Posts from our progressive community

everything is political: bewitched and "george washington zapped here"

we move to canada - Wed, 04/22/2015 - 09:00
You may recall that my current comedy-before-bed TV sleep aid is a sitcom from my childhood: "Bewitched". I've been thoroughly enjoying watching its ridiculous, predictable humour and sometimes surprising messaging. I was in the middle of the eighth and final season when Netflix pulled the show. (Argh!) But thanks to our amazing world of media, I was able to switch over to YouTube, viewed on TV via Roku.

In Season 8, episode 21 and 22, Bewitched recycles a template from an earlier episode. In Season 1, daffy Aunt Clara (played by Marion Lorne) mistakenly brings Ben Franklin into the 20th Century, an opportunity for a hijinks and history lessons. When Marion Lorne died during Season 5, Aunt Clara's role was replaced by the daffy Esmeralda (played by Alice Ghostley), and it's Esmeralda who mistakenly brings George Washington into the present.

This is a well-worn conceit of magic and time-travel, but imagine my surprise when the Founding Father becomes a defender of the First Amendment and a critic of modern marketing!
George Washington, addressing a small gathering in a public park: Earlier I stood here and listened to some of you explain what is going on in this country. Things like assassinations, pollution, war - wars to end war that don't end wars. This does not please me.

[A man with long hair nods in agreement. "You tell 'em, George!"]

GW: Where is the voice of The People? Remember what my friend Tom Jefferson said? "What country can preserve its liberties unless its rulers are warned from time to time that the people reserve the spirit of resistance."

[Ordinary people all nod in agreement.]

Police officer, walking through small polite crowd that has gathered: OK, break it up, George.

GW: George? You will refer to me as Mr. President or General Washington.

Police: Sorry, General, but you have to break it up.

GW: And just what is it that you want me to 'break up'?

P: This rally. Unless, of course, you have a park permit to speak.

GW: The only permit I need is the Constitution of the United States.

Long-haired man: Hear, hear!

Crowd: Hear, hear! Right on!

GW: Hear, hear, hear.

Police: Why don't you be a good fellow and tell me where you escaped from.

GW: I have escaped from the past into the present, and I must say that what I have seen so far does not please me.

P: But you're gonna break it up or you're under arrest.

GW: Under the abstract theory of our government, a person is entitled to resist illegal arrest. We are allowed the right of free assembly under our Constitution.

[Crowd applauds.]In the second part of "George Washington Zapped Here," Darrin's boss Larry Tate seizes on the supposed Washington impersonator for - what else - an advertising campaign, and gets more than he bargained for. Even though it costs Darrin the account, Darrin is proud that the Father of the Country stood up for truth and authenticity.
GW, reading from script: '...and your clothes will be cleaner than clean and whiter than white.' How could anything be cleaner than clean or whiter than white?

Darrin: It's just a way of saying it, Mr. President.

GW: Doesn't make sense.

Larry Tate: So few things do these days. It's a sign of the times!

GW, reading: '...Then use the Whirlaway Washer, America's finest...' Is it really?

Tate: Would I lie to you, Mr. President?

GW: I don't know you well enough to make that judgement. Mr. Jameson, why is this America's finest washing machine?

Jameson, owner of the company, gritting his teeth, to Tate: Is this some kind of a put-on?

Tate: Mr. President, please, just read what is written.

GW: Not another word until you answer my question. After all, if my name is to be used, I will not have it tarnished by falsehood.

Tate: Look, it's a darn good washer. Now read it. Please.

Washington goes around the room, inspecting ads for various washing machines, reading out the name of each one.

GW: Superior Washing Machine, Ultra Washing Machine, Standard Washing Machine, Whirlaway Washing Machine. Each one looks very much like the others.

Jameson: Each one is very much like the others.

GW: Then why do you give them different names?

Darrin: It's called merchandising, Mr. President. You see, Whirlaway builds them, and then the stores put their own labels on them.

GW: In that case, Whirlaway washing machine is no better or worse than the others.

Darrin: Correct. [The ad man finds his ethics!]

GW: Then in good conscience I cannot say that Whirlaway washing machine is better than the others.

Jameson: I've had just about enough of this!

GW: And so have I, sir. Yesterday I was arrested for defending the Constitution of the United States. Today I am asked, in the name of honesty, to utter falsehoods. I will not lend my name to this deception.But wait, there's more. George Washington is played by Will Geer. Geer is best known for his portrayal of Grandpa Walton on the hugely popular family drama "The Waltons," but he has other credits that may be more relevant. From Wikipedia:
Geer became a member of the Communist Party of the United States in 1934. Geer was also influential in introducing Harry Hay to organizing in the Communist Party. In 1934, Geer and Hay gave support to a labor strike of the port of San Francisco; the 1934 West Coast waterfront strike lasted 83 days. Though marred by violence, it was an organizing triumph, one that became a model for future union strikes. Geer became a reader of the West Coast Communist newspaper, the People's World.

