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‘Free trade,’ the weight of history, and the illusion of democracy | #cdnpoli #elxn42 #TPP

Posted by Sol Chrom - Wed, 10/07/2015 - 09:22


Is this it, then? John Lorinc has speculated that if Stephen Harper wins again, the go-for-broke legacy program he hits us with is going to make the last few years feel like a warm bath.

And even if Harper loses, so what? Justin Trudeau isn’t going to fix anything. C-51? He’s fine with it. The G20? Bill Blair is one of his star candidates, and they both seem to think we should all just STFU about it, because after all, it was five years ago. Free trade? That’s just part of the destructive legacy of Chretien/Martin.

Tom Mulcair? Well, even if he has a genuinely progressive agenda, does anyone really think he’ll be allowed to implement it? How much juice does a popular mandate carry nowadays anyway, in the face of coordinated opposition from Bay Street, international finance, the media noise machine, and Serious Responsible People? We’ll spend a few twitchy years watching the Masters of the Universe using him for a piñata despite his best efforts to seem “moderate” and “reasonable,” and nothing will really change.

Sure, maybe we can have debates over policy, but what are they going to mean when we’ve allowed the scope for public policy to be so profoundly diminished? If we can’t enact laws to protect our environment, our health-care system, our online privacy, our food-safety system, or any other aspect of the public sphere for fear of being sued in secretive supranational tribunals by investment vehicles seeking to recoup lost profits, then what’s the point of even talking about public policy in the first place?

Well … shit. This may be the year we come face to face with it: we’ve lost any semblance of functioning democracy, and we don’t even care because we’re too worn down / frightened into compliance / distracted by sideshows. The election is there to provide the illusion of popular input, but the fundamental direction of the country isn’t going to change no matter who wins. The choices have already been made for us by people we’ll never meet, whose names we’ll never know, whose functions and surreptitious string-pulling we’ll likely never perceive or understand. All we’re doing on election day is picking a brand of toothpaste and kidding ourselves that it really matters. If this isn’t like a malignant cancer, then I don’t know what is.

Let’s be honest. The fabric of society, the whole post-war deal that sustained the so-called “middle class,” has been under concerted attack since the days of Reagan and Thatcher in the early 1980s. With each year, each cut, each act of violence to the social contract, they’ve managed to chip away a little more of the foundation. A small minority takes more and more while everyone else has to make do with less and less. Can anybody point to a successful effort to push it back since then?

Roll back the goalposts? Fat chance. We’ll be lucky if we can even slow the bleeding.

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Tagged: apparatus of repression, austerity, authoritarianism, Canadian politics, CCPA, civic engagement, class warfare, democratic dysfunction, free trade, G20, misdirection, necessary illusions, Noam Chomsky, social contract, the public good, the public sphere

Composure Under Pressure…..

Left Over - Wed, 10/07/2015 - 09:10

I am trying with  great difficulty to ignore the current campaign for a new Parliament and, if there is any justice, a  new PM. I have been also trying, somewhat unsuccessfully, to stop comparing and contrasting (thanks so much to all my Uni  profs. who beat that concept into my head….)  my own reality with that portrayed by the worst offenders in the MSM…

I ‘ve  had little success in staying calm, however..I am sick to death of everything that the  Harper Reich is throwing at us  to  make idiocy important, to turn side issues, petty and vicious though they may be, into  reasons to vote..Instead of concentrating on  the issues that most Canadians are concerned about, like the economy, senior’s issues, the health care system, the horrendous costs of higher education, and the current  regime would have us  applaud the worst sort of  fascist tendencies inherent in Harper’s philosophy..and the worst offenders in all this?  Not the PM, looking more haggard and miserable with every photo-op, not his creepy  campaign director,  just another temporary foreign worker with an agenda, or his  Con minions who  come out squealing  stupidities at every opportunity..four legs good, two legs bad…

No, to me the worst offenders are the media, who latch onto every possible  stupidity thrown out there by the  Cons in tiny trial balloons that are  guaranteed to  attract the attention of so called ‘journalists’ who, like  toddlers, grasp at every little thing floating by with  thoughtless glee.

The difference is that  the media controls the campaigns, and  we all know who owns the media..and now they try to distract us with a late attempt to shore up that secretive  plan called the TPP…in the middle of  election ‘fever’ a great little distraction without actually telling us anything at all….

It’s bad enough that, just like  the Keystone pipeline, Harper pretends to have  pondered on the outcome with TPP and come to  the only possible  conclusion, that it will be good for us…Nope, what it will do for instance, is raise prices for  drugs dramatically, just in time for the aging boomers to have to pay through the nose. The auto industry, so carefully  controlled in our favor for so long, will be decimated in the jobs and after-market industry….so much for all that R & D being poured into alternatives to the combustion engine… I am no protectionist, but I do fear that  whatever standard of living we have  been able to salvage from the grasp of the  wealthy Right is about to  run through our hands like so much sand…and this opening up of  agriculture  grown processed and packaged  with standards no where near our own, will also  be dangerously out of our control re sanitary conditions…

But what does the MSM report?  Don’t worry, kids, this bitter pill will be good for you, and finish the  conspiracy to turn all but the  1% into  economic serfs, grateful for whatever crumbs are thrown our way …

But here I sit, trying to maintain a  Buddha-like demeanor, while all around me I fear that  this  insidiously blatant attempt to  shore up the  powers that be might just succeed…

So What's Our Excuse?

