Posts from our progressive community

Bad News From The North

Politics and its Discontents - Thu, 02/16/2017 - 06:45
No matter how you parse it, this is extraordinarily bad news. That glacier melt is taking place at an alarming rate is bad enough, but the nature of that melt, as you will learn in the following report, should make all of us very, very nervous.

You can read more about the study here. Time is of the essence, despite people like Rona Ambrose calling Canada's pursuit of climate change mitigation measures "complete insanity" in light of the current madness in the White House.Recommend this Post

A Toxic Brew

Northern Reflections - Thu, 02/16/2017 - 05:31

Lawrence Martin writes that the Conservatives appear ready to take a leap off the cliff. The two leading contenders for the leadership of the party are Maxime Bernier and Kevin O'Leary:

If the polls are to be believed, it’s become a two-man race between newcomer Kevin O’Leary and libertarian Maxime Bernier. Kellie Leitch is far back. The more conventionally styled Tory candidates are not even within shouting range.

Mr. Bernier would be the biggest privatizer the party has ever had as leader. One of his radical planks is to end the federal role in funding health care by transferring tax points to the provinces. This could bring on a Balkanized system as well as more and more privatization. It risks, argues candidate Michael Chong, moving voters away from the party in droves.
Choosing Mr. O’Leary could invite as much, if not more, peril. He has never been elected, has no background in the party, is unilingual, hasn’t lived in Canada for years and has a policy kit – decried as juvenile by critics – that is all over the ideological map and devoid of substance.
Modern conservatism has become as scrambled as Donald Trump's brain. Andrew Coyne writes
Conservatism used to have some claim to being a coherent political philosophy. Of late it has become a series of dares. The most extreme voice will lay down the most extreme position, then challenge others to endorse it.

As often as not this has nothing to do with conservatism. It is rather a kind of moral exhibitionism, populist virtue-signalling, in which the object is to say and do the most intolerant or ill-considered thing that comes to mind — anything that might attract the condemnation of bien-pensants in the media and elsewhere, whose opposition becomes proof in itself of its merits.

The willingness to court such controversy in turn becomes the test of political purity. To demur, conversely, can only be a sign of cowardice, or worse, liberalism, a heresy that that would seem to have overcome much of the conservative movement, to judge by the ever-lengthening list of the excommunicated.
Like it or hate it, conservatism used to possess internal consistency. All the parts fit together. Now the parts form a toxic brew and the centre will not hold.

Ezra Levant and the Con Bigot Show

Montreal Simon - Thu, 02/16/2017 - 04:16

It's hard to believe, it couldn't be more ugly, or less Canadian.

But just two weeks after a white supremacist killed six Muslims in a Quebec City mosque, and wounded eight others.

A group of Con leadership candidates attended a foul rally in Toronto last night to denounce a government motion aimed at doing more to fight Islamophobia.
Read more »

So this was a *free vote* then, was it?

Creekside - Wed, 02/15/2017 - 23:54
From the Liberal Party Platform:
For members of the Liberal Caucus, all votes will be free votes with the exception of:• those that implement the Liberal electoral platform;• traditional confidence matters, like the budget; and • those that address our shared values and the protections guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Unless you'd like to argue that *not* implementing anything *is* the Liberal electoral platform.
So which argument from Trudeau was so compelling that all 173 Liberal members in the HoC voted No
The first one where we could not have electoral reform because there was no consensus among Canadians? 
Or the second one where we could not have electoral reform because there was too much consensus for an electoral reform you didn't like because a party like the one which just held power for the last 10 years might win a couple of seats?Which argument really sold all 173 of you to vote NO and then send out letters explaining how really really disappointed you all were with the way things turned out?.

My Head Is Starting To Spin

Politics and its Discontents - Wed, 02/15/2017 - 14:54
CNN’s Jake Tapper on Wednesday humiliated Donald Trump’s claim that the barrage of negative news stories related to his administration are “conspiracy theories,” taking moment to explain to the president what differentiates a conspiracy theory from actual, real news.

Recommend this Post

Why Trump Would Give Up the Presidency Before He Would Cough Up His Tax Returns.

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 02/15/2017 - 14:29

All the hoopla about National Security administrator, Mike Flynn's, quiet calls to the Russians is the tip of the iceberg.  Of course Flynn called the Russians and assured them that Obama's sanctions for hacking the DNC would be lifted once Trump was sworn in. So what? Other Trump campaign officials were in regular contact with Russian security types. Well, duh.

The real issue is whether Trump was already compromised by the Russians years ago. No, this isn't about hookers and urine stained mattresses. It's about Trump's years of business dealings with some decidedly shady Russians with bags of questionable rubles looking for a place to hide.

Most of the coverage of the links between Trump and Putin’s Russia takes the GOP presidential nominee at his word—that he has lusted after a Trump tower in Moscow, and come up spectacularly short. But Trump’s dodge—that he has no businesses in Russia, so there is no connection to Putin—is a classic magician’s trick. Show one idle hand, while the other is actually doing the work.

The truth, as several columnists and reporters have painstakingly shown since the first hack of a Clinton-affiliated group took place in late May or early June, is that several of Trump’s businesses outside of Russia are entangled with Russian financiers inside Putin’s circle.

So, yes, it’s true that Trump has failed to land a business venture inside Russia. But the real truth is that, as major banks in America stopped lending him money following his many bankruptcies, the Trump organization was forced to seek financing from non-traditional institutions. Several had direct ties to Russian financial interests in ways that have raised eyebrows. What’s more, several of Trump’s senior advisors have business ties to Russia or its satellite politicians.

“The Trump-Russia links beneath the surface are even more extensive,” Max Boot wrote in the Los Angeles Times. “Trump has sought and received funding from Russian investors for his business ventures, especially after most American banks stopped lending to him following his multiple bankruptcies.”

