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It's Hard to Believe We Were That Stupid

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 07/17/2015 - 08:45
Just as Europe undermined the EU so too did we undermine, potentially fatally, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.  Both organizations foolishly indulged in a promiscuous bout of expansion that has left them unwieldy, incoherent and perhaps even dangerous.

This is EU Europe:

This is NATO:

Both began and operated quite well with a small, well integrated membership, capable of reliably cooperating to achieve clearly understood objectives.  And then they both got just a little whorish in the bacchanal that marked the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Oh my, look, there's one missing - the Duchy of Grand Fenwick.

How they got left out I'll never know.  I guess Bush and Cheney forgot about them in their race to march NATO to Russia's doorstep.

When it comes to NATO it might be a good idea to cull the membership herd, especially if we see the E.U. beginning to come part at the seams.  There are a lot of scary people and movements waiting in the wings to exploit that chaos and we might not find their table manners exactly pleasing.

Don't forget that Article 5 business, the "mutual aid" clause that says an attack on one NATO member is an attack on all.  There's no Article 5(b) that covers the situation where one NATO member attacks another.  Worse yet, there are some NATO aspirants that might like nothing better than to provoke a regional adversary (can you say Russia?) and then drag in the NATO muscle. Think Georgia. Think Ukraine.

NATO was built to face threats from without, namely the Soviet bloc.  It cobbled together nations of the Western European tradition on an implied assumption of shared values and principles. What a happy bunch of chaps - well, except for those uppity French.  DeGaulle, you know.

NATO picked up some dodgy characters in its rampage of expansion to the East. Take Hungary, which joined in 1999.  Sixty years earlier it joined another alliance, the Axis powers.  And today you wouldn't consider Hungary a particularly enthusiastic adherent to democracy.  Sort of like the little kid who's standing still in the corner of the pool.  You just know he's peeing.

It's like having more kids than you can possibly feed. When you get the urge to add a few more, don't.  And try to get the kids you do have educated and out the door as soon as you can.

Quick, put a call through to Grand Fenwick. I need to speak to the Duke.          

Before the fall

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 07/17/2015 - 08:33
Shorter Brad Wall:
The whole concept of "From many peoples, strength" doesn't do much for me. But "From many dinosaur remains, climate devastation", now that gets me - and any right-thinking Westerner - all tingly with pride.

Why Isn't This Getting Wider Coverage?

Politics and its Discontents - Fri, 07/17/2015 - 05:31
While this story seems most timely and relevant, given the ongoing Council of the Federation meeting discussing pipeline growth, I couldn't even find a reference to it in this morning's Toronto Star. It should be front-page news.

Recommend this Post

The Imitation Of Who?

Northern Reflections - Fri, 07/17/2015 - 05:01


Two weeks ago, Conservative MP Wai Young told the congregation at the Harvest City Church that, when he pushed through Bill C-51, Stephen Harper was walking in Christ's footsteps. All analogies eventually break down. But this one never even got out of the gate. That's why Michael Harris has so much fun with it:

Sorry, Wai — the case for Steve being Christ-like is not compelling. It’s like comparing Donald Trump to Mother Theresa, or John Baird to Gandhi.For one thing, Steve was born in a hospital, not a manger. For another, I think you would agree that Jesus Saves, while Steve spends and spends and spends. Seven years to record a balanced budget of his own — and even then he only managed it through the tawdry tactic of robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Jesus could feed the multitudes with a few loaves and fishes. Steve needs the federal treasury and $8 billion of taxpayers’ money to buy a measly election.
And, given some of Harper's disciples, the comparison verges on the obscene:

Jesus had disciples who later went on to great things. Steve had accomplices who found their way to court with astonishing regularity. Instead of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John, Steve had Arthur, Peter, Bruce and Dean — confidantes and advisors who were persons of interest to the police. Some even made it to the handcuff-and-shackle set. No wonder Steve wants to build more prisons.
 In the end, there are more differences than similarities between Christ and Harper:

Jesus believed in forgiving people and turning the other cheek. Steve believes in turning the other screw and being cheeky.

