Posts from our progressive community

How Many More?

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 23:40

"our society seems to have lost its way"

With that poignant observation, Florida judge Ross Healy, sentenced 47-year old Michael Dunn to life imprisonment without parole, for the "loud music" killing of a 17-year old  black American, Jordan Davis.

On the evening of 23 November 2012, Dunn and his fiancee parked at a convenience store in Jacksonville, Florida, after attending his son's wedding.Davis and three other teenage boys, all African American, had stopped at the same place after visiting a shopping mall.Dunn, a software developer, testified at his trial that the music blasting from the boys' sport utility vehicle, next to his, was so loud it hurt his ears, and he asked them to turn it down.But Davis, sitting in the back, ordered his friend in the front seat to turn the music back up, Dunn testified. Dunn said Davis became verbally abusive and threatened his life.Dunn claimed the teenagers inside the vehicle wore "menacing expressions" and told the court he saw Davis reach down for something that looked like the barrel of a shotgun.Dunn reached into his glove box, withdrew a pistol and fired at the vehicle, killing Davis.Dunn, of course, fired into the car, a very self-defensive ten times.

Disaster Averted? Simushir Under Tow. Long Night of Westerlies Ahead.

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 21:11

The Canadian Coast Guard coastal patrol vessel, Gordon Reid, has the crippled Russian cargo ship, Simushir, under tow and is slowly taking the ship away from Moresby Island in Haida Gwaii.

The Haida, however, remain decidedly unimpressed.

CHN President [kil tlaast’gaa] Peter Lantin said Friday afternoon that the possibility of an impact with land is their worst fear coming true. Lantin said the amount of time the response was taking casts doubt on the Northern Gateway pipeline project's promises of world-class oil tanker safety."There's nothing world class about it. The fact that 20 hours is the earliest estimated time of arrival for anybody just reinforces what we have been saying all along," Lantin said in a Skype interview from Haida Gwaii."The systems in place are not adequate, and it's a joke. It's a joke to think they could ramp up the amount of tankers through our territory and convince us that there's world class systems in place to respond. We're scared. We're scared about what this could mean. It's the worst scenario possible."

Musical interlude

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 18:33
Kaskade - Back On You

Random thought about privilege

Feminist Christian - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 18:18
Another random thought about privilege. Being white, cis-male, and straight doesn't mean you don't get an opinion on minority issues. It means your opinion is irrelevant. Maybe pull on your big boy pants, and reflect on what it feels like to have your opinion ignored.

You can TOTALLY think that random racist/sexist/transphobic/ablist comments are completely harmless and unoffensive. And when someone informs you otherwise, your choices are to change your opinion and not do it again, keep your opinion and still not do it again, or keep your opinion and continue to do racist things.

I love people who can easily change their beliefs. Confronted with new information, they just jump on it and go with it. Blackface is not okay? Dude. Sorry. Let me wipe that off right now. Hey, Jim. Dude here says our costume is offensive. Wipe it off, okay?

Choosing to keep your opinion but still not doing the behaviour is totally okay, btw. I've done it plenty. I don't understand why LOTS of things are offensive. I don't need to understand. I'm told it is, so I don't do it. Because my opinion on the matter is irrelevant. Sure, education is great, and I do try to learn. But sometimes, it's not appropriate to ask and sometimes I don't understand the answer. So I STFU and don't do that. I wish I could think of a good example offhand. Maybe the -ed on transgendered vs. transgender. I get the logic, but I don't see the problem as a big deal. But guess what, my opinion on the matter is utterly irrelevant because I'm not trans. I don't get it. I have cis-privilege. What I do know is that it's considered offensive by the people actually involved, so I don't do it. Even if I don't really understand. I call that "Not being a douchetree". And I don't sit on Twitter or Facebook arguing about why I'm right. Furthermore, when I hear others do it, I suggest that they don't. Because even if I don't understand, I can signal boost.

There's a difference between "I don't get it, but I won't do it" and "I won't do it, I think you're being utterly ridiculous and I'm going to tell you every chance I get what an over-sensitive sucky baby you are". The former shows respect. I respect that when a member of group X says, "Don't do that, it's Xist" it's probably Xist, even if I know 10 others who don't care. I had a friend in high school who said, "Oh ferfuckssake, I'm Indian. STOP with the native/aboriginal/FN shit. I'm an indian and you can just say that". Great. And I did. With everyone. Because I was young, arrogant, ignorant, and a bit of an asshole. And then someone finally clued me in in a way that I understood and I stopped that shit.

And then there's the massive fuckpuddles who think that their opinion is correct, don't care to learn, and don't give a rat's ass if the people around them are hurt. Beautiful example: gypsy costumes at Halloween. It's a culture, for fuck's sake. Not a costume. These people are treated like shit all over the place, and wooo, let's dress as a caricature of them for Halloween. Told someone that. She said I was being ridiculous and she'd dress however she wanted. I told her to go for it, but not be surprised if someone told her she was an insensitive asswipe. Seriously, if you're okay with people thinking you're insensitive and uncaring, go to it. Be gypsies or geisha girls or harem girls. Be sure to paint your face and wear eagle feathers. It's your right. And it's mine to call you out on it.