Geer became a dedicated activist, touring government work camps in the 1930s with folk singers like Burl Ives and Woody Guthrie (whom he introduced to the People's World and the Daily Worker; Guthrie would go on to write a column for the latter paper). In 1956, the duo released an album together on Folkways Records, titled Bound for Glory: Songs and Stories of Woody Guthrie. In his biography, fellow organizer and gay rights pioneer Harry Hay described Geer's activism and outlined their activities while organizing for the strike. Geer is credited with introducing Guthrie to Pete Seeger at the 'Grapes of Wrath' benefit Geer organized in 1940 for migrant farm workers. . . .

Geer was blacklisted in the early 1950s for refusing to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. As a result, Geer appeared in very few films over the following decade. Notable among them was Salt of the Earth which was produced, directed, written, and starring blacklisted Hollywood personnel and told the story of a miners' strike in New Mexico from a pro-union standpoint. The film was denounced as "subversive" and faced difficulties in its production and distribution as a consequence.
George Washington Zapped Here, Part 1 (GW in the park at 18:35-26:05.)

George Washington Zapped Here, Part 2 (GW with the ad men at 14:42-16:55; Samantha defends First Amendment rights while Darrin looks on approvingly at 18:35-21:18.)

While writing this post, I found a wonderful excerpt from a study of Bewitched, courtesy of Google Books. The author, Walter Metz, compares the politics of that earlier Ben Franklin episode with those of the George Washington episode, and divines a change in the national mood. I found it interesting enough to want to hunt down this book. If you're also interested, go here, search for "George Washington" and read pages 108-112.

Wednesday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Wed, 04/22/2015 - 08:48
Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Jim Stanford kicks off the must-read responses to the Cons' budget with a modest list of five points deserving of public outrage, while PressProgress identifies seven points where the Cons' spin is far out of touch with reality. Citizens for Public Justice notes that climate change and poverty are among the important issues which don't rate so much as a mention in the Cons' plan for an entire term in office, while Jorge Barrera reports that First Nations were also conspicuously omitted other than some cynical re-announcements. Angella MacEwen points out that any (however flawed) claim to a balanced budget has come solely on the backs of the unemployed who can't access Employment Insurance benefits, while Louis-Philippe Rochon writes that the Cons could hardly have been more contemptuous toward workers generally if they'd tried. David Macdonald and John Ibbitson both make the point that federal fiscal policy should be aimed toward creating jobs rather than false balance in any event. And Scott Clark and Peter DeVries note that the Cons are leaning more heavily than ever on implausible assumptions about oil revenue to pretend they've balanced anything.

- On that front, the Cons' plan is to keep pushing at full speed ahead for fossil fuels in western Canada - no matter how much the public wants to stop relying on low and unstable royalty revenues, or how many serious health risks we face due to a woeful lack of regulation.

- But Achim Steiner writes that the world - or at least the more forward-thinking part thereof - is now producing renewable energy on an industrial scale. 

- Robert Reich discusses how "flexible" arrangements pushed by employers make both work and life more precarious for employees:
Businesses used to consider employees fixed costs  – like the costs of factories, offices, and equipment. Payrolls might grow or shrink over time as businesses expanded or contracted, but from year to year they were fairly constant.

That meant steady jobs. And with steady jobs came steady paychecks along with regular and predictable work schedules.

But employees are now becoming variable costs of doing business – depending on ups and downs in demand that may change hour by hour, possibly minute by minute.

Yet working people have to pay the rent or make mortgage payments, and have keep up with utility, food, and fuel bills. These bills don’t vary much from month to month. They’re the fixed costs of living.

American workers can’t simultaneously be variable costs for business yet live in their own fixed-cost worlds.
Whatever it’s called – just-in-time scheduling, on-call staffing, on-demand work, independent contracting, or the “share economy” – the result is the same: No predictability, no economic security.

This makes businesses more efficient, but it’s a nightmare for working families. ...
(I)f American workers can’t get more regular and predictable hours, they at least need stronger safety nets.

These would include high-quality pre-school and after-school programs; unemployment insurance for people who can only get part-time work; and a minimum guaranteed basic income.

All the blather about “family-friendly workplaces” is meaningless if workers have no control over when they’re working. - Finally, Michael Harris rightly slams Stephen Harper for pushing war at every available opportunity, regardless of the risks to Canadian troops and international stability alike.

