign can benefit social causes:
An election campaign should be *the* place for civil society organizations to engage. To shape public opinion, to highlight the problems we face, to represent their members, and to push candidates to prove they’re worthy our votes. It says something about the state of democracy that election campaigns are essentially, a policy discussion vacuum.

So where is the value in elections campaigns, for civil society? I’d suggest elections are a much better tool for invigorating your base, educating them and providing them with an outlet for their passions. They can attend all-candidates debates, write letters to the editor, host policy discussions amongst themselves, and identify potential champions of their issues. This is democracy in action. Its impact on political decision-making is debatable, but as a means of empowering Canadians to engage politically, it can be very effective.

And perhaps therein lies the disconnect. Civil society wants to engage in elections. They feel they have (and should have) a crucial role to play. In many cases, they are deeply involved. And yet, their involvement appears entirely unconnected to any impact.

This sounds awfully cynical. And that’s not the intent. But if you’re going to engage as a civil society organisation, do it with your eyes open.

Oil Spills And The Harper Brand

Politics and its Discontents - Mon, 04/13/2015 - 06:38

Time for a brief follow-up to Elizabeth May's fine dissection of how Harper environmental cuts contributed to the slow response to Vancouver's English Bay oil spill. In today's Star, Tim Harper repeats and reflects upon the facts May addressed.

Denunciations are flying fast and furiously from the likes of May, B.C. Premier Christie Clark and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson. Of course, predictable denials of culpability are coming from the likes of Industry Minister James Moore (“Politicians piling on by spreading misinformation is unhelpful,’’) and Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford (“I won’t engage in speculation,’’ “it’s not helpful to finger point,” “I think we should all concentrate on the cleanup").

Here are the facts that set the rhetoric into perspective:
The Conservatives closed the Kitsilano Coast Guard station.

The city of Vancouver says it was not informed of the leak until 12 hours after it was detected, but the federal government disputes that.
It took six hours for the Coast Guard to get booms in place in response to the leak, but a former commander of the closed station, Fred Moxey, told the Vancouver Sun the response would have been six minutes if the station was still open.

The closed station was within hailing distance of this leak, something that should have been so easily contained, occurring in calm waters in an urban area.Conservatives also closed the Vancouver Environment Canada station of Environmental Emergencies and the Marine Mammal Contaminants Program within the department of fisheries and oceans.

Conservatives also closed regional offices of the emergency in Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal, Dartmouth, N.S., and St. John’s. It has been replaced by a 1-800 number which rings in Gatineau, Que., and Montreal, says Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.We can, of course, look forward to a full-court press from the Harper regime in order contain the damage to its brand the anemic and belated response is causing.

One can only assume that will take the usual form: vilification of all Harper critics, the only strategy this hateful regime seems to know.Recommend this Post


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