There's another post brewing here about the very notion of offensive. Stay tuned. :)

Canada Con Revenue Agency - Birds&Bees vs GunsGunsGuns

Creekside - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 14:12
The Canada Con Revenue Agency is bothering birdwatchers now. The Kitchener-Waterloo Field Naturalists pictured at left (membership-300, annual revenues-$16,000) got a stern letter from the CRA just after they sent a letter to two federal cabinet ministers complaining about government-approved neonicotinoid insecticides that damage bee colonies.

CBC : "The stern missive says the group must take appropriate action as necessary "including refraining from undertaking any partisan activities," with the ominous warning that "this letter does not preclude any future audits."
The CRA has a special $13.4 million dollar program to audit political activity in charities, which are restricted to using under 10% of their natural resources for political activities and none for partisan activities.

Yesterday Stephen Harper and 100 invited guests attended a Q&A session hosted by another registered conservation charity - the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (membership over 100,000, snazzy website photo above). The OFAH, a wonderful group dedicated to the preservation of all things angled and hunted, has boasted Stephen Harper as keynote speaker at their AGMs. Harper was accompanied yesterday by Con MP Robert Sopuck, founder and chair of the Tory Hunting and Angling Caucus. They discussed *conservation*. I'm guessing bees probably didn't come up.
I wonder if the OFAH ever worries about getting any stern letters regarding partisan/political activity from the CRA.
This year the OFAH received in government funding - $360,100 from the DFO, $67,000 from Jason Kenney's Employment and Social Development Canada, and $6,750 from Environment Canada.
Their lobbying activities for the year 2014 include the DFO, Environment Canada, Dept of Justice/Public Safety, and Transport Canada. Issues lobbied about include : 
  • Indian Act - land claims and intervenor status/funding,
  • Criminal Code and Firearms Act - long gun registry, licensing issues, amnesty, amendments to the Firearms Act and Criminal Code
  • UN Firearms Marking regulations, Destruction of registry records 
  • Canada Food Inspection Act - invasive species
According to their own published list, here's the OFAH's political activities from years past regarding guns and lobbying against gun registries : 
  • Radio campaigns in Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton, and London opposing C-68 (a cost of over $100,000);
  • Full-page ads in MacLean's magazine and other consumer magazines opposing the bill;
  • Over $30,000 worth of advertising in major market newspapers opposing the bill;
  • Ads in the Hill Times (media for MP's, Senators, and senior policy makers);
  • Television features about the dangers and costs of the bill;
  • Produced more postcards than any other group in Canada opposing the bill;
  • Generated thousands of names on petitions opposing the bill to the House of Commons;
  • Were successful in lobbying the Ontario government to legally challenge the bill;
  • Helped fund the Alberta court challenge;
  • Provided legal advice to the Alberta Fish and Game Association for their court case;
  • Lobbied, and continue to lobby, individual MP's and individual Senators;
  • Presentations made to both House of Commons and Senate Justice Committees;
  • Package and presentation made to the Ministry of Health Conference "Violence as a Public Health Issue;"
  • Participated in hundreds of media interviews and news releases fighting the bill;
  • Participated in urban phone-in radio shows to educate the public to the dangers of this legislation;
  • Played a lead role in the National Coalition of Provincial and Territorial Wildlife Federations, which also fought the legislation;
  • Sent C-68 information directly to OFAH members, hunter education instructors, and retailers, to encourage them to fight the bill;
  • Principle participants in several public rallies, including Fed Up I and Fed Up II;
  • Produced and distributed over 200,000 "election" bumper stickers;
  • Produced tens of thousands "election" lawn signs;
  • Encouraged OFAH member clubs and OFAH zones to run all-candidates nights;
  • Produced and distributed various information brochures, such as "Bringing You More Facts About Bill C-68," and "Bill C-68 Canada's New Firearms Act;"
  • Continue to produce and post information on our web site and other media sources, including Angler and Hunter Hotline, Call of the Loon, and Hunter Education News;
  • Communications being sent to the legal counsel for the Justice Department;
  • Currently working on further communications with the Chiefs of Police;
  • Met with the Auditor General prior to the release of her report;
  • Met with the federal Solicitor General and urged him to scrape the registry;
  • Developed a firearms motion against the registry which has been passed by 204 municipalities to date;
  • Worked with Opposition parties to question the government;
  • Filed Freedom of Information requests with the Justice Minister;
  • Met with federal Solicitor General to review reasons for canceling registry;
  • Met with Canadian Police Association seeking their support:
  • Met with Peter MacKay, Deputy Federal Conservative Leader;
  • Met with staff from Paul Martin's office urging them to scrap the registry;
  • Met with Prime Minister for two hours to emphasize need to scrap registry
  • Repeated conversations with police unions across Canada - worked with Calgary Police Association to get motion supporting the scrapping of the registry on the floor of Canadian Professional Police Association national meeting;
  • Arranged for Calgary Police Association, who oppose registry, to meet with federal Minister charged with reviewing the registry;
  • OFAH developed and made available to clubs across Ontario lawn signs and bumper stickers against Bill C-68 for use during 2004 federal election;
  • Press release March 14, 2005 after Mountie's killed in Alberta calling for scrapping of the registry;