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 10/07/2015 - 08:55
Amnesty International is urging Britain's Cameron government to stop arms shipments to Saudi Arabia.  Amnesty claims the weapons are being used to deliberately slaughter civilians in Houthi-rebel controlled parts of Yemen.

Amnesty said it found a pattern of “appalling disregard” for civilian lives by the Saudi-led coalition in an investigation of 13 air strikes in north-eastern Saada governorate during May, June and July: these killed some 100 civilians – including 59 children and 22 women and injured a further 56, including 18 children.

Since last March coalition air strikes have hit homes, schools, markets and other civilian infrastructure, as well as miltiary objectives. Saada, a Houthi stronghold, has been badly hit. Thousands who remain in the governorate “live in constant fear of the airstrikes and dire humanitarian conditions”, Amnesty says.

Canada is also on the Saudi weapons of indiscriminate destruction/war crimes gravy train with Harper having inked a $15-billion deal for the sale of light armoured fighting vehicles (light tanks) presumably for democracy suppression patrols. The deal supposedly gags Harper from discussing (having to explain) the sale but seemingly leaves him quite free to excuse it on the basis that, if we didn't sell Saudis its instruments of carnage then some other nation would.
For the radical Sunni Muslim House of Saud, being a Shiite Muslim is enough to qualify you for live-fire target practice.  Fortunately, that exempts the devoutly Sunni al Qaeda, al Nusra and ISIS terrorists/insurgents from Saudi bloodlust. Yemen's Houthi rebels daily fight ISIS and al Qaeda forces while the Saudis, with the active support of Canada, Britain and the US, wage a ground and air war against the Houthis.
If you're interested in this curious murderous mess, check out this episode of VICE TV. The Houthi segment begins at the 17:00 minute mark. It's an eye-opener.

Keeping with the theme of "So What's Our Excuse?" let's talk bitumen and the armada of supertankers that may soon ply British Columbia's coast.  Roger Annis has written an important report, "The Canadian Election and the Global Climate Crisis," for CounterPunch that should be required reading for every British Columbian before they vote in the federal election.  The only party that's even partly standing up for this province and our incredibly fragile ecosystems is Elizabeth May's Green Party and even May is a bit wobbly on bitumen trafficking.

Which brings us to the first segment of the VICE TV episode above concerning the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico and how BP used a highly toxic chemical, Corexit, that, instead of dispersing the oil as promised simply made it far more lethal and sank it to contaminate the bottom and the marine life that is found there. Watch it. It's a genuine call to arms.

h/t Northern PoV

From Every Hill and Mole Hill

Northern Reflections - Wed, 10/07/2015 - 07:46

Most assuredly, Stephen Harper has been listening to Lynton Crosby -- who has a long record of calling forth bigots. Jeff Sallot writes:

A Federal Court of Appeal ruling Monday cleared the way for Ishaq to obtain her citizenship papers in time to vote on Oct. 19.

You wouldn’t blame her if she doesn’t vote Conservative. Harper isn’t worried about losing votes in the Muslim community, of course. Instead, he’s appealing to the prejudices of a small slice of the Canadian population who can be riled up by irrational fear.

Harper made a cynical political calculation to elevate the niqab to the level of a national political issue. He had polls (paid for by us, of course) that showed that a niqab ban would be popular. He doubled down when his government lost the first judicial go-round and went ahead last week with an appeal of the Ishaq case.

So that’s where we are in late 2015 — submitting the legal rights of Canadian citizens to public opinion polls. But why stop at trashing the rights of Muslim women? Why not take polls on other civil rights — say, French language rights? There was a time in Canada when language rights might not have survived the test of popular opinion.
Conservatives once used to be guided by their better angels:

That was also a time when Canadian political leaders, including Conservatives, weren’t afraid to actually lead. Bob Stanfield, to his great credit, sacked a Tory candidate in New Brunswick in the 1974 election for refusing to support bilingualism. Stanfield didn’t need to find his political courage in a printout of polling data.
That was a time when women wore religious garments without controversy. Like Sallot, I was taught by nuns:

The most exotic people in my neighbourhood were the Catholic Ursuline nuns who taught me in elementary school. They wore long black gowns and headwear from the Middle Ages. It fully covered their hair. But you could see their faces. And you knew if you were in trouble before they spoke a word. 
Harper is calculating that bigots will keep him in office.  And so he is calling them out from under every rock and away from every hill and mole hill.

