Posts from our progressive community

Stephen Harper and the Monstrous Ebola Scandal

Montreal Simon - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 16:15


A few days ago I pointed out that Stephen Harper was trying to fan the flames of an Ebola panic.

Even though his response to the epidemic has been lethally inadequate. 

And far from making us safer he has been decimating the ranks of those who would protect us from dangerous diseases.

But this is simply obscene. 
Read more »

Another Reminder Of The Regime Under Which We Chafe

Politics and its Discontents - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 14:53


I hope none of us forgets this, just one small part of the Harper programme to promote ignorance, stifle informed discussion, and ravage the environment.Recommend this Post

Start Thinking About the Next Society. This One Has About Had It.

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 11:43
I'm with Chris Hedges.  We are sorely in need of revolutionary change.  It's come to the point where we have to kick over the traces if we're to have any hope of reclaiming democracy and salvaging a liveable world for our grandchildren.

For me, the straw that broke the camel's back was the report last week that we have lost half the planet's wild life over the last 40-years.  Such an unbelievably brief interval to have caused such devastation.

I predicted at the time that the report would be forgotten, consigned down the memory hole, within a week and that is precisely what has occurred.  Our political caste has treated the whole business as a non-event.  It's not even on their radar.

If we can be so complacent about the loss of half the world's wild life in just 40-years, what does this portend for the remaining half?  What is our tipping point for biodiversity collapse?  How vulnerable is our civilization, how fragile are we?

A lot of people have no clue how dependent mankind is on biodiversity.  We don't grasp how interconnected the species are and how the loss of part of our biodiversity ripples through every other species.

We lose the pollinators, we starve en masse.  Plain as day.  Without the bees and other insect pollinators plants don't reproduce.  That includes all the plants that we feed on.  Predator species keep pests and disease at bay.  Lose enough of them and your life will become very different very rapidly.

We're facing an extraordinary, immediate and potentially existential threat and all our political caste can do is yawn - and preen.  And that's just one threat, one of several.

Making the country work for Canadians is more than tweaking tax policy even if neoliberals don't see it that way.  It's about building a society that is as robust and cohesive as possible.  That means countering the forces that corrode social cohesion - inequality, authoritarianism, corporatism.  Make no mistake, these are forces that degrade our democracy and there are a good many within our political caste who are just fine with that.

Our political apparatus is no longer responsive to the needs of our people and the future needs of our nation.  Biodiversity, who cares?  Inequality, sure we'll get right on that.  Climate change, we get it but just not now.  The death of democratic press freedom?  Next.

Perhaps you're a true believer who thinks all Canada needs is new management - i.e. your party in power - and all will be right.  I'll tell you what I believe.  I believe that's delusional thinking.  Rubbish, utter nonsense.  The best we can hope for out of the New Democrats or Liberals is government "less worse" than the Harper Conservatives and that's still no damned good for us, our grandkids and our Canada.




Enjoy the Autumn. Winter is Shaping Up to be a B

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 11:40


Climate change can be cool.  It can also be damned cold, icy and frigid.  You know, you easterners, the Polar Vortex you endured last year.

Well, guess what?  You're getting another one this year.  Or, as my old great aunt used to say, "shit, oh dear."

No, seriously, you're in for another Polar Vortex winter.

AccuWeather reports:  Cold air will surge into the Northeast in late November, but the brunt of the season will hold off until January and February. The polar vortex, the culprit responsible for several days of below-zero temperatures last year, will slip down into the region from time to time, delivering blasts of arctic air.So, to you easterners, you need to understand that this is not a problem that is going to go away or even not worsen substantially until you begin to think less about your party affiliation and a lot more about starting to vote for a party that puts this issue front and center on their agenda.

It's the last really progressive thing to do.

Just sayin.

MoS

Harper's Experiment to Wrap Canadians in "Protective Stupidity" Mission Accomplished?

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 11:22


The Tyee's Murray Dobbins laments the success Stephen Harper has had, with the powerful support of a shamelessly collaborative media, at manipulating the Canadian public.