  • Filing Requests for Information against federal government, various departments, to determine how much money is being funneled towards anti-gun groups;
  • March 2006, OFAH engages in media campaign blowing the whistle on failures in the firearms registry by demonstrating conclusively that the system can be hacked;
  • In total, OFAH issued 8 press releases on firearms in 2005; 8 in 2006, 5 in 2007 and 1 in 2008;
  • In total, OFAH included 7 articles in Hotline in 2005; 13 in 2006 and 6 in 2007 on firearms;
  • In 2006, the OFAH was appointed to a seat on the Canadian Firearms Advisory Committee by federal Minister of Public Safety Stockwell Day, which they continue to hold.
  • In 2007, the OFAH helped convince the federal government to suspend the hated UN gun marking proposal, resulting in a two year delay in the implementation of the program, with the likelihood that it will be permanently abolished;
  • Fall 2007, OFAH articles and press release in opposition to inspection of older firearms owners in City of Toronto;
  • Through our membership on the CFAC, the OFAH continues to push for a registry of prohibited offenders, instead of a registry of legal firearms owners and is successful in working with other members of the Committee in convincing the government to change the regulations to allow expired POL owners to renew their POLs instead of having to qualify for PALs which many don't want or need (March 2008) - This will benefit over 108,000 firearms owners with expired POLs across the country;
  • March 2008 conference call with CFO and staff over lack of communications with firearms community regarding inspections, ranges, actions of staff, etc. - OFAH gets agreement from CFO for quarterly meetings with OFAH, CSSA and CSAAA, two hosted by CFO, two by OFAH;
  • April 26, 2008 meeting of CFO and representatives from 270 ranges/gun clubs in Barrie - OFAH sending three staff;
  • 2008 - appearance before the City of Toronto Planning Committee on the proposed banning of shooting ranges and clubs from public land;
  • Press releases and campaigns in support of Bills C21 and C24;
  • Press releases and campaigns in support of Bills C301 and S5;
  • Appearance on CTV National in support of bills to scrap long gun registry;
  • Current online national petition with partners and affiliates to scrap the long gun registry;
  • Press release and campaign in support of Bill C-391, newest bill to scrap long gun registry;
  • National online petition in support of Bill C-391 to scrap gun registry;
  • Letters to all police unions in Ontario seeking support for scrapping registry;
  • Three sets of letters to federal MP's urging them to support Bill C-391;
  • Press release against release of firearms information to polling company;
  • Press release against latest Toronto Police Service inspection of legal, law abiding firearms owners;
  • National radio interviews on Corus radio network on both breach of confidentiality by Canadian Firearms Centre and Toronto Police Service inspection of legal, law abiding firearms owners;
  • Prime Minister as keynote speaker at OFAH 81st AGM on scrapping long gun registry;
  • Met with 26 Opposition MP's prior to the vote on Bill C-391, which passed by 164 to 137;
  • Three national panel interviews with CTV, CBC and Goldhawk Live opposite Coalition for Gun Control
  • Part of Prime Minister's Office strategy team on C-391;
  • Appearance before Standing Committee on Public Safety on C-391 anticipated in Spring 2010;
  • Appearance by Candice Hoeppner, M.P., sponsor of Bill C-391 at 82nd OFAH AGM;
  • Canadice Hoeppner and OFAH met with Assembly of First Nations seeking support on bill;
  • Sent letters to all Ontario MP's in March 2010 with 17 page rebuttal to claims made by Coalition for Gun Control;
  • Acting as one of the spokespersons for 27 member group of the Outdoor Network representing 500,000 members across the country;
  • Appearing as a witness at the hearings on Bill C-391, May 2010;
  • Interviews with more than 50 media sources including Toronto Star, Toronto Sun, Globe & Mail, National Post;
  • Appeared twice to debate Coalition for Gun Control on CBC National Power & Politics;
  • Appeared twice to debate Coalition for Gun Control on CTV National Powerplay;
  • Appeared on Goldhawk Live to debate Coalition for Gun Control.
  • Appeared on Access Ontario;
  • Appeared on The Agenda on TVO to debate Coalition for Gun Control and Toronto Police Chief;
  • Appeared on Roy Greene show;
  • Appeared on CHCH TV;
  • Appeared on Outdoor Radio Journal;
  • Appeared on CBC Radio Canada;
  • Organized 5 town hall meetings with Candice Hoeppner in northern Ontario ridings;
  • Drafted national online petition presented in Parliament with almost 50,000 signatures;
  • Issued 2011 Federal election questionnaire;
  • 2011 bumper sticker "Scrap the wasteful long gun registry" campaign; and
  • Working with Prime Minister's Office and Public Safety Minister on draft legislation to scrap the long gun registry.
Whew, what a list! Good thing this registered conservation charity never mentioned bees.
But maybe it wasn't just the bees that got the Kitchener-Waterloo birders in trouble.
Last year in October, amid their website news about backyard bird counts and butterfly nature walks and how to build a tiny house from scratch and worries about weakening of the Endangered Species Act, one of them wrote a letter pointing out to the rest of the group that a rupture from the nearby Brantford 38- year-old Enbridge pipeline, newly slated to transport "bitumen" through a "line for which it was not designed", "could result in serious environmental problems".
Well there ya go. They mentioned Enbridge and bitumen. Once.
It's ten years old now but here's a very good article, co-authored by Joyce Arthur, pointing out that the 10% rule for charities is ridiculous given that advocacy for their causes is more effective than just providing services. But as she said way back then : why isn't it evenly applied? Why do gun advocacy charities get a break from Canada Revenue Agency that environmental groups don't? “It seems the rules limiting advocacy are more stringently applied to charities who champion environmental protection than to those so-called charities that represent the hunting lobby.” .

