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Inching Ever Closer to a Shooting War with Russia

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 08/26/2014 - 09:57
Foggy Rasmussen

Why do I get the feeling that there are some in the West who would welcome a conflict with Russia?

I watched a documentary last night on the final two years of the Soviet Union, the Gorbachev-George H.W. Bush years.  Some great commentary came from Bush Sr.'s Soviet-affairs expert, a Princeton prof, Stephen F. Cohen.

Cohen described attending a mini-summit between Bush and Gorbachev to deal with the sudden collapse of east Germany and the prospect of German reunification.  Bush rattled Gorbachev when he suggested that, as a unified state, the eastern sector of Germany should also become a part of NATO.  Gorbachev held out until Bush agreed that Germany would be it, NATO would not thereafter expand further eastward.  Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary would remain buffer states.


Gorbachev's fatal mistake, said Dr. Cohen, was in believing America would keep its word.  Instead, once Germany was safely in the bag, NATO proceeded to rapidly swallow up every country in Eastern Europe it could admit to the alliance.

As NATO, at the insistence of Bush/Cheney, spread right up to Russia's doorstep, we taught the Russians the utter folly of believing anything we said, even when it came in the form of a promise.

It is in this context that we need to consider how Vladimir Putin perceives our quite deliberate and calculated meddling in the Ukraine.  In an act of raw aggression, we facilitated the coup by pro-Western dissidents that toppled the admittedly corrupt but nonetheless democratically elected pro-Russian government.

Now that shoot-from-the-lip warhawk, NATO Secretary-General, Anders Fogh (Foggy) Rasmussen, has announced NATO is to deploy permanent combat forces at new bases in Eastern Europe to counter supposed Russian designs on the Baltic states.

Said Rasmussen, "We have to face the reality that Russia does not consider NATO a partner."

Lest you think this notion of a major war between Russia and the West is fear-mongering, the same Dr. Cohen who advised GHW Bush in his dealings with Gorbachev to end the Cold War is warning that a nuclear war is indeed possible and he's even calling for "Patriotic Heresy."

Excerpts from Cohen's address to the US-Russia Forum held in Washington in mid-June:

