Posts from our progressive community

Donald Trump's Latest Scary Twitter Meltdown

Montreal Simon - Tue, 11/29/2016 - 05:09

For a moment, a very brief moment, I thought that Kellyanne Conway might be able to teach Donald Trump how to pretend to be a president.  

Or at least behave like one.

Especially now that they both know that many more Americans voted for Hillary Clinton than voted for the orange oaf. 

But then on Sunday Trump started to get agitated...
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Con Senators hoisted by their own petards

Creekside - Tue, 11/29/2016 - 02:57

... in which Conservative Senators harangue Elections Canada CEO Marc Mayrand for answers that he is no longer able to deliver because the Con's Fair Elections Act removed Elections Canada's Commissioner from Elections Canada and placed him under the aegis of the Public Prosecutors Office where Mayrand is not privy to its investigations.

Elections Canada CEO Mayrand was giving the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs his report on the last federal election when the Chair interrupts and asks him to wrap it up because they have many questions - questions propelled, it is explained, by the particular interest of Senator Linda Frum. Oh goodie.

Con Senator Daniel Lang: "Registered third parties. Can you confirm that registered political parties are not allowed to accept money from foreign donors over the course of an election?"

Mayrand : You have to be a Canadian citizen.

Lang : We have now seen that third parties can do much more than political parties, such as raising money from foreign interests in the U.S. and elsewhere to influence public policy and elections in Canada. This past election, registered third parties like Dogwood Initiative and LeadNow have publicly admitted that they receive foreign moneys, run campaigns, even published pushpolls under your interpretation of the act as I understand it. All they can't do is advertise over a set amount during the writ. Can you tell me was it the intention of the Act as interpreted by the Supreme Court to allow third parties to actively campaign prior to and during elections?

Mayrand : Within certain limits and spending caps, third parties, provided they register if they spend more than $500, are allowed to do advertising during the campaign. That is specifically provided for in the legislation. 

Lang : So a registered third party during a political campaign, except for a restricted area, can accept foreign money to help run and be involved in a campaign?

Mayrand : They can.

Lang : It has come to my attention that there are a number of these third party registered organizations, who it would appear have been willfully circumventing the Elections Act or acting as a party to circumvent the Act. Can you tell us up to now how many complaints you have received from Canadians, or have you received complaints from Canadians or from political parties related to third party groups and third party advertising, and if so, how many are you actually investigating?

Mayrand : Complaints would have been directed to the Commissioner of Canada's Elections who is tasked with assuring compliance with those provisions, so I would not be aware of the type of complaints the Commissioner has received. 

Lang : So this wouldn't be discussed with you? Because it seems rather strange it wouldn't be. 

Mayrand : With the separation of the offices, we can no longer have those type of discussions so I am not aware of what type of feedback, comments, or complaints that the Commissioner would have received in this matter. 

Lang : What I don't understand is why you wouldn't be aware this type of thing was occurring. In your report you talk about investigations, you talk about contraventions of the Elections Act ...

Mayrand : These are files that were referred during the election by my office, matters brought to my attention mostly by Canadians during the election - allegations that could potentially be an offence - and in that case I can refer the matter to the Commissioner. But I have no sense what the Commissioner or how he will handle those files. He will handle them according to his own protocols, and I am not aware of complaints that are directly addressed to the Commissioner.

Lang : So when are you made aware?

Mayrand : Only if Canadians bring something to my attention, and if it actually raises a matter of potential offence to the Act, then I will refer it to the Commissioner. It's not a two-way communication process. 

Lang : So for the record you have no knowledge of what I just asked.

Mayrand : Not with respect to what is the Commissioner's.

I imagine that Senator Lang had forgotten all about how their party's 2006 Accountability Act removed Elections Canada's power to compel testimony and documents from witnesses, legislation which I'm guessing would be useful if, say, EC wanted to investigate the alleged registered third party election violations that have Senators Lang and Frum so up in arms. 