Wednesday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Wed, 10/07/2015 - 07:44
Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Paul Theroux comments on the gall of corporations who move jobs to the cheapest, least-safe jurisdictions possible while trumpeting their own supposed contributions to the countries they leave behind. And Wilma Liebman sees more progressive labour legislation as one of the keys to encouraging workers to organize and secure better working and living conditions.

- The Star's editorial board writes about the need for far more debate about poverty and precarity in Canada's federal election. And Max Ehrenfreund discusses the connection between income and life expectancy, while noting that inequality is going up (and the poorest class is seeing absolute declines) in both.

- Hilary Beaumont, Rachel Browne and Justin Ling report on the Libs' apparent plans - in both their platform and Justin Trudeau's own public statements - to unleash large-scale domestic surveillance on Canadians. (And the apparent clarification that they don't know what they're actually promising doesn't exactly inspire confidence in their general interest in civil liberties, including their vague tut-tutting about C-51.)

- Meanwhile, Susan Delacourt contrasts the option of an inclusive, multicultural society against that of a Con-approved "snitch state" where everybody's looking for reason to report everybody else as unCanadian.  And Neil MacDonald sees the Cons' deliberate discrimination as the barbaric cultural practice we should be concerned about.

- Finally, Heather Mallick summarizes how the Harper Cons have gone out of their way to ruin Canada.

The Better Angels Of Our Nature

Politics and its Discontents - Wed, 10/07/2015 - 07:20

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” - Abraham Lincoln

Stephen Harper, of course, is doing his best to suppress those better angels, a fact not unrecognized by Star readers.
It seems to me the media and many voters, especially those in Quebec, are behaving like the dog in the animated movie “Up.” While we need to be discussing climate change, the mess the economy is in, missing and murdered indigenous women, muzzling of our scientists, health care reform and many other subjects that affect the vast majority of Canadians Harper throws out the niqab and we all yell “squirrel” and end up talking about something that affects two people.

Or he raises removing someone’s citizenship and we waste our time talking about something that affects one person.

Harper has become Pavlov to a bunch of easily distracted dogs. Let’s not fall for his manipulative devious schemes and concentrate on what really matters to the majority of Canadians.

Ken Beckim, Oshawa

Canadians are in a continuous tug of war between proudly welcoming diversity and protecting minority rights, and threatening to restrict the expression of individual differences. Lucky for Canadians, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and our justice system stand as our most valuable protection against the actions of those who want to curtail choices that make some uncomfortable or run counter to their values or beliefs.

Taking a historical view, we see that issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, etc., rely on the protections set out in the Charter. Our strength is refusing to succumb to bigotry, prejudice and stereotypes that undermine what is so valuable in protecting the human rights of minorities.

Those of us who were once marginalized and treated as pariahs are today mainstream contributors to our society. Vive la difference and vive la Charter.

Barbara Landau and Shahid Akhtar, co-chairs, Canadian Association of Jews and Muslims, Toronto

Growing up Muslim, I have witnessed nasty stereotypes and encountered discriminatory and highly racial acts; it almost felt as if being Muslim meant being a minority or outcast. Whatever problem occurs identifies a small amount of people but the whole humanity is not to blame.

I agree we should help our neighbours and be kind to all, because if we were in such a situation we would seek help as well.

Racism and discrimination shouldn’t even exist in 2015. There is so much more to do and accomplish by working together not apart. Wake up.

Afreen Gul, Mississauga

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The Nightmare Campaign and My Day of Rage

Montreal Simon - Wed, 10/07/2015 - 04:48

I was going to write a post about young Canadians and the campaign to get them to vote. But like so many of them I was just too tired, after attacking the punching bag at the gym like I wanted to kill it.

I had to, I was that angry. 

For this this was the day when the horror of this campaign finally sank in, and made me explode with rage. Rage at the bigotry of the Cons, or at other bloggers for seeming to surrender. 

Because I just can't believe to what monstrous place Stephen Harper has taken us.
Read more »

Jagdish Grewal the Harpercon Version of Andre Forbes?

Sister Sages Musings - Tue, 10/06/2015 - 23:38

Boys n girls,  Jagdish Grewal, the Harpercon candidate running in Mississauga-Malton,  has taken a cue from the Michelle Bachman playbook, believing that one can “cure” and “pray away” the gay.  It came out in a community Punjabi news page that:

“Is it wrong for a homosexual to become a normal person?” that referred to . . . → Read More: Jagdish Grewal the Harpercon Version of Andre Forbes?

PEGIDA Canada Wants Niqab Ban Because it Symbolizes Violence and Oppression Against Women; Justifies Assault on Woman Wearing Niqab

Anti-Racist Canada - Tue, 10/06/2015 - 19:23
One of the claims of groups like PEGIDA Canada is that they are not against Muslims, but against "militant Islam," "Islamism," "shariah law," and any number of adjectives to justify their bigotry. On the current political wedge issue, the niqab and whether or not it should be permitted during citizenship ceremonies, PEGIDA Canada suggests that the real concern they have is the poor women forced to wear the niqab which they further claim is a symbol of violent male oppression against Muslim women. PEGIDA Canada and like-minded groups want to liberate women from oppression and violence and one way to accomplish this is to ban the niqab (as well and the burka and hijab, but it's all grist for the mill).

