Posts from our progressive community

Steve And Bashar

Northern Reflections - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 04:11
                                             http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/

Paul Adams writes that Stephen Harper is now Bashar Assad's newest ally. The coalition he has joined strengthens Assad's hand:

  • Most obviously, it strikes directly at the most potent rebel force that rose up in opposition to his regime — the one that has acquired the most territory and has the strongest fighting force.
  • By targeting Islamic State, it allows Assad to divert military resources to fight other rebel groups, including the al-Qaida linked Al-Nusra Front and the so-called ‘moderate’ rebels we supposedly support.
  • The anti-Islamic State mission also creates a diplomatic opening for Assad to begin rehabilitating his regime from pariah state to unlikely Western ally.

And Adams offers a few facts for comparison:

The U.S. government recently said that Islamic State had abducted between 1,500 and 4,000 Yazidi women, some of whom were apparently sold as “brides”. That’s awful — but how does it compare with the record of the Assad regime?

Although it’s notoriously difficult to assemble statistics on sexualized violence, there is substantial evidence that the Assad regime has used rape as a weapon, and on a scale yet to be matched by Islamic State. It also has a ghastly record of torturing and murdering civilians — including children.Best estimates of the number of people killed in Assad’s war so far are in the neighbourhood of 300,000. The number killed by Islamic State to date may be in the tens of thousands.
None of this means that Islamic State is a victim. They are beyond the pale. The question is: Is the Harper mission the solution to the problem? Past history suggests it isn't. But Stephen Harper is no student of history -- even recent history.


The Con Regime's Lethally Inadequate Response to the Ebola Epidemic

Montreal Simon - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 00:44


We are still awaiting our first case of Ebola.

And even though the risk of a major outbreak in Canada is almost negligible, in the emergency rooms of the nation, doctors, and nurses, are already struggling to contain an epidemic of fear.

Not just the irrational fears of their patients, but legitimate fears over their own safety. 

Linda Haslam-Stroud, president of the Ontario Nurse’s Association, said Tuesday that her organization is particularly concerned that nurses are not being offered all the equipment they might need to protect them from contracting the virus, as a Texas nurse did last week.

And as might have been expected, the response of the Harper regime has so far been woefully lacking. 
Read more »

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

accidentaldeliberations - Tue, 10/14/2014 - 19:36
Companion cats.




Has Olive Garden Lost Its Way?

Politics and its Discontents - Tue, 10/14/2014 - 16:26
Although we didn't eat at The Olive Garden this year when we visited our son in Edmonton, last year we did. It was quite disappointing, a far cry from years ago when we had the restaurant chain in Ontario. The following video perhaps explains why:

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Oh, the humanity

Cathie from Canada - Tue, 10/14/2014 - 12:48
Happy thanksgiving everyone, though somewhat belated.




The greatest line in television history: As god is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.

Bomb'Em All - Well Except the Kurds, Maybe

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 10/14/2014 - 12:01

By now we've all been well steeped in the brutal excesses of ISIS - beheadings, mass executions, torture - in Middle Eastern parlance, the full nine yards.  And so we're off to Kuwait from where we'll launch air strikes against ISIS forces in Iraq.

Well, since we're going all the way over there anyway and since we'll be hunting for scarce targets among the Sunni ISIS militias maybe we can spare a few bombs for Iraq's Shiite militias also.

With today's manipulative, corporate mass media cartel we're used to getting just one side of any story and even that is often distorted and incomplete.  ISIS is a case in point.

Bloodthirsty and brutal as ISIS is, what do we hear about Iraq's government supported Shiite militias?  Judging by the latest report from Amnesty International, we've been left completely in the dark.

Shi’a militias, supported and armed by the government of Iraq, have abducted and killed scores of Sunni civilians in recent months and enjoy total impunity for these war crimes, said Amnesty International in a new briefing published today.Absolute Impunity: Militia Rule in Iraq provides harrowing details of sectarian attacks carried out by increasingly powerful Shi’a militias in Baghdad, Samarra and Kirkuk, apparently in revenge for attacks by the armed group that calls itself the Islamic State (IS). Scores of unidentified bodies have been discovered across the country handcuffed and with gunshot wounds to the head, indicating a pattern of deliberate execution-style killings.“By granting its blessing to militias who routinely commit such abhorrent abuses, the Iraqi government is sanctioning war crimes and fuelling a dangerous cycle of sectarian violence that is tearing the country apart. Iraqi government support for militia rule must end now,” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Adviser. 