The senators also seem to have forgotten that, under the pretence of combatting non-existent voter fraud by electors, the Con's Fair Elections Act moved Elections top cop the Commissioner out of Elections Canada and into the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, so Mayrand isn't privy to its investigations and consequently can't answer or act on the Senators' questions.

Well played, guys.  

And so it went for an hour and forty minutes with the Conservative Senators led by Linda Frum and Daniel Lang badgering Mayrand for answers and opinions about LeadNow and Dogwood Institute expenses, as well as their funding received outside the writ period and therefore outside his jurisdiction. 

Senator Frum was particularly exercised about "an organization in the US that is against pipelines" providing funding to third parties in Canada to hold rallies and music concerts and tell people not to vote for Harper.  

She then brought up Harper v. Canada, the 2004 Supreme Court challenge launched by Stephen Harper as head of the National Citizens Coalition. He sought to strike down Canada Elections Act's legal spending limits on third party advertising during elections. Harper lost that case and Canada was spared much of what became Citizens United five years later in the US. 

I'm not sure in Senator Frum's party shoes that I would have brought that one up.

This week the Liberals repealed much of the Fair Elections Act but media reports that it is dead are somewhat exaggerated. The Liberals have yet to return to Elections Canada either their former independence or their investigative powers taken away under Harper. 

And finally, several Conservative senators pressed Mayrand to agree that given the 2015 Federal Election had the highest voter turnout in years, that it must mean the Fair Elections Act had done its job. 

Words fail me ...

Does Robert F. Kennedy Have Justin Trudeau's Number?

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 11/28/2016 - 22:51

Kennedy explains what's really behind the petro-states' pipeline fetish.

Great, Just Great. Watch Trump Jump All Over This.

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 11/28/2016 - 16:06

The man who injured 11 people at Ohio State was a refugee from Somalia.

Abdul Razak Ali Artan, 18, rammed his car into a group of pedestrians at the college then got out and began stabbing people before police shot him dead.

The Thing Is, We Don't Know.

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 11/28/2016 - 16:03

We don't know what it means when, for the second consecutive year, the Arctic is experiencing a dark winter heatwave. In the pitch black, what should be the coldest time of the year, Arctic temperatures are 20C/36F above normal.

We don't know what's actually happening, what's triggering this dark winter heatwave. We don't know what it portends.

There are all sorts of warnings that the global economy is about to tip into another 2008-style meltdown only this time world governments won't be able to find money for bailouts. Is this looming? We don't know. If it is, we don't know what it portends.

In The Guardian last week, George Monbiot listed "13 impossible crises that humanity now faces." 13, that's not a good number.

19 is worse. That's the number of "tipping points"  that we may have crossed or are about to cross in the Arctic according to researchers behind the Arctic Resilience Report also released last week. 19 tipping points, many of them anchored in positive feedback loops, that we're told could be the precursor to runaway, catastrophic climate change in places many thousands of miles distant from the Arctic. Is this disaster really in the cards? Is it imminent? We don't know.

This morning, a Chris Hedges piece, warned that America is entering a post-democratic era, some form of authoritarian/totalitarian statehood. Is that even possible? We don't know.

I was never a big fan of Buffalo Springfield but their lyrics keep running through my mind. "Something's happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear." For What It's Worth, indeed.

Something is happening here. That much I think we all know. It's tangible, palpable. The thing is, we - you and I - don't know. We don't have teams of world class experts at our beck and call to explain what is truly going on and what strategies and options we have for responding. There's no one around to give us the odds.

But we elect people who do have access to those experts and advisors. They know the risks and the options and the odds and there's a lot of information they should be sharing with us right now. 13 impossible crises. 19 tipping points. What else? What does it all mean? We don't know. But the people we elect who should be letting us in on it, they prefer to just keep us in the dark, as dark as winter in the Arctic.