What’s more, three of Trump’s top advisors all have extensive financial and business ties to Russian financiers, wrote Boot, the former editor of the Op Ed page of the Wall Street Journal and now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Trump’s de facto campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was a longtime consultant to Viktor Yanukovich, the Russian-backed president of Ukraine who was overthrown in 2014. Manafort also has done multimillion-dollar business deals with Russian oligarchs. Trump’s foreign policy advisor Carter Page has his own business ties to the state-controlled Russian oil giant Gazprom. ... Another Trump foreign policy advisor, retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, flew to Moscow last year to attend a gala banquet celebrating Russia Today, the Kremlin’s propaganda channel, and was seated at the head table near Putin.

Manafort denounced the New York Times Monday for a deeply reported story that broke over the weekend showing that secret ledgers in Ukraine contained references to $12.7 million in payments earmarked for him. The Times report said that the party of former Ukraine president and pro-Russia ally, Viktor Yanukovych, set aside the payments for Manafort as part of an illegal and previously undisclosed system of payments.

“Once again, the New York Times has chosen to purposefully ignore facts and professional journalism to fit their political agenda, choosing to attack my character and reputation rather than present an honest report,” Manafort said in a statement first reported by NBC News. Manafort said that he has never done work for the governments of Ukraine or Russia—but that “political payments directed to me” in Ukraine were for his entire political team there that included operatives and researchers.

In response, Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, Robby Mook, issued a statement: "Donald Trump has a responsibility to disclose campaign chair Paul Manafort's and all other campaign employees' and advisers' ties to Russian or pro-Kremlin entities, including whether any of Trump's employees or advisers are currently representing and or being paid by them."

But it is Trump’s financing from Russian satellite business interests that would seem to explain his pro-Putin sympathies.

The most obvious example is Trump Soho, a complicated web of financial intrigue that has played out in court. A lawsuit claimed that the business group, Bayrock, underpinning Trump Soho was supported by criminal Russian financial interests. While its initial claim absolved Trump of knowledge of those activities, Trump himself later took on the group’s principal partner as a senior advisor in the Trump organization.

“Tax evasion and money-laundering are the core of Bayrock’s business model,” the lawsuit said of the financiers behind Trump Soho. The financing came from Russian-affiliated business interests that engaged in criminal activities, it said. “(But) there is no evidence Trump took any part in, or knew of, their racketeering.”

Journalists who’ve looked at the Bayrock lawsuit, and Trump Soho, wonder why Trump was involved at all. “What was Trump thinking entering into business with partners like these?” Franklin Foer wrote in Slate. “It’s a question he has tried to banish by downplaying his ties to Bayrock.”

But Bayrock wasn’t just involved with Trump Soho. It financed multiple Trump projects around the world, Foer wrote. “(Trump) didn’t just partner with Bayrock; the company embedded with him. Bayrock put together deals for mammoth Trump-named, Trump-managed projects—two in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a resort in Phoenix, the Trump SoHo in New York.”

But, as The New York Times has reported, that was only the beginning of the Trump organization’s entanglement with Russian financiers. Trump was quite taken with Bayrock’s founder, Tevfik Arif, a former Soviet-era commerce official originally from Kazakhstan.

“Bayrock, which was developing commercial properties in Brooklyn, proposed that Mr. Trump license his name to hotel projects in Florida, Arizona and New York, including Trump SoHo,” the Times reported. “The other development partner for Trump SoHo was the Sapir Organization, whose founder, Tamir Sapir, was from the former Soviet republic of Georgia.”

Trump was eager to work with both financial groups on Trump projects all over the world. “Mr. Trump was particularly taken with Mr. Arif’s overseas connections,” the Times wrote. “In a deposition, Mr. Trump said that the two had discussed ‘numerous deals all over the world’ and that Mr. Arif had brought potential Russian investors to Mr. Trump’s office to meet him. ‘Bayrock knew the people, knew the investors, and in some cases I believe they were friends of Mr. Arif,’ Mr. Trump said. ‘And this was going to be Trump International Hotel and Tower Moscow, Kiev, Istanbul, etc., Poland, Warsaw.’”

The Times also reported that federal court records recently released showed yet another link to Russian financial interests in Trump businesses. A Bayrock official “brokered a $50 million investment in Trump SoHo and three other Bayrock projects by an Icelandic firm preferred by wealthy Russians ‘in favor with’ President Vladimir V. Putin,’” the Times reported. “The Icelandic company, FL Group, was identified in a Bayrock investor presentation as a ‘strategic partner,’ along with Alexander Mashkevich, a billionaire once charged in a corruption case involving fees paid by a Belgian company seeking business in Kazakhstan; that case was settled with no admission of guilt.”

Trump Soho was so complicated that Bayrock’s finance chief, Jody Kriss, sued it for fraud. In the lawsuit, Kriss alleged that a primary source of funding for Trump’s big projects with Bayrock arrived “magically” from sources in Russia and Kazakhstan whenever the business interest needed funding.

There are other Russian business ties to the Trump organization as well. Trump’s first real estate venture in Toronto, Canada, was a partnership with two Russian-Canadian entrepreneurs, Toronto Lifereported in 2013.

“The hotel’s developer, Talon International, is run by Val Levitan and Alex Shnaider, two Russian-Canadian entrepreneurs. Levitan made his fortune manufacturing slot machines and creating bank note validation technology, and Shnaider earned his in the post-glasnost steel trade,” it reported.

Finally, for all of his denials of Russian ties lately, Trump has boasted in the past of his many meetings with Russian oligarchs. During one trip to Moscow, Trump bragged that they all showed up to meet him to discuss projects around the globe. “Almost all of the oligarchs were in the room” just to meet with him, Trump said at the time.