Ship Adrift Off Haida Gwai

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 13:24

A Russian container ship, said to be laden with oil, is adrift in gale force winds approximately 15 kms. off  Haida Gwai in the vicinity of where Harper wants to ply the waters with supertankers full of bitumen.

A Coast Guard ship is enroute and expected to arrive by 9 p.m. by which time the Russian ship's fate could well be sealed. The vessel is expected to be on the rocks at around that time.  A tug has also been dispatched but most ocean-going tugs of large capacity have to come from Washington state.  In stormy conditions the trip can take two to three days.

The vessel Simushir is reported to be laden with 500 tonnes of bunker oil and 60 tonnes of diesel.

One of You is Unhinged. Is It You or Is It Your Prime Minister?

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 12:05
How do you source your reality?  Do you discern it out of the best facts available or do you divine it out of your beliefs?

A sane person finds reality anchored in facts.  A lunatic cares little for facts and anchors his notion of reality in the beliefs embedded in his psyche.  That pretty much sums up the cognitive path of our prime minister, Stephen Harper.

You can see our prime minister's dysfunction in both what seizes his attention and what, curiously, does not.

After 8+ years at the helm, Stephen Harper's agenda seems astonishingly truncated.  His focus appears narrowed to doing everything conceivable to promote Canada's fossil fuel resources, particularly bitumen; defunding the federal government; and exploiting the powers of office in the most unconscionable way to stifle dissent and punish opponents.

All in all, Stephen Harper is a nasty piece of work.  He's a true shitheel and very little else.  He's far from a leader of a nation.  He governs, not by anything resembling leadership, but through secrecy, falsehood, manipulation (especially of his supporters), coercion and intimidation.  He sees base instinct as opportunity.

Coming to power on promises of transparency and accountability, Harper immediately threw a blanket over government beneath which he wasted no time transforming the national police force, the public service and the armed forces, into his partisan political agencies.  For eight years we have seen how, as his personal property, these branches of government have been sequestered, marooned, isolated from the public, even from the press.  I do not know what sort of offices Joseph Stalin must have maintained but I suspect they bore at least a passing resemblance to today's PMO, Harper's den of skullduggery.

Even as grave problems loom and evolve that threaten the country and future generations, this empty vessel of manhood simply ignores them.  Climate change, inequality, the faltering of our economic, industrial, social and geo-political apparatus are simply irrelevant to a Canada as it exists in Harper's reality.

It would be one thing if this character's authoritarian instincts were benevolent but they're not.  He has not secured the future of our country and our people.  He has repeatedly advanced narrow interests over the public good.  We know from confidantes that Harper has a decidedly Jekyll and Hyde persona.  He cloaks himself in Jekyll for public consumption but those on the inside must stand dutifully as Hyde emerges when Harper is free from prying eyes.

It is difficult to understand why the opposition fail to attack Harper in the Commons, calling him out, denouncing him for his tyranny and despotism.  A dictionary definition of "tyrant" or "despot" fits Harper perfectly.  He's nothing if not authoritarian, autocratic, arbitrary, cruel and oppressive.

The opposition lacks the numbers to have any meaningful impact on Harper's authoritarian legislative initiatives.  Why not, then, organize a resistance?  Call him out on the floor of the House.  Denounce him as a despot, a chiseler, a liar. Accept banishment from the Commons and establish a resistance movement, akin to a government (in waiting) in exile at the periphery of Parliament.

Harper is unhinged but the Canadian people are not.  Create an example.  Show disaffected, disengaged Canadians that they too can rise up and resist this farce of a government.  I think they would find a welcoming audience from one end of this country to the other.

The Dangers Are Only Too Apparent And Predictable

Politics and its Discontents - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 11:51

I was taking a bit of a break from blogging today when this came up, a sobering object lesson in the environmental disasters that we flirt with on the West Coast:
A 135-metre container ship laden with bunker and diesel fuel is adrift off the west coast of Haida Gwaii, the Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Victoria is reporting.