As for forgiveness, Steve believes that vengeance is his, no matter what the Lord sayeth. Just ask Helena Guergis, Mike Duffy or Tom Flanagan. Never mind the New Horizons probe and all those NASA snaps of that frozen meatball on the edge of our solar system; Flanagan was the first to orbit Pluto after raising the ire of Steve. Jesus forgives. Steve consigns trespassers to the outer darkness.
Christ proclaimed that the meek shall inherit the earth. Perhaps Young thinks meek means stupid.

dogs, apartments, and anxiety: in which diego returns to school

we move to canada - Fri, 07/17/2015 - 05:00
As I mentioned (almost a month ago now), our pack of four is moving to a new den. We're going to stop renting houses, as we have done for the past ten years, and move back to apartment life. Although I've adjusted to the idea, I'm no happier about it. I'm heartsick that we'll no longer have the private oasis of a backyard.

We've found a great apartment: three bedrooms, two bathrooms, well-maintained building, lots of green space outside, dog-friendly building (it's the law in Ontario, but not always followed or enforced), good location for both driving and transit. Honestly, had I seen this apartment when I lived in New York, I would have considered it luxury. Now it just makes me sad.

But there's another factor involved in this move, a big, drooling, barking factor named Diego.

Drooly BoyIn our old house, before the flood, we were working with Diego on better on-leash behaviour, especially his reactions to other dogs. Off-leash at the dog park, Diego is playful and well socialized; on the leash, a barking, pulling maniac.

This is a common issue. We were working with a trainer when the flood upended our lives. We ended up moving, and we never resumed training. This meant I stopped walking Diego, except when the four of us walk together, and Allan can take the big boy while I walk Tala. I couldn't manage him at all.

As soon as we realized we were moving to an apartment, in a building full of dogs, I knew we needed to re-boot Diego's education.

The amazing trainer we had been working with has moved out of the area, but we are working with her by email, phone, and video. We've got a fridge full of Rollover, something this trainer turned us on to: a training treat that is nutritionally balanced, and can substitute for your dog's regular food. We're using a complicated harness-Gentle Leader-collar combination that gives me maximum control, and produces a calming effect on the dog. And we're working daily in our neighbourhood.

Buster posing with some antiquated technologyDiego has already made a lot of progress. It's hard for me to imagine him walking calmly past another dog we might encounter in the lobby, or not going nuts if the elevator door opens and a dog appears, but every walk is a training opportunity, and we'll just keep at it.

And there will be plenty of opportunity! We'll have to walk Tala and Diego separately for the foreseeable future, and we're on the 19th floor of a 20-story building.

But wait, there's more. There's yet another factor at play: my own anxiety. Many years ago in New York, we had a very bad experience with Buster, our pit-mix rescue who had severe fear-aggression to other dogs. This resulted in many things, including a four-day hospital stay for Allan, a famous animal behaviourist donating time to us, and a pitbull on Prozac.

And it resulted in one more thing. Walking Buster became a source of great fear and anxiety for me... which is how I learned more about post-traumatic stress syndrome. Apparently once a person has experienced a state of extreme emergency, their neural pathways are permanently changed. The threshold to trigger the fight-or-flight response is much lower. So I'd wake up in a state of anxiety, just before I had to walk the dogs. Buster and I both needed medication to go on walks! (If only he could have understood rationally. Buster was a dog of extreme obedience - a soldier who lived to follow orders. If he could have controlled himself to please us, he would have done so in a heartbeat.)

Whoever thought she'd be the calm one!And here we are, 15 years later. It's a different dog, who is not an emotionally damaged abuse survivor, but a part of my brain doesn't know that. Dogs, of course, sense your anxiety and react to it. If their person is fearful, there must be something to be fearful and vigilant about. So Diego has to calm down for me, and I have to calm down for him.

The Early Election Call and the Cowardice of Stephen Harper

Montreal Simon - Fri, 07/17/2015 - 04:22

As you know I'm deeply concerned by the horrible thought that Stephen Harper could ruin our summer, or steal it, as only Great Maniac Leader could.

By calling an election one month earlier than most people had expected. So he can use a longer campaign to bankrupt his opponents.