...The growing power of Shi’a militias has contributed to an overall deterioration in security and an atmosphere of lawlessness. The relative of one victim from Kirkuk told Amnesty International: “I have lost one son and don’t want to lose any more. Nothing can bring him back and I can’t put my other children at risk. Who knows who will be next? There is no rule of law, no protection.”Among the Shi’a militias believed to be behind the string of abductions and killings are: ‘Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, the Badr Brigades, the Mahdi Army, and Kata’ib Hizbullah.These militias have further risen in power and prominence since June, after the Iraqi army retreated, ceding nearly a third of the country to IS fighters. Militia members, numbering tens of thousands, wear military uniforms, but they operate outside any legal framework and without any official oversight.“By failing to hold militias accountable for war crimes and other gross human rights abuses the Iraqi authorities have effectively granted them free rein to go on the rampage against Sunnis. The new Iraqi government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi must act now to rein in the militias and establish the rule of law,” said Donatella Rovera.“Shi’a militias are ruthlessly targeting Sunni civilians on a sectarian basis under the guise of fighting terrorism, in an apparent bid to punish Sunnis for the rise of the IS and for its heinous crimes.”At a checkpoint north of Baghdad, for instance, Amnesty International heard a member of the ‘Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq militia say: “If we catch ‘those dogs’ [Sunnis] coming down from the Tikrit area we execute them…. They come to Baghdad to commit terrorist crimes, so we have to stop them.”Meanwhile, Iraqi government forces also continue to perpetrate serious human rights violations. Amnesty International uncovered evidence of torture and ill-treatment of detainees, as well as deaths in custody of Sunni men detained under the 2005 anti-terrorism law. 

So, let's get this straight.  We're going to save Iraq from ISIS for what exactly? Is it to clear the path for a rampage of sectarian retaliation by the Shiite government in Baghdad and its unofficial forces?

Why are we falling into lockstep with the Americans?  They "broke" Iraq when they toppled Saddam.  It was their responsibility, as the official "Occupying Power", to remake Iraq.  What did they do?  You might remember the spectacle of America's pro consul, Paul Bremer, signing the documents handing Iraq back to its interim government and then hightailing it to the Baghdad airport, flying out before the ink was dry.

It was years of American tolerance of Nouri al Maliki and his Shia death squads that prepared Sunni Iraq to turn to ISIS.  It was the sheikhs and princes of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar who raised, funded, armed and trained the Sunni militia that would become ISIS.  They're the same bunch who will raise, fund, arm and train the Sunni militia that will carry on the war against the Shiites after ISIS. Presumably we'll wind up having to bomb that outfit too.


Harper’s Zipper: Stuck Again

Left Over - Tue, 10/14/2014 - 08:59
ANALYSIS

Conservatives’ copyright law changes could backfire Does the government really want to trigger a debate over the use of political attack ads?

By Kady O’Malley, CBC News Posted: Oct 14, 2014 5:00 AM ET Last Updated: Oct 14, 2014 8:12 AM ET

The Cons haven’t had much success so far in trashing  Junior Trudeau…well, not too surprising, but then they are guilty of the same sort of  overstatement, so hard for the pot to call the kettle..and what they’ve focused on seems odd in the extreme..if their new  regulation vis a vis the  press and what is and isn’t used from  reportage goes through (and I can’t see the Supremes allowing it to…) I’m a bit confused as to how it would work in the Con’s favour…

Don’t forget that Junior Trudeau’s political predecessor won all our begrudging hearts by keeping Canada out of Iraq..and Trudeau is right…we shouldn’t be there, it isn’t our fight, and get real,   Cons, this all hearkens back to the Russians trying unsuccessfully for decades to control  Afghanistan through the same routine, only to leave in despair..and what replaced them? A heavily fundamentalist regime..nothing to see here folks…we may not like it, but these countries really need to fight their own battles, and even the rationale of blood for oil is invalid these days with the fuel surplus dropping prices in the West…

