Posts from our progressive community

There's Not Enough Water to Go Around

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 08/18/2014 - 08:36

This curious graphic depicts areas that are expected to be severely water stressed through the balance of this century.  Note that hard-hit countries include China, India, Brazil, western Russia, the United States and the nations of Central America and western South America.

The assessment by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's Atmospheric Science and Global Change Division, concludes that water shortages may even impair efforts at climate change mitigation.  The idea is that there won't be enough water to permit the development of bio-fuels.  What the report doesn't say is that this strengthens the case for development of non-carbon, renewable energy alternatives.

The report confirms other research finding that, by 2100, half of the global population will be enduring severe water shortage.  Unless, that is, something drastic comes along to cull the herd in the meantime.

Today in Flash Flooding News

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 08/18/2014 - 08:08
We've always lived with spring flooding caused by rapid melting of winter snowpack.  People along the Red River know full well how that works.

Today, however, flooding isn't just a seasonal event and it doesn't always have to do with winter snows.  Now we get flash floods where storm clouds appear overhead and unload five or six inches of rain on one spot in a matter of hours, overwhelming storm sewers and playing hell with low-lying areas.

The Americans have been whipsawed by flash flooding over the past two months from San Bernardino, California to Long Island, New York.  Detroit, Baltimore and Washington, DC, have been hammered.

Yesterday, a Kentucky town with the quaint name of Skullbone, got a 5-inch drenching.  A chunk of north central Texas saw flash flooding as predicted by the NOAA.  Arkansas got it too.

Kentucky and Tennessee remain under flood warnings for today.  Meanwhile a new front is moving in from the mid-west which threatens to bring more "disruptive downpours" to the northeast, including much of southern Ontario.

The worst part of this is that there's almost nothing people can do about it.  People can sort through their basements, get valuables up off the floor or to safety upstairs.  They can make sure the sump pump is working and that their gumboots are handy.  They can urge their governments to upgrade infrastructure to handle heavy, concentrated deluges but that's going to take time - and money that's in scarce supply in these anti-tax days.

Your Global Warming Surcharge Coming Soon

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 08/18/2014 - 07:17
Reservoir, What Reservoir?
So, you see, you've got this conjunction of forces.  There are more of us by the day, about 220,000 every 24-hours and that's a net increase.  And then our ever larger population is also movin' on up.  We're making progress on reducing poverty and those mega-populated, emerging economies are spawning their own middle, or consumer classes that want pretty much everything that you or I take for granted - nice houses, cars, holidays abroad, consumer goods of every description and better food.  There's the first part of your problem - demand.  It's way up.

The second part of your problem is supply.  Unlike demand, supply may be heading in the other direction.  You see, we've changed the climate.  We've changed the channel.  We're into a new climate now and when it comes to meeting our growing demand, it's less than ideal.  Climate change is making wet regions wetter and dry regions dryer.  In the case of dry regions that often means drought.
Unfortunately these warm, dry regions have also been where we get a lot of what we eat.  Think of California, North America's supplier of fruits, nuts and, of course, wine.  The Golden State is still getting plenty of sunshine but precious little rainfall and farmers are struggling with drought.  Even orchards are being lost.

Now word is out that the world's main olive producer, Spain, is also in the throes of terrible drought.  Spain produces half the world's olives and most of our olive oil.  Expect to pay more soon for olive oil.  European prices have already jumped 30% this year.  Unfortunately this is a problem we're going to be facing ever more in years to come.

Here's the thing.  We can grow olives elsewhere in our warming world.  The problem is it takes nearly 35-years from planting until an olive grove comes into production.  So there's bound to be a period of disruption and, while that lasts, expect to pay for it at the check out.

Don't fret, we still have enough wealth disparity that we can continue to buy our way out of these shortages, for now.  People at the bottom end of the wealth scale, let's just call them the poor, don't have as many options.  They do without or find substitutes like dirt and grass.

in which i attain the holy grail of librarianship: the permanent, full-time job

we move to canada - Mon, 08/18/2014 - 07:00
Meet the new permanent youth librarian at the Mississauga Central Library.