Monday Afternoon Links

accidentaldeliberations - Mon, 11/28/2016 - 12:32
Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Miles Corak asks how we should see the growing concentration of income at the top of the spectrum, and concludes that we should be concerned mostly with the breakdown between personal merit and success among the extremely privileged:
Connections matter. And for the top earners this might even be nepotism. This is not a bad thing if parents pass on real skills to their children, skills that might be specific to particular occupations, industries, or even firms. If this is the case, then it makes economic sense to follow in your father’s footsteps.
...But not all top earners got to where they are because of this sort of investment. In fact, sons of top-earning fathers who do not work at the same employer as their fathers are much more likely to fall out of the top than those who do.

Bad nepotism promotes people above their abilities by virtue of connections, and it erodes rather than enhances economic productivity. Richard Reeves of the Brookings Institution encapsulates this intuition when he speaks of a “glass floor” supporting untalented rich kids, a floor that at the same time limits the degree of upward mobility for others.

There is, however, an even larger cost. Social mobility is about a lot more than just using job contacts to make it into the top 1 percent. It is also about making investments in the health, education, and opportunities of all children and supporting families in a way that complements their efforts to promote the well-being of their kids. If the rich leverage economic power to exercise political power, they can also skew broader public policy choices—from the tax system to the education system, and other sources of human capital investment—in a way that limits possibilities for the majority.

Social mobility is turned into a race, a race through a course with many bottlenecks that the relatively advantaged are best at manoeuvring. Besides, all of this discussion refers simply to the correlation of earnings across generations, which is only a partial measure of mobility. The inheritance of material wealth, not just earnings advantage, should also be part of the way we measure and think about social mobility. Much higher incomes at the top over an extended period translate to a higher stock of wealth, and this may advantage the next generation in a way that is not tied to their earnings capacity.

All of this may start eroding the belief that labour markets are fair and that anyone can aspire to the top. It is not envy that is at the root of a connection between the well-being of the less rich and the rich, but rather a concern over fairness as equality of opportunity. If the rich cannot leverage economic power to exercise political power, then it is quite possible for the majority to live with a richer top 1 percent and be less concerned about how this minority will influence their welfare and the prospects of their children.- Meanwhile, Meredith MacLeod reports on Credit Suisse's research showing that Canada is set to see a sharp increase in the number of millionaires over the next few years - even as Benjamin Tal notes that Canada's economy is shifting toward both part-time and lower-paying jobs. And Katie Allen rightly argues that governments which focus unduly on infrastructure as the sole basis for economic development will only exacerbate the problem by failing to account for the need for fair wages and more secure livelihoods.

- Laurie Monsebraaten reports on new research estimating the cost of poverty in Toronto alone at up to $5.5 billion per year. And the International Labour Organization assesses the cost of eliminating poverty in each country - with Canada needing to redirect only $249 million per year to lift all Canadians out of extreme and moderate poverty.

- Finally, Bruce Mutsvairo highlights the dangers of journalistic "balance" when it serves primarily to create false equivalencies and legitimize damaging policies. And George Monbiot lists the crises humanity has stumbled into, while highlighting the need for massive collective action to reverse any of them.

More Discrimination Thanks To Trump

Politics and its Discontents - Mon, 11/28/2016 - 12:32
I see reports and videos daily about the actions taken by the unhinged right-wing, the bigoted and the morally diseased. Most I choose not to include on my blog, but two especially egregious examples merit further attention. Both are brought to you from Raw Story:

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Chris Hedges Says All Roads Lead To....

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 11/28/2016 - 07:57

No, not Rome. Hedges thinks they lead to a post-democratic America.

We await the crisis. It could be economic. It could be a terrorist attack within the United States. It could be widespread devastation caused by global warming. It could be nationwide unrest as the death spiral of the American empire intensifies. It could be another defeat in our endless and futile wars. The crisis is coming. And when it arrives it will be seized upon by the corporate state, nominally led by a clueless real estate developer, to impose martial law and formalize the end of American democracy.