And when Trump built a tower in Panama, his clients were wealthy Russians, the Washington Post reported. “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia,” Trump’s son, Donald Jr., said at a real estate conference in 2008, according to a trade publication, eTurboNews.

The only instance that Trump acknowledges any sort of Russian financial connection is a Florida mansion he sold to a wealthy Russian. "What do I have to do with Russia?” Trump said in the wake of the DNC hack. “You know the closest I came to Russia, I bought a house a number of years ago in Palm Beach, Florida... for $40 million and I sold it to a Russian for $100 million including brokerage commissions."

But it should be obvious to anyone trying to pay attention to these moving targets that Trump is saying one thing and doing something else. When it comes to Trump and Russia, the truth may take awhile to emerge.

Bloomberg reported in June that the Clinton Foundation was breached by Russian hackers. “The Russians may also have acquired the emails that Hillary Clinton sent as secretary of State. Putin might be holding back explosive material until October, when its release could ensure a Trump victory,” it reported.

In the 1970s, burglars broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate office complex. President Richard Nixon, a Republican, was forced out of office for the White House cover up of its involvement in the DNC break in.

Now, a generation later, a digital break in to the national headquarters of one of our two major parties by a foreign adversary in order to leak information that benefits the other national party’s presidential candidate seems to be just the normal course of doing business. The Trump era, it is safe to assume, is like nothing we’ve ever seen before.

Walter A. Saurack of Satterlee Stephens LLP, Bayrock's attorney, provided the following statement after publication: The allegations made by Jody Kriss in the lawsuit are completely baseless and unsubstantiated. The allegations of tax fraud, as well as other allegations from his original complaint that are quoted in this article, were not included by Kriss when he filed a second amended complaint in the lawsuit.


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Green Party Membership Backs Resolution on Palestine by Overwhelming Majority

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 02/15/2017 - 12:53

The Green Party membership has ratified a resolution supporting Palestinian human rights by a 90 per cent approval vote.

Nine out of ten, that's fairly conclusive even if it does stick in the craw of Elizabeth May or the BC party leader, Andrew Weaver.

The GPC has struggled with its Israel/Palestine policy for over 6 months. An initial motion, calling for the party to support the international movement to boycott Israel (called BDS Movement for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) over its violation of human rights and occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, was submitted to the Party’s regular convention in August 2016. Leading up to the convention, the motion had been severely criticized by Israel lobby groups who labelled it “anti-Semitic”. Their bitter attack on the Green Party and on its leader Elizabeth May, contributed to May’s disavowal of the motion, which she opposed at the convention.

Nonetheless, to the dismay of GPC leadership, the motion passed handily in convention. A shaken Elizabeth May even threatened to resign. In order to avoid a disaster, the party quickly decided to hold a special convention 5 months later to review the decision.

In the preparation for the special convention, a consensus resolutionwas worked out between May’s group and Dimitri Lascaris the de facto leader of those seeking a stronger GPC statement on Palestinian human rights.

The consensus resolution avoided any explicit link to the contentious BDS movement, but endorsed its objectives and supported the idea of bringing pressure on Israel through a boycott of consumer products. The new resolution actually went further than the August motion because it not only called for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, but also called for equality for the 1.5 million Palestinian citizens of Israel and supported the right of return for the over 5 million Palestinian refugees. It also urges the International Criminal Court to investigate alleged Israeli war crimes.

Wednesday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Wed, 02/15/2017 - 07:58
Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Tom Parkin calls out the Libs' latest laughable excuse for breaking their promise of electoral reform - being the threat that a party like the one which just held power for 10 years might win a few seats. Andrew Coyne notes that we shouldn't accept Justin Trudeau's bogeyman as an excuse for doing nothing. And Abbas Rana and Derek Abma report that the focus of Lib MPs is to avoid political fallout from their party's betrayal of voters, rather than to try to live up to their commitment.

- Meanwhile, Susan Delacourt sees the electoral reform farce as a prime example of the Libs using a surface consultation process to paper over their basic lack of interest in actually listening to the public.

- Ellen Smirl examines the conservative voting patterns of many rural residents despite their commitment to co-operatives, credit unions and other collective alternatives to domination by the market. 

- Conor Dougherty hypothesizes as to how our economy would be different - and fairer - if we didn't rely so heavily on housing as an investment.

- Finally, Carole Cadwalladr interviews Daniel Dennett about the costs of declining co-operation and trust. And Trevor Hancock comments on how increasing inequality eats away at both:
“When inequality becomes too great, the idea of community becomes impossible”. If you want to create a healthier community, you need to address this issue head-on.
It’s hard to imagine the super-wealthy, or even the wealthy, having much shared understanding of the situation of their fellow citizens. This is compounded by the deliberate strategy, coming from the right, of labelling people as taxpayers rather than citizens. As taxpayers, people focus on their taxes, and are encouraged to resent paying them; this makes tax dodging and even tax-evasion socially acceptable.

Yet the whole point about community is a sense of shared identity and interest. But when the gap between the wealthy and the poor becomes so great there is no ‘we’, just ‘them’ and ‘us’. And pretty quickly ‘we’ don’t want to pay for ‘their’ children’s education, ‘their’ health care, ‘their’ public transit, roads or pavements.

But citizens, seeing themselves as part of a community, focus on their shared interests, common purpose and the common good. They understand, as US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes put it a century ago, that taxes are the price we pay for civilisation.

Revolution is an understandable response to exclusion and unacceptable inequality. Arguably, what we have just seen in the US is a revolution, although in this case a revolution from the right, as was the case in Germany in the 1930s. But it’s not the best or healthiest way to change society. Here in Canada, we still have time for evolution and reform. If we want healthier communities and a healthier society, we need to embrace that opportunity.