I've been in this position since January, but on a temporary or contract basis. Two big things had to happen in order for this job to post as permanent, and they were completely out of my control: two other people also had to get permanent promotions. If either of those people didn't get their permanent positions, my contract would have ended. I would have gone back to being a part-time library assistant (which would have been a huge hit both financially and in terms of responsibility) and tried for another contract librarian position.

In the last few months, both those people came through with their promotions. When I congratulated them, it was also - mostly? - happiness for myself!

Finally, a few weeks ago, my position posted as permanent. "Full-time permanent," in this context, means being eligible for benefits: paid vacation, paid sick time, extended health, pension, and so on. It also means the security of knowing I won't work as a library assistant in our system again.

Only one-third of staff in our library system is full-time permanent, and that percentage is shrinking all the time. So whenever a full-time, permanent job posts, there's a lot of competition.

I interviewed last week, and I got it.

This is the final piece in my Big Life Change that began with applying for graduate school in 2009. I'm sure I'll have other librarian jobs as my career progresses, to keep things interesting. But in terms of the career and life transition: this is it.

Monday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Mon, 08/18/2014 - 06:24
Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Rebecca Vallas, Melissa Boteach and Shawn Fremstad write about the need for a new social contract. And Drew Nelles takes a look at the role of a guaranteed basic income in ensuring a fair standard of living for everybody:
Although implementing basic income would undoubtedly require a reorganization of social assistance provision, with some programs being eliminated or absorbed, it cannot be used as an excuse to dismantle what’s left of the welfare state. Instead, it’s a hopeful idea because it could act as just the opposite: the beginning of a turn away from the anti-tax, anti-social-spending policymaking that has dominated the West since the 1980s.

Indeed, I suspect that the idea of basic income has caught on for the same reason that Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century became a bestseller earlier this year. It neatly distills the era we live in: it reflects our burgeoning concern about class disparity, and it represents a symbolic reversal of the ideology that got us here. The post-recession, post-Occupy age has seen people—if not politicians—begin to reckon seriously with the threats of income inequality and wealth concentration. Basic income is an appealing solution in its simplicity and elegance: why not just give people money? Even if it remains, for now, more of a thought experiment than a concrete policy proposal, basic income is valuable for that reason. It forces us to ask what we owe each other.- Meanwhile, Natasha Singer discusses how the "sharing economy" is serving as the latest cover for increasingly precarious work:
Technology has made online marketplaces possible, creating new opportunities to monetize labor and goods. But some economists say the short-term gig services may erode work compensation in the long term. Mr. Baker, of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, argues that online labor marketplaces are able to drive down costs for consumers by having it both ways: behaving as de facto employers without shouldering the actual cost burdens or liabilities of employing workers.

“In a weak labor market, there’s not much of a floor on what employers, or quasi employers, can get away with,” Mr. Baker contends. “It could be a big downward pressure on wages. It’s a bad story.”

Labor activists say gig enterprises may also end up disempowering workers, degrading their access to fair employment conditions.

“These are not jobs, jobs that have any future, jobs that have the possibility of upgrading; this is contingent, arbitrary work,” says Stanley Aronowitz, director of the Center for the Study of Culture, Technology and Work at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. “It might as well be called wage slavery in which all the cards are held, mediated by technology, by the employer, whether it is the intermediary company or the customer.”- On the other end of the spectrum, Joseph Heath notes that some within the 1% are now stashing their children as well as their tax-sheltered money in the Cayman Islands to avoid the mere general public. And Darwin offers yet another thorough debunking of the Fraser Institute's spin on taxes.

- Alison examines Canada's international arms sales, including weapons exports to both sides of conflicts in the Middle East. 

- Finally, Robyn Benson previews this weekend's People' Social Forum. And for those who haven't yet seen Canadians for an Inclusive Canada - a group which is seeking to coordinate action against the Cons' anti-family immigration policy - it's well worth a look (and a signature).

About Those Taxes...

