Posts from our progressive community

Stephen Harper and the Veiled Appeal to Racism

Montreal Simon - Sat, 02/28/2015 - 00:34

Stephen Harper would like us all to know, that when it comes to the headgear of some Muslim women, some are more equal or permissible than others.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper doesn't agree with a Quebec Court judge's controversial decision to refuse to hear a woman's case because she was wearing a hijab, a spokesman says. "If someone is not covering their face, we believe they should be allowed to testify," Harper spokesman Stephen Lecce said in a one-line statement.

Even if he doesn't say it himself. And it's just a one-line statement.

Because of course, as I pointed out yesterday and Chantal Hébert points out today, he's counting on fanning the flames of bigotry in Quebec's Great Niqab debate.

Along with his fellow travellers in the Bloc Quebecois.
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The Rise of Tom Mulcair and the Missing Progressive Vision

Montreal Simon - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 20:11

I've always thought it was unfair that Tom Mulcair should work so hard and reap such little benefit.

Because the way he grills Stephen Harper in Question Period, like a prosecutor does a criminal, is one of the highlights of my day.

Especially since it drives Harper crazy, and makes him say crazy things like what he said yesterday. 

Even though Mulcair's son is a police officer.

So I'm glad to see that all that effort may finally be paying some dividends. 
Read more »

Musical interlude

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 17:56
Gareth Emery - Exposure

Americans See Combating Climate Change a Moral Obligation. Speaking of Morality, Where's Steve Harper?

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 12:30
Some are calling it the "Francis effect" after the forceful statements the Pope has made about the need to address climate change.

A significant majority of Americans say combating climate change is a moral issue that obligates them – and world leaders - to reduce carbon emissions, a Reuters/IPSOS poll has found.

The poll of 2,827 Americans was conducted in February to measure the impact of moral language, including interventions by Pope Francis, on the climate change debate. In recent months, the pope has warned about the moral consequences of failing to act on rising global temperatures, which are expected to disproportionately affect the lives of the world’s poor.

The result of the poll suggests that appeals based on ethics could be key to shifting the debate over climate change in the United States, where those demanding action to reduce carbon emissions and those who resist it are often at loggerheads.

Two-thirds of respondents (66 percent) said that world leaders are morally obligated to take action to reduce CO2 emissions. And 72 percent said they were “personally morally obligated” to do what they can in their daily lives to reduce emissions.
Our prime minister's favourite passtime, pimping high-carbon fossil fuels, is pretty plainly immoral.  It's Canada's eager contribution to a great deal of suffering, dislocation and, ultimately, death.  It's the legacy of petro-statehood in the 21st century.  That trafficking in high-carbon bitumen is a disgrace to Canada and establishes our well-deserved reputation as an environmental pariah.  My guess is that Stephen Harper and his minions will be steering well clear of Pope Francis.

Another Dubious Record

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 11:14

We're about to hit the 30-year milestone.  That's 30 years of consistent, above-average temperatures.  February will mark 360 consecutive months of above average temps.  That's even getting close to half my own lifetime.

Each month, the US National Climatic Data Center calculates Earth’s average surface temperature using temperature measurements that cover the Earth’s surface. Then, another average is calculated for each month of the year for the twentieth century, 1901-2000. For each month, this gives one number representative of the entire century. Subtract this overall 1900s monthly average—which for February is 53.9F (12.1C)—from each individual month’s temperature and you’ve got the anomaly: that is, the difference from the average.

Asia's Dreadnoughts

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 10:54

Dreadnoughts.  The first modern battleship - big guns and steam turbine power. Prior to WWI these new super-warships triggered a major naval arms race between Britain and Germany.

Something similar is underway today across Asia and the South Pacific only this time its a naval arms race focused on submarine superiority.  We don't hear much about it but just about every player from the Sea of Japan, the South China Sea, the Indian Ocean and the south/central Pacific is rapidly rearming with submarines.