Straight talk on C-23

Dawg's Blawg - Wed, 02/15/2017 - 07:14
Political deep integration continues apace. The Liberal government is in the process of passing an extraordinary piece of legislation, C-23, which effectively cedes Canadian sovereignty to US border officials. Under this Bill, expected to pass shortly, Canadians can be... Dr.Dawg

luxor: west bank sites

we move to canada - Wed, 02/15/2017 - 07:06
Yesterday was a full day of ancient sites and excellent Egyptian food. I woke up from a rooster crowing! Seriously, it called “Roo-uh roo-uh rooooo”. That was followed by the morning call to prayer. It’s a very pleasant way to start the day.

We had breakfast in the lush, green courtyard at the hotel. Breakfast here is hardboiled eggs, yogurt, honey, cheese spread, and rolls. I miss those fig pastries and green falafel from Giza!

After breakfast, our driver was waiting. Sounds weird, doesn’t it? But it’s a great way to go here. If you don’t go with a tour, there are no buses to any of the sites. There are always taxis hanging around, but you’d have to negotiate every single ride, and there would be many rides every day. It’s super convenient for us, and a good deal for the driver, B’lad.

He showed up in a different car today. One back window is missing, and the other doesn’t open. We’re hoping his regular car will be fixed before we go on a long road trip.

We’re staying on the west bank, so we decided to see the west bank sites first. We started at Valley of the Kings, called this because the hills and mountains hid the tombs of so many pharaohs. Even early in the day, the parking lot was packed with tour buses and there was a “line” for tickets. And by line I mean a mob. There are no lines here. Just mobs of tourists pushing and jostling. We can’t blame this on Egypt!

First you walk through a gauntlet of stalls, men calling you from all sides. Then you purchase an entry ticket, separate tickets for some famous tombs, then there’s a separate ticket to take a trolley to the beginning of the site. It’s a walkable distance, but it’s uphill, and there’s no shade. It’s not a lot of money, but couldn’t they include it in the admission price?

As we entered, an attendant insisted that we check our camera with them. Allan was having none of it. We know that as soon as we walk in, everyone will be snapping away with their cell phones. Plus outside of the tombs, out in the desert sun, what would be the problem? Allan stuck to his refusal, and eventually the man gave up and left. Go Allan!

Your regular ticket gains you admission to three tombs of your choice. We chose tombs based on Lonely Planet’s descriptions. Each tomb has a passageway that slopes downward, opens into a chamber, then there is another passageway, another chamber, and so on until you reach the tomb itself. The walls of the passageways and chambers are covered in hieroglyphs, many still brightly coloured. In the tomb itself there is often a sarcophagus, also entirely enscribed with glyphs.

Each tomb is distinctly different from the others. Some are less accessible and require more effort and ability to enter. Some are known for the scenes depicted on the walls, or the degree of detail in the engraving, or the beautiful colours.

We saw two tombs together, then I took a breather while Allan challenged himself to see the least accessible tomb. First he climbed up many steps up a steep mountainside, then down, down, down into a tomb that was buried exceptionally deep within the mountain. (Supposedly this pharaoh chose the location to thwart potential grave robbers.) I did one tomb without Allan; it was easy to access, and therefore quite crowded.

At every tomb, a man in a galibiya and kafiyeh punches your ticket, then tries to “help” you. Much of this consists of watching whoever has cameras, reminding them not to shoot, then trying to extract a tip in exchange for photography. The guidebook suggests putting a bunch of one-pound notes in your pocket for tips -- but no one will accept a tip that small. I assume they know that 1 LE is an insignificant amount to us.

Each tomb was unique and amazing. They are almost all covered in intact hieroglyphs -- all walls and the ceiling. The degree of detail in the hieroglyphs is astonishing. Anywhere there is colour adds to your understanding of what these places once looked like, the beliefs of the people who built them, and their incredible skills.

As always, I am in awe of our ancient ancestors. How did they clear the spaces below ground? How did they remove millions of tonnes of stone? I’ve already been wondering about what tools were available for craftspeople to use -- and how did they practice their skills? There must have been master craftspeople, competing to work on a pharoah’s tomb. Now Allan has added another question: how did they see what they were doing? There is now some artificial lighting in the tombs, but 4,000-odd years ago, they would have been very, very dark.

Most of the tour groups rush in and out of the tombs. Maybe to some people (maybe most? I don’t know) it gets dull. What, another tomb? To us it is thrilling. That’s why we chose to come here!

After we saw our allowed number of tombs, we decided not to pay the galibeya gentlemen to see more. We found B’lad and asked him to take us to a place for lunch. On the way, we passed the Temple of Hatshepsut, and B’lad convinced us to see it before lunch. We were hungry, but it's not a large site. sigh

Once again, we walk through a gauntlet of men hawking crappy souvenirs. (I’ve been trying to remember the word my mother would use for the stuff being sold, i.e. the Yiddish word. Just thought of it yesterday: shlock.) The souq is set up so that you have to walk through it to buy your ticket -- a reverse “exit through the gift shop”. Which reminds me, there is no official gift shop anywhere, just these guys.

The Hatshepsut site is a temple, not a tomb, so it is very visible and has a grand entrance. The temple itself is built into a limestone mountain, and above the human-made part, the mountain extends upwards, as if it is part of the temple. This design makes it feel very grand, very impressive. You approach it down an aisle, now just a road, but once lined with sphinxes! A few partial, damaged sphinxes remain.

When you reach the temple, you walk up a huge, wide staircase, then through a narrow passageway, into the inner chamber. Naturally there are hieroglyphs on everything -- walls, ceilings, pillars. The temple is not fully restored. The restoration has been ongoing for decades, probably off and on when funding is available. (All the restorations are done as joint projects with European or North American universities and foundations.)