So I'm very glad to see that at least the NDP isn't worried. 
Read more »

The Con Oil Pimp Brad Wall Declares War on Central Canada

Montreal Simon - Thu, 07/16/2015 - 23:58

Oh great. Just what this broken bleeding country needs. 

Another Con oil pimp like Brad Wall, the Premier of Saskatchewan.

Sweeping out of the West to declare war on Central Canada. 
Read more »

Ducks sign ex-Canuck Ryan Kesler to massive 6-year, $41.25 million contract extension

Metaneos - Thu, 07/16/2015 - 21:00
Thomas Drance - Canucks Army
Oh, wow. Short term, this might be an okay contract, but six years? This is probably too long contract for Kesler, who already has shown signs of decline in his game.

The European Union Backstory. Greece Is the Least of Its Problems.

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 07/16/2015 - 18:43

We may be on the verge of witnessing a ground shaking, dangerous and scary spectacle - the dismemberment of the European Union.  The recent events in Greece may have set some wheels in motion but Harvard professor of international relations, Stephen Walt, says the collapse of European unification traces much further back to five triggering events. He writes that no Western nation will emerge unscathed if it all falls apart.

As an economic unit, the EU has a combined GNP larger than that of the United States, considerable wealth, advanced industries, and significant military potential. The United States is formally allied with most of its members and has long benefited from cooperation with its fellow democracies there. Europe’s future course is therefore of considerable interest to the United States.

...Unfortunately, it is hard to be optimistic about the EU’s prospects today, especially its stated goal of an “ever closer union.” Despite its past achievements, the EU now suffers from growing tensions and several self-inflicted wounds. The EU is likely to experience repeated crises and internal divisions, and one cannot rule out a gradual and irreversible decline in its cohesion and influence. Because a prosperous and tranquil Europe is in America’s interest, this is not good news for the United States.

Today, the EU faces five fundamental challenges. None of them will be easy to overcome.

Problem No. 1: Overexpansion

The EU today is a victim of its past success. What began as a limited arrangement among six countries to coordinate coal and steel production has become an elaborate supranational organization of 28 members governed by a bewildering array of institutions and subsidiary agencies and hamstrung by the need to reach consensus before taking important decisions. At the same time, its members are still independent nation-states with their own governments and their own complicated internal political arrangements. America’s complex federal system is a model of simplicity by comparison.

Moreover, as the EU has expanded, its membership has become increasingly heterogeneous. Germany’s GDP is more than 300 times larger than Malta’s, and Luxembourg’s per capita income is nearly seven times higher than Latvia’s and five times higher than Greece’s. The geographic size, population, and economic resources of the member states are vastly different, and their respective cultures and national histories have become less similar as the EU has grown. Not surprisingly, expansion has made the EU more cumbersome, more divided, and less popular. In 2014, more than 70 percent of EU citizens surveyed believed their voices do not count in EU decision-making, and nearly two-thirds declared that the EU does not understand the needs of its citizens.

Gee, it sounds like the European Union fell victim to the same expansionist insanity that befell NATO.  Go figure.

Problem No. 2: The collapse of the Soviet empire

Although the disappearance of the Soviet Union was a welcome development, it removed one of the main motivations for European unity. The EU is often seen as a purely economic and political project, but security concerns were a key part of its rationale from the start. That rationale faded as NATO grew stronger, and it disappeared when the Warsaw Pact collapsed. The absence of an external danger encouraged European leaders to focus more on selfish national concerns and to see the EU as a way to limit and constrain German dominance. (That last goal, needless to say, has not worked out quite as well as they hoped.) Since the early 1990s, EU members have repeatedly pledged to develop a “common foreign and security policy,” but they have never succeeded in doing so. Today, the incoherent European response to events in Ukraine highlights the lack of consensus on basic security issues.
Problem No. 3: The euro crisis

The third problem facing the EU today, of course, is the euro crisis.

It is now clear that the decision to create the euro was an enormous blunder, as skeptics warned at the time. It was done for political rather than economic reasons: to renew momentum for unity, to bind a reunified Germany more tightly inside European institutions, and to put Europe on a more equal footing with the United States.