When we look back on this sad, pathetic period in American history we will ask the questions all who have slid into despotism ask. Why were we asleep? How did we allow this to happen? Why didn’t we see it coming? Why didn’t we resist?

...The failure of our capitalist democracy was collective. It was bred by ignorance, indifference, racism, bigotry and the seduction of mass propaganda. It was bred by elites, especially in the press, the courts and academia, who chose careerism over moral and intellectual courage. Our rights as citizens were taken from us one by one. There was hardly a word of protest.

(Bitter) Fruits Of Our Neoliberal Governments

Politics and its Discontents - Mon, 11/28/2016 - 07:22

It would seem that Star reader Douglas Porter of Peterborough sees with unusual clarity what so many prefer to ignore:
It seems that many things in history do a repeat cycle about every 80 years. I hate to think that we are on target for another societal unravelling evidenced by what we are seeing in the EU, U.K. and the U.S. that’s similar to what happened in the mid 1930s Europe prior to World War II.

But when 40 to 50 per cent of everyday working people are experiencing a steady 30-year decline in living standards and feel nothing but despair for the future, they often fall for the appeal of a charismatic strongman (or woman) who promises prosperity and better times ahead.

We are seeing a polarization of people that is worsening with more and more of us living in our silos and social media and sneering elites fanning the flames. It’s pretty clear the major cause is increasing income inequality and poverty.

Here in Ontario we are seeing hundreds of thousands of people driven into financial distress, low income status or poverty by an essential public service called electricity. Our government can’t even provide the basics of life any more in an affordable manner. Not housing, energy, child care, pharmacare or basic dental care.

Canada is the only Western democracy without a food security program, if you can believe it. What the hell kind of society are we creating? Water, electricity, food, affordable housing and even Internet in today’s world should be considered human rights, not luxuries. And remember that people outside of the bigger cities pay several times more for hydro, and those with electric heat and hot water pay about three times more again. Some 60,000 people had their hydro cut off last year and 600,000 were behind on their bills.

The Ontario government’s answer to everything is more booze — to kill the pain I suppose. Their electricity pricing is economic insanity and cruel social policy like nothing I’ve seen in 50 years. A vicious attack on the poor and utterly immoral. As if booze, drugs and gambling weren’t enough.
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Why Justin Trudeau Should Attend Fidel Castro's Funeral

Montreal Simon - Mon, 11/28/2016 - 06:08

As you know the Cons and the Con media are going after Justin Trudeau's statement on the death of Fidel Castro, like a pack of hysterical hyenas.

And are trying to portray him as an embarrassment to Canada, or a communist, or Castro himself.

While their flying monkeys swarm him on Twitter...
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Fools That We Are

Northern Reflections - Mon, 11/28/2016 - 05:42

These days, when it comes to public discourse, nuance is nowhere to be found. Michael Harris writes:

There is no public discourse, just an ongoing screed between those fighting for the controls. It’s not just sex, lies and videotape that is used to bring the opponent low — but a hearty boot to the meat pies if you can manage to get the other guy down. The mayhem etiquette of cage-fighting has vanquished any vestige of the Marquis of Queensbury rules. Welcome to Trumpland and the skewed reality of the alt-right.

Making matters worse, we have entered the Age of Dishonesty and Deception as author Ralph Keyes calls it, where casual dishonesty has become a pandemic in public life. What does that mean? All the whoppers no longer come from Burger King.
 Consider the reaction to Justin Trudeau's statement following the death of Fidel Castro:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lamented the passing of a world leader and family friend, and offered condolences to the Castros in the name of a deep friendship between the Canadian and Cuban people that runs back to the days of his father, Pierre Trudeau.

Stephen Harper’s son, Ben, called Trudeau’s statement about Castro “an embarrassment for Canada.” Since Ben’s father set the record in that department, perhaps he could offer further enlightenment to the Great Unwashed. Perhaps Ben might share his wisdom on the subject of his father’s words of praise for the despot who ran Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah, when he died. The record shows that Harper spent $175,000 to send Governor-General David Johnston to Saudi Arabia to personally convey his condolences. Nice treatment for a misogynistic dictator with a human rights record far worse than Castro’s.