I am not a big fan of Trudeau, but have to say I actually enjoyed the line about ‘whipping out the C-18s’…not only is he creating an indelible image of rightwing whackjob old men gracelessly whingeing about who has the biggest or the best…he is speaking in the  language of real people…something every Canadian can understand, even if they are smirking behind their hands…we are not about war.


u.s. war resisters in canada are at serious risk. here's how you can help.

we move to canada - Tue, 10/14/2014 - 08:00
The War Resisters Support Campaign is facing an unprecedented crisis. Since war resister Kimberly Rivera was forced out of the country in September 2012, there had been no movement on any war resister’s case.

Then, within one month, five war resisters received notices that decisions have been made in their cases. Two of these have been given removal dates (i.e. they have been told to leave the country by a certain date). We expect similar negative outcomes in the other cases – and we don’t know who else will receive a notice tomorrow or next week.

The Campaign has shifted into high gear, challenging the decisions in court while we help families prepare for worst-case scenarios. There are two ways you can help.

You can send a letter to Minister of Citizenship & Immigration Chris Alexander, Minister of Public Safety Stephen Blaney, and your MP in support of U.S. Iraq War Resisters. Click here to send a letter.

You can donate to the Campaign. You can donate online through the GoFundMe.com/LetThemStay or by cheque or money order (details here).

Please read and share these recent statements by Iraq War resisters: Dean Walcott, Joshua Key, and a joint statement by all U.S. war resisters in Canada. If you share these with your own networks, please include the GoFundMe link.

Tuesday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Tue, 10/14/2014 - 07:49
This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Alex Hunsberger argues that the Good Jobs Summit reflected a gap between labour strategies aimed merely at trying to take a slightly larger cut of a corporate-owned system, and those which actually propose and fight for something better:
The most useful and engaging part of the weekend occurred not in the plenary sessions but during the small group discussions on Saturday, where participants had a chance to talk to one another in more depth about questions related to labour’s strategy to improve conditions for workers...Participants asked questions such as: Why bribe companies with tax cuts to create jobs when the public sector can directly employ people in unionized positions and improve social services at the same time? Why rely on begging employers to adopt living wage policies when we can push for a higher legislated minimum wage? How is telling workers about available jobs and how to apply for them going to improve their lives if we do not also have a strategy to create good jobs to apply for in the first place? Is this jobs crisis really a product of a skills shortage?

There is a clear consensus across organized labour about the problems facing workers – high unemployment, falling earnings, job precariousness, worsening public services – but clear strategic divides about how to proceed to tackle these problems. With a federal election approaching next year, different sections of labour and the left are beginning to indicate where they are headed during this crucial moment. The question is not whether we want Harper gone. Rather it is what kinds of actions can start to lead us towards a genuine alternative that gets rid of not only the Conservatives but also the disastrous social, economic, and environmental agenda they have sustained.- Meanwhile, Renata D'Alesio and Joe Friesen report that employers are still abusing the temporary foreign worker program to access a stream of low-rights, easily-controlled workers even when there are plenty of people looking for work - particularly in areas with high First Nations unemployment.

- Paul Krugman expands on how a moralistic crusade against debt forgiveness has undermined economic recovery and development through much of the developed world over the past few years.  

- Michael Harris writes about the upcoming federal election campaign - and how the Cons' only chance of re-election may be to convince voters that there's no such thing as democratic renewal:
The question is whether Harper’s tried and true recipe — chest-thumping over a mediocre economy, fear and trash-talk — will work this time. In an odd way, it comes down to whether something Harper believes — that voters aren’t really interested in ‘details’ — is actually true. As the former head of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, John Gordon, told me: “Harper is aloof and frankly dishonest. He never offers details, just platitudes.”

That’s because he’s sneakier than a honey badger at a beehive. To Harper, democracy is an exercise in crowd control once every political cycle. Between elections, it’s one-man rule.