Politics and its Discontents - Mon, 08/18/2014 - 06:17

Responding to the latest propaganda piece about taxation levels from The Fraser Institute, Star readers weigh in with their own perspectives, one of which includes taking the paper to task for publishing news of the report with no critical comment:

Re: Families pay more for taxes than basics, Aug. 13

This report of a study from a conservative think tank could be a verbatim quote from the authors’ press release, with no editorial comment or critical opinions included. The Star does us a disservice (and, rather atypically, gives the conservative cause a boost) by publishing it in this fashion.
Other news sources (the CBC, for example) discussed the study in the context of criticisms, such as the fact that the base year 1961 was at the very beginning of Medicare and before state pension plans were instituted, not to mention many other lifestyle shifts that have taken place over the 52-year gap of the selected comparison.

The report as cited by the Star sounds more inflammatory than instructive.

Eleanor Batchelder, West Toronto

The Fraser Institute just confirms what most Canadians already know — their disposable incomes are either stagnant or decreasing while their taxes are constantly going up.

What most Canadians don’t realize is that while their taxes have been steadily increasing over the years, the corporate tax rates have been coming down. Corporate lobbies pushed our government to implement policies that catered to businesses and corporations at the expense of consumers. And the tool that successive Canadian governments used to implement the corporate agenda was taxation.

In the 1960s the federal corporate tax rate was 40 per cent. This rate has been whittled down by successive Liberal and Conservative governments. Today it is 15 per cent — the lowest in all of the G8 countries. But for consumers, taxes went up.

To make up for revenue lost from the discontinued 10 per cent manufacturing tax, paid by manufacturers only, the federal government’s GST is effectively paid by consumers. And with the added HST, Ontarians have to pay 13 per cent tax on almost every product and service they buy. This is on top of increases to income taxes, property taxes, health, vehicle, alcohol and tobacco taxes.

This massive shift in tax burden from corporations to individuals is the reason that Canadians are spending more on taxes than food, shelter and clothing and why most of us feel that we are going backwards rather than forward in terms of our disposable incomes.

Michael Poliacik, TorontoRecommend this Post

Bad Moon Rising

Northern Reflections - Mon, 08/18/2014 - 05:49

You know the Conservatives are in trouble when Ian MacDonald says they are. No Liberal or Dipper, MacDonald got into politics as a spokesman for Brian Mulroney and as an ardent supporter of his high school classmate, Jim Flaherty. But now he is worried. The latest EKOS poll is bad news all around:

This isn’t the one bad poll in 20. And it wasn’t a one-night stand.

The Liberals now lead the Conservatives by 38.7 to 25.6 per cent, with the NDP at 23.4 per cent. In effect, the Liberals have doubled their vote from the 18.9 per cent they received in the 2011 election, while the Conservatives have plummeted from 39.6 per cent to the mid-20s. The Liberal brand is back. The Liberals lead in every province except the Tory heartland of Alberta and Saskatchewan. And where it matters most — British Columbia and Ontario — the Liberals lead not by a little but by a lot: 37 to 22 in B.C., where the NDP is actually in second place at 26 per cent, and 46 to 28 in Ontario. Those are blow-out numbers, pointing to a Liberal sweep of the lower B.C. mainland and the Greater Toronto Area.

In Quebec, the NDP lead with 37 per cent, with the Liberals at 30 per cent, the Bloc at 16 per cent and the Conservatives at a measly 12 per cent. This means the Liberals would re-gain most of the Montreal and Outaouais regions, with the NDP retaining most of their seats in the rest of the province. The Bloc would disappear and the Conservatives would be shut out, except perhaps for a couple of seats in the 418 Quebec City region.

In the Atlantic zone, the Liberals lead the Conservatives 53 to 29, with the NDP at 21 per cent. What the Conservatives are getting Down East is pushback from voters on employment insurance reforms, much as the Liberals did in the 1997 election. These numbers point to the Liberals winning all but a handful of the 32 seats in the region.

And it's not just the regions that are turning against the Harperites. Demographics show that the political winds are changing:

Not only do the Liberals lead the Conservatives among men (40-28, with the NDP at 20 per cent), the Tories fall to third place among women (Libs 37, Dippers 27, Cons 23). And the Liberals lead in every age demo — even in the 45-64 and 65+ segments, traditional Tory strongholds.

So far, the Harper Party seems not to be concerned. They apparently believe that marijuana will be the wedge issue that brings Justin Trudeau down. But when party loyalists like MacDonald start to worry publicly, you know there is a bad moon rising.