US Senator Marco Rubio saw Trudeau’s remarks as flowers for a brutal dictator, misplaced compassion for a political thug who brought opposition to his revolution to an abrupt end against a wall or deep inside a prison.
No one remembers Fulgencio Batista, the dictator Castro replaced. Donald Trump  has made degraded discourse and outrageous lying normal. And we follow the Pied Piper, fools that we are.

Image: The Road To Cuba

Advent Photo-a-Day Challenge. Day 1: Hope

Feminist Christian - Sun, 11/27/2016 - 19:55
Advent is here! I love Advent almost more than I love Christmas. On a Facebook page I help moderate, we're doing the Advent Photo-a-Day. Today's theme is Hope.

Hope. It's my favourite topic to blog about. There is no such thing as false hope. There is only hope. You can hope for the impossible and work to make it possible. And if you don't get there, you still had hope. Without hope, there is no motivation for anything.

This is my sons' playroom. This is where the therapy happens. This is where magic happens. My boys are autistic. My elder boy profoundly so. In this room, they have almost total control of their environment. The therapist plays with them where they're at, and pushes them to succeed. My littlest has responded so well that doctors are stunned. They throw around words like "miracle" and "amazing". My elder boy, he's not responding as well, but he has complex medical issues too. Have we given up? Hell no. While there is life, there is hope.

How to Look Your Very Best - After the Old Man Tunes You Up.

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 11/27/2016 - 14:18

This is a screen capture from a Moroccan state TV programme showing women make up tips for concealing those tell tale signs of a damned good thrashing by the hubby.

Really, seriously? Oh, f@#k me.

Is It Time We Recycled This?

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 11/27/2016 - 13:32

All we have to do is change the face:

British Columbia voters made Harper pay dearly in 2015. The Liberals' support is almost entirely in the very region, the southwest corner, where opposition to pipelines and supertankers is fiercest. Trudeau treads on those voters at his peril.

Ten Long Years, What Will the Next Ten Hold?

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 11/27/2016 - 13:04

Who could have foreseen the changes our species, our civilization and our planet have undergone over just the last 10 years?

2006, the year Saddam Hussein went to the gallows. It was the year of the Stern Report that warned of the massive economic costs we would face if we refused a rapid transition to alternative, clean energy. Iraq and Afghanistan were still in the grip of chaotic violence (some things never change). Jeb Bush got it right when, replying to reporters asking about his political plans for the future, said, "no tengo, futuro," which translates as "I have no future." Unintentionally prescient. The now "late" Fidel Castro stepped down handing power to his brother, Raoul. Jack Kevorkian got out of prison just as Enron's Jeffrey Skilling was going in. Myron Thompson, remember him? Augusto Pinochet, gone. The Times of London caused a stir with a story claiming the Arctic could be open for navigation as soon as 2040. We thought, nay believed, that America never had a worse president than George w. Bush and could never have one worse in the future. The Globe's mastermind, Marcus Gee, wrote, "the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan did not predate the 9/11 terrorist outrage against U.S. civilians, but were a response to it" as though the Bush/Cheney gang didn't already have Iraq in Washington's crosshairs from the day they took office.

But that was then. This is now, a full decade later. Some things haven't changed such as the breathtaking stupidity of many of our leaders. Still, last week let us know that some things have changed, dangerously so.

The Guardian's George Monbiot brought us "The 13 Impossible Crises that Humanity Now Faces," warning that "this multi-headed crisis presages collapse." Then the Stockholm Environment Institute, in conjunction with the Arctic Council, released the Arctic Resilience Report that carried the shocking news that dramatic environmental change across the Arctic were triggering no fewer than 19 climate "tipping points" that could lead to imminent, runaway global warming.