It's good to know that there are organizations out there like PEGIDA Canada. They, and their supporters, really just want women to be free from violence.

So, when this occurred in Toronto, you know that PEGIDA Canada and their supporters were outraged by the violence visited upon the women in the story:

Muslim convert attacked while wearing niqab in Toronto
Globe and Mail (Correction included) 
Published Sunday, Oct. 04, 2015 9:34PM EDT 
Last updated Monday, Oct. 05, 2015 11:41AM EDT

Her roots in Canada stretch back through her francophone mother to the 1600s. Last week, wearing her Islamic face veil – the niqab, which has become a central issue in the federal election – she says she was trying to enter Shoppers Drug Mart at Toronto’s Fairview Mall when a man carrying a liquor-store bag blocked her path and then drove his elbow hard into her shoulder, in front of her two daughters, ages nine and four.

“It hurt, yo,” Safira Merriman, 30, said in a Facebook post describing the incident.

The identity issue playing out in election debates and in courtrooms is now being felt in the streets, shopping malls and on social media, as disparaging remarks and even outright assaults draw attention to a charged political environment.

“On social media, already we’ve seen a huge spike of what appears to be anti-Muslim sentiment being expressed,” said Amira Elghawaby, a spokeswoman for the National Council of Canadian Muslims in Ottawa. She mentioned a Montreal website that posted a 15-minute montage of “people spewing anti-Muslim” feeling....

So, how did the folks at PEGIDA Canada respond?


Read more »

Rick Mercer Opines On The Campaign

Politics and its Discontents - Tue, 10/06/2015 - 19:16
The always interesting and insightful Rick Mercer needs no introduction from me. Enjoy.

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Another New Anti-Harper Song: Vote that F***er Out !!!

Montreal Simon - Tue, 10/06/2015 - 17:21

In my last post I wrote about how Stephen Harper and his filthy Cons want to torture and kill gay kids.

And since we all know how he is using bigotry to hijack this election.

When I see how some progressives are moaning and groaning or surrendering to despair. Or playing stupid partisan games. Or trying to figure out how many angels can fit on the head of a pin.

I've gotta say I really like this song.
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Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

accidentaldeliberations - Tue, 10/06/2015 - 17:06
Deconstructing cats.

Reversing course after one election? Good luck with that | #cdnpoli #elxn42 #TPP

Posted by Sol Chrom - Tue, 10/06/2015 - 14:51

ship goes down

Yeah, well.

As a couple of friends have pointed out, some of my recent blatherings about voting may seem inconsistent with my “brand.” You know, civic engagement, the responsibilities of citizenship, the obligations we have to society and to each other … yawn.

Can’t be too surprised that that’s not a huge part of the conversation these days. There’s a lot invested in making sure that isn’t, and that shouldn’t be much of a surprise either. The more people are all wound up and angry and yelly and distracted, the less energy and attention they have to focus on the underlying stuff. Fill the window with dead cats and all that.

But once again, maybe we step back and look at this within a larger historical context (dear god, I’m going to hit myself in the head with a hammer — ed.). Let’s reframe this over the course of the last 20 or 30 years. What’s been happening?

The gutting of the public sphere.

The devaluation of civil society.

The emasculation of public institutions.

The dismantling of the social safety net.

Austerity, privatization, deregulation, outsourcing, yada yada yada, all served up with noxious sides of deficit hysteria and tax cuts, and the attendant kneecapping of government’s ability to act.

All predating Stephen Harper, nasty though he is. Again, think back a few decades. Brian Mulroney. Jean Chretien. Paul Martin. Running through it all, like a river of toxic slime: the successive implementation of the same agenda. “Free trade” regimes that concentrate more and more wealth and power in fewer and fewer hands. Nods to the knuckle-draggers aside, Harper’s just peddling more of the same. Seriously, can anyone point to a substantive change in the country’s direction over the past few decades?

All of this has been encouraged and paid for, of course, by the CEOs, the international investor class, their flunkies, and their cheerleaders in the corporate media, along with the Serious and Responsible People who guard the parameters of conversation and gaslight everyone else into thinking that whatever’s left of the “middle class” shares the same values and interests as the business elites. And always with the same themes: need to compete and obey the diktats of the market. Trade barriers need to come down. Labour flexibility. Capital mobility. Safeguard the rights of investors lest they take their money elsewhere. Anything that interferes with the accumulation of private profit becomes a target.

And what’s the effect? Well, what happens to anything that’s consistently attacked, demeaned, belittled, stripped of resources, and corroded? Gradually but steadily, the fabric of society wears away because the things that hold us together and allow us to act with common purpose are systematically undermined. We are isolated, exhausted, and/or distracted in the face of economic precariousness. What’s the point of acting collectively? What can we accomplish in the face of impersonal global forces which, we’re told over and over, are inevitable and irresistible?