Joe Oliver and the Reckless Incompetence of the Con Regime

Montreal Simon - Mon, 08/18/2014 - 05:48

Well I'm sure Joe Oliver is feeling pretty good about the way Statistics Canada was able to fix his lousy job numbers.

And must be toasting his success with some of that water from the tailing ponds he once tried to convince us was clean enough to drink.

While making plans to win the next election by bribing some Canadians with tax cuts.

But sadly for poor old Olly, it appears he doesn't know what's he's doing.
Read more »

Justin Trudeau and the Monstrous Con Hate Mongers

Montreal Simon - Mon, 08/18/2014 - 02:06

In my last post I said that the break-in at Justin Trudeau's home was a clear attempt to terrorize him and his young family.

And I accused Stephen Harper and his Cons of having created a climate of hate. Which is so obvious in the comment section of this Sun story.

As well as in the comment sections of other newspapers and on websites like Twitter.

But while condemning those vile comments, the National Post's Michael Den Tandt somehow manages to save most of his scorn for the ones he calls Harper haters.
Read more »

Michael Brown Gunned Down by Six Shots

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 08/17/2014 - 21:23
This keeps getting worse.  An autopsy on the corpse of Michael Brown concludes the unarmed, young black man sustained six gunshots including two to his head.

Renowned ("celebrity") medical examiner, Michael Baden, conducted the autopsy on behalf of Brown's family.  He concluded that the fatal shot, the final shot, was a bullet to the top of Brown's skull suggesting the victim's head was bowed.

Baden effectively cut off any suggestion that Brown was shot in self-defence by noting that there was no gunpowder residue on the body.

On permanent campaigners

accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 08/17/2014 - 15:53
Plenty of people have pointed out other pieces of Paul Wells' interview with Justin Trudeau. But one exchange seems particularly telling in defining Trudeau's perception of leadership and politics:
Q: What do you have to get done when Parliament comes back?A: Continue to do what we’re doing, which is build the team, build the plan. Draw in great, credible candidates from across the country and put together a set of solutions and policies that are going to give this country a better government.
Q: So the campaign’s already begun?A: I think the way politics is done these days—certainly, if you look at the attack ads that started the day after I won the leadership—yeah, the campaign started a long time ago.In other words...

Faced with a direct and simple question, Trudeau can't name a single thing he wants to accomplish in Parliament, whether in terms of policies which can be pursued now or areas where the Cons should be held to account. Instead, when asked specifically about the fall session of Parliament, his answer is that he intends to keep ignoring how Canada is actually being governed today in order to work exclusively on next year's election campaign.

And Trudeau also doesn't have any interest in changing the absolute worst practices the Cons have inflicted on Canadian politics. Instead, somebody supposedly pitching a transformation from Harper's modus operandi is nonetheless fully prepared to allow him to dictate "how politics is done these days" - and match him in treating politics as a game where the only question is who wins the prize of holding government power.

All of which seems to confirm that Trudeau is offering no difference at all from Harper's contempt for democratic institutions, nor his cynical and self-serving view of the role of leaders. And we'd best recognize how Trudeau plans to offer more of the same with a red backdrop before anybody falls into the trap of handing him power based on the promise of change.

A threat to Trudeau is a threat to all of us

Trapped In a Whirlpool - Sun, 08/17/2014 - 15:10
I can't think of a better way to put it.
Read more »

Climate Change Adaptation

Politics and its Discontents - Sun, 08/17/2014 - 14:48
As the effects of climate change become more pronounced, adaptive measures will need to taken alongside of measures ameliorating the rate of change (if that is in fact still even possible).

One such step has been undertaken in California, a state that has been especially hard hit by drought. Orange County has undertaken an ambitious waste water recycling regimen that will likely become the norm in other parts of the country and world facing similar conditions.

Recommend this Post

The Shooting May Have Stopped But, For Civilians, Gaza's Suffering Deepens.

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 08/17/2014 - 13:29
For good and obvious reasons, destruction of essential civilian infrastructure such as water supply and sewage systems is prohibited by the laws of war.  Attacking such targets is a war crime.