Harper's amoral political calculations about who and when to bomb people has little to do with any genuine consideration of the geopolitical situation or what role Canada might usefully play -- or even in what Canada's "interests" are. So long as he is prime minister it will be the same: every calculation will be made with the single-minded goal of staying in power long enough to dismantle the post-war activist state. The nurturing of his core constituency includes appeals to a thinly disguised pseudo-crusade against Islamic infidels, a phony appeal to national security (preceded by fear-mongering) and in the case of Ukraine, a crude appeal to ethnic votes.
Reinforcing this legacy is a mainstream media that lets him get away with it, and in particular, refuses to do its homework while the bombing -- or posturing -- is taking place and then refuses to expose the negative consequences of the reckless adventures. The result is what cultural critic Henry Giroux calls "the fog of historical and social amnesia."
The three most obvious examples are Harper's extremist policy in support of Israel, his joining with France and the U.S. in the catastrophic destruction of the Libyan state and his infantile posturing on the Russia-Ukraine conflict. And now we have Harper's mini-crusade (six fighter bombers for six months) against ISIS or the Islamic State. With rare exceptions the media has gone along with him at every turn, treating Canadians as children incapable of navigating the nuances of foreign policy.Regarding Israel, Harper, with widespread support in the media, has gone so far as to try to establish criticism of Israel as a kind of Orwellian "thought crime." By declaring repeatedly (and even threatening supportive legislation) that criticism of Israel was anti-Semitic, Harper hoped to establish what Orwell referred to as "protective stupidity" -- a kind of mass denial of the obvious. Freud referred to it as "knowing with not knowing" and when it comes to most of Canada's military adventures, it is epidemic. 
In Afghanistan the war went for so long that the facts eventually broke through the protective stupidity, but only partially. Even with the total failure of the mission to accomplish a single worthwhile goal, it is likely that most Canadians still see it as having been a "good war."
As Giroux puts it: "Neoliberal authoritarianism has changed the language of politics and everyday life through a poisonous public pedagogy that turns reason on its head and normalizes a culture of fear, war and exploitation."
Harper's response to the Russia-Ukraine conflict has been similar: a maximum of infantile, simplistic sabre rattling rhetoric with an absolute minimum of reflection on the historical context or even the immediate facts of the situation. This is foreign policy for the willingly -- if not willfully -- ignorant. We are encouraged -- or perhaps enlisted is a better word -- to treat facts and history with a disdain bordering on contempt. Facts, context, history and thoughtful anticipation of the consequences of our actions -- all of this is for sissies and Putin apologists. The nay-sayers are all Neville Chamberlain clones.
...there will be no lasting consequences for governments -- Harper's or anyone else's. The structure of protective stupidity is in place and without a radical change in consciousness the current political consensus will prevail. All will be forgotten.
...Which brings us to the Islamic State. Here, too, the conventional approach to making intelligent foreign policy is cast aside on the basis of reacting to a handful of Westerners being beheaded (as happens on a regular basis already to citizens of Saudi Arabia). Can it be possible that our policy making has been reduced to this level of drunken barroom reaction? We know that the ISIS did this precisely to provoke a Western military response. But "we don't know." We prefer denial and the simplistic -- the notion that we can correct 25 years of imperial hubris, ignorance and gross incompetence by Western powers by bombing our own creation.

The Imperative of Revolt

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 09:25
I've been looking for a way out, an alternative.  I truly have.  Yet I'm becoming resigned to the idea that the future of our grandchildren cannot be entrusted to the existing political structure that currently suffocates Canadian society.

Getting punched in the mouth is devastating whether the fist is in a velvet glove or not.  That's what today's Liberals and New Democrats offer, a velvet glove. Thanks but no thanks.

We're at a point where the imperative of revolutionary change is increasingly obvious.  It's no longer a matter of choice. Twenty or thirty years from now, we won't have the option of a structural reformation of our society, our politics and our economy.

I've written about this for years.  Naomi Klein explores the need to save ourselves from the scourge of free market capitalism while we still can.  Ms. Klein, quite rightly, sees the onset of climate change as bringing us to the boiling point.  The neoliberalism that has come to infect Canda's body politic and that of much of the rest of the world cannot be sustained.

It is with this in mind that I read Chris Hedges' interviews with John Raulston Saul and Sheldon Wolin on smashing the yoke of corporatism that has quietly displaced democracy in our societies.

If, as Saul has written, we have undergone a corporate coup d’état and now live under a species of corporate dictatorship that Wolin calls “inverted totalitarianism,” if the internal mechanisms that once made piecemeal and incremental reform possible remain ineffective, if corporate power retains its chokehold on our economy and governance, including our legislative bodies, judiciary and systems of information, and if these corporate forces are able to use the security and surveillance apparatus and militarized police forces to criminalize dissent, how will change occur and what will it look like?