On one important level, though, Harper is right: His party’s dismal record on truthfulness and ethics, so patently on display in Wright/Duffy and a series of other scandals, may not resonate. And it’s not because the public doesn’t care about lying and cheating. The reason is much more pathetic than that.

It’s because people think this is normal now. Many citizens have long since concluded that deception and sleight-of-hand are generic political traits, not exclusive to any party. We may have reached the point where people even expect politicians to play fast and loose. - And finally, Sandy Garossino weighs in on Christy Clark's plan to silence B.C. non-profits whose causes don't fit with corporate interests. 

Peddling Snake Oil

Northern Reflections - Tue, 10/14/2014 - 07:43

                                        http://littlegeorgiesblog-a-thon.blogspot.ca/

 Stephen Harper has been traveling the country, announcing tax breaks. So you know the election campaign is on. But the real proof that Mr. Harper is in campaign mode, Michael Harris writes, is that the three cornerstone's of Harperism are now firmly in place - fable, fear and smear:

Fables are comforting tales with few details. And, if there is one thing Mr. Harper doesn't want Canadians to look at, it's the devil in the details:

With the Canada-Europe CETA deal — which remains a work in progress, no matter how many press releases they’ve issued — we’re told that Canada’s GDP will go up 32 per cent. No mention in that bald prediction of who will benefit, or what it will cost. How many subsidies will the federal government have to pay to people like cheese producers? How much will seniors end up paying for their pharmaceuticals if the Europeans get their way? Judging from his past performance, Harper’s deals will be good for the five-carat wedding ring set. For lesser mortals, it will come down to a chicken-wing in every pot.
Then, of course, there is Harper's newly minted war in Iraq, which is being fueled by fear:

That same mainstream media (with notable individual exceptions, including the intrepid Canadian Press) is endorsing Harper’s view that Canadians are in imminent danger of being beheaded at the outlet mall by Islamic State. Man-eating pythons rising up from the toilet bowl pose more of a direct threat.
And, finally there is the attempt to smear Justin Trudeau -- which has apparently been outsourced to Jason Kenny:

Jason Kenney is apparently spending 20 per cent of his time whipping the shiny new pony on Twitter. Kenney’s staff is in on the act but the minister assures us they do the work on their personal time. (They would never kick the pony during working hours because that would be … well, that would be dirty pool, right?)
The whole idea is to sow seeds of doubt about Trudeau's judgment. But, that tactic could well backfire. It might cause voters to take a second look at Harper's judgment:

As for trashing Justin Trudeau for being inexperienced or having poor judgement — does Harper really want to go there? A debate about judgement? Does he really want to revisit all his least statesmanlike moments — from recruiting his staff from the ranks of guys who have done time to turning Libya into Thunderdome?
It's the tried and true Harperian formula. The question is: After almost a decade, do Canadians know a snake oil peddler when they see one?

The Globe And Mail: Same Old, Same Old

Politics and its Discontents - Tue, 10/14/2014 - 07:08


We are currently receiving a three-month free subscription to The Globe and Mail, a paper I supported for many years until it returned to its largely right-wing nature after vanquishing its putative competition, The National Post, and jettisoning many of its finer writers. At least getting it free for this period allows me unimpeded access to the front section of my paper of choice, The Toronto Star, since my wife very generously reads the Globe at the breakfast table.

When the free subscription period ends, I shall not continue with the Globe, as my wife and I are clearly not part of its intended audience. I was reminded of that fact this morning as I read what was essentially a two-part editorial on tarsands oil.

Part 1, entitled Canadian oil scores a well-deserved win overseas, begins on a note of triumph:
It’s encouraging that Canada was able to exert “immense” pressure (in the words of a European Commission official) so as to moderate the terms of a proposed EU fuel quality directive that would have discriminated against Canadian exports of bitumen from the oil sands. Canadian persistence has been admirable, and no doubt the successful Canada-EU trade negotiations helped.The piece than appears to dampen its enthusiasm by broaching the subject of those pesky carbon emissions, but then the basis of the paper's concern becomes evident:
Even so, Jim Prentice, the Premier of Alberta, is right to warn that, though this is “positive news for Alberta, and for all of Canada,” this country cannot afford to appear to be a reluctant foot-dragger on the environmental front.