Weird sex stuff

Dawg's Blawg - Wed, 04/22/2015 - 08:07
So here we are in 2015 and progressives still haven’t figured out sexual relations. Monogamous, bounded, closed? Or polyamorous and open? Or points in between (since this of all things shouldn’t be reduced to a binary)? Spoiler: I think whatever... Dr.Dawg

icymi: indiana woman sentenced to 20 years in prison for failed pregnancy

we move to canada - Wed, 04/22/2015 - 06:00
This month, four decades of anti-woman, anti-abortion hysteria in the US hit a new low.

Last August, an Indiana woman sought medical attention after a premature delivery resulted in the death of the fetus. The emergency-room doctor called the police.

In April, that woman was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

From WaPo:
Indiana woman jailed for “feticide.” It’s never happened before.

...Informed that officials were heading to her home, Patel told her doctors that she’d had a miscarriage and had left her stillborn fetus in a dumpster behind a shopping center. Still in his hospital scrubs, McGuire followed police cars to the scene and examined the fetus, which he pronounced dead on arrival. Patel was charged with child neglect, and later with killing her fetus, and on Monday she was sentenced to 20 consecutive years in prison.

The verdict makes Patel the first woman in the U.S. to be charged, convicted and sentenced for “feticide” for ending her own pregnancy, according to the group National Advocates for Pregnant Women (“NAPW”). Though Patel said she had had a miscarriage, she was found guilty of taking illegal abortion drugs. The Indiana statute under which Patel was convicted bans “knowingly or intentionally terminat[ing] a human pregnancy” with any intention other than producing a live birth, removing a dead fetus or performing a legal abortion.

Monday’s sentencing brought an end to Patel’s trial, but it may be only the beginning of the public debate about the details of her case. Patel’s conviction has many pro-choice activists alarmed that feticide laws, initially passed as a means of protecting pregnant women from providers of dangerous illegal abortions and other sources of harm, are now being used against them.

“Prosecutors in Indiana are using this very sad situation to establish that intentional abortions as well as unintentional pregnancy losses should be punished as crimes,” Lynn Paltrow, executive director for NAPW, told the Guardian in August of 2014. “...No woman should be arrested for the outcome of her pregnancy.”From The Guardian, at the time of Patel's arrest.
A 33-year-old woman from Indiana has been charged with the feticide and fetal murder of her unborn child after she endured a premature delivery and sought hospital treatment.

Purvi Patel faces between six and 20 years in prison for feticide and up to 50 years imprisonment for neglect of a dependent when she goes to trial, currently scheduled for 29 September. She is the second woman in Indiana to be charged with feticide following the prolonged criminal prosecution of Bei Bei Shuai, who lost her baby when she tried to kill herself.

Women’s rights advocates see the decision by prosecutors of St Joseph County, Indiana, to apply feticide laws against Patel as part of the creeping criminalization of pregnancy in America. At least 38 of the 50 states have introduced fetal homicide laws intended to protect the unborn child and in a growing number of states – including Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina – those laws have been turned against mothers.I would offer only one correction: these laws were never intended to "protect the unborn child". The laws are being used exactly for their intended purpose: to police and punish women. Especially - or exclusively - low-income women. Because let's be clear: the US's "war on women" is also a class war. Women who can afford private treatment will never be subjected to these humiliations. On the other hand, with the middle class shrinking and poverty burgeoning throughout the US, increasing numbers of women must fear these nightmare scenarios.

What would policies intended to "protect the unborn child" look like? Laws that gave us: Fresh, healthy food that every person could afford. Free quality pre-natal care. Free quality medical care for every person. Free childcare for the children already born. Jobs that pay a true living wage. Clean water.

Policies intended to protect children - in any stage of their lives - don't criminalize pregnancy.

* * * *

Canadians take note: a fetal personhood law was floated as a private member's bill in the Harper government. The MP who sponsored the bill admitted that its purpose was to "recognize the humanity of the unborn child". The recent sentencing in Indiana is the direct outcome of that kind of language enshrined into law.

The bill was defeated after public outcry.

The Harper Regime and the Con Artist Budget

Montreal Simon - Wed, 04/22/2015 - 03:33

It won't happen of course, not in this corrupted Harperland, where decency goes to die.

But if there was any justice, Boss Harper, Oily Joe Oliver, and the rest of the Con mob would be in a police lineup. 

Preparing to be charged with crimes against democracy and electoral fraud.

For conspiring to bribe voters, and trying to con Canadians into believing that what they presented us with yesterday was a budget.