Wolin ..and Saul ...see democratic rituals and institutions, especially in the United States, as largely a facade for unchecked global corporate power. Wolin and Saul excoriate academics, intellectuals and journalists, charging they have abrogated their calling to expose abuses of power and give voice to social criticism; they instead function as echo chambers for elites, courtiers and corporate systems managers. Neither believes the current economic system is sustainable. And each calls for mass movements willing to carry out repeated acts of civil disobedience to disrupt and delegitimize corporate power.
“If you continue to go down the wrong road, at a certain point something happens,” Saul said during our meeting Wednesday in Toronto, where he lives. “At a certain point when the financial system is wrong it falls apart. And it did. And it will fall apart again.”
“The collapse started in 1973,” Saul continued. “There were a series of sequential collapses afterwards. The fascinating thing is that between 1850 and 1970 we put in place all sorts of mechanisms to stop collapses which we can call liberalism, social democracy orRed Toryism. It was an understanding that we can’t have boom-and-bust cycles. We can’t have poverty-stricken people. We can’t have starvation. The reason today’s collapses are not leading to what happened in the 18th century and the 19th century is because all these safety nets, although under attack, are still in place. But each time we have a collapse we come out of it stripping more of the protection away. At a certain point we will find ourselves back in the pre-protection period. At that point we will get a collapse that will be incredibly dramatic. I have no idea what it will look like. A revolution from the left? A revolution from the right? Is it violence followed by state violence? Is it the collapse of the last meaningful edges of democracy? Is it a sudden decision by a critical mass of people that they are not going to take it anymore?”
This devolution of the economic system has been accompanied by corporations’ seizure of nearly all forms of political and social power. The corporate elite, through a puppet political class and compliant intellectuals, pundits and press, still employs the language of a capitalist democracy. But what has arisen is a new kind of control, inverted totalitarianism, which Wolin brilliantly dissects in his book “Democracy Incorporated.”
Inverted totalitarianism does not replicate past totalitarian structures, such as fascism and communism. It is therefore harder to immediately identify and understand. There is no blustering demagogue. There is no triumphant revolutionary party. There are no ideologically drenched and emotional mass political rallies. The old symbols, the old iconography and the old language of democracy are held up as virtuous. The old systems of governance—electoral politics, an independent judiciary, a free press and the Constitution—appear to be venerated. But, similar to what happened during the late Roman Empire, all the institutions that make democracy possible have been hollowed out and rendered impotent and ineffectual.
The corporate state, Wolin told me at his Oregon home, is “legitimated by elections it controls.” It exploits laws that once protected democracy to extinguish democracy; one example is allowing unlimited corporate campaign contributions in the name of our First Amendment right to free speech and our right to petition the government as citizens. “It perpetuates politics all the time,” Wolin said, “but a politics that is not political.” The endless election cycles, he said, are an example of politics without politics, driven not by substantive issues but manufactured political personalities and opinion polls. There is no national institution in the United States “that can be described as democratic,” he said.
The mechanisms that once allowed the citizen to be a participant in power—from participating in elections to enjoying the rights of dissent and privacy—have been nullified. Money has replaced the vote, Wolin said, and corporations have garnered total power without using the cruder forms of traditional totalitarian control: concentration camps, enforced ideological conformity and the physical suppression of dissent. They will avoid such measures “as long as that dissent remains ineffectual,” he said. “The government does not need to stamp out dissent. The uniformity of imposed public opinion through the corporate media does a very effective job.”
The state has obliterated privacy through mass surveillance, a fundamental precondition for totalitarian rule, and in ways that are patently unconstitutional has stripped citizens of the rights to a living wage, benefits and job security. And it has destroyed institutions, such as labor unions, that once protected workers from corporate abuse.
Wolin goes on to discuss something explored in a recent course I took on warfare in the 21st century, the rise of "illiberal" democracy.  Think of it as a government that retains some vestiges of democracy, such as the vote, but acts independently of the electorate and often not for their benefit.  The individual's rights against the state are weakened, sapped.  The apparatus, taking such forms as the alliance of political and corporate media power, basically shape public opinion as it suits their interests.
Democracy has been turned upside down,” Wolin said. “It is supposed to be a government for the people, by the people. But it has become an organized form of government dominated by groups that are only vaguely, if at all, responsible or responsive to popular needs and popular demands. At the same time, it retains a patina of democracy. We still have elections. They are relatively free. We have a relatively free media. But what is missing is a crucial, continuous opposition that has a coherent position, that is not just saying no, no, no, that has an alternative and ongoing critique of what is wrong and what needs to be remedied.”
Capitalism is destructive because it has to eliminate customs, mores, political values, even institutions that present any kind of credible threat to the autonomy of the economy,” Wolin said. “That is where the battle lies. Capitalism wants an autonomous economy. It wants a political order subservient to the needs of the economy. The [capitalist’s] notion of an economy, while broadly based in the sense of a relatively free entrance and property that is relatively widely dispersed, is as elitist as any aristocratic system.
Wolin and Saul said they expect the state, especially in an age of terminal economic decline, to employ more violent and draconian forms of control to keep restive populations in check. This coercion, they said, will fuel discontent and unrest, which will further increase state repression.
...“They decided that capitalism and the market was about the right to have the cheapest possible goods,” Saul said. “That is what competition meant. This is a lie. No capitalist philosopher ever said that. As you bring the prices down below the capacity to produce them in a middle-class country you commit suicide. As you commit suicide you have to ask, ‘How do we run this place?’ And you have to run it using these other methods—bread and circuses, armies, police and prisons.”
The liberal class—which has shriveled under the corporate onslaught and a Cold War ideology that held up national security as the highest good—once found a home in the Democratic Party, the press, labor unions and universities. It made reform possible. Now, because it is merely decorative, it compounds the political and economic crisis. There is no effective organized opposition to the rise of a neofeudalism dominated a tiny corporate oligarchy that exploits workers and the poor.
...Resistance, Wolin and Saul agreed, will begin locally, with communities organizing to form autonomous groups that practice direct democracy outside the formal power structures, including the two main political parties. These groups will have to address issues such as food security, education, local governance, economic cooperation and consumption. And they will have to sever themselves, as much as possible, from the corporate economy.
It is extremely important that people are willing to go into the streets,” Saul said. “Democracy has always been about the willingness of people to go into the streets. When the Occupy movement started I was pessimistic. I felt it could only go a certain distance. But the fact that a critical mass of people was willing to go into the streets and stay there, without being organized by a political party or a union, was a real statement. If you look at that, at what is happening in Canada, at the movements in Europe, the hundreds of thousands of people in Spain in the streets, you are seeing for the first time since the 19th century or early 20th century people coming into the streets in large numbers without a real political structure. These movements aren’t going to take power. But they are a sign that power and the respect for power is falling apart. What happens next? It could be dribbled away. But I think there is the possibility of a new generation coming in and saying we won’t accept this. That is how you get change. A new generation comes along and says no, no, no. They build their lives on the basis of that no.”
“You need a professional or elite class devoted to profound change,” Saul said. “If you want to get power you have to be able to hold it. And you have to be able to hold it long enough to change the direction. The neoconservatives understood this. They have always been Bolsheviks. They are the Bolsheviks of the right. Their methodology is the methodology of the Bolsheviks. They took over political parties by internal coups d’état. They worked out, scientifically, what things they needed to do and in what order to change the structures of power. They have done it stage by stage. And we are living the result of that. The liberals sat around writing incomprehensible laws and boring policy papers. They were unwilling to engage in the real fight that was won by a minute group of extremists.
“You have to understand power to reform things,” Saul said. “If you don’t understand power you get blown away by the guy who does. We are missing people who believe in justice and at the same time understand how tough power and politics are, how to make real choices. And these choices are often quite ugly.”