For example, the stalling of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline is a result of immense pressure from the environmental movement, which harms Canada’s legitimate economic interests. (italics mine)
Which leads us to Part 11, Carbon policy: lagging on the home front. Intially, it appears to be offering a counterbalance to Part 1, faulting the Harper government for its sluggish pace and vague policies on reducing carbon emissions:
The government’s plans for limiting carbon emissions are vague and incomplete. Even at that, the work is lagging behind schedule. There is no clear path forward. And much of whatever progress Canada has made on these matters has been accomplished by the provincial governments, not Ottawa.However, it emerges very clearly that it is the optics of this delay, not the ongoing environmental and climate degradation, that is The Globe's true concern:
Such silence and delay give Canada and Canadian oil a bad name, not least in the U.S. They amount to damaging weapons in the hands of the American opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline, a project that would benefit both Canada and the U.S. So it is clear that nothing has changed at The Globe since I cancelled my subscription. The self-named newspaper of record continues to see the world through the bifurcated lens of business imperatives and those who oppose or challenge those interests; the paper clearly continues to subscribe to the notion that anything wrong with our version of capitalism can be fixed with a little tinkering around the edges and some effective spin.

I'll take The Star's social agenda and citizens lens over that any and every day of the week.
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Stephen Harper and the Murderous Con War on Drugs

Montreal Simon - Tue, 10/14/2014 - 03:19


As you know, I can't criticize and denounce enough what Stephen Harper and his foul Con regime are doing to this country. 

Just like I can't praise our Supreme Court enough for standing up to those beastly bullies, and defending our Canadian values.

And today I get to do both at the same time. By pointing out that if the court hadn't stopped the Cons three years ago from closing down Vancouver's Insite Clinic. 

Sixteen people could have died yesterday.
Read more »

On gleeful destruction

accidentaldeliberations - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 14:27
Others have pointed out Stephen Harper's remarkably joyful mood at the prospect of getting into another Iraq war. But lest we let the moment pass without some photographic and Photoshop memory, I'll offer up the following...




Some notes on privilege

Feminist Christian - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 14:24
Privilege. No one likes admitting that they benefit from it. Many with it won't admit they have it. And there are different kinds of privilege, all of which people like to pit against each other.

Luna, wtf are you talking about?

Good question, me. I'm a little bit jumbled about on this topic and can't seem to make my brain create the words to describe what I want to say about it. I'm only going to talk about white privilege and class privilege for this. And that's barely scratching the surface. There's also gender, sex, thin/fat, ability, and any number of other issues.

Maybe we should do this by question and answer? First of all, wtf do you mean by privilege?

Sure. Why not? Go for the hard question first. Privilege: When something inherent about a person grants them special "rights" (i.e. privileges) and makes things easier for them. A certain awesome author and blogger described it in terms of the video game of life, where privilege gives you an easier difficulty setting. Straight, white male = easiest difficulty setting. You can fuck it up, you can still lose, but when all else is equal it was easier for you. There are other random variables that can make the game harder, like addiction, abuse, poverty (which I'll come back to), but in general straight white cis male = least amount of difficulty navigating the game.

But surely wealth and class is also privilege! Poor white folks have it as bad as black people and first nations, right?


Yes, class privilege is real. No, it is not the only privilege out there. Being poor and white has plenty of advantages over being poor and black. Or poor and Cree. Or poor and any visible minority. Seriously. Yes, I know cops are shitheads to people who look poor. But if you're poor and white, you're not as likely to end up on a Starlight Tour than if you're poor and aboriginal. And when was the last time a white person was mistaken for a burglar in his own house?

You say class privilege is real, but then don't describe it. You're not very good at this, are you?

No. And that's why you're asking the questions. Of course, it's a huge advantage to have lots of money. And POC who are also wealthy also have class privilege. They have access to the circles of power that poor people of any colour do not have. Telling white people who are dirt poor and wondering where they'll get their next rent cheque from to organize the white people, to change things within the white power structure is patently ludicrous. They have no power. A rich black guy has way more pull in the power classes than a poor white guy. And a poor black guy has even less. And is more likely to get put in prison for trying.