When in fact it was nothing more, as John Geddes points out, than a 518-page campaign pamphlet. 
Read more »

The Cult of Science

Feminist Christian - Tue, 04/21/2015 - 18:13
"I have faith in science"
I wince every time I see that. It's usually people with a university degree, or part of one, in a science or social science. They like things that can be proven to them. They dislike anything that requires faith. Which is funny, given how very little of science they understand. And that's not an insult, that's fact. Almost no one is well-versed in all the areas of science. So they believe the latest scientific findings as if it's fact, not just the best information we have right now. And anyone who doesn't buy the findings is clearly stupid, deluded, or a quack.
And it drives me crazy. My husband is a scientist. He's the first to say, "Look at the money. Look who is funding the study. If the outcome of the study directly benefits the people paying for the study, it's not worth a damn. It may or may not be valid, but you cannot know how the data was 'massaged'" So when a study comes out showing that the MMR is unconnected to Autism, I looked to see who funded the study. The Lewin Group. Hmm, never heard of them. So I look them up. Oh, they're owned by UnitedHealth Group, who profit from vaccines. Does that mean that there is a connection? Hell no. Does it mean they're covering something up? I have no idea. But what I do know is not a thing more than I knew before. Because this proves nothing.
Anyway, only one of my kids had the MMR and I don't think it was a problem (but our doctors advised against further vaccines for other reasons, and fuck you straight to hell if you think I should vaccinate them anyway because of your fear). I'm not invested in believing the MMR causes autism. But I'm not going to jump into the cult of science either.
And why do I call it a cult? Because anyone who questions or disbelieves is shunned. Sometimes even if they're scientists too. They're mocked, belittled, and generally run out of the place. Their opinions are rendered garbage because even if they have personal experience if the current understanding of science doesn't back them up, they're completely ignored and marginalized.
And I ask, when does alternative medicine become standard? When MDs prescribe it? When it's proven to work for an arbitrary number of people? When that can be shown in a clinical study? And how does that ever begin to happen if people aren't trying new things? Suppose Dr N, MD is using a standard drug off-label. There's no evidence to back up what she's doing, but other doctors have mentioned that as a side effect of it, this other thing improves, and so they start doing it off-label. Totally not proven, not evidence-based medicine. But it's an MD doing it, so the cult seems to be okay with this, and maybe someone writes an article saying how it worked, and then someone finds the money for the double-blind study that shows it works in a group of people. Woohoo! They proved it and are vindicated. But what if the study shows it doesn't work, but the doctor keeps seeing results? Quackery? Or a flawed study that didn't control for certain factors, likely because they didn't have enough information to control for them.
Take a proper representative sample of human beings, put them in the sun for an hour. If only 8% of them turn red, and you don't know about the existence of melanin, you can safely conclude that the sun does not cause skin to turn red. It's the same for much of medicine. I heard the pharmacist say to the customer in front of me, "This is a very old drug. It's been around for about 70 years. We have no idea how it works for [what he had], but it works very well for high blood pressure. This is considered a side effect in some cases."
Over and over, studies are refuted by people who just can't believe the outcomes of other studies. That is how science works. That's what really infuriates me about the whole thing. A good study should be reproducible and falsifiable. And people should try. That's how progress is made. If everyone jumped on every study as the newest fact, no one would ever question. And it's up to more than scientists to do the questioning. If macrodantin makes me pass out every time I take it, and the doctor tells me that's impossible, do I keep taking it? Would you? I get to decide what to do with my body, even if it violates the current scientific understanding. And yeah, you get to mock me for it. If you're an asshole.
A 17 year old girl in Sudbury was given a 1 in 3 chance to survive her cancer if she did chemo. She turned it down to try something else, a naturopathic treatment. And people are mad at her and really mad at the "quacks" who would take advantage of her. First, that's massively disrespectful of this girl and her decision making powers. She's likely going to die in a few months, and pardon the fuck out of her if she'd like to do it on her terms. But she has the audacity to not go with the status quo, and normally decent people are flipping their shit that she shouldn't get a red fucking cent. Because science.
Science offered her 1 in 3 of remission. Plus really really nasty side effects the whole time. I don't know which treatment she went for. Maybe one of pure quackery, maybe one that in 10 years will be the next thing (like cannabis was 10 years ago). Who the hell knows? Maybe it'll be a placebo. I don't care. Let her have it. What's a placebo anyway? A fake drug that tricks the body into feeling better. Great! She gets to feel better. Where's the harm in that? It'll give others hope in things that don't work? That's the argument? Someone has to be the one doing the work at the ground level, and if it's her volunteering, you should fucking applaud and give her $25. I did.
Science is awesome. Wonderful. Beautiful. It's given us antibiotics (remember how Pasteur was a quack until he wasn't?), anti-virals, organ transplants, lunar landings, plastics, canned food, iodized salt, and all those great things. I'm not anti-science (p.s. no one is. That's about as stupid as saying pro-abortion). In fact, I'm for experimenting outside the lines of conventional science because I'm not stupid enough to believe every word that comes out of scientific journals. Those things are refuted regularly, often flawed and often biased. If echinacea works when I take it (it doesn't, I'm allergic to it, but go with the idea), I'm going to fucking take it. If macrodantin makes me pass out when I take it, I'm not going to fucking take it. Even if science says otherwise.
I'm not saying everyone should sign up for reiki (though at least that one doesn't hurt anyone) or buy chlorine dioxide enemas (please don't), or any other alternative treatment. But next time you take a drug off label, remind yourself that it's no different from trying magnesium for seizures. You're taking a medicine based on the observations other people have. And that's pretty much what alternative medicine is. Treatment based on the observation of others. Hell, it's how Viagra was invented.