By sheer coincidence I came across Thomas Homer-Dixon's 2006 book, "The Upside of Down," yesterday as I made another ill-fated attempt to clear the clutter from my office. I was planning to shelve it along with the other books stacked all over my desk when I spied a protruding bookmark that I thought I should set aside for my next read. Looking at the page it was a commentary on what Homer-Dixon referred to as "contingency" that, in light of those two reports from last week, seemed chilling:

"A moment of contingency is a moment of choice, like the fork in the pathway encountered by the traveler in Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken." Frost's traveler had an advantage: he could see ahead where a road 'bent in the undergrowth.' the aftermath of a globe-shaking social earthquake ...we'll have trouble seeing anything at all. The comfortable old road behind us will have vanished, but the new ones in front of us will be barely visible in a fog of fear and uncertainty.

"In moments of contingency, nothing is definite, and everything is tentative. Choices made by societies, groups, and individuals may be less constrained than previously, but the consequences of choices are far more opaque. Social reality loosens its grip on us. It becomes more fluid. Long-standing relations of authority between people, groups, and institutions weaken, while deeply ingrained patterns of social behavior lose purpose and meaning. Actions and futures that were once unthinkable - because they were too wonderful or too horrible - are suddenly possible. In moments of contingency, surprise and bewilderment create mental polarities; anticipation alternates with fear, and hope with despair. And these polarities evoke the best and worst attributes of human character - courage and cowardice, generosity and greed, kindness and malice, and integrity and deceit.

"Moments of contingency are thus easily exploited for good or ill. Fear, hope, and greed are unleashed at the same time that social reality becomes fluid. This means that people's motivation to change their circumstances soars just as their opportunities to accomplish change multiply. Whether the outcome of this powerful confluence is turmoil or renewal hinges - in large measure - on how the situation is framed.

"People will want reassurance. They will want an explanation of the disorder that has engulfed them - an explanation that makes their world seem, once more, coherent and predictable, if not safe. Ruthless leaders can satisfy these desires and build their political power by prying open existing cleavages between ethnic and religious groups, classes, races, nations, or cultures. First they define what it means to be a good person and in so doing identify the members of the we group. Then they define and identify the bad people who are members of the they group. These are enemies such as immigrants, Jews, Muslims, Westerners, the rich, the poor, the nonwhite, who are the perceived cause of all problems and who can serve as an easy focus of fear and anger.

"Particularly receptive to such stereotypes are people who already feel humiliated or victimized; so too are those who feel alienated or marginalized and who believe, as a result, that they have no stake in society and no peaceful means to express their unhappiness. These people are not necessarily the destitute; rather, they're people who see a rapidly widening gulf between what they're getting and what they think they rightfully deserve. "

In the context of the Arctic Resilience Report and Monbiot's "13 impossible crises,"  Homer-Dixon's discussion of "contingency" in his now 10 year old book sounds as if it could have been written today. Some of it seems to be straight out of Donald Trump's campaign playbook. We live in an era where wedge politics works for those who turn this weapon against us, those who reap immeasurable gains from the dismantling of social cohesion.

Sunday Afternoon Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 11/27/2016 - 10:17
This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Janice Fine discusses how the decline of organized labour as a political force has opened the door for the likes of Donald Trump:
Just when we need them most, the main institutions that have fought for decent jobs are a shadow of their former selves. Unions that have played a singular role in forging solidarity across racial, ethnic, and gender lines can now do so only for a diminishing number of Americans. Adding insult to injury, it is not just the right that has hastened their demise; liberals have been dismissing unions for years.