The Russian container ship Simushir is about 25 kilometres off Tasu Sound, according to the centre.The Council of Haida Nations has issued an emergency alert in case the ship makes landfall, in part because the ship is reportedly carrying 500 tonnes of bunker fuel and 60 tonnes of diesel.Recommend this Post

This Should Give You Something to Chew On

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 09:24
Remember that global warming target of keeping temperature increases within 2 degrees Celsius by 2100?  2C, you may recall, is supposed to be the point within which we might - just might - avoid catastrophic, i.e. runaway, global warming.  2C, it's thought (perhaps wishfully) will give us a better than even chance of keeping this party going.

Did I mention Barrow, Alaska?  Barrow is here, in the red circle:

You probably noticed that Barrow is near the northernmost point in Alaska, well within the Arctic Circle. It's actually because of how far north Barrow is situated that it has already logged 7 degrees Celsius (not Fahrenheit, real degrees - Celsius) of warming.

In the last 34 years, the average October temperature in Barrow has risen by more than 7°C − an increase that, on its own, makes a mockery of international efforts to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 2°C above their pre-industrial levels.

A study by scientists at the University of Alaska Fairbanks analysed several decades of weather information. These show that temperature trends are closely linked to sea ice concentrations, which have been recorded since 1979, when accurate satellite measurements began.

The study, published in the Open Atmospheric Science Journal, traces what has happened to average annual and monthly temperatures in Barrow from 1979 to 2012.

In that period, the average annual temperature rose by 2.7C. But the November increase was far higher − more than six degrees. And October was the most striking of all, with the month’s average temperature 7.2C higher in 2012 than in 1979.

That's 7 degrees Celsius, 12.6 degrees Fahrenheit, of warming over the incredibly brief span of just 34-years. 

The sad thing is this is going to be music to the ears of the "Drill Baby, Drill" crowd.  Sarah Palin & Co., indeed our own Beelzebub, are going to see this as God's delivery to man of all that bountiful Arctic oil and gas wealth.  And what the Lord has given, they will not let languish untouched.

The Madness of King Stephen

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 08:44

As excuses for war go, claiming a conflict to be "noble" is really scraping the bottom of the barrel.  It's something you resort to when there's simply nothing left to pull out of your ass.  "Squires, attend your Lords.  Summon the Heralds. To the jousts! Ah, there's a noble scent to the air."

Perhaps Harper had to call our adventure in Iraq noble because the default option would have been "insane."  Insane in the popular sense of doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.  It's that sort of insane.

Over at Foreign Policy, Harvard international relations prof, Stephen Walt, serves up an op-ed, "Uncle Sucker to the Rescue," in which he explains that Obama is repeating the same mistakes that have plagued American excursions in the Middle East for decades.  While Walt focuses on Obama, his views do help make some sense of Harper and his Quixotic quest for a noble war.

Ever since the first Gulf War, U.S. leaders have routinely exaggerated the threat that the United States faced in Iraq and/or Syria. ...Why is threat inflation a problem? When we exaggerate dangers in order to sell a military, we are more likely to do the wrong thing instead of taking the time to figure out if a) action is really necessary and b) what the best course of action might be. When a great power gets spooked by some grisly beheadings and decides it just has to "do something," the danger is that it will decide to do something unwise.

A recurring problem in the conduct of U.S. foreign policy has been the insistence that no problem can be solved if Uncle Sam isn't leading the charge. By portraying IS as a direct threat to America and by rushing to attack it, however, we are telling the Iraqis, Kurds, Turks, Saudis, and everybody else that the cavalry is on the way and that they don't need to do much themselves. No wonder we can't get the Shiite-led government in Baghdad to be less corrupt, more inclusive, and more effective; no wonder we can't get Turkey to focus on IS instead of the Kurds; and no wonder we can't get the Saudis to do more to stop the flow of money and poisonous ideas to extremist groups. Simple equation: The more Washington promises to do for them, the less our local partners will do for themselves.

...Frankly, after all the resources we've poured into Iraq and Afghanistan, and the meager cooperation we got from our putative allies there, I would think America's "staying power" wouldn't really be an issue. Instead of pouring good money (and possibly U.S. lives) down that particular rat hole, I'd like to see the people who are most directly affected start fighting this one for themselves. Unless the Turks, Jordanians, Kurds, and other Iraqis are willing to get their acts together to contain these vicious extremists, even a protracted and costly U.S. effort will amount to little.

Sorting Out Conflicting Priorities

...the neoconservatives in the Bush administration hoped that toppling Saddam would be the first step in a campaign to transform most of the region into a sea of pro-American democracies. Once it became clear that Iraq had no WMD program, the goal of spreading "liberty" throughout the region took on greater salience. This objective led U.S. officials to focus more attention on holding elections than on achieving genuine reconciliation or creating political institutions that actually worked. Plus, we had no idea what we were doing.
A similar problem afflicts our efforts in the region now. Is it more important to defeat IS, remove Bashar al-Assad from power in Syria, or keep Iran isolated and halt its nuclear program forever? Because these goals are inherently contradictory -- weakening IS helps Assad, cooperating with Iran against IS might require compromising more on the nuclear issue, etc. -- it is almost impossible to pursue all three simultaneously. But I can't tell which of these (and other) goals the Obama administration regards as most important. And if we keep trying to pursue all three, we probably won't achieve any of them.
Today, the Obama administration seems surprised that the Turkish government is more worried by Kurdish nationalism than by IS, and that many Sunnis in Anbar think Baghdad and various Shiite militias are a greater threat than IS is. The reality is that other states, tribes, sects, and groups have their own interests, and those interests don't conveniently coincide with the prevailing orthodoxy in Washington, D.C. That doesn't mean their view is right and that U.S. politicians are wrong, but successful diplomacy has to start by recognizing that no two states see things exactly the same way and others sometimes understand their own interests better than we do. Then, you have to work to find whatever common ground might exist. And if there isn't enough common ground to make the strategy work, be ready to walk away.