Let The Sun Shine

Politics and its Discontents - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 08:04


Like the vampires of fiction who cling to the darkness as they carry out their nefarious, life-depleting ravages on their prey, the Harper regime best operates in the dark, away from the light of public scrutiny as it continues to suck the vitality out of our democracy. (Sorry for the lurid metaphor, but it does seem to be dramatically apt.) While it is a topic I have written about many times on this blog, I am sure I'm in good company when I say that only by bringing as many of these deeds into the light do we stand a chance of Canadians rejecting this perversion of government.

To that end, I would like to bring to your attention the following email I received from Democracy Watch, one of several NGO's that work tirelessly to promote the principles of open and accessible government as a way of promoting democratic principles and participation. After reading the missive, I hope you will consider signing the letter it talks about. The link is contained within that letter:



Since 2012, the federal Conservative government has been claiming to have an open government plan. In fact, every independent report has shown more excessive secrecy in the federal government than any time since the so-called Access to Information law passed in 1983.

The law is so weak it really should be called the “Guide to Keeping Government Information Secret” law.

Right now Conservative Cabinet minister Tony Clement is proposing a plan to the international Open Government Partnership that will only make already public information a bit more easily accessible.

This will do nothing to end secrecy that encourages waste, abuses and corruption – the law needs to be strengthened to require more transparency, with stronger enforcement and penalties for anyone who keeps information secret that the public has a right to know!

Please click here to send your letter now calling on the federal Conservatives, and governments across Canada, to make key changes to laws to open up government and make it more accountable to you.

Minister Clement and the Conservatives are only taking comments on their proposed plan for a very limited time – please send your message by next Monday, October 20th.

And please Share this with everyone you know – see more details set out below.

And please help keep this campaign going until these key changes to open up government are won. To donate now, please click here.

All together we can make difference!

Thank you very much for your support,

Duff, Tyler, Brad and Josephine
and all the volunteers across Canada who make Democracy Watch’s successful campaigns possible
Recommend this Post

Monday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 07:42
Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Meesha Nehru reminds us of the importance of fair taxes (and tax authorities capable of ensuring they're paid). And Fair Tax Mark notes that for the first time, a company on the U.K.'s main stock exchange has made the effort to be accredited as paying its taxes fairly.

- But in less pleasant news, Chris Rose exposes the hundreds of millions of dollars the fossil fuel industry spent lobbying and influencing U.S. politicians last year - and the multi-trillion dollar reward they received for exploiting resources and the public alike. And Gabriel Nadeau-Dubious discusses the similarly incestuous connections between the oil industry and the Couillard Liberals.

- Meanwhile, the Star reports on Ontario's gross environmental neglect in allowing contaminated soil to be dumped where it can do the most damage.

- Kathleen Lahey slams the Cons' income-splitting scheme as "upside-down" in giving far larger benefits to precisely the families who least need help.

- Finally, Charles Plante and Keisha Sharp take a detailed look (PDF) at the costs of poverty in Saskatchewan - and the corresponding benefits of ensuring that nobody has to live with needless deprivation:
Poverty is costing Saskatchewan $3.8 billion in heightened service use and missed opportunities. The costs associated with treating the symptoms of poverty amount to over $1 billion a year in increased use of health services, expenses in the criminal justice system and social assistance payments.

The costs of poverty go well beyond the dollars and cents spent providing a modicum of social security for people that have fallen through the cracks. Those living in poverty face significant barriers, preventing them from taking advantage of opportunities people not living in poverty often take for granted. These are opportunities like seeking an education, gainful employment, and participating in civic life. Over time, these missed opportunities contribute to vicious cycles that affect people living in poverty for years to come. Immediate missed opportunities cost our province more than $2.5 billion a year in missing contributions to GDP and taxes. Long-term intergenerational missed opportunities cost us upwards of $200 million a year.

All too often poverty prevention and alleviation efforts are presented as all cost and no benefit. By better understanding the costs of poverty in our province we are able to make informed decisions about how much money and resources we should invest in acting to prevent and alleviate it.

coming full circle: my sixth-grade obsession meets my teen book club

we move to canada - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 07:00
Continuing on the young-adult fiction theme, it's been about six months since I blathered about my absolute favourite part of my job: teen book club. Our monthly gathering is still going strong, a small but dedicated group of young readers who love books, and love to talk about books. My posters for TBC invite teens to "hang out, eat snacks, talk about books, talk about life," and that pretty much sums up what we do.