Even the city state of Singapore has a fleet of six subs, some of which are soon to be replaced with the latest and greatest.  Australia is wrestling with plans to replace its Collins-class boats with up to a dozen new subs.  Vietnam is beginning to deploy new Russian boats.  The Philippines is establishing its own submarine service.  Thailand is following suit.  India, seeking to establish a Blue Water navy has a major submarine programme that includes the development of an indigenous nuclear missile sub.  Pakistan is looking to buy new subs from China.  Japan may amend its constitution to allow the export of new technology submarines to potential customers like Australia.

What's driving all the panic for U-boats is, of course, China and its rapidly expanding naval force.  Now even the US Navy is expressing concerns about the size and capability of China's submarine force.

China now has a larger submarine fleet than that United States, a U.S. admiral said on Wednesday. Speaking to the House Armed Service Committee’s Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee (which oversees the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps), Vice Admiral Joseph Mulloy said that China is building some “fairly amazing submarines,” both diesel- and nuclear-powered. Mulloy is the deputy chief of naval operations for capabilities and resources.

Mulloy told the subcommittee that China is “out experimenting and looking at operating and clearly want[s] to be in this world of advanced submarines.” He also noted that China is increasing the geographical area of deployment for its subs, as well as the length of time per deployment.

...Nuclear-power submarines are a particular area of emphasis as China looks to improve its ability to conduct military operations outside its own near seas. China is continuing to produce Jin-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) and Shang-class nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs), and is expected to introduce new models over the next decade (the Type 096 SSBN and Type 095 guided-missile attack submarine or SSGN). For now, however, the DoD reports that diesel-powered subs are still “mainstay of the Chinese submarine force.”

Right now the leading edge in submarine technology is with the ultra-quiet, conventional submarine with AIP or air-independent propulsion. These non-nuclear boats can operate underwater for up to two-weeks at a stretch. The big suppliers are Germany, France, Sweden and, perhaps soon, Japan. The hapless subs Canada operates do no have AIP and are completely outclassed, even when they are fit for duty.

The Christian States of America?

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 10:16

What if America became a theocracy?  Apparently a survey of Republicans found 57 per cent in favour of making Christianity the official religion of the United States.

Younger Republicans in the 18 – 45 age group were more favorable to the idea, with 63 percent of that cohort affirming that Christianity should be our national faith. Majorities of the older age groups still agreed, but in slightly smaller proportions. Among self-proclaimed Tea Partiers, 58 percent wished to establish Christianity as a state faith; and among those favoring former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee in the Republican primary, 94 percent would support such a measure. Eighty-three percent of Rick Perry fans replied that they would prefer Christianity be made our national religion, along with 62 percent of Rand Paul advocates.

...But aside from the illegality and irrationality of it, naming Christianity the United States’ national faith would do damage to the faith and faithful even if it did somehow shore up national morality. This is because national faiths, for better or worse, tend to morph into nationalism with a faith element, rather than a faith that happens to be practiced by a particular nation.

This is already true of right wing rhetoric wherein Christianity is made to stand in for American conflicts or situations. Earlier this month, for example, President Barack Obama faced censorious outcry after noting that Christians of the past carried out the Crusades; with Republicans like Governor Bobby Jindal accusing the president of going hard on Christianity in lieu of ISIS, it’s clear the Crusades were, in this instance, turned into an analogy of a purely modern conflict, with Obama implied to be on the wrong side. By criticizing Christianity instead of Islam he was understood to take the side of foreigners rather than Americans.

Ironically, the same zealots who pitch this nonsense are also fervent in their supposed support of America's "founding fathers" even though they were decidedly secular and avowed supporters of separation of church and state.  

Spock is Gone

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 09:48
Leonard Nimoy has died at age 83.  His death has been blamed on many years of smoking even though he quit three decades ago.

I can think of no finer tribute to Nimoy:

Something All Canadians Need To Hear

Politics and its Discontents - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 09:44
Many thanks to The Salamander for alerting me to this video, which Richard Hughes posted on his blog, Cowichan Conversations. I am reposting it here, and encourage all progressive bloggers to consider doing the same on their sites.