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

accidentaldeliberations - Tue, 04/21/2015 - 17:33
Outgoing cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Tue, 04/21/2015 - 09:15
This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Mariana Mazzucato writes about the creative state - and the need to accept that a strategy designed to fund the economy that doesn't yet exist will necessarily need to include some projects which don't turn out as planned:
Like any other investor, the state will not always succeed. In fact, failure is more likely, because government agencies often invest in the areas of highest uncertainty, where private capital is reluctant to enter. This means that public organizations must be capable of taking chances and learning from trial and error. 
If failure is an unavoidable part of the innovation game, and if government is crucial for innovation, society must be more tolerant of “government failure.” But the reality is that when government fails, there is public outcry – and silence when it succeeds. ...Private venture capitalists cover their losses from failed investments with their profits from those that succeed; but government programs are rarely set up to generate significant returns. While some argue that the government’s return comes through taxes, the current tax system is not working, owing not only to loopholes, but also to rate reductions. When NASA was founded, the top marginal tax rate was over 90%. And capital gains tax has fallen by more than 50% since the 1980s. 
In order to build support for public investment in higher-risk innovation, perhaps taxpayers should receive a more direct return, by channeling profits into a public innovation fund to finance the next wave of technologies. When investments are in upstream basic research, the spillover effect across industries and sectors is sometimes enough of a social reward. But other cases might require creating alternative incentives. 
For example, some of the profits from the government’s investment in Tesla could have been recovered through shares (or royalties), and used to cover the losses from its investment in Solyndra. Repayment of public loans to business could be made contingent on income, as student loans often are. And the prices of drugs that are developed largely with NIH funding could be capped, so that the taxpayer does not pay twice. 
One thing is clear: the current approach suffers from serious shortcomings, largely because it socializes the risks and privatizes the rewards. This is hurting not only future innovation opportunities, but also the government’s ability to communicate its role to the public. Acknowledging the role that the state has played – and should continue to play – in shaping innovation enables us to begin debating the most important question: What are the new visionary public investments needed to drive future economic growth? - Meanwhile, Kevin Carmichael points out that the Cons' small thinking is dooming Canada to economic mediocrity at best. PressProgress notes that the Cons once again seem to be focusing their sole efforts on tax trinkets for those who need them least. And Armine Yalnizyan offers some suggestions to fix the inequality and revenue loss which we can expect from the Cons' out-of-control tax free savings accounts.

- Canadian Journalists for Free Expression examine C-51 by the numbers, and find that nothing much about the Cons' terror spin adds up. And even business leaders are joining in to decry the Cons' plan to end privacy and data integrity.

- Anders Lustgarten discusses how callous disregard for the lives of people in developing countries generally is reflected in the needless deaths of refugees. And Ethel Tungohan follows up on the need for more fair refugee policies from a Canadian perspective.

- Finally, David Dayen notes that the TPP is just the latest deal to lock in corporate profits at the expense of human interests.

Da EVUL BIKE LOBBY ... and it's nonexistent power

The Winnipeg RAG Review - Tue, 04/21/2015 - 08:30

Image Source: Chaos Cycling Club ForumA local public access demagogue on the Right has taken to hysterical ravings about the "bike lobby" and all their evil plans. Their main, if we can stretch the word, "evidence" for this oh-so-powerful cabal is that in 2010 a bunch of bike infrastructure projects were pushed through. These were done quickly because the Federal stimulus grants they depended on expired quickly.

These Federal grants, just so you know, came out during the Harper Government, which for all intents and purposes could give zero fucks about a small, municipally specific lobby in a mid-size prairie city.

Now, if an all powerful, nefarious bicycle lobby runs City government you'd expect quite a bit of maintenance priority given to bicycle paths. Yet, in reality, much of the Assiniboine Avenue Bikeway was shut down as part of the process constructing a new development. This also makes all the histrionics of how bad the bikeway would be for traffic pretty ironic, at least in the near term.