Every few months, the group votes on the next four titles, chosen from a selection that I gather, as well as their own suggestions. Most young readers gravitate towards either realistic fiction or fantasy fiction, so I try to balance the two. I also include one or two classics on each list of choices, and they are surprisingly popular: this month we are reading S. E. Hinton's The OutsidersFahrenheit 451 is on the list for early 2015, and the group is clamouring for Catcher in the Rye.

Along with those classics, the next titles are: Dooley Takes the Fall by Norah McClintock, Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick, Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.

I'm especially happy to be doing The Outsiders, a book I was obsessed with in sixth grade (or "grade six," as we say here). S. E. Hinton's classic had a huge influence on my writing and thinking about young-adult fiction. When I learned that Hinton was a woman, and wrote the book when she herself was a teenager... my whole world changed. Apparently teens today find the book no less relevant. Although I don't expect any of my TBC members to become obsessed with The Outsiders, one young man did mention he's read it five times.

By happy coincidence, there's an interview with Hinton in the current New Yorker, asking her about - what else? - the so-called debate on youth fiction. When Hinton was a teen, there was no youth fiction: her books carved out a niche in the classroom, other writers followed in Hinton's footsteps, and YA was born.

Just A Reminder About The Regime Under Which We Chafe

Politics and its Discontents - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 06:04


In case you missed the story of yet another example of a Harper-led CRA threat against charities that object to the regime's policies of environmental despoliation, you can read about it here, here, or here.Recommend this Post

the so-called "y.a. debate" rages on, but doesn't a debate have two sides?

we move to canada - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 05:30
In June of this year, Slate ran a now-infamous piece called "Against YA," in which Ruth Graham argued that adults shouldn't read young-adult fiction, and should be embarrassed if they do. A flood of posts and essays were written in response; my own response is here. In the short term, as far as I can tell, not a single writer agreed with Graham.

Despite this lopsided showing, some headline writer (possibly here) dubbed this "The Great Y.A. Debate," and the name stuck. There must be people out there who agree with Graham - surely hers was not an original idea - but one cranky article does not a debate make.

I did find a few interesting essays that used Graham's piece as a springboard to unpack some interesting ideas and cultural trends.

A. O. Scott, in The New York Times Magazine, is one reader who found himself agreeing with Graham, and asking himself why. Scott's The Death of Adulthood in American Culture joins the crowded field of "things ain't what they used to be" stories, gazing fondly back on a time when a cultural elite drew a very bright line between "high" and "low" culture, a line that, if it still exists, is too blurry to locate and carries little cultural currency. Scott, however, reflects on his nostalgia and acknowledges its curmudgeonly (and sexist, exclusionary) nature. It's a nicely ambivalent essay... and it has very little to do with youth fiction.

In Henry James and the Great Y.A. Debate, Christopher Beha, writing in The New Yorker, uses the same so-called debate to muse on the state of the novel, how literature from different eras reflect entirely different worldviews, and why the work of Henry James is still, in Beha's view, relevant to the contemporary reader. It's a good piece, worth reading, and again, none of its ideas are stated or implied in Graham's essay in Slate.

Beha offers this comments on A. O. Scott's piece.
...Scott’s essay is an expression of great ambivalence. He isn’t happy about this trend in movies, but he also isn’t sure how justified his unhappiness is. He admits to “feeling a twinge of disapproval when I see one of my peers clutching a volume of ‘Harry Potter’ or ‘The Hunger Games,’ ” but he quickly adds that he’s “not necessarily proud of this reaction.” He is scrupulously mindful of what it means for a self-described “middle-aged white man” to pine for an earlier era of cultural authority. Indeed, the real subject of Scott’s essay turns out to be not the infantilization of culture but the decline of cultural—if not political or economic or social—patriarchy, and the ways in which this decline is reflected in the culture itself. He takes this change to be the underlying subject of several of the past decade’s prestige TV dramas—particularly “The Sopranos,” “Mad Men,” and “Breaking Bad.” In Scott’s view, Tony Soprano, Don Draper, and Walter White are “the last of the patriarchs.”

This is where the essay becomes a little confused, in my opinion. If we really are living through the decline of the cultural authority of the straight white male, that seems like a rich and appropriate subject for a sophisticated work of narrative art. The fact that we find this decline represented on television seems in this sense a sign of cultural maturity, one that cuts against the idea that our culture reflects an “essentially juvenile vision of the world.” Many shows now grapple more honestly with the world as it actually exists than did the sitcoms that I grew up watching, in which mom and dad had all the answers and were waiting in the wings to save us from our mistakes.