Are you suggesting that there's a privilege hierarchy? So rich + white > rich + colour > poor + white > poor + colour?

Um, yes and no? Yes, in some circles. No, in others. That hierarchy is likely true in cases of "trying to effect change within a power structure" and completely untrue in "trying not to get killed at a traffic stop". In the former, money = power. That's why Barack Obama can be president of the USA and Oprah is one of the most powerful women on earth but white privilege is still very real and being black is a disadvantage. Just try shopping while black or native. Do ask Forest Whitaker about that. Rich black guy accused of shoplifting. When was the last time that happened to a rich, white guy? Right?

I was watching people argue about this on Twitter last night, and someone said that white people can do it just by going down to goodwill and buying a suit. They'll get in to places black people won't. Um, bullshit. I'm sorry, but bullshit. No. First of all, a goodwill suit will barely get you through a job interview. Ask any poor person trying to get a job - if you don't look the part already, you don't get the job, and people know the difference between a goodwill suit and an Armani.

Another example: When was the last time a poor person was elected to anything? Never. You cannot get elected without a lot of money. That's just how it works. And I mean a LOT of money. I do pretty well, and I wouldn't be able to afford to run for provincial politics. Municipal even. Oh yeah, I could run for mayor, put up my signs, go door to door, and have no hope whatsoever, because the incumbent has MONEY. Money he spreads around everywhere. Unless that guy is caught... I don't even know what would take him down. He's white. Drinking and driving? Nope, that got Gordon Campbell an ambassadorship to the UK. Even though it was rumoured he had a second family on the side (girlfriend and kid in Hawaii, is what I heard). Gay scandal? Nope, wouldn't matter in BC (and that's a good thing). Fucking the babysitter? Nope. See Vic Toews. Stealing from other rich white guys? THAT might do it. Because money and the knowledge of how to use it = power.

The knowledge of how to use it? What? 

Yeah, it's not enough to be filthy, stinkin' rich if you want to be powerful. If you want to change the power structures from the inside. Even rich and white isn't enough. Suppose you won $50M and your goal was to raise awareness of disability issues in the public schools, effecting change in a way that would make public schools more accessible to people with a disability. How do you even start? You don't have the connections of someone born to it. You don't have the knowledge of the system passed down to you from your parents. And you may not even have much of an education. The latter can be bought. The other two? Not so much.

Remember the example of the Armani suit? Even if you're lucky enough to score an Armani (ha!) that fits (HA!), the second you open your poor, lower class mouth, you're out. They know you're not one of them the first second you speak if you don't have the education to speak in their register.
Now, again, you're not likely to be arrested, beaten or killed for it if you're white. Not as good of odds if you're a POC. And that leads us back to the race problem. "Oh, he's so well-spoken!" = "Huh. I expected AAVE! [as if there's something inherently wrong with AAVE] He managed to speak a whole two minutes without saying motherfucker! Good, good black man!" Being black and educated enough to speak the upper class register is treated with suspicion, disbelief, and amusement. At least until that guy proves himself well enough. It's bullshit. And a perfect example of white privilege. A poor person can't get access and a rich person with an education can. But a rich black person with an education has a shitload of prejudice to wade through. And that shitload might be too thick for a whole lot of people.

Class != Money. Class is inherent, something you're born to. It's evident the second you open your mouth. Unfortunately, if you're a POC, you may not get the chance to open your mouth.

So what was your point again? Give us the TL;DR version!

My point is that white privilege doesn't trump class privilege in all cases. And class privilege doesn't trump white privilege in all cases. And we really need to stop fighting amongst ourselves about this. Poor white people have obstacles. Poor people of colour have more obstacles. Class is privilege. White is privilege. Education is privilege. None of these alone will grant a person magical access to the world of power and control. Telling poor white people to just change things within their communities is not ever going to work. They have no power. Oh sure, white people get weaker sentences in the criminal justice system, better jobs, and a whole lot of freebies. But they have no more ability to change society than a poor black person. Okay. Slightly more. Like how a canoe has a better chance of getting across the ocean than a dinghy does, because the people shooting at them can't sink the canoe like they can sink the dinghy.