Is it any wonder that the notion of citizenship starts to mean less and less? Is it a coincidence that the avenues for meaningful engagement are closed off while we’re distracted with the latest shinyshiny?

I’m not necessarily suggesting there are no differences among Harper and the opposition leaders in terms of policy or commitment to democratic ideals. But I do fear that the sustained assault on the things that hold us together has gone on for so long, and that the damage to our body politic has been so profound, that it may be too late to restore it.

This has been going on for decades. Does anyone really think a mere change of government is going to fix it?

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Tagged: apparatus of repression, Canadian politics, citizenship, civic engagement, civic virtue, class warfare, distraction, free trade, international investors, social infrastructure, the public good, the public sphere

The Disgusting Homophobia of Stephen Harper's Filthy Cons

Montreal Simon - Tue, 10/06/2015 - 14:43

Stephen Harper has always been a stealthy but vicious enemy of the LGBT community.

He has voted against every bill or measure designed to protect their human rights.

He believes that being gay is just a choice.

And now I see one of his candidates is following in his master's ghastly footsteps.

And advocating the torture of gay children.

A Conservative candidate in suburban Toronto is defending therapies that attempt to turn gays straight, having penned an editorial that referred to homosexuality as "unnatural behaviour" and heterosexuals as "normal."

Jagdish Grewal, running in Mississauga-Malton, wrote an editorial in the Punjabi Post earlier this year entitled, "Is it wrong for a homosexual to become a normal person?"

Quoting quacks to back up his grotesque bigoted beliefs, while disregarding the advice of the Canadian Pediatric Society.

Grewal's editorial does not address professional criticism of so-called reparative or conversion therapies. The Canadian Pediatric Society's position on adolescent sexual orientation states that such treatments "should not be provided because they do not work and have the potential to heighten guilt and anxiety."

Even though he is a Sikh and should know all about bigotry.

But then of course he isn't the only Con supporting anti-gay bigotry. So is this foul group in Ontario who are fighting the province's new and eminently reasonable sex education curriculum...

Which the Cons are stealthily supporting for crass political purposes. 

On the federal election trail, Islamophobia keeps thrusting the niqab onto the nightly news. In other news: Homophobia-tinged protests over sex-education are sexing up the election in key federal ridings, allowing Conservative candidates to screw (metaphorically and politically) their Liberal rivals.

The NDP is paying a price for its principled defence of the niqab in Quebec, where the face covering remains especially unpopular. And federal Liberals across Ontario are being crucified for the supposed sins of their provincial Liberal cousins, who dared to update a two-decade-old sex education curriculum with present-day social (and legal) realities about homosexuality (and sexuality).

And by so doing are supporting the barbaric cultural practices they claim to be against. Which couldn't be more ironic.

Oddly for anti-sex-ed Muslim parents, their allies in intolerance of gays are in some cases Conservatives stumping on the campaign trail by stirring up mistrust of Muslims who wear the niqab (which tends to drag down all Muslims).

But do make it clear that Con values are nothing but HATE.

Jagdish Grewal is an ignorant scumbag who would torture gay kids, and help kill them.

And Stephen Harper is a low life bigot who must be defeated if our Canada is to live...

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I Should Go Away More Often

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 10/06/2015 - 10:42

It's pleasant having a few days off, in this case for a daughter's wedding.  Let's put it another way - no news is good news, at least every now and then.

This morning I hit up CBC's web site to learn that they figure the election is now a two way knife fight. They're calling the runoff Trudeau versus Harper. Mulcair, it seems, is being written off.

"What [Justin] Trudeau's team is trying to do, what Trudeau is trying to do, is look at who they would deem is their prime competition, which is the prime minister," said Conservative strategist Jason Lietaer. "Likewise, you won't see the prime minister mentioning [Tom] Mulcair very much from now on until the end."

The Conservative and Liberal battleground is well known — the Greater Toronto Area and Lower Mainland of B.C., Lietaer said, and both parties "will be throwing everything they've got" into those two areas, trying to drive home their message to Canadians.

"I expect there to be a very clear choice presented by both the Liberals and the Conservatives over the next two weeks about what the various options are. At the very end of this, there's very likely to be either Prime Minister Stephen Harper or Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. And I think both of them won't shy away from, in their own way, presenting that choice."

Much as I hate to give unsolicited advice to New Dems maybe,  just maybe, this is the time for Mr. Mulcair to decide whether he really wants Harper to be prime minister again.

Destroyer Down - Again

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 10/06/2015 - 10:33

Canada's geriatric Atlantic fleet flagship, HMCS Athabaskan, is getting a reputation for impromptu port calls when its tired engines falter and fail.

The old warrior was on its way to scare the bejeezus out of Vlad Putin when one of its engines crapped out sending it dockside in the UK to await repairs.  Ottawa Citizen defence correspondent, David Pugliese, writes that the navy's last destroyer, a veteran of 43-years service, has been having a pretty rough time of it lately.