The strong ambivalence running throughout Scott’s piece emerges from the fact that he sees an intimate, even necessary connection between the decline of the straight white male’s stranglehold on the culture as a whole (which he views as all to the good) and the rise to dominance of a juvenile strain within popular culture in particular (which he likes a lot less). But even assuming that both of these things are going on, it’s not at all clear how much they have to do with one another. There is a difference between art that merely enacts a culture’s refusal to grow up—say, a Y.A. fantasy turned summer blockbuster marketed at adults—and art that engages thoughtfully with that refusal.The New Yorker also pointed to a 2008 article by Jill Lepore (one of my favourite writers in that magazine's circle), illustrating the long history of self-appointed reading gatekeepers. This one was a librarian who was horrified by E. B. White's Stuart Little. And not just any librarian: it was Anne Carroll Moore, who invented the idea of the children's library. Great reading: The Lion and the Mouse.

Throughout, I am left wondering if anyone on the "against" side of "Against Y.A." has read any youth fiction other than The Fault in Our Stars or The Hunger Games and has read any children's fiction other than Harry Potter. Often I'm left wondering if they've read even those, or merely read about them.

These essays are all worth reading... as are many youth novels.


The Journey to the End of the Con Regime

Montreal Simon - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 04:49


I was watching them make a music video on an old schooner in the harbour yesterday, when I suddenly realized that in exactly one year, if Stephen Harper doesn't break his own law, we'll be voting in a general election.

And then, like the cabin boy lashed to the mast on a ship of female pirates, I thought oh boy this could be a long and exhausting journey eh?

Because while just a few days ago I was almost sure that Harper was going to go for an early election, maybe even a late fall election. In a last desperate kamikaze move to seize the moment, by posing as a Great Warrior Leader, and catch his opponents off guard.

You know, his Tora Tora moment....
Read more »

Wow.....

Anti-Racist Canada - Sun, 10/19/2014 - 12:08
So, we received an email at the ARC email account today. Given the subsequent emails we have received it appears we are not the only ones who received it. That email contained some photographs and a message.

We're going to get some legal advice regarding whether or not we can post the photos here. One way or another, we have to suspect that Paulie is having a really, really, really, bad day.

This is NOT Paul Fromm's Wife! 
Paul Fromm is an adulterer 
Adulterers be DAMNED! 

"But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” - Rev. 21:8

Party of One: The Book That Will Help Destroy Stephen Harper

Montreal Simon - Sun, 10/19/2014 - 10:19


Eight years ago when I started attacking Stephen Harper and his ghastly Con regime, it sometimes felt lonely out there.

Almost nobody, and certainly nobody in the MSM, was attacking him like I did. Many of the old poobahs in the blogosphere thought I was over the top. That he was bad but not THAT bad. And that I should grow up.

Then a few years ago things started to change. The blogosphere caught fire, Lawrence Martin wrote his book Harperland.

And now Michael Harris' new book Party of One should just about seal the record and finish him off. 
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John Tory, the leading Conservative Party candidate for Toronto...

The Ranting Canadian - Sun, 10/19/2014 - 10:03


John Tory, the leading Conservative Party candidate for Toronto mayor, has gotten endorsements from the Conservative Toronto Sun (after they previously promoted the Ford brothers), the Conservative Globe and Mail, Conservative Toronto city councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, a bunch of other lesser-known Conservative city councillors, federal Conservative Transport Minister Lisa Raitt, Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper  and other Conservative MPs.

I haven’t seen an official endorsement from the Conservative National Post, but their coverage of Tory has certainly been in his favour.

Gee, you think it might be because John Tory IV is a long-time, dyed-in-the-wool, hardcore Conservative partisan? Anyone who still believes Tory is some kind of progressive because he isn’t as loud, aggressive and impulsive as the Ford brothers is delusional.

Just because a bunch of right-leaning, pro-privatization Liberal politicians (and a few Olympic athletes for some reason) have also endorsed Tory doesn’t mean he is somehow not a right-wing, capitalist, dismissive, patronizing elitist.

It’s interesting, but not surprising, that the “strategic voting” crowd that, in every single provincial and federal election campaign, says we have to only vote Liberal to keep the Conservatives out, is now demanding that we vote for one Conservative mayoral candidate to keep another Conservative mayoral candidate out.

The same bunch of unprincipled manipulators who said the sky would fall if we didn’t vote Liberal (instead of NDP or another party) to keep the Progressive Conservatives out of Ontario, and keep the Conservative Party out of  federal power, now say the sky will fall if the Conservative Doug Ford beats the Conservative John Tory due to vote splitting. They want us to ignore the fact that Tory is a diehard Ontario Progressive Conservative and a federal pro-Harper Conservative, and that he would work hard to push their agenda at Toronto city council.

It’s too bad that many Torontonians have fallen for this bait-and-switch trick and will vote against their own best interests and their own core beliefs to elect someone they don’t even want as mayor.

To the sleazy, dishonest manipulators out there, I have one number and one letter to say to you: 4 and Q.

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The song linked above is “4Q” by Blitz.

Sunday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 10/19/2014 - 09:13
This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Thomas Frank reviews Zephyr Teachout's Corruption in America, and finds there's even more reason to worry about gross wealth buying power than we could identify before:
We think of all the laws passed over the years to restrict money in politics — and of all the ways the money has flowed under and around those restrictions. And finally, it seems to me, we just gave up out of sheer exhaustion.