You're rambling again. I said I wanted the TL;DR version, dammit!

Take D&D. If you have a strength of 18 and dex of 17, that'll get you a long way in fights. But if your charisma is 2, good luck getting a deal on the sword you want.

It's not linear. Class privilege gets you farther in some parts of society than white privilege does. White privilege gets you farther in society than class privilege does. And that's just if you're a straight cis male. If not? Good luck, sister!

October 2014 Bits and Bites: Thanksgiving Edition

Anti-Racist Canada - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 10:28
As today is a day where people will be getting together to spend time with their loved ones, we thought we would give some attention to those bonehead, who will be spending this day alone, perhaps eating a can of corned beef over the sink while blaming the Jews for their social isolation.


Our first lonely shut-in is Tomasz Winnicki of London who has been mentioned on a number of occasions on this blog.Truth be told, we think he likes the attention since he frequently tries to get our attention. His efforts are usually for naught and that sort of frustrates him a little bit, however we do throw him a bone sometimes. For example, here is one of his comments concerning our posts on the Southern Ontario "Skinheads":


Yeah, in case it's unclear Tomasz is suggesting that he is the worthy opponent we should be engaging. Have we mentioned that he has a very high opinion of his intellect?

Okay, will give you a shot Tom. Call it an audition for the position of our foil. We'll take a look at one of the comments you made on "The London Free Press" concerning the recent election in Sweden to determine if you are a worthy opponent:

Read more »

Monday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 08:42
Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- The Star points out what the Cons have destroyed - including public assets and program spending - in order to chip away at the federal deficit caused in the first place by their reckless tax slashing. And Thomas Walkom discusses how their latest "job" scheme does nothing but handing free money to businesses, while Angella MacEwen notes that Canada as a whole is hundreds of thousands of jobs short of reaching its pre-recession employment rate.

- Meanwhile, Bruce Cheadle writes that the Cons' attempt to build an economy solely around resource exploitation has proven to be an utter flop for everybody but their corporate backers.

- Joseph Stiglitz looks at new data on the U.S.' age of vulnerability and downward mobility. And Danielle Kurtzleben observes that people who recognize that risk have become increasingly willing to help others - while the detached rich are only becoming more selfish:
Even during the downturn and recovery, the poorest Americans upped their charitable giving. Meanwhile, the highest-income people gave less and less, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reported this week.
 
The rich also give to charity differently than the poor: compared to lower-income Americans, the rich's charitable giving places a far lower emphasis on helping their disadvantaged peers. When the poor and rich are (figuratively and literally) moving farther apart, an empathy gap naturally opens up between the upper and lower classes — after all, if I can't see you, I'm less likely to help you.

Taken together, the trends paint a disturbing picture for the future of both the American economy and philanthropy: as the rich get richer and more removed from the daily lives of the poor, the bulk of charitable giving is also likely to become further removed from the needs of the poor.- L. Hunter Lovins reminds us that we shouldn't confuse possessions with prosperity, while noting that a shift toward a sharing economy can drastically improve the latter while limiting how much effort we put into pursuing the former. And Ben Chu argues that a mansion tax makes for both a fair and efficient means of increasing public revenues.

 - Finally, Jeremy Brecher, Joe Uehlein and Ron Blackwell argue that now is the time for the labour movement to unite behind a strong plan to fight climate change:
(C)riticizing the weaknesses in mainstream climate policy proposals is not a strategy for combating climate change. Labor needs to propose a climate protection strategy of its own—one that realistically protects the livelihood and well-being of working people and helps reverse America’s trend toward greater inequality while reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at the speed scientists say is necessary to reduce climate catastrophe. A strategy designed to provide full employment and rising living standards by putting millions of people to work on the transition to a climate-safe economy could transform the politics of climate by shattering the “jobs versus the environment” frame. And it could provide a common platform around which climate protection advocates at every level of the labor movement could rally.
...
There are three main approaches to GHG reduction. The first, which has dominated climate legislation and treaty negotiation, consists of “putting a price on carbon emissions” to discourage GHGs through taxation, fees, cap-and-trade systems with markets for emission quotas, or similar means. The second, which is widely discussed and frequently implemented on a small scale, consists of local, often community-based initiatives designed to produce renewable energy and reduce energy consumption on a decentralized basis. The third, perhaps less often delineated by proponents than excoriated by opponents, consists of a government-led approach based on economic planning, public investment, resource mobilization, and direct government intervention in economic decisions. Although rapid reduction of GHG emissions will undoubtedly require all three, labor should lead the breakout from neoliberalism and propose a government-led plan—drawing on the example of mobilization during World War II—to put our people to work converting to a climate-safe economy.