For Israel, it's not just a war crime.  It's a strategy and it's called Dahiyeh. It's the deliberate targeting of civilians; their homes, schools and hospitals; and the water plants and sewage systems essential for public health and safety.

When Israel began waging Dahiyeh against Gaza Palestinians in July, it sent warplanes in to take down the water station and sewage plants.  Now a group of 30-humanitarian agencies banded together under the name EWASH (Emergency Water Sanitation and Health) warns that two-thirds of the Gazan population is running out of water and the besieged territory is at risk of outbreaks of water-borne diseases.

Israeli destruction of Gaza's sewage infrastructure has led to broken mains and open sewage flooding.

Trash in the Pacific Ocean

LeDaro - Sun, 08/17/2014 - 10:08
We humans are doing a good job to pollute our planet. Not in too distant future it may become unlivable.

You may watch the video here.

Expect the Unexpected

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 08/17/2014 - 09:13

I remember when a hard rain meant you might see standing water in farm fields. That was a different time even if it was just a couple of decades ago.  Today our notion of a hard rain is different.  Today it means flash flooding, highly destructive inundation that typically overwhelms infrastructure that was designed and built to handle a climate that is no longer with us, that has been displaced.

No place is immune.  In September of last year, even my little seaside town sustained flash flooding when nearly an inch and a half of rain fell in the span of just 18-minutes.

In early August, about five inches of rain fell in Burlington within a matter of hours.  For the municipality that represented about two months of normal rainfall.

The United States, from the southwest to the northeast, has been hammered by flash flooding events this year.  Even drought-stricken southern California reeled as heavy rains swept out of the mountains into San Bernardino county.  In Detroit, a "once in a century" storm (the second in two years), filled the I-75 expressway right up to an overpass.

The same storm that hammered Detroit moved on to bring flash flooding to Long Island, New York, and Baltimore.  Today the US National Weather Service (NOAA) has issued flash flood warnings for Memphis/Nashville and north central Texas.

The message is clear.  From now on we have to expect the unexpected.  The climate has changed and the impacts can be both severe and abrupt.  From severe storm events of increasing frequency, intensity and duration to sustained droughts to sea level rise of a magnitude far beyond what we expected just a few years ago, we are being overtaken by events.

We don't have a lot of options and we don't have a lot of time.  We can stick with our current approach, a state of catatonic stupor, or we can recognize that the climate has changed and we need to catch up in order to change with it.  Changing - adapting - is going to be a Herculean challenge.  It's going to be costly.  It will require governments at all levels to change focus and redirect assets.  One thing is clear, the current federal government is not up to this challenge.

Man, We're so damn easy

Trapped In a Whirlpool - Sun, 08/17/2014 - 09:12
My Twitter time line has been flooded with praise for Canada's doctors for their refusal to endorse Harper's reefer madness redux campaign. The general tone has been one of heroism, of standing up for Canadians. Oh if only that was true.
Read more »

Sunday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 08/17/2014 - 08:47
This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Bert Olivier is the latest to weigh in on Paul Verhaeghe's work showing that the obsessive pursuit of market fundamentalism harms our health in a myriad of ways:
What does the neoliberal “organisation” of society amount to? As the title of the book indicates, it is market-based, in the tacit belief that the abstract entity called the “market” is better suited than human beings themselves to provide a (supposedly) humane structure to the communities in which we live. But because neoliberal capitalism stands or falls by the question, whether profit is generated or not, it means that human economic activities in such a society have to generate optimal profit.

Predictably, according to the profit-driven dictates of the market, workers/employees in every organisation, from small companies to large corporations and even what used to be regarded as public institutions such as schools and universities, have been increasingly subjected to a regime of relentless competition, linked to rewards (such as promotion and bonuses) for productivity and punitive measures (no promotion, no bonuses, being fired) for lack of it. This has gone hand-in-hand with quasi-legal measures to ensure the productivity of employees and the identification of those who are not productive, such as the imposition of production-deadlines, self-assessment and company audits. Not even schools and universities have been exempted from this. It was not difficult to guess what effect these transformations in working conditions would have on people’s health.