This site was also very crowded with tour groups. By this time the sun was blazing full strength, and there was no shade to speak of. We both wear long sleeves every day, and Allan wears as baseball cap, but we’re not completely covered up. I re-apply sunscreen several times a day and so far, so good. Back in Giza, when we returned from a sightseeing day with Abdul, loaded down with food to eat on the roof, I forgot to put sunscreen on for 15-20 minutes -- and got a slight sunburn on my face and upper chest. Not painful or lasting, but still, not healthy. (I already have two risk factors for skin cancer.) We are being very good about sunscreen here, and I always wear my thin black sweater on at these sites, or a pashmina if we’re in town.

B’lad was right, this temple took about 30 or 40 minutes, then we found him in the parking lot, and went to the Moon Valley restaurant. We walked upstairs to a roof patio -- every restaurant meal begins with these words. This had a view of the valley, where bright green sugar cane is growing, and the dry desert mountains beyond.

For the typical Egyptian meal, you order only your main course. Everything else comes with it -- salads, dips, vegetables, bread, rice, and sometimes a small dessert. It’s wonderful, as we would never order so many little side dishes, plus you have whatever is fresh and best at that particular restaurant.

I’ve discovered that those puffy breads were just pitas! That’s what Egyptian-style pita looks like straight from the oven.

This meal was tahini, eggplant, and chopped salad (more on this later). I had lamb tangine, like a lamb stew, brought to the table sizzling in a cast iron bowl, with the rice molded on the plate. Allan had kofta. Both were really good.

The rice here is a mix of two kinds -- a really short-grain white rice that almost looks like couscous, and a long-grain brown rice. It must be made with some very rich broth, because it is so flavourful and delicious.

The eggplant slices are small discs, one of the thinner varieties of aubergines. So far each meal in Luxor has included eggplant slices, each has been prepared differently, and each has been delicious. Some were more roasted, some more pan fried, different spices are used -- totally different dishes. These have none of the bitterness that our big eggplants sometimes do.

This meal was 100 LEs each -- the equivalent of $7.00 Canadian. We ordered drinks -- I’m drinking hibiscus now, similar to cranberry juice, but freshly squeezed -- so that is extra, and if you order coffee or tea, that is extra, too, and tip is not included. So this meal came to about $18.00. We don’t necessarily want to eat lunch and dinner at a restaurant every day -- we wouldn’t normally do that -- but it was the easiest thing to do at the time.

After lunch we were going to visit the Tombs of the Nobles. The ticket office for this is not located on the site, it’s in a central ticket office, which is really just a random cabin with a ticket window. Each tomb is a separate ticket at a separate price, although some tickets get you access to three tombs that are near each other. We wanted tickets to many of the tombs. The man selling the tickets said, “You are a teacher, so I give you a student discount. Remember, if anyone asks, you are a teacher.” Instead of giving me 50 LE change, he gave me 120! It was a rare case of reverse haggling. We later realized that most people probably purchase one or two tickets, not a large number as we did.

Tombs of the Nobles is a large, spread-out site. The people buried here were upper class, but not pharaohs, and the tomb decorations include scenes of ordinary life -- very interesting to us. In contrast to the Valley of the Kings and Hatshepsut temple, this site was empty. No tour groups whatsoever. No souq.

To get to the tombs, you must walk uphill; it’s the beginning of the mountains. It’s not overly hot, but the sun is absolutely blazing, and there is zero shade. I keep thinking, that’s it, I’m done for the day, then Allan says, ‘oh no, come on, I want you to,’ and I go, and it’s amazing. One tomb in particular was stunning -- a ceiling covered in yellow stars on a deep blue background, and vivid hieroglyphs everywhere. The attendant refused our offer of 20 LE for photos, then suddenly he was gone and another man appeared. There’s an obvious pecking order among the attendants, and I think the first guy got pulled for a younger man with higher status. He wanted 50 LEs for photos. I didn’t want to pay it, but in any case we didn’t have a 50 bill, and you can’t ask them to make change!

After a few tombs, I was totally done. I was re-applying sunscreen every 30 minutes or so, but I still felt like my skin might be getting cooked. We were very dusty. And I was tired and I was getting very tired of all the old men at the tombs asking for money. At some point, a guy appeared, an attendant who was much younger than the others, maybe a older teen or early 20s. He had this instant charm that so many Egyptian men seem to have -- somehow immediately making you smile and feel comfortable with them. He was joking around, trying to talk me out of leaving, and into seeing more tombs.

We did two more, and I had to declare myself officially done. While Allan was in one of the tombs, paying for photo privileges, I sat down with the young man, Hamdi. His English was excellent, and he told me he learned it only from tourists and TV, not from school; he also speaks German and Spanish, both learned the same way. I said, “I know you guys think tourists have unlimited money, but we do not.” He said, “We don’t want to keep asking and asking. But it is so hard for us to live.”

So this is what I learned from Hamdi. Tour groups used to visit the Tombs of the Nobles, but now do not. Even in Valley of the Kings, the tour guides instruct their tourists to talk to no one, and buy nothing, unless it is from the group. Then the guide brings them to a certain factory or shop, and tells everyone they should shop there -- the store where the western guide gets a 50% cut. Meanwhile, a bag of sugar costs 20 LEs and bread has tripled in price. The government pays the site attendants a pittance, and they are expected to live on tips -- despite the fact that no tourists visit their site, or that the ones who do visit are instructed to not engage with them.

There were many more tombs to see, and by that time I felt a solidarity with Hamdi, and a responsibility to pay him. Our tickets are only good day-of, but Hamdi promised that if we return tomorrow, we will be able to get in. What’s more, in the morning it will be cooler and I will be less tired. Hamdi said my battery was run down, like a cell phone, and I needed charging overnight.

B’lad brought us back to the hotel and we showered, and collapsed. After a while we went out, down the tiny winding dirt road street of our hotel, where little kids were playing in the street. They were all well dressed, wearing shoes, noisy, waving to us, running around, screaming happily. Around the corner, down a street or two, there are several restaurants near the ferry slip, right on the river.