This eloquent message reminds all of us of the myriad failures of the Harper cabal, and gives voice to all who are striving for regime change.

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Wheat a Minute – Sez Who?

Left Over - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 09:01
Wheat Belly arguments are based on shaky science, critics say Scientists dispute claims in best-selling book, fifth estate finds

CBC News Posted: Feb 27, 2015 11:00 AM ET Last Updated: Feb 27, 2015 11:00 AM ET


You may refer to it as ‘shaky’ science, but those of us who have noticed a big difference in our health and our waistlines would tend to has to wonder who financed these ‘critics’ and if the wheat lobby or those who make massive profits on such junk food as ‘cold’ cereal and white bread are prepared to out themselves…full disclosure on the part of the ‘critics’ might raise some eyebrows..
Science is always disputed and called ‘junk’ when it posits an unpopular or anti-corporate Big Food message…whatever, I will continue to avoid  most grains and starches, continue to feel much better, continue to watch the weight drop off, and you can go and argue about it in the corner…

The discussion about whether or not grains are the same  structurally today as those in the past doesn’t have much to do with the facts in my particular case..and yes, it is a variation on low carb eating, which I have found throughout my life to be the one thing that works for me – again, not a diet but a way of  eating that won’t change much, and there actually is an infinite variety of things to eat  with out feeling  too oppressed…

If someone somewhere wasn’t losing money,  and big money at that, because of a minor shift in thinking on the part of those of us who  have weight/health  issues, you can bet this  decision to eliminate  grains and starches as much as possible from our  diets wouldn’t even be acknowledged…

Now, is the  massive and suspicious rise in the price of  meat connected?  We might wonder…..

An Early Election?

Northern Reflections - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 06:06

Two days ago, rumours were circulating that we were in for an early election. So far, nothing has materialized. But, having mastered the art of fear and smear politics -- and having passed Bill C-51 -- Michael Harris writes that there are lots of reasons for Stephen Harper to call an early election:

It would let Harper campaign on terrorism, not his record. He has his emotional issue: “I am the strong man who will protect you from the beheaders.”

A defence brief recently obtained by the CBC under Access to Information implies Canada’s failure to procure the F-35s may be damaging our relationship with our international allies: “Canada often struggles to meet timelines to participate in international co-operative activities.” Read: Canada needs those F-35s so we can protect everyone by bombing the Middle East.

If Harper wins the election, Canada will get those planes, no matter what they cost, even though they may not be fully operational until 2019 due to a newly-discovered computer glitch with the plane’s main gun. Not a small problem, by the way — it could prevent the F-35 from firing during close air support operations. The Pentagon, which milks the American taxpayer like a prize cow, has denied there will be a delay.

Harper wouldn’t have to present a budget that he can’t balance.

He’d escape blowback from the Mike Duffy trial, where Nigel Wright might have to tell the truth under oath, instead of a carefully constructed version of the truth designed to protect the prime minister. Meanwhile, Patrick Brazeau’s preliminary inquiry is set to begin June 1. Mike Duffy’s trial will still be on at that point — bad timing for the PM.

The trial of Bruce Carson, a former senior aide to Harper, on charges related to a water purification company for First Nations starts September 8.

If Harper calls an early election, there will be confusion at the polls because of changes under the new Elections Act. Many voters will turn up without the proper ID — although you can bet Conservative voters will be well prepared. You now need two pieces of official ID, at least one with your street address. Yes, due to a hard-fought amendment, someone can vouch for your address if they know you — but you both have to swear an oath and that takes time, meaning long line-ups at the polls. Just what you need when you have to pick up the kids at daycare.
Harper has never been a man of principle. But he has always been a desperate opportunist. Is anyone taking bets?

Friday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 05:43
Assorted content to end your week.