The final error -- sadly, one all too typical of recent U.S. foreign policy -- is that we are promising the moon and delivering moon pies. The Bush administration promised that the invasion of Iraq would be short, easy, and would pay for itself. Bush also told us the United States would eliminate all "terrorists of global reach." Trying to eliminate a particular tactic used by many diverse groups was a fool's errand, especially when U.S. military intervention tends to reinforce the extremists' narrative and helps them replenish their ranks with new recruits. The United States is still in Afghanistan today -- and so are the Taliban -- and it is congratulating itself on convincing the Afghan government to let us stay for a few more years. And now we are headed back into Iraq. Osama bin Laden may be dead and gone, but the endless war that he foresaw would sap U.S. strength and weaken existing Arab governments is still underway.
...Obama now promises to "degrade and destroy" IS. He is succumbing to the same tendency to overstate what U.S. military power can accomplish in this context. Air power alone cannot "destroy" IS, because it is too imprecise an instrument and because the extremists can blunt its effectiveness by dispersing its own forces and mingling with the local population, thereby producing an unacceptable risk of civilian casualties. We can try training the Iraqi army again and we can back various Iraqi tribes and militias, but our earlier training efforts clearly failed and our experience in Afghanistan suggests that this is more likely to lead to warlordism and renewed sectarian fighting than it is to produce a stable political order

The bottom line.  It's a regional war being waged, to the suiting of both sides, by Western infidels.  The people who could put a lasting end to it aren't there - the Saudis, Egypt, the Gulf States.  They've got soldiers and tanks right up the yin-yang sitting back in their barracks watching endless reruns of old Eurovision contests.   

The oil sheikhs and princes are quite content to see the West dragged into an indefinite skirmish in Shiite-leaning Iraq and Syria even if we may leave their latest Frankenmonster, ISIS, a bit bruised and battered.  We have demonstrated that our "All the King's horses and all the King's men" style of war-waging, the "noble" kind is never decisive, never yields a worthwhile outcome.

I wonder if they think we're mad?  I wonder if they're counting on it?

Friday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 08:26
Assorted content to end your week.

- Paul Kershaw examines political parties' child care plans past and present, and finds the NDP's new proposal to achieve better results at a lower cost. The Star's editorial board weighs in on the desperate need for an improved child care system, while PressProgress focuses on the economic benefits. Nora Loreto notes that we should ultimately push for the "universal" aspect of the proposal to mean "free". And Trish Hennessy observes that there's reason to think a universally-available system will resonate with the Canadian public:
We wondered how parents in Canada would “sell” a universal national child care plan to fellow Canadians. The words came flying fast and loose:

“Accessible to everyone.”
“Good for families.”
“Everyone seems equal.”
“Quebec has it. How come we don’t?”

That was their sales pitch.
Everywhere in Canada, parents engage in a social and financial calculus to determine whether one of them stays home instead of working ‘to pay for daycare’, whether they work opposite shifts so that one parent is always home and to yield cost efficiencies, or whether they wade through a range of possibilities – from having grandma look after the children to placing the child on a child care waiting list immediately upon conception.

Parents displayed a tenacious resourcefulness, often patching together services and supports with limited means to pay for them. It’s like they perform quiet acts of heroism, day in and day out.

In the end, it was the economic argument that proved to be a potent force. They understood affordable child care as a service that would enable parents to work and contribute to the local economy and, in turn, contribute to the tax base – which they understood is how a country pays for a universal program that benefits everyone.- Jim Stanford writes that a free trade agreement with South Korea deserves to be subject to some serious questioning. And Philip Dorling discusses a few of the nastiest surprises in the Trans-Pacific Partnership - including the U.S.' demand that all participating countries agree to make reporting on damaging commercial secrets a criminal offence.

- Which is to say that anybody looking to expose, say, the role of corporate greed and neglect in creating gross risks to the public will have reason to think twice if the business lobby gets its way. 

- Of course, the Cons are well ahead of the game on the "stifling speech" aspect of the TPP - as evidenced by the latest CRA crackdown against Kitchener-Waterloo birdwatchers for daring to write to a public official about the impact of chemicals on bee colonies. 

- Meanwhile, Nicholas Hildyard offers up a presentation on how P3s extract wealth from the public on behalf of elites around the world.

- Finally, Citizens for Public Justice has released its latest report on poverty in Canada - with a particular focus on groups including recent immigrants, First Nations persons and lone female parents who bear particularly heavy burdens of poverty.