The first one we chose seemed very touristy, so I persuaded Allan not to be shy about leaving, and we picked another. Up a flight of steps to the roof (see?), to a small rooftop patio. We sat side-by-side so we both had a view -- the Nile, the lights of the east bank across the way, some of the ruins right near the water lit up. The owner came over to welcome us, and chat about dinner. He explained how a typical Egyptian meal is served. We ordered drinks and a main dish -- roast chicken for me and a beef dish for Allan (not sure what this was called -- kabob hadad?).

First come the meze -- eggplant slices, baba ganoush, and chopped salad. The salad is diced carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, parsley, and other fresh green herbs, in a very small dice, in some kind of herb vinegar. I really wanted to try some, partly because it smells so good, and partly to not offend our host. But one of the rules of traveling in a country where you cannot drink the water is to only eat fruits or vegetables that are either peeled (like bananas or oranges) or cooked. No raw vegetable that is not peeled. In this salad, we could see carrots and cucumbers were peeled, leaving the tomato as the wild card. I reasoned that I’ve had the Dukoral vaccination, and it’s not as unsafe as actually drinking water... and it was so delicious! Not smart, I know, but even at my age, I sometimes have trouble curbing my risk-taking impulses.

After this course, came three more small plates -- zucchini stewed in tomato sauce, potatoes, and rice. Our main courses came to the table in small cast iron bowls, sizzling. My chicken was roasted with aromatic herbs, and was super tender and juicy. Our host told us that herbs are put under the skin, then the chicken is baked for hours on low heat. Allan’s dish was meltingly tender beef in some kind of stew, great sauce for spooning over the rice.

The owner, Hamad, brought us tiny pieces of semolina cakes, something like a corn bread or polenta cake, just a touch of sweet, and then insisted we have a hot drink -- more hibiscus for me (it’s drunk both hot and cold), and anise tea for Allan.

Chatting with the owner between courses was fun and interesting. He told us he is wearing two long sleeve shirts under his down vest, long underwear and two pairs of socks. It is very cold this winter -- it goes as low as 19. (For my US readers, that is 66F.) In the summer, however, it will go as high as 50-55 (130F). No one leaves the house between 10 am and sunset. We told him about winter in Canada.

He asked us if we would like to have a special dinner there tomorrow night -- roast duck, which he would order and cook for hours before we came. We booked it for 6:00. On our bill, he included 100 LEs as a deposit on the dinner. Without that, the dinner was 75 LEs each -- about $5.00.

Which reminds me, I forgot to tell you something about our hotel. We are staying in a gorgeous Islamic mansion full of flowering plants, wide marble staircases, vaulted ceilings, and attentive staff -- for the equivalent of $17 Canadian per night, including breakfast. If you ever come to Luxor, stay on the west bank!

As we were finishing dinner, Allan said, "Ohmygod, is that the moon?" and the owner came running over to say the same thing. A nearly-full orange moon was rising in the sky like a giant balloon. And with that, we walked back to the hotel.

Donald Trump and the Ghost of Richard Nixon

Montreal Simon - Wed, 02/15/2017 - 06:29

If the Mad King Donald thought that Mad Mike Flynn's sudden departure would end his so-called "RussIan problem," it appears he was sadly deluded.

For that problem just keeps getting bigger and bigger. 

Dan Rather is now comparing it to the Watergate scandal, and calling for an independent investigation. 

"Damn the lies, full throttle forward on the truth ... We deserve answers and those who are complicit in this scandal need to feel the full force of justice."

And as for the Mad King Donald, he's growing angrier and angrier.
Read more »

Trumpism Moves North

Northern Reflections - Wed, 02/15/2017 - 06:02

The conventional wisdom seems to be that Justin -- or as he is known theses days in Washington -- Joe Trudeau's visit with Donald Trump went pretty well. On the surface, it looks like the prime minister didn't yield any ground. But, Susan Delacourt writes, Trumpism is moving north:

A new, international “trust index” released today contained some troubling news for the prime minister and his Liberal brand: Canadians’ trust in government has eroded profoundly since Trudeau took power 15 months ago.

Edelman, the public-relations firm that compiles the annual index, has put Canada into the “distruster” nation category for the first time in the 17-year history of the global survey. “Distrusters” are nations in which most people express distrust in their civic institutions.

The evidence? According to the index, one in two Canadians fears that newcomers to the country are “damaging our economy and national culture.” A full 80 per cent agreed that elites were “out of touch” with regular people and 40 per cent agreed that they were being unfairly denied access to the education and opportunities they needed to get ahead.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents — 61 per cent — said they didn’t have confidence in the country’s leaders to address the challenges facing the nation.
The virus has gone global and has found ready hosts in people like Kevin O'Leary and Kellie Leitch. Delacourt warns:

Trump isn’t Trudeau’s real problem. What threatens Trudeau’s government is the populist discontent that brought Trump to power. These new numbers confirm that Canada isn’t isolated from trends seen south of the border.

But it’s the speed of the downturn that’s especially remarkable. Trust in government has slipped from 53 per cent to 43 per cent since last year’s index. Trust in the media has similarly plummeted — from 55 per cent last year to 45 per cent this year. The decline in public trust in business and non-governmental organizations was less sharp: business went from 56 per cent trust in 2016 to 50 per cent in 2017, and NGOs fell only two percentage points, from 61 to 59 per cent.

Lisa Kimmel, president and CEO of Edelman Canada, said on Tuesday they had expected to see some erosion of trust in government as Canada moved farther away from the heady, 2015 “change” rhetoric — but they “just didn’t anticipate it would be that dramatic.”
Justin is in Brussels today talking up CETA. But he'd better keep his eye on the public and civic health challenges that lie ahead here at home.