 Before the return of snow on April 19 I had actually visited both the parts of Assiniboine Avenue that were open and bike infrastructure in Point Douglas and Elmwood. Did I see the sign of an all powerful bicycle lobby then?

Section of the Assiniboine Avenue Bikeway opened, filled with sand,
taken in early April, 2015.

Image Source: Photo by The Analyst.

Assiniboine Avenue Bikeway,
early April 2015.

Image Source: The Analyst

Sharrow lane, along Annabella Street
north of Higgins Avenue in
early April 2015.

Image Source: Photo taken by The Analyst.

Sidewalk level bike way on
Midwinter Avenue in early April

Image Source: Photo by The Analyst


It should also be noted that the Midwinter Avenue bikeway was filled with snow throughout November 2014 until the melt in 2015 and many of the bike lanes in question were also filled with heavy snowfall in winter.

The bike lobby ... truly a force of sinister, cabalistic power!

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A few words of gratitude

Dawg's Blawg - Tue, 04/21/2015 - 07:55
My learned pal Richard Warman, ably assisted by my co-blogger Balbulican, set up a crowdfunding page a little over a month ago to assist in my legal expenses for my recently-concluded lawsuit. Their dedication and hard work has been an... Dr.Dawg

Canada's Outlier Status

Politics and its Discontents - Tue, 04/21/2015 - 06:36

Well, this is bauble budget day, the day the Harper regime makes its big pre-election push to convince us that all is right with the world, and that our natural selfishness is something we should revel in, not revolt against. It is a day in which further plundering of the federal coffers is presented as a triumph of respect for all "hardworking Canadians" who deserve to keep more of their "hard-earned money." It is a day in which the collective needs of the country and the world are ignored.

Fortunately, not everyone is so easily distracted by the promise of shiny new things. One such individual is Omar Aziz, who, writing about climate change, says that Canada, under Stephen Harper,
is an international pariah. Among rich world countries, Canada is the largest per-capita emitter of GHGs, according to the World Resources Institute. The advocacy group Climate Action Network ranks Canada’s climate strategy as the fourth-worst in the world, ahead of only Iran, Kazakhstan, and Saudi Arabia. There seems to be no prospect of improvement on this sorry record:
Ottawa will fail to meet the emission targets it pledged at the Copenhagen conference in 2009, just as it failed to meet the UN’s March 31 deadline to submit its emission targets ahead of the upcoming climate change conference in December.Increasingly, our country is becoming an international pariah:
Having met U.S. President Barack Obama’s Envoy for Climate Change, I am certain that Washington is taking the Paris negotiations very seriously. Canada, meanwhile, looks like it will show up to the Paris conference with almost nothing to offer but talking points, despite the fact that Canadians consume more energy per capita than Indians, Chinese or Americans. This is both a shame and a sham.Compounding Canada's inexcusable inaction is the heavy hand of Harper censorship:
Ninety per cent of government scientists feel that they are not allowed to speak to the media about their research; almost as many fear retaliation if they do. If you are wondering why climate change reporting in Canada has been so vacuous over the last few years, it is because new rules put in place by Stephen Harper in 2007 limit what Environment Canada scientists can say. The position of National Science Advisor was eliminated in 2008. It should come as no surprise then that media coverage of climate change has been reduced by 80 per cent. If the brilliant government scientists working on this issue are muzzled, the public has little access to the very people it should be hearing from.Mind you, that hardly excuses the ignorance that many embrace on this subject, given the wealth of information that is available literally at our fingertips. If we are oblivious to the coming peril, it is by our own choice.

The heavy lifting being done by other provinces and countries puts the Harper inaction to shame:
British Columbia has put in place a carbon tax, Quebec has a cap-and-trade system, Ontario announced a similar policy earlier this month, and Alberta has an imperfect but necessary regulatory scheme. The European Union has an ambitious emissions trading program and the United States and China signed a major climate accord last year. China is also piloting seven cap-and-trade programs, including one in Shanghai. Aziz notes the irony of a federal regime so obsessed with security that it ignores the threats posed by climate change:
Climate change is not simply an environmental concern; it is a national security concern, which is precisely what the Pentagon now calls it.The effects of climate change will permanently damage wildlife, agriculture, oceans, coastal inhabitants, transportation systems, disease prevention efforts, food and water supplies, public health, and nearly every facet of modern life. The poor and disadvantaged will face the harshest consequences, both in rich countries and in developing ones.Back in 2009, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called climate change the greatest challenge facing the world. Nothing has changed in the intervening six years other than even more egregious contempt for action from a federal government locked in an ideology for which we, our children and our grandchildren will pay a very grievous price.
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Twitter no more

Dawg's Blawg - Tue, 04/21/2015 - 05:38
Das Gerede, Martin Heidegger called it, “idle chatter.” It’s the sea of everyday speech in which all of us are immersed, and from which most of us never emerge. Those who manage to do so are answering a silent call... Dr.Dawg

Joe Oliver and the Ghastly Cinderella Budget Show

Montreal Simon - Tue, 04/21/2015 - 04:50

Well let's put it this way, his PMO handlers did their best to turn it into a glamorous photo-op, but it wasn't exactly Cinderella slipping on her dainty glass slipper.