- Frank Graves writes that we're seeing the end of progress for all but the wealthiest few - and that we all stand to lose out if we come to believe that progress for the rest of us is impossible:
There is a virtual consensus that a growing and optimistic middle class is a precondition for societal health and economic prosperity. This consensus position reflects the historical record of when nations succeed. Yet if this consensus is correct, we note with alarm that almost nobody thinks that these conditions are in place in Canada. To the contrary, the consensus view is that the middle class is shrinking and pessimistic.
There are important barometers of confidence and we have tested these the same way in repeated measures for twenty years or so; the trajectories are clear and revealing. Never in our tracking has Canada had such a gloomy outlook on the economic future. Never in our tracking has the sense of progress from the past been so meager.- Meanwhile, Spiegel interviews Naomi Klein about the choice between ever-increasing resource consumption and a sustainable planet:
SPIEGEL: So you're saying that a new era of consumption and energy use began precisely at the moment when sustainability and restraint would have been more appropriate?
Klein: Exactly. And it was at precisely this moment that we were also being told that there was no longer any such thing as social responsibility and collective action, that we should leave everything to the market. We privatized our railways and the energy grid, the WTO and the IMF locked in an unregulated capitalism. Unfortunately, this led to an explosion in emissions.

SPIEGEL: Let's go back to our first question: Why have people been unable to stop this development?
Klein: We have systematically given away the tools. Regulations of any kind are now scorned. Governments no longer create tough rules that limit oil companies and other corporations. This crisis fell into our laps in a disastrous way at the worst possible moment. Now we're out of time. Where we are right now is a do-or-die moment. If we don't act as a species, our future is in peril. We need to cut emissions radically.
SPIEGEL: You're saying that all the small steps -- green technologies and CO2 taxation and the eco-behavior of individuals -- are meaningless?
Klein: No. We should all do what we can, of course. But we can't delude ourselves that it's enough. What I'm saying is that the small steps will remain too small if they don't become a mass movement. We need an economic and political transformation, one based on stronger communities, sustainable jobs, greater regulation and a departure from this obsession with growth. That's the good news. We have a real opportunity to solve many problems at once.
SPIEGEL: You don't appear to be counting on the collective reason of politicians and entrepreneurs.
Klein: Because the system can't think. The system rewards short-term gain, meaning quick profits. Take Michael Bloomberg, for example ...
SPIEGEL: … the businessman and former New York City mayor …
Klein: … who understood the depths of the climate crisis as a politician. As a businessman, however, he chooses to invest in a fund that specializes in oil and gas assets. If a person like Bloomberg cannot resist the temptation, then you can assume that the system's self-preservation capacity isn't that great.- Naturally, the Cons are going out of their way to make sure nobody's able to talk about either growth or sustainability. On that front, Kristie Smith reports on the Cons' refusal to allow our elected representatives to assess their woeful economic record. And Carol Linnitt talks to Donald Gutstein about their determination to silence anybody trying to make the case to save our planet.

- Of course, the most prominent current example of that is their terror bill. On that front, the Ottawa Citizen rightly questions the Cons' rush to impose massive new powers with as little study as possible. Louise Elliott reports on how C-51 ignores the Supreme Court's past decisions about security certificates, while upwards of 100 professors in law and related disciplines have released a letter calling for the bill to be amended or scrapped. And both Don Martin and Michael Harris call out the Cons for their selective definition of a threat (at least before universal surveillance powers are put in place).

- Finally, Health Poverty Action examines the global cost of the war on drugs. Anna Mehler Paperny discusses the social and economic consequences of a lack of accessible child care. And the Guardian reminds us that ignoring homelessness doesn't make its human costs disappear.

Bill C-51: Is Stephen Harper Feeling the Heat?

Montreal Simon - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 03:39

You could tell by just looking at him that Stephen Harper hated the very idea. He was angry he was vicious. 

He went after the opposition like a rabid hyena for daring to criticize his flawed and dangerous anti-terrorism bill.

He accused the NDP of "attacking the police and the security services."