Holy crap!

Rusty Idols - Tue, 02/14/2017 - 19:29
From the twitter stream of the White House Underground:


Oh, a Paranoia Purge. Sweet.

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 02/14/2017 - 15:05

There comes a time in the life of every despot where he has to purge the unreliable, untrustworthy.

Hitler staged the "Night of the Long Knives," three days in which insiders considered potentially disloyal were hauled away and slaughtered.

Now Donald Trump is being urged to clean house - of unreliable, "establishment" Republicans.

In the wake of the resignation of his National Security advisor, Mike Flynn, Trump was most concerned about, not Flynn's lying, but who leaked the story, tweeting: "The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington? Will these leaks be happening as I deal on N.Korea etc?"

Trump advisor, Roger Stone, says this president is being subverted by establishment Republicans operating on the inside to bring Trump down.

"It's establishment Republicans who don't really support his agenda and who leak like a sieve," Stone said by phone Tuesday. "So I am hopeful he will hire more Trump supporters and fewer establishment Republicans who are [not] loyal to him and his agenda."

Stone singled out presidential Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, former head of the Republican National Committee, as an exemplar of someone who's not fully on board with the Trump program.

"It's very hard to fathom why this guy is the chief of staff," Stone said. "He's loyal to the status quo and he's loyal to the big donors to the RNC — who are not the big donors to Donald Trump."

Stone also went after "the midget" Priebus on twitter:  "Reince's purge of Flynn a "Pearl Harbor" for Trump loyalists. Hope the midget is ready to rumble @StoneColdTruth"
Steve Bannon's former shop, Breitbart, was quick to attack Priebus: 
Breitbart News, the populist right-wing website once led by President Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, published a scathing report on Tuesday stating that Priebus was responsible for the administration's rocky start while speculating that his future in the administration may also be short.
This could signal the start of the long-awaited bloodletting inside the White House camps. It seems the perfect opportunity to permit Bannon to complete his capture of Trump and the presidency.

Tuesday Afternoon Links

accidentaldeliberations - Tue, 02/14/2017 - 13:44
This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Martin Kenney comments on Canada's continuing role in "snow washing" offshore tax evasion. The Conference Board of Canada examines the massive gap between what Canada should receive in public revenues, and what's actually taken in to keep our society functioning. And Kamal Ahmed highlights how employers are avoiding their responsibilities by relabeling work relationships.

- Joe Romm points out that Donald Trump's obsession with coal power - like that of other right-wing politicians - is doomed due to the ready availability of more efficient energy sources. Andrew Nikiforuk points out the $30 billion liability for inactive wells which may be absorbed by Alberta's citizens due to the lack of any requirement for the oil sector to clean up its own messes. Carol Linnitt notes that the Libs' promised tanker ban on British Columbia's north coast is anything but. Zoe Todd reports on still more research showing the connection between fracking and earthquake activity. And Melissa Davey discusses new research showing that the impact human activity on our changing climate far outweighs any natural effects.

- Nicholas Kristof reminds us how the trumped-up threat of terrorism pales in comparison to risks we think nothing about facing every day.

- Evan Dyer reports on the Libs' plans to sacrifice national sovereignty along with travellers' privacy and security in the interest of appeasing the U.S.' irrational fears. And Stuart Trew examines the lamentable track record of cross-border deregulation which has harmed the public in Canada and the U.S. alike. So suffice it to say that Michael Harris' hope that Justin Trudeau would doing anything besides go along with Donald Trump to get along is sadly misplaced.

- Finally, Sam Wong points out that even monkeys and dogs judge humans based on how well they treat others - making it all the more bizarre that so many voter pools seem to have decided to do otherwise.

Is Trudeau Undermining Democracy in Canada?

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 02/14/2017 - 13:26

This is about more than just the decision to abandon electoral reform although that's a big part of the problem.

Around the world we're witnessing liberal democracy in retreat and the rise of authoritarian populism. It's happening in Europe, Asia Pacific, even on Canada's southern doorstep.

Those working to make sense of this spreading contagion invariably point to populations that become disaffected with their governments and democracy. Part of it is globalism, trade deals their elite foist on them where the promised rewards never quite trickle down. Neoliberalism, of the sort practiced throughout the West, always seems to drive a wedge between the public and their elected officials, their political caste. That wedge creates the space in which special interests can insinuate themselves leading to, first, political capture (think America's "bought and paid for" Congress) and then regulatory capture (where regulated industries stock regulators with their own people) before reaching the terminal point we see in Washington today where executive capture manifests with corporate representatives dominating top cabinet posts.

We're different than the United States but we are under neoliberal rule and it is fueling disaffection. We have a country where a party can lose 60% of the popular vote but still claim 100% of political power.

Think of it this way. Justin Trudeau got his 40% majority mandate on the strength of a good many lies. He told us things we needed to hear. He made solemn promises to create a better Canada responsive to the needs of the public. Then, in the course of less than two years, he reneged on promise after promise.

Does anybody think that Trudeau's jettisoned promises do anything but alienate the public from their government? Pipelines, supertankers, social licence, surveillance reform, GHG emissions reductions shattered by bitumen expansion, middle class tax cuts, green infrastructure and, of course, electoral reform - they all take a toll.

This prime minister is subverting democracy in Canada. It's not that he seeks that result. He simply doesn't care.

Flynn Falls on His Sword. It Was a Different Story for Reagan.

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 02/14/2017 - 12:29

It's pretty embarrassing for a freshly minted president to lose his national security advisor to scandal in the first month of the administration. What felled retired general Mike Flynn were lies, alternative facts if you will, when he denied that he had discussed ending American sanctions against Russia prior to Trump's inauguration.