HMCS Athabaskan, the flagship of Canada’s Atlantic fleet, was also sidelined earlier in the summer with cracks in its hull and various other engine issues, the Citizen reported in July.

Earlier this year, the ship broke down in Florida because of engine problems. It later broke down in the Caribbean, again because of engine issues.

HMCS Athabaskan sailors have contacted the Citizen to note a litany of problems, including limitations on fresh water on board the vessel. The ship has also been stripped of some of its radars and weapon systems, sailors say.

But the navy says it has confidence in the ship’s ability to continue to meet its duties. “It should be mentioned that HMCS Athabaskan’s role within the fleet has evolved over time,” said navy spokeswoman Lt. Linda Coleman. “During its service life, it has served as a platform capable of long-range anti-submarine warfare, area air defence, and enhanced command and control. Today, HMCS Athabaskan continues to fill a role that meets the current requirements of the fleet.”

The navy is trying to cope with a dwindling number of ships. The destroyers HMCS Algonquin and HMCS Iroquois were recently decommissioned. Iroquois was taken out of service after cracks were found in her hull. Another destroyer, HMCS Huron, was decommissioned, then sunk in 2007.

Of course Athabaskan's role "has evolved over time." With any luck, some day it'll evolve into an artificial reef.

The Real Bruce Carson Scandal - The One You Paid For

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 10/06/2015 - 09:56
Former Harper aide Bruce Carson had a one-day trial last month for illegal lobbying. That involved a water purification venture that he pitched to First Nations groups on behalf of his then stripper/escort/girlfriend.  Dirty Old Man stuff indeed.

But old Brucie's fat is still very much in the fire. This time it goes beyond Carson's sordid indulgences and extends right into Harper's cabinet, his PMO, the University of Calgary and Canada's major oil producers.  The Tyee's Andrew Nikiforuk describes it as Canada's biggest political scandal you never heard of.

The tale involves Big Oil, millions of taxpayer dollars, call girls and someone the RCMP describes as "one of the prime minister's longest serving advisors": Bruce Carson.

And it largely took place at Stephen Harper's alma mater: the University of Calgary between 2009 and 2011 with a cast of industry CEOs as well as several Harper ministers and aides, including Nigel Wright.

The basic plan was to use $15 million in taxpayers' money for a university think-tank, chaired by Carson, to foster with industry and the federal government a plan to rebrand the oilsands mega-project as "responsible" and "sustainable" and "clean."

The name of that think-tank Carson would run: the Canada School of Energy and Environment (CSEE).


The 1989 Lobbying Act bans public office holders from lobbying for five years after they have left office.

The act requires anyone paid to communicate or set up meetings with federal public office holders on a variety of subjects set out in the statute to register their activities in the Registry of Lobbyists, a federal list with more than 5,000 names.

The act, however, is weakly enforced and full of loopholes. Between 2005 and 2010, the nation's lobbying commissioner referred only 11 cases to the RCMP. No charges were laid.

Since then the Office of the Lobbying Commissioner, the RCMP and Crown prosecutors have decided not to penalize 67 lobbyists caught violating the act and Lobbyists' Code of Conduct.

Their identities have been kept secret.

To date, only one person has been found guilty of violating the act, and only two other people have been charged with violating it, including Bruce Carson.

Democracy Watch calculates that nearly 1,600 people have violated the Lobbying Act and Lobbyists' Code of Conduct since 2004, but that 95 per cent of them were not caught and that 81 per cent were left off the hook.

"Lobbying Commissioner Karen Shepherd has clearly failed to enforce the federal lobbying law and code effectively as she has failed to even name and shame 81 per cent of the lobbyists caught violating the law," saidDuff Conacher, co-founder of Democracy Watch and visiting professor at the University of Ottawa in a 2015 press release.

"Together with the RCMP and Crown prosecutors, she has a negligently weak enforcement record as bad as the former integrity commissioner's record, and so Democracy Watch is calling on the auditor general to do a similar review as the auditor did in 2010 of the former integrity commissioner's performance."

Conacher says the act needs to be strengthened as recommended by a 2012 reportby the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information to end secret and unethical lobbying.

The Harper government promised during the 2006 election to end secret lobbying of the federal government, but to date it has not kept its promise. -- Andrew Nikiforuk

The whole case shows clearly that [the] prime minister didn't care about the ethics of who worked for him as long as he thought they could help him win and stay in power," says Duff Conacher, co-founder of Democracy Watch and visiting professor at the University of Ottawa.

"And it shows clearly that the Conservatives broke their promises to clean up the federal government."