We meet today during the worst and potentially most dangerous American-Russian confrontation in many decades, probably since the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. The Ukrainian civil war, precipitated by the unlawful change of government in Kiev in February, is already growing into a proxy US-Russian war. The seemingly unthinkable is becoming imaginable: an actual war between NATO, led by the United States, and post-Soviet Russia.Certainly, we are already in a new cold war, which escalating sanctions will only deepen and institutionalize, one potentially more dangerous than its US-Soviet predecessor the world barely survived. This is so for several reasons:—The epicenter of the new cold war is not in Berlin but on Russia’s borders, in Ukraine, a region absolutely essential in Moscow’s view to its national security and even to its civilization. This means that the kinds of miscalculations, mishaps and provocations the world witnessed decades ago will be even more fraught with danger. (The mysterious shoot down of a Malaysian jetliner over eastern Ukraine in July was an ominous example.)—An even graver risk is that the new cold war may tempt the use of nuclear weapons in a way the US-Soviet one did not. I have in mind the argument made by some Moscow military strategists that if directly threatened by NATO’s superior conventional forces, Russia may resort to its much larger arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons. (The ongoing US-NATO encirclement of Russia with bases, as well as land and sea-based missile defense, only increases this possibility.)—Yet another risk factor is that the new cold war lacks the mutually restraining rules that developed during the forty-year cold war, especially after the Cuban missile crisis. Indeed, highly charged suspicions, resentments, misconceptions and misinformation both in Washington and Moscow may make such mutual restraints even more difficult. The same is true of the surreal demonization of Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin—a kind of personal vilification without any real precedent in the past, at least after Stalin’s death. (Henry Kissinger has pointed out that the “demonization of Vladimir Putin is not a policy; it is an alibi for the absence of one.” I think it is worse: an abdication of real analysis and rational policy-making.)—Finally, the new cold war may be more perilous because, also unlike during its forty-year predecessor, there is no effective American opposition—not in the administration, Congress, establishment media, universities, think tanks, or in society.Cohen goes on to lament how the voice of reason is no longer heard in the United States where, he contends, a new form of McCarthyism has taken hold....in our democracy, where the cost of dissent is relatively little, silence is no longer a patriotic option. (Personally, as an American, I have come to feel this more strongly, even moral indignation, as I watch the US-backed regime in Kiev inflict needless devastation, a humanitarian disaster and possibly war crimes on its own citizens in eastern Ukraine.)...I turn now, in my capacity as a historian, to that orthodoxy. The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinions, but not to his own facts.” The new cold war orthodoxy rests almost entirely on fallacious opinions. Five of those fallacies are particularly important today:Fallacy No. 1: Ever since the end of the Soviet Union in 1991, Washington has treated post-Communist Russia generously as a desired friend and partner, making every effort to help it become a democratic, prosperous member of the Western system of international security. Unwilling or unable, Russia rejected this American altruism, emphatically under Putin.Fact: Beginning in the 1990s, again with the Clinton administration, every American president and congress has treated post-Soviet Russia as a defeated nation with inferior legitimate rights at home and abroad. This triumphalist, winner-take-all approach has been spearheaded by the expansion of NATO—accompanied by non-reciprocal negotiations and now missile defense—into Russia’s traditional zones of national security, while in reality excluding it from Europe’s security system. Early on, Ukraine, and to a lesser extent Georgia, were the ultimate goals. As an influential Washington Post columnist explained in 2004, “The West wants to finish the job begun with the fall of the Berlin Wall and continue Europe’s march to the east.… The great prize is Ukraine.”Fallacy No. 2: There exists a nation called “Ukraine” and a “Ukrainian people” who yearn to escape centuries of Russian influence and to join the West.Fact: As every informed person knows, Ukraine is a country long divided by ethnic, linguistic, religious, cultural, economic and political differences—particularly its western and eastern regions, but not only. When the current crisis began in 2013, Ukraine had one state, but it was not a single people or a united nation. Some of these divisions were made worse after 1991 by corrupt elite, but most of them had developed over centuries.Fallacy No. 3: In November 2013, the European Union, backed by Washington, offered Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych a benign association with European democracy prosperity. Yanukovych was prepared to sign the agreement, but Putin bullied and bribed him into rejecting it. Thus began Kiev’s Maidan protests and all that has since followed.Fact: The EU proposal was a reckless provocation compelling the democratically elected president of a deeply divided country to choose between Russia and the West. So too was the EU’s rejection of Putin’s counter-proposal of a Russian-European-American plan to save Ukraine from financial collapse. On its own, the EU proposal was not economically feasible. Offering little financial assistance, it required the Ukrainian government to enact harsh austerity measures and to sharply curtail is longstanding economic relations with Russia. Nor was the EU proposal entirely benign. It included protocols requiring Ukraine to adhere to Europe’s “military and security” policies, which meant in effect, without mentioning the alliance, NATO. In short, it was not Putin’s alleged “aggression” that initiated today’s crisis but instead a kind of velvet aggression by Brussels and Washington to bring all of Ukraine into the West, including (in the fine print) into NATO.Fallacy No. 4: Today’s unfolding civil war in Ukraine was caused by Putin’s aggressive response to Maidan’s peaceful protests against Yanukovych’s decision.Fact: In February 2014, radicalized Maidan protests, strongly influenced by extreme nationalist and even semi-fascist street forces, turned violent. Hoping for a peaceful resolution, European foreign ministers brokered a compromise between Maidan’s parliamentary representatives and Yanukovych. It would have left him as president of a coalition, reconciliation government until new elections in December 2014. Within hours, violent street fighters aborted the agreement. Europe and Washington did not defend their own diplomatic accord. Yanukovych fled to Russia. Minority parliamentary parties representing Maidan and predominantly western Ukraine, among them Svoboda, an ultra-nationalist movement previously anathematized by the European Parliament as incompatible with European values, formed a new government. They also nullified the existing constitution. Washington and Brussels endorsed the coup, and have supported the outcome ever since. Everything that followed, from Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the spread of rebellion in southeastern Ukraine to the civil war and Kiev’s “anti-terrorist operation,” was triggered by the February coup. Putin’s actions have been mostly reactive.Fallacy No. 5: The only way out of the crisis is for Putin to end his “aggression” and call off his agents in southeastern Ukraine.Fact: The underlying causes of the crisis are Ukraine’s own internal divisions, not primarily Putin’s actions. The primary factor escalating the crisis since May has been Kiev’s “anti-terrorist” military campaign against its own citizens, now mainly in the Donbass cities of Luhansk and Donetsk. Putin influences and no doubt aids the Donbass “self-defenders.” Considering the pressure on him in Moscow, he is likely to continue to do so, perhaps even more, but he does not control them. If Kiev’s assault ends, Putin probably can compel the rebels to negotiate. But only the Obama administration can compel Kiev to stop, and it has not done so.Cohen's insights are a warning to us all.  We're being fed a load of lies pouring from some very bellicose mouths that could be steering us on a course that leads to war, perhaps even nuclear war, between Russia and the West.  As the German financial newspaper, Handelsblatt, warned earlier this month, we are all being "mentally mobilized" for war.