Flynn's indiscretions brought back to mind events in 1980 when Ronald Reagan's team purportedly struck a deal with Iran to delay the release of American hostages held in Tehran until after the election, lest an earlier release tip the election to Jimmy Carter. This later unfolded as the "Iran Contra" and the arms for hostages scandal.

In the result, the Ayatollah released America's hostages a breathtaking 15-minutes after Ronald Reagan was sworn into office.

Much of this information is laid out in the In These Times article cited above, and also in three articles by Christopher Hitchens in the June 20, July 11, and August 8, 1987, issues of The Nation. Several Washington Post articles, and Alfonso Chardy, writing in the Miami Herald, also supply evidence of a deal between Iranian emissaries and future Reagan administration officials. Many of the names cited in these accounts of the 1980 events reappear in the 1987 congressional Iran-contra investigations. They include William Casey, Attorney General Edwin Meese, Undersecretary of Defense Fred Ikle, former Secretary of the Navy John Lehman, former CIA Deputy Director Max Hugel, Richard Secord, Oliver North, and Michael Ledeen.

Both operations involved some of the same characters, the same shadowy connections to Israel, the same secret wheeling and dealing with Iran, and the same extensive investigation by congressmen who then shied away from closing the circle. They pulled back when they realized that, standing with the president in the docket, was not only some of Israel's shadow government in Washington, but the Israeli government itself.

Hitchens sums it all up as follows: "Well, the hostages were released at just the right time, and the first shipments of weapons began the very next month. You may wonder if the Reaganites were capable of making such a vile deal. But you don't really wonder that, do you?

This Is the Face of Climate Change. It's Dangerous. It's Scary. We Are Totally Unprepared.

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 02/14/2017 - 11:40

Consider California's Lake Oroville the poster child for climate change. Here are some photos of what the lake looked like over the past several years.

That was then, before heavy rains swept northern California. Rains heavy enough that they overwhelmed the Oroville dam, America's highest dam, with runoff so heavy that it destroyed the concrete spillway.

This lake, this reservoir, went from virtually empty to overflowing in a matter of months. Now, with another rain front expected by tomorrow, the dam is in such a precarious state that 200,000 residents downstream have been forced to evacuate their towns.

Oroville is an invaluable demonstration of infrastructure that was designed and constructed to meet the demands of a climate, the Holocene, that is no more and isn't coming back. The storms that, in a matter of months, filled a nearly empty Lake Oroville to overwhelm this massive dam are the new normal. We don't have infrastructure designed and constructed to meet this reality. Which is why this earthen dam, some 700 feet in overall height, remains in risk of failing.

This, contends Scientific American, is the "sign of emergencies to come."

“These biggest events that cause the biggest problems are the ones we are pretty sure are going to become more common,” said [UCLA climate scientist, Daniel Swain]. “We're seeing the stresses of the current climate upon our infrastructure, and seeing in some cases it's enough to cause really big problems.”

“And we know that in the future, we're going to add to those stresses at both ends of the spectrum,” he added.

Climate science shows that warming causes evaporation off the oceans and other water bodies, putting more moisture into the atmosphere, Swain said. That vapor doesn't always come down and doesn't always fall in the same place where it went up. But it can fall in torrents.

The atmospheric river, a band of warm air about 300 miles wide in the lowest 1 to 2 miles of the atmosphere and powered by strong winds, can dump enough rain that the saturated ground gives way.

The state's water system “was designed and built for a climate we no longer have, for yesterday's climate, not tomorrow's climate,” said Peter Gleick, president emeritus and chief scientist with the Pacific Institute and an expert on water issues. “We're going to have to rethink how we deal with infrastructure, to deal with the changes that are, frankly, already here.”

An Ideological And Horticultural Taint

Politics and its Discontents - Tue, 02/14/2017 - 08:59

Although I am not a user of medical cannabis, the current scandal (and it can only be termed a scandal) regarding dangerous and forbidden pesticide use by companies with the Health Canada seal of approval is instructive.

First, a recap of the situation is in order:
After a string of recent recalls by Mettrum Ltd., OrganiGram Inc. and Aurora Cannabis Inc. because of the presence of myclobutanil – a banned pesticide that produces hydrogen cyanide when heated – a number of patients told The Globe and Mail they don’t see how Health Canada can assure them the product can be trusted. Revelations that the government isn’t testing regularly to prove all companies aren’t using harmful chemicals have left consumers concerned for their health.The real villain of the piece is our current 'new and improved' government, which seems quite content to follow the same practices set out by the former, much-despised neoliberal Harper government.
In a background briefing with The Globe and Mail, a senior Health Canada official acknowledged that even though the government prohibits the use of potentially harmful chemicals such as myclobutanil, – which is known to emit hydrogen cyanide when heated –the department has not been testing cannabis growers to ensure the 38 federally licensed companies were, in fact, not using it.Instead, the regulator has been leaving it up to the growers to police themselves on the use of potentially harmful chemicals.[emhpasis added]The rather naive justification for this betrayal of the people using pot for therapeutic reasons is unconvincing:
... we have not required licensed producers [LPs] to test for any unauthorized pesticides, nor have we been testing all LPs, and it is because we expect their companies to be pro-actively watching and taking the appropriate measures to ensure non-authorized products aren’t used.Perhaps the most damning aspect of all of this is that when a recall of tainted product took place in December, Health Canada refused to reveal the reason: the discovery of myclobutanil.

We will soon be a year-and-a-half into our 'new' government's tenure, more than sufficient time to set new directions for all government bodies, but just as Revenue Canada has shown no particular appetite for chasing down offshore tax evaders, despite the revelations of The Panama Papers, Health Canada and undoubtedly many federal regulators are still hewing to the much-vaunted industry self-regulation.

A damning indictment, to be sure, both of the medical marijuana industry and the Trudeau government, which clearly has not yet met a neoliberal policy it doesn't like.Recommend this Post


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