Among those focused on by Verhaeghe are psychiatric conditions (the incidence of which has multiplied) like depression, eating and personality disorders and depression. Nor is it difficult to guess why this should be the case – if one feels that, no matter how hard you try, it is just not possible to be as productive, or as innovative regarding product-design as some of your colleagues, depression and anxiety are likely to assert themselves sooner or later.
One should keep in mind that income inequality is directly linked to differences in social status. And not surprisingly, Verhaeghe points out that low social status has a “determining effect on health” (2014: location 2375). He therefore arrives at the startling conclusion, that even in “prosperous … Western Europe, it isn’t the quality of health care … that determines the health of the population, but the nature of social and economic life. The better social relationships are, the better the level of health” (location 2375). And health has been deteriorating steadily under the neoliberal regime. Need I say more?- And Tyler Cowen points to research on the connection between financial stress and physical health, as mortality patterns in a study of workers correlate with paydays. 

- Meanwhile, Patricia Pearson aptly observes that one mental health concern which happens to coincide with the devaluation of social relationships is being relabeled as a virtue:
The celebration of remorselessness is everywhere. Friends on Facebook have lately been reporting their scores on widely circulating psychopathy quizzes that ask users to agree or disagree with statements such as, “I never feel remorse, shame or guilt about something I’ve said or done.”

“I’m 19-per-cent psychopath!” they announce. Or: “I scored five out of 10!” As if the chilling absence of human empathy I witnessed as a crime reporter in covering trials like that of serial killer Paul Bernardo had become a fun little personality quirk.

What fire, exactly, are we playing with? Have we taken a tolerance of difference, of identity, of moral relativism, too far?
The diagnosis may be clinical, but the issue, fundamentally, is moral. What kind of a society do we wish to inhabit, with what kinds of leaders and heroes?
Real-life psychopaths do not resemble charming, focused and ruthless business leaders and politicians, or breathtakingly intelligent investigators like Sherlock Holmes. Instead, they are impulsive and greedy. Their conduct destroys companies and devastates communities. In his book The Psychopath Test, British journalist Jon Ronson points to Haitian death squad leader Emmanuel Toto Constant, a charming brute whom he interviewed in New York, and Al Dunlap, a prime corporate predator who eviscerated the labour force at Sunbeam. These men, Mr. Ronson argued, would be much closer approximations of a clinically assessed psychopath than the fair-minded Dexter.
Any bid to normalize or even celebrate psychopaths’ absence of emotional intelligence is disturbing to those who see compassion and empathy as critical to social growth. “Empathy is actually the essence of a life that contributes to civil society,” says Mary Gordon, the Canadian founder of a celebrated school program called Roots of Empathy, which is now working, for example, with Protestant and Catholic children in Northern Ireland to overcome decades of violent hostility. “If we cannot connect, we cannot collaborate.” - The Vancouver Sun decries the stench of corruption as mining companies get special treatment and avoid responsibility for their environmental disasters after greasing the wheels with the Clark Libs. And David Frum (!) discusses the dangers behind the use of private donations to influence the management of public pension assets:Finding ways to use public funds for private benefit has been one of the longstanding preoccupations of American finance. The villain-hero of Theodore Dreiser’s novel The Financier gets his start by persuading the treasurer of Philadelphia to let him invest city funds to enrich them both. The United States has progressed since those times, but perhaps not as far as you might suppose...
To put it bluntly: Nobody needs to pay an intermediary $13 million to entice investors into a great deal. These fees only make sense when the goal is to attract state funds into deals that cost too much, deliver too little, or are burdened with fees that are too high. Placement-agent fees are in themselves, and almost inherently, warning signs of trouble.

And yet in our belief that it’s politicians who are always and everywhere to blame for everything that goes wrong in a political system, we consign to the financial pages the abundant evidence that the most fundamental vulnerability of state pension plans to corrupt influence is located less in politicians’ need for campaign funds, and much more in the weak governance of state pension plans themselves.  - Finally, Jim Bronskill reports on the Cons' priorities when it comes to trade barriers: while they're eager to sign agreements preventing governance in the public interest, they have no interest in discussing how to reduce or even competently manage restrictions set up purely out of spite.


Subscribe to aggregator - Posts from our progressive community