Yo! Nanny Staters: Fuck Off

Dammit Janet - Tue, 08/26/2014 - 09:47
I am a smoker. Over the years, I've been vilified, demonized, ostracized, pitied, hectored, shunned, and shamed.

OK. Sure. I'm an addict. All addicts deserve this treatment, I guess.

But what I -- and most other addicts I'd wager -- most object to is being treated like idiots.

We know.

We know smoking is bad.

It's expensive. It stinks. It burns holes in our clothes. It stains our teeth.

It makes us sick and if it doesn't kill us, will probably contribute to our deaths or long-term ill-health.

It may harm people around us, hence self-ostracization.

We know all that.

But we are addicted to nicotine.

We try to quit. Alternate nicotine delivery systems -- patches, gum -- have deficiencies of two main types.

1. They are not like smoking: no warmth, no fiddle-factor, no-"I'm having a break"-factor.

2. The nicotine dose is not adjustable to the user's mood and need.

The fiddle-factor is surmountable. The dosage problem is not so easy.

If I light a cigarette and decide I don't really want one now, I put it out.

If I put a patch on and immediately want to puke (which is what patches do to me), I rip it off.

If I light a cigarette and get involved in reading something and forget about the cigarette, it burns away.

If I chomp down on a piece of nicotine gum, get involved in reading something, forget about the gum and chomp down a few more times absent-mindedly, I want to puke (see above).

Enter e-cigs. Dosage is variable. With added fiddle-factor fun.

They're not perfect, but they are definitely a huge advance.

But guess who doesn't like e-cigs?

Big Pharma who wants to sell us patches and gum -- outrageously over-priced patches and gum.

And Big Tobacco who doesn't want us to quit smoking.

And Nanny Staters. Who, according to Sweetie, have an addiction problem of their own. They are addicted to telling others what to do.

Viz.

The optics of the e-cig concept: a controlled nicotine delivery system. Why would anyone expect that to be well received in the gen public?

— Dr. Brian Goldman (@NightShiftMD) August 26, 2014

I don't watch much telly any more. But I remember ads with people smugly patting their upper arms: "I've got the patch." Did people go insane over that "optic"?

.@NightShiftMD Why not? It's way better than the nicotine patch that Big Pharma makes a ton of $. I can't use patch because of indigestion.

— Fern Hill (@fernhilldammit) August 26, 2014

Oh but wait. Maybe patting the upper arm sends the "right message" whereas Nanny Staters worry about the "wrong message."

@AureliaCotta @fernhilldammit I don't disagree. But do billboards of famous people inhaling nic vapour send the right message?

— Dr. Brian Goldman (@NightShiftMD) August 26, 2014

You mean like this?



From the same source, a succinct summary of the issue.

No matter how you feel about the product or the industry, electronic cigarettes do not contain tobacco and lack virtually all of harmful chemicals found in cigarettes. THEY SHOULD NOT BE CLASSIFIED AS SUCH or be limited by the same harsh restrictions. So far, no adverse health effects have been associated with electronic cigarettes, yet the alcohol industry is responsible for at least 80,000 deaths each year and the media seems unconcerned about their marketing techniques. Most people acknowledge that kids should not have access to these devices, but comparing electronic cigarette companies to the tobacco industry of the past is not only unfair – it’s inaccurate. Electronic cigarettes help smokers quit and expose them to significantly less health risks. For now, consumers have a wide array of choices and full access to these products, but if the government, pharmaceutical and big tobacco companies have their way, that may be a thing of the past.
My succinct summary: Fuck right off, Nanny Staters.

I Want To Believe

Politics and its Discontents - Tue, 08/26/2014 - 09:36


But it will take more than an interview by George Stroumboulopoulos to convince me that Justin Trudeau has the right stuff.