When The Righteous Are In Charge

Northern Reflections - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 06:47


The IMF recently released a report warning that the world economy is once again tipping towards recession. Why? Paul Krugman writes in today's New York Times:

The proximate answer lies in a series of policy mistakes: Austerity when economies needed stimulus, paranoia about inflation when the real risk is deflation, and so on. But why do governments keep making these mistakes? In particular, why do they keep making the same mistakes, year after year?The answer, I’d suggest, is an excess of virtue. Righteousness is killing the world economy.
The righteous believe that ordinary folks -- who are drowning in debt -- will have to pay for their sins. They also believe that those who led them there bear no responsibility for the mess they helped create. Put simply, the righteous believe in punishment, but not forgiveness:
As I said, it’s about righteousness — the sense that any kind of debt forgiveness would involve rewarding bad behavior. In America, the famous Rick Santelli rant that gave birth to the Tea Party wasn’t about taxes or spending — it was a furious denunciation of proposals to help troubled homeowners. In Europe, austerity policies have been driven less by economic analysis than by Germany’s moral indignation over the notion that irresponsible borrowers might not face the full consequences of their actions.
So the policy response to a crisis of excessive debt has, in effect, been a demand that debtors pay off their debts in full. What does history say about that strategy? That’s easy: It doesn’t work. Whatever progress debtors make through suffering and saving is more than offset through depression and deflation. That is, for example, what happened to Britain after World War I, when it tried to pay off its debt with huge budget surpluses while returning to the gold standard: Despite years of sacrifice, it made almost no progress in bringing down the ratio of debt to G.D.P.
It's obvious where the Harperites stand. Whether it's the economy, or justice, or international affairs, they stand four square for punishment. God, you see, is on their side.

Fighting The Darkness

Politics and its Discontents - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 06:41


Knowledge is power, and withholding knowledge is crippling.

So states scientist Sarah Otto, in an op-ed piece in today's Star. Sadly, when we apply that truth to the Canadian reality, it becomes apparent that all of us are confined to metaphorical wheelchairs.

Referring to a report released last week by Evidence for Democracy, Otto laments the sad state of ignorance fostered by our repressive federal overlords:
Overall, we earned only a 55-per-cent grade, on average, for the openness of communication policies for federal scientists here in Canada. Compare that with the U.S., where the average grade using the same methods was 74 per cent in 2013.A few specific examples, only the tip of the iceberg according to Otto, attest to our government's contempt for openness:
- Scott Dalimore, a geoscientist at Natural Resources Canada, was prevented from doing media interviews about his research on a 13,000-year-old flood.

- Kristi Miller, a scientist at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, was prevented from publicly discussing work she published on salmon.

- David Tarasick, an environmental scientist at Environment Canada, was prevented from speaking publicly about his research on the ozone layer.And this statistic should be quite sobering to all citizens:
A recent survey was conducted by the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, a union representing scientists in 40 federal departments. It found 90 per cent of scientists felt that they cannot speak freely to the media about the work they do.Otto, who was asked by government scientists to speak up for them, learned some other facts about their muzzling that should outrage all Canadians:
I have been told, in confidence, about important results being held up from publication in scientific journals, waiting for approval, about missed opportunities to inform the public about research, and about cases where scientists were asked not to publish, chillingly because “we want the public to forget” about this issue.While she ends her article with some specific suggestions to remediate this deplorable state of affairs, longtime observers will conclude there really is only one viable fix, the opportunity for which comes next year when, I hope, sufficient numbers of informed Canadians go to the polls to cast judgement on the current cabal.Recommend this Post

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