Unions matter for all the reasons described above, but more than anything, they are critical to the functioning of our democracy because of the role they have played in shaping working-class political consciousness and ideology. It has been largely through unions that American workers have developed an understanding of which side of the fence they are on, who is there with them, and who is on the other side. Of course they have had stiff competition, especially in recent years, from Fox News, Breitbart, the National Rifle Association, and now from Donald Trump. But this is precisely the reason it is so important for them to have the rights and the resources to organize and build real local structures. Union locals were once citizenship schools for the working class. When unions were weakened, working-class people lost a central means through which they could develop an understanding of the world—of who was to blame for the decline in their standard of living and how to take action to correct it.
Working-class people of all races and ethnicities have reason to be furious. Barack Obama extended unemployment benefits during the recession, bailed out the auto industry, expanded healthcare for millions of people, and extended overtime pay to millions, but for eight years he put investment bankers in charge of the nation’s economic policies, declined to break up big banks, and preached the advantages of free trade. He froze federal salaries, extended the Bush tax cuts, worried about the deficit, and skimped on the stimulus package. His narrative of recovery conflated a rising stock market and soaring corporate profits with an improving economy for regular people.

While millions of mid-wage jobs were lost during the Great Recession, including many in the public sector, few have been added back in the recovery. The optimistic tenor of the monthly jobs report conceals a bitter truth: the economy is adding jobs, but they are disproportionately low wage. Our nation today is an especially brutal place for older workers.
In the absence of unions, no other institutions have arisen that have elevated the voice, needs, and aspirations of working-class people and organized at the scale they once achieved. In the absence of collective institutions, people have been known to look to charismatic men who promise to make their countries great again.

While finding meaning in the election results is by definition a complex and complicated task, no one can credibly argue that Trump’s voters felt adequately listened to in the months and years leading up to last Tuesday’s political earthquake. It is unlikely that their lot will improve in a nation’s capital under Republican rule. Had they had strong institutions to express their collective voice, I, for one, believe the outcome would have been much, much different.- Derrick O'Keefe writes about the need for a more courageous progressive movement to stem the twin dangers of neoliberalism and exclusionism. And James Di Fiore theorizes that Charlie Angus may represent an ideal leader for that type of groundswell.

- Emily Mathieu reports on the federal government's less-than-surprising conclusion that we desperately need a national housing strategy to respond to a crisis of availability and affordability - though it's far from certain whether that will lead to action. And Christopher Cheung comments on the particular lack of family-friendly housing in urban areas.

- Meanwhile, Derek Cook argues that instead of treating poverty as a problem to be fixed solely through dispassionate and impersonal policies, rather than a social wound which needs to be healed with compassion and care.

- Finally, Carl Zimmer highlights the devastating effect global warming is having on the food chain in the Arctic. And Graham Thomson points out points out Alberta's experience with "clean coal" - and how it debunks the theory spouted by Trump and Brad Wall among few that carbon capture and storage is a remotely viable answer to the environmental dangers of relying on fossil fuels.

Fidel: One giant speaks of another

Dawg's Blawg - Sun, 11/27/2016 - 08:47
His enemies say he was an uncrowned king who confused unity with unanimity. And in that his enemies are right. His enemies say that if Napoleon had a newspaper like Granma, no Frenchman would have learned of the disaster... Dr.Dawg

Our Post-Privacy Era

Politics and its Discontents - Sun, 11/27/2016 - 06:36

Have you ever found yourself, whether intentionally or by accident, on a webpage discussing STDs? Or how about a porn site? Perhaps you are interested in the online recruiting methodology ISIS? How about the latest research on the use of hallucinogenics to treat alcoholism or PTSD? Whatever you intent might have been, those searches, indeed, all searches, will now be preserved by law by your ISP if you live in Britain.

In a frightening development that would not surprise Orwell but should shock and appall the rest of us, Big Brother has flexed his mighty muscles:
After months of wrangling, Parliament has passed a contentious new snooping law that gives authorities — from police and spies to food regulators, fire officials and tax inspectors — powers to look at the internet browsing records of everyone in the country.

Civil liberties groups say the law establishes mass surveillance of British citizens, following innocent internet users from the office to the living room and the bedroom.The Investigatory Powers Bill — dubbed the "snoopers' charter" by critics — was passed by Parliament this month after more than a year of debate and amendments. It will become law when it receives the formality of royal assent next week. While this chilling bill will not provide access to the individual pages you may have consulted, it will provide the websites visited as well as the apps used and messaging services utilized.