Nonetheless, I was impressed by the Liberal leader's relaxed manner, especially striking since it is beyond my powers of imagination to envisage Stephen Harper in such a pose.Recommend this Post

The Faces of Climate Science

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 08/26/2014 - 09:23
Here's another way of looking at climate science.  Photographer Nick Bowers has produced a black and white photo essay entitled, "Scared Scientists," that you can preview at HuffPo.


Bowers accompanies the photographs with comments from each subject summing up their views on climate change.

I posted this because of a couple of one-on-ones I've had with climate scientists who, for public consumption, say the assuring "we can do this" stuff but, over a couple of beers in a private setting, default to "we're so screwed."

Alta Vista will be left in good hands at the Council table…

Trashy's World - Tue, 08/26/2014 - 09:01
… if my friend and colleague, Jean Cloutier, is elected on October 27. Jean has been the President of the Canterbury Community Association for quite some time – this is the same group that I have been involved with for the past 4 years. I have seen first-hand the sweat and commitment that Jean has put […]

In Drought News

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 08/26/2014 - 09:01


Central America continues to reel under severe, multi-year drought.  Guatemala has declared a state of emergency in 16 of the country's 22-provinces.  Experts believe the impact on agriculture could soon leave hundreds of thousands of families without food.

As America's west coast and southwest continue to be plagued by drought, an article at Treehugger examines how Americans might look to Canadian waters to ease their pain.  The article revives a long-forgotten idea to dam James Bay and divert the excess freshwater via canal to Georgian Bay on Lake Huron. Presumably the diverted James Bay water would then be drawn into the U.S. via the Mississippi River.

In Australia, farmers are bracing for a possible, late season El Nino to worsen an already serious drought.

When a scorching drought struck eastern Australia in 2006, cattle farmers Robyn and Paul Kendal had to slaughter nearly all their livestock and spend around a year of their normal turnover on feed to keep the remainder alive.With a recurrence of El Niño, the weather pattern behind the drought, looming and dry conditions already affecting an area larger than South Africa, another major drought could be one struggle too many for farmers such as the Kendals."In 2006, we saw the lowest amount of rains here since records began...and we still haven’t recovered from that even today," said Robyn Kendal, whose 3,000-acre (1,215 hectares) cattle farm is about 500 km (300 miles) southwest of Sydney.China's agricultural heartland is said to be experiencing its worst drought in 63-years.  In Brazil, severe drought is impacting agriculture and urban water supply. The city of Sao Paolo could run dry within a few months.Across the Middle East and East Africa, most of the conflict hot spots - Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Somalia and Sudan - reveal how destabilizing drought can be in vulnerable countries.The good news is that world cereal grain production is up this year thanks to good crops in the U.S., the E.U. and India.

#MMIWG: Andrew Coyne's mischievous questions

Dawg's Blawg - Tue, 08/26/2014 - 08:46
“[A] man cannot search either for what he knows or for what he does not know[.] He cannot search for what he knows—since he knows it, there is no need to search—nor for what he does not know, for... Dr.Dawg http://drdawgsblawg.ca/

Tuesday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Tue, 08/26/2014 - 07:39
This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- thwap nicely summarizes how we've allowed our economy to rely on (and feed into) the whims of a small group of insiders, rather than being harnessed for any sense of public good:
(W)hat's changed today is that the wealthy clearly have more money than they know what to do with. And it's rendered our economies top-heavy. Financialization and financial speculation. Which does nothing for ordinary people. Tax-cuts to wealthy and the corporations just go into the banks and into speculation. Tax-increases to the wealthy and the corporations can help mitigate government deficits without harming the economy themselves. Because the wealthy aren't doing anything productive with the money we've been allowing them to miser. We'll get more bang for the buck taxing and spending than we will allowing them to hoard it and gamble with it.- And Toni Pickard makes the case for a guaranteed annual income to ensure that Canadians can rest assured they won't fall into deep poverty.

- Sarah Treanor compares Norway's use of its oil wealth to that of the UK, and concludes that trust is a major factor in the development of a sovereign wealth fund which now offers massive benefits to an entire country:
"For this kind of system to work, you need to have an enormous level of trust," says Prof Cappelen. "Trust that the money isn't going to be mismanaged - that it's not going to be spent in a way you don't like.
...
"We trust the government. We believe our tax money will be spent wisely. once you start trusting that others are contributing their share then you are happy to contribute yours."