And it wasn't pretty.

It was just Ol' Joe Oliver, pulling on his new pair of Made in America, New Balance running shoes with Con blue laces. 

But as bizarre as that spectacle was, it did mark the beginning of Stephen Harper's final push for another bloody majority. 
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Fat and Not Afraid - Mon, 04/20/2015 - 19:32

It's been nine months since we decided to try and make a go of it in the Soo, to work with Skyline at their apartments, build friendships, strengthen family ties and soak up the North instead of going back to Vancouver Island. Skyline dumped us a month before Christmas and we spent the winter at my inlaw's again, dreaming of spring. Some friendships have faded, some have grown, and family is more family than ever. The last year and a half has been a bitter pill but it's also taught me so much about compassion and empathy, communication, gratitude, and grace. Trying to handle this ongoing situation with grace hasn't always been easy, or even possible, but I'm learning. The nine months leading up to creating a new person isn't easy, but it shouldn't be. Stripping away the layers of accumulated damage and debris is work. Delving deep into who I am and who I want to be, and becoming that person, is work. Grace carries me.

Grace keeps me from resenting my situation and allows instead for being thankful for what I do have.

Grace keeps a (mostly) civil tongue in my head during frustrating situations, or helps me to say nothing at all.

Grace asks "Is it kind? Is it true? Is it needed?" before speaking. Or at least it tries. I'm no angel.

Grace reminds me to say 'thank you' as often as possible to those who deserve to hear it, and they are legion. So many people are helping us get our feet back under us, helping with the kids, but especial thanks go as always to my inlaws. We might get under each other's skin now and then but at the end of the day I know they've got my back.

Grace lets me pour my heart out to those who need to hear it when I need to say it and creates true understanding and connection with no room for misunderstanding.

I don't have the spoons for a lot these days, but with a tentative plan in place for finally for real moving out on our own for this fall, I dare to dream of things again.


Winnicki Donates to Free Dominion's Warman Appeal

Anti-Racist Canada - Mon, 04/20/2015 - 17:06
Looks like London's biggest hater (his own words, by the way) has warm and fuzzy feelings for Free Dominion. Or more likely vitriolic and caustic feelings towards the people Free Dominion isn't fond of. With him it's more likely the former than the latter.

Not long ago, the folks at Free Dominion opened up for business again on a more limited basis, however they soon launched a fundraising effort to appeal the Warman defamation suit that went to horribly against them.

Now, to be fair, the content of Free Dominion hasn't been as bat-fucking-insane as it had been in the past (relatively speaking of course) perhaps due to certain former regulars no longer posting on the forum. <coughchoughedkennedycough>

And, much to our surprise, we at ARC even found ourselves agreeing with their position on Bill C-51.

We figured that maybe, at least in the short to mid term, they had learned the value of moderation.

And then one of our readers tipped us off to this:

Uhm, who donated $200 to Free Dominion's appeal?

Oh dear.

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Stephen Harper and the Betrayal of the Canadian Rangers

Montreal Simon - Mon, 04/20/2015 - 15:17

They are one of Stephen Harper's favourite photo-op props. The thin red line of Canadian Rangers who guard Canada's sovereignty in the Arctic.

He even likes to dress up as one of them...

But now that there is news that the Rangers may be in trouble. 

A "significant number" of Canadian Rangers in the Arctic have died in recent years, a trend that is causing concern about the strains on those tasked with being Canada's "eyes and ears" in the North, according to documents obtained by CBC News.

There is no comment from him or the Canadian military.
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10 reasons the Saguenay ruling establishes Canada as a secular country

Terahertz - Mon, 04/20/2015 - 12:54

It’s been only 5 days since the Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously that the prayers said by the City of Saguenay discriminated against atheists, and already cities across Canada are reviewing their own practices. But I suspect (although caveated with the standard, I am not a lawyer) this ruling will have wide reaching consequences as there are very few Supreme Court precedents on cases of religious freedom in Canada.

Reading the ruling, I think secularists should feel confident. Here’s my interpretation of my 10 favourite parts of the ruling (in the order they appear).