Irresponsible Government

Northern Reflections - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 07:27


Brent Rathgeber's book, The Decline of Parliamentary Democracy in Canada is seminal. Frances Russell writes:

Canada’s parliament is now a damp squib, a meek handmaid to power. Parliament is ruled by the prime minister and the cabinet , not the other way around. Conservative MPs see themselves as obedient servants of the party, cabinet and prime minister, not representatives of their constituents.
You could call it “executive or presidential democracy.” It certainly is the polar opposite of parliamentary democracy.
Certainly, Rathgeber has witnessed that decline -- particularly in the last eight years. He writes:

“The current government prefers to govern by order-in-council and executive edict as opposed to having to answer to an occasionally meddlesome Parliament,” Rathgeber writes. “As a result, the executive has so neutered the institutions of Parliament as to render them nearly impotent, practically unable to fulfill their constitutional duty to hold the executive to account…(T)o the greatest extent possible, it prefers to run all aspects of Parliament rather than be accountable to it.”
Living next door to the United States, we have adopted a presidential model of leadership:

The most corrosive and dangerous development in Canada’s fully Americanized parliamentary system is the highly centralized power of the PMO and cabinet with a majority government. Add the now-complete stifling of the rights of ordinary MPs to say or do anything on their own, and Canada has degenerated into a virtual dictatorship.

And that’s without including the ability of the prime minister to prorogue, recess and dissolve parliament at whim.

And no one can claim that the trend is present in all parliamentary democracies:

Compare this sorry state of affairs to the parliamentary system in place in Britain and Australia, Canada’s sister parliamentary democracies. “(British Prime Minister) Margaret Thatcher was deposed by her own caucus, and twice in the last four years the Australia Labour Party has rejected a leader (and prime minister) and then rejected the replacement on the will of the caucus,” Rathgeber writes. “This is normal; this is parliamentary democracy as it should be, where the leader leads the caucus but does not dominate it. The aforementioned Westminster democracies, which have not fallen prey to creeping presidentialism , are thought to be much more functional by academics…”
It's quite clear that Stephen Harper would be quite comfortable with the monikers "Mr. President" and "Commander-in-Chief." And that's precisely why he needs to be thrown out of office in the next election.

We'll be in Montreal for the next couple of days. My plan is to resume blogging on Monday.

Big Brother Harper and the Gentle Birdwatchers

Montreal Simon - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 05:08

First he came for the environmentalists and the activists. Then he came for the scientists.

Then he came for those who fight poverty, and help the poor.

Now he's come for the birdwatchers. 
Read more »

a war resister connects the dots: canada, is this the war you want to fight?

we move to canada - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 03:30
A U.S. war resister in Canada writes in this NOW Magazine.
Very soon you will begin to hear about Canadian planes sending “humanitarian aid” of food and medical supplies to those affected by the fighting. . . .

And now ISIL is touted as the new enemy from the darkness as if their emergence was not foreseeable. In reality, ISIL is just the latest incarnation of a very old xenophobic sect of Islam, the Wahhabi movement, finding new breath in the aftermath of yet another war. Our bombs have only made them stronger, just as they always have.

The Harper Conservatives are hoping you are not engaged enough to notice its hopes of attaining a new casus belli for Canada. But if Harper gets his way, you’ll soon be spending money you don’t have on a war that’s making you less safe, not more.

And what about the long-term costs for the soldiers who do come home? How will Canada be able to take care of them? Large numbers of Canadian veterans from the war in Afghanistan have already become homeless, jobless or committed suicide. They have yet to receive care from a resource-strapped Veterans Affairs Canada. How will VAC be able to meet the needs of even more veterans?

Please understand that I don’t mean to forgive the barbarity that ISIL has clearly committed. As an American soldier, I witnessed first-hand how war makes monsters of us all. Everyone with a gun in a war zone thinks themselves “one of the good guys,” but the idea that anyone in a war acts in accordance with international law is a myth.

Once I realized this, I decided I could not participate in a war of aggression (the Iraq war of 2003) launched against people who had not committed any crime. I found taking part in this war a violation of both international law and basic moral behaviour, to such a degree that I could not have any further part in it.

Many others made the same choice I did, and a good number of us came to Canada seeking refuge. We have experienced first-hand the lasting effects of a war in Iraq started under false pretenses. We would implore you to be thoroughly informed, Canada. If you decide to go forward into this war, you should at least do so with all the facts.

Almost all who desert the U.S. military are simply administratively discharged without jail time. But without exception, every American war resister in Canada deported into U.S. military custody has faced significant jail time when evidence was presented of how we spoke out to people like you. The American government wants to jail me not just for leaving the military, but for having the audacity to shed light on war crimes we were asked to commit.

Is this the kind of war you truly want for Canadians? If you do, I will leave quietly.
A number of resisters living in Canada have seen recent movement in their cases after years of silence from the government. The immigration minister’s personal attention to our cases is made clear by Operational Bulletin 202, directing all our files to his desk for review instead of using normal procedures.