According to Teachout, however, it’s much worse than this. Our current Supreme Court, in Citizens United, “took that which had been named corrupt for over 200 years” — which is to say, gifts to politicians — “and renamed it legitimate.” Teachout does not exaggerate. Here is Justice Kennedy again, in the Citizens United decision: “The censorship we now confront is vast in its reach. The government has ‘muffle[d] the voices that best represent the most significant segments of the economy.’ ”
You read that right: The economy needs to be represented in democratic politics, or at least the economy’s “most significant segments,” whatever those are, and therefore corporate “speech,” meaning gifts, ought not to be censored. Corporations now possess the rights that the founders reserved for citizens, and as Teachout explains, what used to be called “corruption becomes democratic responsiveness.”
Let me pause here to take note of another recurring peculiarity in corruption literature: an eerie overlap between theory and practice. If you go back to that “censorship” quotation from Kennedy, you will notice he quotes someone else: his colleague Antonin Scalia, in an opinion from 2003. Google the quote and one place you’ll find it is in a book of Scalia’s opinions that was edited in 2004 by none other than the lobbyist Kevin Ring, an associate of Jack Abramoff who would later be convicted of corrupting public officials....State governments subject to wealthy corporations? Check. Speculators in legislation, infesting the capital? They call it K Street. And that fancy Latin remark about Rome? They do say that of us today. Just turn on your TV sometime and let the cynicism flow.
And all of it has happened, Teachout admonishes, because the founders’ understanding of corruption has been methodically taken apart by a Supreme Court that cynically pretends to worship the founders’ every word. “We could lose our democracy in the process,” Teachout warns, a bit of hyperbole that maybe it’s time to start taking seriously.- Matt O'Brien highlights Richard Reeves and Isabel Sawhill's research into the gross inequality of opportunity in the U.S. by comparing the income levels of college graduates from poor families to those of high-school dropouts from wealthy ones. And Patricia Kozicka reports that Edmonton schools are putting their thumbs on the scale against the poor even further - withholding such basic aspects of social participation as lunch breaks from students whose families can't afford extra fees.

- Meanwhile, Ellie Mae O'Hagan examines Bolivia's experience as an example of a more fair distribution of wealth leading to economic and social improvements:
According to a report by the Centre for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) in Washington, “Bolivia has grown much faster over the last eight years than in any period over the past three and a half decades.” The benefits of such growth have been felt by the Bolivian people: under Morales, poverty has declined by 25% and extreme poverty has declined by 43%; social spending has increased by more than 45%; the real minimum wage has increased by 87.7%; and, perhaps unsurprisingly, the Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean has praised Bolivia for being “one of the few countries that has reduced inequality”. In this respect, the re-election of Morales is really very simple: people like to be economically secure – so if you reduce poverty, they’ll probably vote for you. - Meanwhile, Tony Burman notes that ill-advised austerity is exacerbating the spread of ebola in all kinds of countries - including the ones who wrongly presumed they didn't need to prepare for it.

- Glen McGregor reports on how Canada's opposition parties are increasing their use of data analytics in the lead up to the 2015 election.

- But of course, changes in party voting will only translate into policy improvement if people are willing to demand that it be followed up with real change. On that front, Thomas Walkom challenges the opposition parties to make clear which of the Cons' destructive policies they'll reverse. And Jim Coyle's review of Michael Harris' Party of One reminds us why we need a new government to restore a commitment to democracy in the face of Stephen Harper's contempt for the idea.

We Dodged a Bullet - This Time.

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 10/19/2014 - 08:52


The floudering of the Russian bulk carrier, Simushir, is bound to become some sort of benchmark for the debate over tanker safety off the British Columbia coast.  It shouldn't.  Here's why.

Simushir isn't a supertanker.  It's a bulk carrier.  Its manifest does include some bunker oil and some diesel but there's also mining equipment and "chemicals" in its holds.

500 tonnes of bunker oil and 60 tonnes of diesel does not a supertanker make. Modern supertankers come in two flavours - VLCC, or very large cargo containers, and ULCC, or ultra large cargo containers.  VLCCs can carry up to 320,000 deadweight tonnes of cargo.  ULCCs up that to 550,000 tonnes.

The Simushir and a supertanker - apples and oranges.

A supertanker catastrophe isn't likely to occur where Simushir floundered.  The Russian cargo ship wasn't in the Hecate Strait, Dixon Entrance or Douglas Channel where the supertankers of Harper's dreams will operate.

The Simushir was drifting in the relatively benign waters on the seaward side of Moresby Island.  It's the equivalent of a kids' waterslide at a community park compared to white water rafting through Hell's Gate.

A potential, even if relatively modest, disaster was avoided when the Canadian Coast Guard coastal patrol vessel, Gordon Reid, managed to tow the Russian ship out to sea, 40 kms. from the coast of Moresby Island.  The Reid was just enough ship to tow the bulk carrier but, even then, it lost all three of its tow lines in the process.

In the well-documented, diabolical storms that rake the Hecate Strait, with an actual VLCC in distress, the Gordon Reid would probably be reduced to assisting survivors.

Bunker oil isn't Dilbit - diluted bitumen.  Bunker oil is oil.  Bitumen is diluted tar.  The sea is somewhat capable of dispersing conventional oil through surface wave action so long as the spill isn't too close to any shoreline.  Dilbit, however, doesn't have the physical properties of conventional oil.  Once spilled, the diluent or condensate separates out.  The diluent heads to the surface, the denser bitumen congeals and heads to the bottom, carried to its final resting place by deepwater currents.  Spread over a very large area and at great depths the bitumen is out of reach of oil spill responders and their "world class" equipment.