1. Canadian society supports a secular state, according to the Supreme Court.

The state’s duty of religious neutrality results from an evolving interpretation of freedom of conscience and religion. The evolution of Canadian society has given rise to a concept of this neutrality according to which the state must not interfere in religion and beliefs.

The Supreme Court interprets the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in light of wider society. The highest judges in Canada recognised that Canadians are a generally secular lot and do not want the government interfering with religion.

2. Government must be neutral with respect to religion

The state must instead remain neutral in this regard, which means that it must neither favour nor hinder any particular belief, and the same holds true for non?belief… The state’s duty to protect every person’s freedom of conscience and religion means that it may not use its powers in such a way as to promote the participation of certain believers or non?believers in public life to the detriment of others.

Canada does not have an official separation of church and state like the USA. This ruling makes it crystal clear though that Canada is a secular country. The government should neither support nor oppose any religion or belief.

3. Atheism is afforded equal protection as religion

Following from the same quotes, belief and non-belief, believers and non-believers, are mentioned in the same passages. This shows that the right not to believe is afforded equal protection under the Charter.

4. Secularism promotes a multicultural Canada

The pursuit of the ideal of a free and democratic society requires the state to encourage everyone to participate freely in public life regardless of their beliefs. A neutral public space free from coercion, pressure and judgment on the part of public authorities in matters of spirituality is intended to protect every person’s freedom and dignity, and it helps preserve and promote the multicultural nature of Canadian society.

5. History and tradition are invalid arguments for maintaining religious privilege

If the state adheres to a form of religious expression under the guise of cultural or historical reality or heritage, it breaches its duty of neutrality.

When I argued that the University of Alberta should remove god from its convocation charge, tradition was the most common argument that it should be maintained. Similarly the Parti Quebecois in introducing its Secular Charter argued that the cross in the National Assembly should be maintained due to cultural history. Nevertheless, the Court is again unambiguously clear: Tradition and heritage is no excuse to maintain religious privilege.

6. Religiously-motivated laws are invalid

A provision of a statute, of regulations or of a by?law will be inoperative if its purpose is religious and therefore cannot be reconciled with the state’s duty of neutrality.

7.Discrimination against atheists is non-trivial

The prayer recited by the municipal council in breach of the state’s duty of neutrality resulted in a distinction, exclusion and preference based on religion — that is, based on S’s sincere atheism — which, in combination with the circumstances in which the prayer was recited, turned the meetings into a preferential space for people with theistic beliefs. The latter could participate in municipal democracy in an environment favourable to the expression of their beliefs. Although non?believers could also participate, the price for doing so was isolation, exclusion and stigmatization.

The adoption of the phrase “isolation, exclusion and stigmatization” is powerful here. School prayer, which is still legal in Alberta public schools, similarly risk isolating, excluding and stigmatizing students who choose not to participate.

8. Ending religious privilege does not promote atheism

Barring the municipal council from reciting the prayer would not amount to giving atheism and agnosticism prevalence over religious beliefs. There is a distinction between unbelief and true neutrality. True neutrality presupposes abstention, but it does not amount to a stand favouring one view over another.

There is a clear difference between secularism and atheism and it’s well described here. The state should be neutral, full stop.

9. Even “inclusive” prayers may exclude atheists

Even if [a council prayer] is said to be inclusive, it may nevertheless exclude non-believers.

Many proponents of public prayers opt for a non-denominational version in an effort to be more inclusive. But even these, which aren’t necessarily sectarian, can discriminate against atheists.

10. The Charter’s preamble does not mean that Canada is a theistic country

the reference to the supremacy of God in the preamble to the Canadian Charter cannot lead to an interpretation of freedom of conscience and religion that authorizes the state to consciously profess a theistic faith. The preamble articulates the political theory on which the Charter’s protections are based.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms begins with a phrase that “Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God”. The inclusion of this phrase was arguably a sop to the religious right and is used to argue Canada is a Christian country. This ruling destroys that argument and potentially nullifies the use of the preamble in Court.

On radioactive proposals

accidentaldeliberations - Mon, 04/20/2015 - 09:12
Never mind Brad Wall's hand-picked group of nuclear industry shills using public money to further their own profits found that nuclear power is not price-competitive even among an artificially limited set of options absent a substantial carbon price - and that Wall himself refuses to set one.

And never mind that a subsequent public consultation found that "the overwhelming response...was that nuclear power generation should not be a choice for Saskatchewan".

When it comes to locking in a high-cost, high-risk nuclear plant just as renewables are emerging as a viable large-scale alternative, Wall won't take "no" for an answer. But if Wall is telling us that he insists on having Saskatchewan pay for an expensive nuclear toy with the rent money saved by living in Ontario's basement, that's all the more reason to ensure he isn't in a position to make the call.


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