So is Norway rich because of Norwegians high level of trust, or are its citizens trusting because they are rich? "I think it is both," says Prof Cappelen. "High levels of trust make economic growth easier." - But of course, trust and security need to be based on reasonable expectations as to how our public officials will act - and there's not much room for optimism based on the ones holding power at the moment. On that front, Iglika Ivanova points out that our tax system has been systematically warped to favour the wealth over the past 50 years, while PressProgress documents the sharp decline in EI benefit availability for unemployed workers. Doug Nesbitt takes a look at the pattern of Canadian governments and other employers looking to demolish retirement security for their workers past and present. David Sirota reports that Chris Christie is just one of many U.S. governors instead using pension funds as a means to reward political supporters with big-money, zero-accountability investment contracts (h/t to David Dayen). And David Cay Johnston notes that a tiny "prosperous class" is taking the vast majority of U.S. wage gains, leaving effectively nothing for upwards of 90% of workers.

- Finally, Murray Dobbin weighs in on the need to value and promote kindness, rather than celebrating ruthlessness in politics and business alike:
The stronger the imperative to compete, the weaker become family, community and friendship connections, because in rampant consumer capitalism -- promoted and reinforced by television culture -- such connections are seen as irrelevant. Or worse, they are seen as weak and inefficient means, if not actual barriers, to the end of achieving more stuff. We are competing in a zero-sum game whose rules are written by those with psychopathic tendencies. As Fred Guerin writes in Truthout, "Obedience, docility, amorality and careerism will be duly rewarded. Those who can regularly suspend any desire they have to think from the perspective of another, or on behalf of a more universal or common good will be promoted."

Guerin is getting at the real roots of our crisis in democracy. It is not first-past-the-post voting systems, or the cancellation of government funding for parties, or even the role of TV advertising. It is at its core our gradual acquiescence "to things that are contrary to our individual and communal interests." This acquiescence, say Guerin, is the "consequence of very gradual political and corporate indoctrination that consolidates power not only by inducing fear and uncertainty, but also by rewarding unbridled greed, opportunism and self-interest."

Is there an antidote to this death-culture? Can we reclaim our capacity to think beyond our immediate self-interest and regain our political agency -- our ability to act as citizens and not just consumers? Can we begin to create a shared space where we can actually imagine a future worth having, talk about big ideas and recover the notion that we can act in concert for the broader good?

Stephen Harper and the Great Northern Farce

Montreal Simon - Tue, 08/26/2014 - 03:41


Well there he was today in the Northwest Passage, sailing majestically along and trying to pose as a great explorer, Harper of the True North Strong and Free. 

The push to find the remains of the Franklin expedition is not simply a matter of historical interest, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Sunday — it’s about the pre-Canadian claim to sovereignty in the Arctic.

Sending a strong subtle message to the Russians to back off, while indulging his depraved taste for the macabre.
Read more »

The Harper Cons: Still Killing the CBC and Still Lying About It.

Montreal Simon - Tue, 08/26/2014 - 03:37


About two months ago, I told you how Stephen Harper was killing the CBC, 

Chopping it into pieces, frying it in its own blood, and washing it down with a glass of Chianti.

While instructing Con MPs like Joyce Bateman to deny it.

"We are not making cuts to the CBC… They have stable funding. I guess their crisis is their viewing is going down significantly. Hence, as a consequence, advertising revenue is going down, so that may be what you're referring to but from a government perspective, we are giving them as much taxpayer money as they ever have received."

Well believe it or not, even after being exposed as a liar.



Bateman is back, lying through her teeth. Again.
Read more »

Andrew Coyne: Problems behind aboriginal murders won’t be solved with a public inquiry

Metaneos - Mon, 08/25/2014 - 20:04
Andrew Coyne: Problems behind aboriginal murders won’t be solved with a public inquiryUh, thanks, Captain Fucking Obvious. Like we needed you to tell us that. A public inquiry is important, though. It's a needed ceremony. The world runs and operates on symbols and ceremonies. We First Nations understand this. We live and breath ceremony. The idea behind a public inquiry is for Canada to say, "We care." So long as Steven Harper and Andrew "Fucking Tool" Coyne are both ignoring and downplaying the need for a public inquiry, the longer Canada is showing there is no care from Canada for First Nations. It's a good first step, and Canada won't even take it.

On The Hunt

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 08/25/2014 - 12:52
British intelligence has identified the man believed to have beheaded James Foley. He's 23-year old Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, who is known to Islamic State militants as Jihadi John.