I will go to the cell that awaits me in the U.S. for having spoken loudly about the injustices I was asked to abide. I do not believe I deserve to be punished for speaking out, but perhaps I do for not having spoken out loudly enough. Read the essay here. Then sign a letter to help stop the deportations.

Elisa Hategan's Race Traitor: Now Out In Paperback

Anti-Racist Canada - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 15:31
Those who did not have a KOBO or Kindle and were not able to purchase Elisa Hategan's Race Traitor or those who would rather own a physical copy of the book now have the opportunity to purchase the paperback edition of the book:

Race Traitor: The Story of Canadian Intelligence's Biggest Cover-Up by Elisa Hategan

We wrote about the book in March when Ms. Hategan first published the digital editions for KOBO and Kindle. All the members of the Collective have read it and very highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn about the history of the racist movement in Canada during the early 1990s, however more importantly the books is incredibly relevant in an era where the governments in ostensibly free and democratic nations have been caught spying on their own citizens. While set in the 90s, Race Traitor perhaps has as much to tell us about our future as it does the past.

We All have To Stand Against This Blatant Reign Of Intimidation And Tyranny

Politics and its Discontents - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 15:00

Although I have written many posts on this topic, each new incident once again evokes in me a visceral reponse bordering upon hatred for this government. The Harper regime is back at it again, using the CRA to intimidate people who are critical of its policies or in any way impede the flow of oil progress.

This time, the victims are birdwatchers, yes, that's right, birdwatchers - The Kitchener-Waterloo Field Naturalists.

CBC reports the following:
The Kitchener-Waterloo Field Naturalists, a registered charity, is apparently at risk of breaking tax agency rules that limit so-called political or partisan activities.

Earlier this year, tax auditors sent a letter to the 300-member group, warning about political material on the group's website.

The stern missive says the group must take appropriate action as necessary "including refraining from undertaking any partisan activities," with the ominous warning that "this letter does not preclude any future audits."It appears that the Harper-directed CRA has accomplished its goal, at least in part, inasmuch as officials of the group, whose revenues amount to a mere $16,000 per annum, are refusing comment, less they attract even more wrath.

But not everyone has succumbed to intimidation:
Longtime member Roger Suffling is speaking up, saying the issue is about democratic freedom and not about arcane tax rules.

Effectively, they've put a gag on us," he said in an interview, noting that the letter arrived just after the club had written directly to two federal cabinet ministers to complain about government-approved chemicals that damage bee colonies.

"You can piece together the timing," said Suffling, an adjunct professor at the University of Waterloo. "The two things are very concurrent."The other 'sin' of this group, it would appear, is the fact that it
has also had a guest speaker to talk about the oilsands, and has publicly defended the Endangered Species Act from being watered down.Of course, the usual suspects, who I do not believe for a minute, deny any political direction or purpose:
Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq's office ... denies there's any link, saying the agency operates independently.

Canada Revenue Agency officials say they do not target any one charitable sector, and are choosing groups impartially, without input from the minister's office.

The decision to launch an audit is also not based on any group’s position on the political spectrum, charities directorate chief Cathy Hawara has said.Those denials might work with gullible children, but not thinking adults.

I grow weary of the totalitarian tactics of this regime. I hope my fellow Canadian feel the same.Recommend this Post

E-Day in Canada: When Voter Suppression Comes Calling

Creekside - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 13:49

Tomorrow, lone RoboCon fall-guy Michael Sona may find out whether he goes to jail for his part in the 6,000 illegal robocalls pretending to come from Elections Canada and wrongly telling voters their polling station had been moved.

Yesterday, the Alberta Party candidate in the Calgary-Elbow byelection reported being targeted in a fraudulent robocall campaign that used a fake caller ID purporting to come from the Alberta Party :
“We started getting complaints from people receiving multiple phone calls throughout the day and some suggesting we had called them at 3 a.m. "Sound familiar? It's not like this is going to get better on its own.
As Mulcair notes in the doc clip above, the Fair Elections Act (sic) is about "the Conservatives trying to put into law some of the cheating they'd been doing before."
Did you watch the clip? Wouldn't you like to hear Stephen Maher and Glen McGregor's reflections since their epic McMaher election fraud investigation?
Acclaimed documentary filmmaker Peter Smoczynski : Election Day In Canada: When Voter Suppression Comes Calling is an investigative documentary film which examines the sudden rise of voter suppression in Canada since the 2006 Federal Election to the Federal Election of 2011, its aftermath, Elections Canada investigations, court trials, its affect on Canadians and more recently the Fair Elections Act.He has thousands of hours of footage and is looking for funding to finish editing it. 
So far his site has only received 1700 Canadian visits and 43 funders but as he says : "if every visitor gave $20, within five days this film is back in production"
His first donation was $5 from a 13 year old girl.

Come on, people - and I'm looking at you, you glittering twitterati and facebookies - spread the word and donate. Let's get this doc out there to the public well before the shenanigans begin in the 2015 election.
h/t Saskboy.

Mein Gott, This Actually Got On FOX News?

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 10:13
You gotta give it to Shep Smith.


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