But in the end he folded like cheap suit, and was forced to surrender some ground. 
Read more »

Stephen Harper and his New Separatist Friends

Montreal Simon - Thu, 02/26/2015 - 23:34

Yesterday I wondered whether Stephen Harper was helping to bring the Bloc Quebecois back from the land of the dead.

By fanning the flames of xenophobia and bigotry, and replacing the Great War on Terrorism with the Great War on the Niqab.

Which if you read the hideous comments in the newspapers, is what it has become. 

And today when I saw a new Bloc attack ad I got my answer:

Yes, yes, he has.
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Newsweek's Obituary for the Athabasca Tar Sands

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 02/26/2015 - 23:08
Is it time for the Barons of Bitumen to wave the white flag?  That seems to be the case according to an article from the latest NewsWeek, "Keystone and the Riddle of the Tar Sands."

...some of Alberta’s crude has made its way to market, but so much slower than it could have, or was projected to, that producers, refiners, shippers, banks and other investors in tar sands development are beginning to wonder whether they have backed a good play by investing over $160 billion to turn tar into oil.So the economic stranding process has already begunFive global energy giants—Shell, Total, Suncor, Statoil and Occidental—have cut bait on major bitumen deposits in Alberta, in which they had already invested billions. Suncor has just slashed another billion dollars from its capital spending program and $800 million more from operating expenses. And as oil prices slide lower, commercial and investment banks are reconsidering future underwritings. An industry that recently envisioned doubling production over the next 20 years is now looking at something closer to the opposite: a halving of production or worse in far fewer than 20 years.American media coverage of the tar sands has focused primarily on the approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline, which, if completed, would carry 830,000 barrels of Athabasca crude, every day, to the world’s largest refining center near Houston next to a booming export hub.Because American and Canadian politicians and oil executives have lobbied so hard for its approval, Americans tend to believe that construction of Keystone will secure the future of the tar sands. Not true. To even approach a break-even point, at least four other pipeline routes will be needed to carry bituminous crude to the world’s market: two to the Canadian west, one to the East and one to the North.If two or three of those lines are somehow stopped, and that’s quite likely to occur, the stranding of the tar sands will escalate, Canada will cease being a petro-state, and its business leaders will begin their search for yet another staple to drive its national economy.The article singles out Stephen Harper for scrutiny, labeling him Canada's Ted Cruz....Canada’s tar sands booster-in-chief is Prime Minister Stephen Harper, an Alberta-based petrolero who rose to prominence in politics as chief policy officer of the Reform Party, Canada’s version of the American Tea Party. Founded in 1987, Reform merged in 2000 with the floundering Progressive Conservative Party to form a new and almost unbeatable national coalition calling itself the Canadian Conservative Reform Alliance. (After adding Partyto its name, it became CCRAP and was nicknamed “see-crap.”) Harper became party leader of CCRAP, which has since won two national elections. It’s as if Ted Cruz became the Republican front-runner and won the White House twice....In Calgary, he became an outspoken and eloquent opponent of Pierre  Trudeau’s National Energy Plan, which seemed set upon nationalizing Canada’s last staple resource. While there is still talk of nationalizing oil and tar sands oil in Canada, and in some polls a majority of Canadians support the idea, that couldn’t possibly happen with Harper in power.At the 2012 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Harper announced that the expanded production and export of tar sands bitumen was a national priority. Canada, he predicted, was set to become an energy superpower. In Ottawa, he took immediate and aggressive steps to weaken environmental protections like the Navigable Waters Protection Act, which was hindering pipeline construction, and to fast-track tar sands production....If Canada’s tar sands do one day become stranded, the equivalent annual emissions of over 65 coal-fired plants and 50 million passenger vehicles will remain underground. And a lot of the credit (or blame) will go to environmental activists, aboriginal communities, litigious farmers and groups like GreenpeaceNRDC and, which have added to their anti-pipeline advocacy a campaign to pressure institutional investors to divest their “Big Fossil” holdings. Even before divestment began, nine out of 10 tar sands producers’ stocks had underperformed the market. So they are vulnerable. ...While assets like the tar sands should be stranded, because mining and burning them will raise the temperature of an already overheated planet a degree or more, they are more likely to become stranded because they are either unable to reach market or have lost market value.The sad irony is that before Canada selected tar sands crude to be its staple export, the country was poised to become a major global contributor to clean energy. It had signed climate treaties, promoted solar energy, developed hydroelectric power and had a prosperous renewable-energy industry under sail, for which the country possessed all the necessary natural and financial resources.Then one powerful neoliberal free-market zealot decided to double down on high-carbon fuels and announce to the world that tar sands would become the next nation-building staple for his country.It appears he was wrong about that, which would not be a bad outcome for the planet.