But as the euro’s critics emphasized early on, the EU lacked the political and institutional mechanisms needed to make a currency union work. Instead, the euro’s proponents simply assumed the common-currency members would never let themselves get into serious financial trouble, and if this happened anyway (as, of course, it did), they further assumed that it would be easy to create the institutions that the eurozone lacked.

...Even worse, the crisis has sown deeper divisions within the continent, with debtors and creditors exhibiting a level of resentment and hostility not seen for many years. Instead of demonstrating a powerful commitment to European unity, EU member states now try to get what they want by threatening to blow up the entire enterprise. Greece used the threat of Grexit to try to win concessions from its creditors, and France used much the same threat to force Germany to soften its demands (however slightly).

Next up: British Prime Minster David Cameron will use the threat of a referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership in the EU to extract some special deals from the other members. When different states keep threatening to exit in order to blackmail their supposed partners, it hardly conveys the “one for all, all for one” spirit that is supposed to inspire and justify the broader European project. Needless to say, this situation is not what the euro’s creators had in mind when they took that fateful step.

Problem No. 4: A deteriorating regional environment

The EU now faces serious turmoil on its periphery, with direct consequences for Europe itself. State failures in Libya, Syria, Yemen, and sub-Saharan Africa have produced a flood of refugees seeking to get in, while the emergence of al Qaeda, the Islamic State, and other extremist movements has had worrisome repercussions among some of Europe’s Muslim populations. The danger of homegrown or lone-wolf terrorism is often exaggerated, but it is not zero. And some Europeans now want to roll back the open internal borders that were a key achievement of the 1986 Single European Act. Meanwhile, the conflict in Ukraine raises new concerns about the security of the EU’s eastern frontier. The EU has been unable to agree on new measures to address any of these challenges, however, further underscoring its dysfunctional decision-making process.

Problem No. 5: The persistence of nationalism

The EU’s final challenge is the stubborn hold that nationalism exerts on the populations of the individual member states. The elites who launched the original European project hoped it would transcend existing national loyalties, but nationalism remains alive and well throughout the continent. Britain may vote to leave the EU next year (though I believe this is unlikely), Scottish nationalism may lead it to exit the United Kingdom, and nationalist sentiments continue to simmer in Catalonia and elsewhere.

Economic stagnation, high youth unemployment, and concerns about immigration have also fueled a resurgence of Euroskeptic nationalist parties that reject the core principles on which the EU is built. Add to this mix Europe’s unfavorable demography — its overall population is declining and the median age is rising rapidly — and you have a recipe for slow economic growth and growing dissatisfaction with mainstream parties and existing political institutions. If these trends eventually allow groups like the National Front in France to gain real power, support for an “ever closer union” will erode even further.

Professor Walt foresees just three possible outcomes to Europe's woes.  It could find a path to resolve these five threats but he doesn't think they've got the leadership to do it.
There are no European leaders today with the vision and stature of an Adenauer, de Gaulle, or Thatcher, and it would take years for serious reforms to work their way through the EU’s elaborate consensus-based governing machinery.

Instead of an “ever closer union,” therefore, the EU is more likely to simply muddle through. It will keep applying Band-Aids to contain the euro crisis and will hope that trade deals with the United States and China will provide an economic boost. In this scenario — which I regard as the most likely — the EU will stay in business, but robust growth will remain elusive, support for the union will decline, and Europe’s global influence will continue to wane.

But there is a third possibility: The EU experiment could start to unravel. A Greek exit from the eurozone would set a dangerous precedent, nationalist resentments could deepen, leaders with more authoritarian inclinations could come to power (as has already occurred in Hungary), and Greece could dissolve into widespread social unrest (or worse). Some European states might even look to Moscow for help (though they are unlikely to get much). If disintegration begins, the only question will be: How far and how fast will it go?

...To sum up: Since the end of World War II, stability and prosperity in Europe have been of enormous benefit to the United States. The European Union has been a key ingredient in a world order that has been highly favorable for America. If the EU’s best days are behind it, Americans will have to prepare for a world that is less stable, secure, and prosperous than the one to which they have become accustomed. We should hope this is not the case, but it is the most likely outcome given where Europe is today.

GORILLA - Supaman

Metaneos - Thu, 07/16/2015 - 18:00


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