Which brings us back to the PMO and Harper's litany of lies when the media finally got wise to the jailbird in the prime minister's office. In true Harper form, this equally unprincipled prime minister, anted up with the opening lie. This began with the story that Harper was let down by his staffers who failed to properly vet Carson before he was allowed into the PMO. Harper said if only he'd known about Carson's criminal background he would have never set foot inside the PMO. When that bluff didn't work, Harper went for the follow-up lies, eventually conceding that he knew just a little bit of Carson's background but thought the guy deserved a second chance, an opportunity for redemption.
By Nikiforuk's account, that was all pure, unadulterated, prime ministerial bullshit.
Carson, who looks like pugilist, long has had ties to Stephen Harper and the Conservatives. He served as director of policy and research for the federal leader of the Opposition from 2004 to 2006.

Harper liked what he saw. After the election Harper promptly elevated Carson to senior advisor from 2006 to 2008. In 2009, Carson also assisted the government with its federal budget.

The political power broker had a formidable reputation. He often described himself as the "mechanic," a political fixer who got things done in the corridors of power.

In fact, Harper often began conversations with his former top advisor "in his usual complimentary way," writes Carson, by saying since you are "familiar with every vice known to man," can you help me with this or that problem.

..."The Duffy scandal was about trying to cover up an expenses scandal, but the Carson saga shows the rot goes much deeper," says Keith Stewart, head of the climate and energy campaign for Greenpeace Canada.

"Carson could lobby for the oil industry at the highest levels without anyone raising an eyebrow because the Harper government forgot that they work for Canadians, not oil CEOs."

The courts have yet to rule on any of the charges against Carson.

Stewart met Carson just once at an Energy Café organized by Shell in Calgary in 2011 before Carson's energy world came undone.

According to Stewart, when Stewart introduced himself, Carson blurted: "Will you take down that blog you wrote about me?"

Stewart's blog detailed EPIC's lobbying efforts. But Carson was most upset that Stewart had mentioned that the former advisor had been disbarred as a lawyer.

The blog remains.

Putin Rides to the Defence of Westphalia

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 10/06/2015 - 09:01
Few would dispute that Vlad Putin can be a little thuggish but, when it comes to Russian intervention in Syria, his arguments do hold some water.

Putin points an accusing finger at the West's recent history of demolishing sovereign states and leaving utter chaos in their wake - Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Kosovo and now Syria. Our side doesn't have a lot of successes to boast of - unless you consider Grenada or Panama great victories. Mark Twain was thinking of someone remarkably like us when he wrote that, to a man who has only a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Experts in this sort of thing regularly point out that, around the world, the nation state is becoming an endangered species.  The stitching is beginning to fray from any number of causes - ethnic tensions and tribalism; the rise of non-state actors from militias to rebels, insurgents and organized, transnational criminal gangs; water and food insecurity and the destabilizing ravages of climate change.  The status quo that once held us together domestically and internationally is weakening and, in some obvious hotspots, collapsing.

The very concept of state sovereignty is considered to be rooted in the Peace of Westphalia of 1648.  It embodied notions of territorial integrity, self-determination, legal equality between states and non-intervention. The Soviets, in their time, wiped their boots on these principles but, in the course of this century, it's been the West that has tossed Westphalia into the rubbish bin, which, in the context of Syria, presented Putin with an open door.

"The only way to solve this problem for good is to restore statehood where it has been destroyed," Putin said, by shoring up "the legitimate government of Syria".

A leading Putinologist at the Brookings Institution, Fiona Hill, told me: "There shouldn't be so much mystification about what the Russians are doing. They've been very consistent and very direct. They've been asking: if not Assad, who? They want to see a strongman in place who can keep order."

What else does Russia want in Syria? Some hawks charge that Putin's decision looks like a campaign to make Russia a major military power in the entire Middle East. But Hill and other experts describe Russian goals as more limited and practical, and even defensive.

The Assad regime has been Russia's most dependable ally in the Middle East for more than 40 years. Assad's father, president Hafez Assad, asked the Soviet Union for military aid and gave the Soviet navy a base in Tartus, on the Mediterranean coast, in 1971, when Bashar Assad was six years old.

Russia's initial airstrikes were clearly designed to help Assad defend his home territory in western Syria against a growing rebel threat. That's why the first targets included units of the US-backed rebel coalition instead of Islamic State, which is concentrated in eastern Syria.

Still, Russia is worried about Islamic State, too. Russian officials say more than 2000 Russian citizens have joined the extremist group, many of them Muslims from Chechnya, the rebellious republic in southern Russia. "Now that those thugs have tasted blood, we can't allow them to return home," Putin said at the UN.

So Russia is involved in Syria for practical domestic reasons, not merely the pursuit of prestige. But global factors are real, too. Mired in diplomatic isolation by his 2014 invasion of Ukraine, Putin clearly didn't mind being able to command a meeting with the US President last week.

And that brings us to American policy in Syria, which is, alas, much less clear than Russia's. While Russia has sent planes and troops to shore up its client, Obama has refused to put American forces directly into the fight, except for airstrikes against Islamic State.

Putin's policy is ugly – Russian airstrikes produced immediate reports of civilian casualties – but effective for its purpose. Obama's policy is high-minded and prudent, but it has been painfully ineffective.