It took a massive and protracted effort to scrape most of the bitumen from the bottom of the shallow, slow-moving Kalamazoo River in Michigan.  You can think of the Kalamazoo fiasco as a best case scenario.  You can also think of a major bitumen spill on the northern BC coast as the worst of worst case scenarios.

At Kalamazoo, the burst Enbridge pipe dumped about a million gallons, just under 24,000 barrels, of dilbit into the river.  The Exxon Valdez, a large supertanker for its time, lost somewhere between 11 and 32-million gallons of crude oil (not bitumen).  Modern VLCCs and ULCCs carry far more still.

So, we dodged a bullet this time, several in fact.  The Simushir was no supertanker.  It was carrying a modest cargo of bunker oil and diesel.  It wasn't in the treacherous inshore passages of the northern BC coast.  By local standards, the winds and sea state were moderate enough to allow a Coast Guard patrol vessel to tow the bulk cargo carrier out to sea and safety, buying enough time for an ocean-going tug to arrive on scene - eventually.

Simushir is a wake-up call but the point to remember, when it's held up as an example of our "world class" rescue services, this time we were holding all the aces.

Michael Harris' New Book

Politics and its Discontents - Sun, 10/19/2014 - 08:23


Veteran journalist and current national affairs columnist for iPolitics, Michael Harris, has just had his new book on Stephen Harper published. While the 500-page tome, entitled Party of One: Stephen Harper and Canada’s Radical Makeover, may offer nothing startlingly new to those of us who follow national politics closely, it serves as both a useful reminder of the democratic depredations Harper is responsible for, as well as an alert to those who are so disengaged as to regard him as a benign presence on the political landscape. While few of the latter will likely read the book, I suggest it would be a useful exercise to email the link to this Star article about the book to friends and associates who might fall into that category.

Some pretty impressive people offer solid testimony against the kind of 'regime change' that has been instituted under the Harper cabal. One of them is Farley Mowat who, in the last months of his life, said this to Harris:
“Stephen Harper is probably the most dangerous human being ever elevated to power in Canada”.

“We took Parliament for granted, but, like the environment, it turns out that it is an incredibly delicate and fragile structure. Harper has smothered MPs and is destroying Parliament.”Jim Coyle, the article's writer, points out that Michael Harris has always been drawn to stories of injustice and abuse of power. It is precisely what he found in researching Harper's reign:
“A lot of the things that (Harper) was doing struck me as not only unjust but unjustifiable.

“In doing the research I found I was not the only person who thought so, and people a lot smarter and more involved in the system understood the nature of the threat that he presents.”Says former Commons Speaker Peter Milliken:
“Parliament can hardly be weakened any more than it already is. Harper can’t go much further without making the institution dysfunctional. He is trying to control every aspect of House business. In fact, it will have to be returned to its former state by someone if we are to have a democracy.”Powerful and damning words from a respected parliamentarian.

Another devastating indictment comes from veteran diplomat Paul Heinbecker, a former ambassador to Germany:
“Canada’s diplomacy is hugely different under Harper”. “It is a reversal of our history.

“We have become outliers. We are seen as more American than the Americans, more Israeli than Likud. Given what our foreign policy has become, I would not have joined the service today if I were a young man.”Former information commissioner Robert Marleau joins in on the condemnation of Harper's contempt for anyone or anything that disagrees with him:
[W]hen his government was found in contempt (of Parliament), Harper treated it like a minor, partisan irritation. Parliament is now a minor process obstacle.

“Canadians are sleepwalking through dramatic social, economic and political changes surreptitiously being implemented by a government abusing omnibus bills and stifling public and parliamentary debate”.

“Mr. Harper has not played within the rules. Having attained absolute power, he has absolutely abused that power to the maximum.”
All and all, Harris' insights appear to be ones that we have an obligation to share with less-informed and less-engaged Canadians.

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Dig faster!!!

accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 10/19/2014 - 07:30
Shorter Greg Rickford:
It has come to my attention that after eight years of propagandizing for pipelines and demonizing anybody who points out environmental concerns, nobody considers Conservatives to be even faintly credible in protecting the public interest. But I'm sure we can win people over with my bold new strategy: another year of propagandizing for pipelines while demonizing anybody who points out environmental concerns.

Stephen Harper and the Deadly Politics of Ebola

Montreal Simon - Sun, 10/19/2014 - 04:11


The scene couldn't have been more ironic or more appalling. For even as the Ebola epidemic raged out of control, and Oxfam sent out a desperate call for more boots on the ground, in Africa. 

On Saturday Oxfam took the unusual step of calling for troops to be sent to west Africa, along with funding and medical staff, to prevent the Ebola outbreak becoming the “definitive humanitarian disaster of our generation”. It accused countries that did not commit military personnel of “costing lives".

And leaders like Obama urged Americans not to surrender to fear and hysteria.

There was Stephen Harper, with a strange look on his face, receiving an award for helping stamp out polio, while cranking up the fear factor.
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