As if this bold intrusion into citizens' privacy weren't enough,
Officials won't need a warrant to access the data, and the list of bodies that can see it includes not just the police and intelligence services, but government departments, revenue and customs officials and even the Food Standards Agency.So shouldn't people simply rely on encryption methods to keep their communications private? Unfortunately, it's not that simple:
Service providers are also concerned by the law's provision that firms can be asked to remove encryption to let spies access communications. Internet companies say that could weaken the security of online shopping, banking and a host of other activities that rely on encryption.It might be tempting for Canadians to heave a sigh of relief that they do not live in this brave new British world. But that would be unspeakably naive, considering the wish-list of our own RCMP:
The RCMP is lobbying the Prime Minister's Office for new powers to bypass digital roadblocks in cases where national security threats and other "high priority" suspects hide online and operate anonymously beyond the reach of police.

"I can safely say that there's criminal activity going on every day that's facilitated by technology that we aren't acting on," RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson told CBC News and the Toronto Star in an exclusive interview.There will undoubtedly be those lazy thinkers who claim that since their own lives are above reproach, they have nothing to hide. Putting aside the obvious objections to such capitulations, perhaps they should consider this:

Today's idle online curiosity may very well become tomorrow's crime.

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Fidel Castro:The Death of a Revolutionary Giant

Montreal Simon - Sun, 11/27/2016 - 04:31

I knew something was wrong when Fidel Castro wasn't able to meet with Justin Trudeau, during his recent visit to Cuba.

I knew Fidel had to be very ill not to meet with the young man he helped console while acting as an honorary pallbearer at his father's funeral.

And sadly I was right, for now it is the Cuban people who must bury their legendary leader.
Read more »

More Black Days In July

Northern Reflections - Sun, 11/27/2016 - 03:16

It's been almost half a century since the assassination of Martin Luther King and the urban infernos that followed his death. That's two generations, and many people have no memory of that time. But we may be returning to that time. Linda McQuaig writes:

I’ve always been amazed at the way Americans routinely describe their country as “the greatest democracy on earth,” without considering how that characterization fits with its history of genocide against Native Americans and more than two centuries of slavery.
The fact that slavery was central to the American experience is rarely acknowledged, with little attempt to make amends for this atrocity — as South Africa did after apartheid or Germany did after the Second World War. There’s been only a belated apology, from the U.S. House of Representatives, in 2008, after decades of pressure.
And certainly the emerging Trump administration is in no mood to offer apologies:
The soft, itchy underbelly of American racism has been given a good scratching by Trump, who for years kept alive birther attempts to discredit the first black president.
Whatever damage Trump is likely to do around the globe, at home — under the guidance of master provocateur Bannon — he is almost certainly going to pick a fight with the Black Lives Matter crowd, despite their reliance on peaceful protests in the face of routine police killings of unarmed black men.
And when those tensions are further inflamed, the man who will be there to ensure justice is done will be Trump’s new attorney general, Jeff Sessions, the Alabama senator whose racial comments led to his rejection as a judge by the Republican-dominated U.S. Senate in 1986.
Consider Sessions' record on race relations:
Less well known is the insidious role Sessions played in preserving Alabama’s long history of separate and unequal education. In the 1990s, 30 of the state’s poorest school districts and a disability rights group successfully challenged the system, with an Alabama judge ruling it unconstitutional.
Sessions, then Alabama’s attorney general, fought to ensure ongoing inequality, using his office to wage a fierce two-year battle to overturn the decision — which was eventually upheld by the state’s supreme court.
Given Sessions’ history, it’s not hard to imagine how, as the nation’s attorney general, he’ll clamp down on black street protestors, stripping away their civil liberties and emboldening police — moves that will lead to more anger, violence, further clampdowns, mass arrests, etc.
Gordon Lightfoot's song "Black Day in July" may, once again, be getting a lot of air play. 


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