US officials think Putin's strategy will in the long run earn Russia lasting enmity from the Sunni Arabs who are a majority in the Middle East. But in the short run, Putin appears to be getting what he wants: a guaranteed seat at the table.

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Droit au but!

Dammit Janet - Tue, 10/06/2015 - 08:57
Straight into the goal. NOT.

Are arrogant old creeps with an exalted sense of entitlement drawn to Olympic organizations because of the perks: a wide field of physically admirable and goal-oriented young women and men?

Slimy Marcel Aubut, ex-president of the Canadian Olympic Committee, is a long-time practitioner of a medieval tradition known as "le droit de cuissage". The term was revived in the French media following allegations against Dominique Strauss-Kahn. 

And it was tolerated because Aubut is wealthy, a gregarious schmoozer (he's an habitué of grandiose sporting events such as the Montréal's Grand Prix), politically well-connected, a successful fundraiser, etc. etc. 

Doesn't that sound familiar: habitual sexual harasser gets away with it because other men in the organization find it more beneficial to pretend it isn't happening.  Women who speak up are told to deal, to be a "good sport" about it or to look for another job. Rarely is the problem fixed - that is, the harasser told to stop.

In case you thought his repellent actions were only directed at menial support staff members, "good ol' boy" Marcel always rose to any "opportunity" in a skirt.
TVA reported that Aubut settled a sexual harassment claim at his law firm, Heenan Blaikie, in 2011, over groping, verbal harassment and inviting a woman into a room only to show up wearing boxer shorts. In La Presse, lawyer and Canadian Soccer Association board member Amelia Salehabadi-Fouques alleged Aubut forcibly kissed her in a restaurant, verbally harassed her, and tried to enter her hotel room, also in 2011.
Seems COC did try to read the riot act to Aubut.  Just as some un-neutered old dogs still try to hump just about anything in sight, some privileged old white men just can't stop playing their vile old patriarchal tricks.

Aubut's most recent peccadillo was a covert operation jiggered with Toronto Mayor John Tory as they colluded in trying to finagle an Olympic bid without the approbation of city council.

My co-blogger fern hill led the charge, writing and tweeting in support of #NoTO2024.  Her trenchant blogposts on that issue are here.

But now, Aubut has *resigned*.  I suspect he was given a spectacularly shiny golden handshake to speed him on his way.  Hopefully the women who had to endure his groping, his greasy kisses and his disgusting salacious comments in the work environment were just as generously compensated.

Ha! Kidding! Unless they hired a lawyer to secure a financial agreement, the COC will give them nothing for the humiliation they suffered

Finally: remember that one woman got very angry, d'une crisse de sainte colère and officially filed a complaint about Aubut's actions.  She was the tipping point, actually more than that: 
“I hope people don’t lose sight of the strength it took for this lady to come forward, faced with a very, very powerful individual,” says Rudge. “And to have the courage to challenge what had gone on, and the courage of her convictions to follow through and get a resolution to an issue for many, many other women who weren’t in a position to come forward.”

That, as much as anything, is the underlying lesson in all this. Nobody truly challenged Marcel Aubut, until somebody did. If you’re looking for the Olympian in all this, there you go.

What Does He Say In Private?

Northern Reflections - Tue, 10/06/2015 - 07:29


The differences between the Liberals and the Conservatives are getting starker. Susan Delacourt writes:

If this election is distilling down to a potentially ugly culture war in the final two weeks before the vote, much could rest on how Canadians feel about the people living around them.

Trudeau gave an important speech in Brampton on Sunday — one that all those who have dismissed him as ‘not ready’ probably ought to see for themselves. This being an election and all, it was analyzed immediately afterward through the prism of political strategy — for its ability to mobilize support, to give the Liberals the impression of momentum, and so on.

Simply put, Trudeau is clearly gambling that if Canadians have to choose between generosity and suspicion toward their neighbours, they will summon up their generous side. If that’s your view, the Brampton speech on Sunday probably spoke to your Canada in a way we haven’t seen in this country in a long time.
The Conservatives, on the other hand, are -- and always have been -- suspicious of their neighbours:

In case you missed it, Immigration Minister Chris Alexander and Women’s Minister Kellie Leitch announced the establishment of a special RCMP “tip line” for citizens to report people they suspect of indulging in “barbaric cultural practices.”

Already, the announcement has sparked widespread parody, including the website, which lays out all the ways in which Conservative policies also could be regarded as culturally offside, if not “barbaric.”

In Winnipeg last week, Conservative MP Joyce Bateman presented a list of Liberal candidates she alleged to be anti-Israel, clearly believing it would be a crowd-pleaser at a debate sponsored by B’nai B’rith. It was not. She was booed down by many attendees and at least one shouted “shameful” as she tried to read out her list.

It's all very Nixonian. It's worth remembering that, on the White House Tapes, Nixon called Trudeau the Elder an "asshole." Pierre's response to the news was that he had been "called worse things by better people."

One wonders what Harper says about Trudeau the Younger in private.


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