You May Find This Hard to Believe

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 02/26/2015 - 18:42
Just in from NOAA, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. January, 2015 was the second hottest January on record.  I know, I know - the Polar Vortex, all those snowstorms, - yada, yada, yada.  But, you see, that's the "global" part of global warming.

Much of central and eastern North America has been in the deep freeze for several weeks but much of the rest of the planet has been toasty.  Recently Barrow, Alaska has been logging warmer temperatures that many states in the lower 48.  Here's what the world looked like in January.  Red is warm, blue is cold.

So, as you scrape the ice off your windshield, consider yourself unique, somehow special.  The rest of the world doesn't get to do that.

What Stands Between Stephen Harper and a Spring Election Call?

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 02/26/2015 - 17:52
Yesterday, apparently, some Ottawa journos were speculating about Stephen Harper dropping the writ today for a spring election.

I was told last week that Harper has already brought in a couple of heavy hitters to staff his campaign war room so I followed up on the speculation with a message to my go-to, Ottawa veteran Tory.  His terse reply:  "lots of signs. good bet."

So, what, if anything, might stand in Harper's way from pulling the pin?  It certainly won't be his own, fixed election date law.  He's ignored that before.

One factor might be the deep freeze that besets most of the country east of Lotus Land.  EnviroCan says there's at least another month of Arctic fronts that'll be rolling through central and eastern Canada.  Not the best weather for campaigning.

Then there's the Duffy trial.  That's a double-edged sword.  If Harper goes now he'll be exposed to those who'll say that the prime minister wants to get Canadians to vote before they can learn the true state of skullduggery that went on in his PMO and details of Harper's personal involvement.

On the other hand, if Harper knows the evidence that will come out during the trial will show him to have lied about what he knew and when - or worse - what has he got to lose from speculation?

Recent polls show Trudeau and Harper neck and neck.  What if Harper doesn't see much chance of his fortunes improving over the next several months?  What would he have to lose by going now?

With world oil prices tanking, Harper can't expect Fortune to smile on Canada's petro-economy.  His supposed stewardship of the Canadian economy has saved him before but that'll be a harder sell this time around.

Somehow I don't think the terrorism trick is going to work this time either.  Even the rightwing media won't rally to defend Harper's assault on Canadian civil liberties, Bill C-51.  He needs us afraid and I just don't think enough of us are any longer.

When you step back you can see this is an awfully tired government that's fresh out of ideas.  Harper will probably try to turn the next election into a referendum on Justin Trudeau, the tactic he employed to trash Dion and Ignatieff in their turn.

What do you think?  Will Harper, yet again, try to catch the opposition off guard?  

Benjamin Netanyahu and Stephen Harper's Iran Bomb Problem

Montreal Simon - Thu, 02/26/2015 - 16:57

Well I'm sure you remember the day that Benjamin Netanyahu turned up at the United Nations with a crude cartoon bomb to claim that Iran could have a nuclear weapon within months.

And managed to scare most of the world AND the Road Runner...

And I'm sure you also remember how Stephen Harper used that speech to declare Iran a state sponsor of terrorism, and close down our embassy in Tehran.

But now it turns out that Benny was stretching the truth or just lying.
Read more »

Something For The Winter Weary

Politics and its Discontents - Thu, 02/26/2015 - 15:00

Others may find find they speak precisely for them:

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