It turns out the guy also has a stage name,  L Jinny, from his days as a rapper. Some of his music was played on BBC1.  His recordings are being used with voice recognition technology to identify him as Foley's killer.

Meanwhile, as I suggested the other day, SAS teams are loose in northern Iraq on the hunt for Jihadi John.  I get the feeling that L Jinny's rapping career is about over.   

The Future of Labour: Trapped In A Neo-Liberal Veal Pen

Bastard Logic - Mon, 08/25/2014 - 11:46

File under: we are all serfs/eventual anarchists:

Consulting firm PwC recently published its outlook for work in 2022, based on interviews with 500 human resources experts and 10,000 others in the United States and several other countries. You probably won’t be surprised to hear that big companies could end up so powerful and influential they morph into “ministates” that fill the void when government is unable to provide essential services. Companies will also use sensors and other gizmos to monitor employees around the clock. And workers will mostly acquiesce to this digital leash, in exchange for job security, decent pay and important benefits.

The future’s so bright, I gotta drink whiskey like it’s going outta style.


Filed under: Uncategorized

The Citadel Nation - the Militarization of America

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 08/25/2014 - 09:21


In his 2008 book "Climate Wars", Gwynne Dyer foretold the militarization of the American-Mexican border.  The American military, Dyer wrote, had plans to seal the border against a wave of climate refugees fleeing north out of Central America.  The plan envisioned the use of military-grade, lethal force to keep the horde south of the Rio Grande.

While we haven't yet seen the emplacement of robotic machine gun turrets to sweep a kill zone along the border, the militarization of America continues apace:

The militarization of the police has been underway since 9/11, but only in the aftermath of the six-shot killing of an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, with photos of streets in a St. Louis suburb that looked like occupied Iraq or Afghanistan, has the fact of it, the shock of it, seemed to hit home widely.  Congressional representatives are now proposing bills to stop the Pentagon from giving the latest in war equipment to local police forces.  The president even interrupted his golfing vacation on Martha’s Vineyard to return to Washington, in part for “briefings” on the ongoing crisis in Ferguson.  So militarization is finally a major story.

And that’s no small thing.  On the other hand, the news from Ferguson can’t begin to catch the full process of militarization this society has been undergoing or the way America’s distant wars are coming home. We have, at least, a fine book by Radley Balko on how the police have been militarized.  Unfortunately, on the subject of the militarization of the country, there is none.  And yet from armed soldiers in railway stations to the mass surveillance of Americans, from the endless celebration of our “warriors” to the domestic use of drones, this country has been undergoing a significant process of militarization (and, if there were such a word, national securitization).

Perhaps nowhere has this been truer than on America’s borders and on the subject of immigration.  It’s no longer “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”  The U.S. is in the process of becoming a citadel nation with up-armored, locked-down borders and a Border Patrol operating in a “Constitution-free zone” deep into the country.  The news is regularly filled with discussions of the need to “bolster border security” in ways that would have been unimaginable to previous generations.  In the meantime, the Border Patrol is producing its own set of Ferguson-style killings as, like SWAT teams around the U.S., it adopts an ever more militarized mindset and the weaponry to go with it.  As James Tomsheck, the former head of internal affairs for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, put it recently, “It has been suggested by Border Patrol leadership that they are the Marine Corps of the U.S. law enforcement community.  The Border Patrol has a self-identity of a paramilitary border security force and not that of a law enforcement organization.”

Across America (and coming soon to Canada too), the line between democratic law enforcement and martial law is being erased.  It is perhaps the inevitable outcome of neoliberalism in which security is to prevail over constitutional protections for some, a great many although not for all.



What Vestige of Democracy Remains in the Age of Neoliberalism?

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 08/25/2014 - 08:56


Henry Giroux argues that we must perceive democracy as a culture and shake off the cloak of neoliberalism by which it has been subverted.  Excerpts from his essay, "Beyond the Spectacle of Neoliberal Misery and Violence in the Age of Terrorism":

American culture is beset with what I want to call the spectacle of catastrophes, which move between the registers of transgressive excess and extreme violence, and in doing so exhaust their shock value, degenerating into escapist entertainment, while furthering a state of ethical and political paralysis given the widespread cynicism that has become the modus operandi of neoliberal machinery of misery and precarity. Catastrophe is rooted in resignation and an acceptance of the neoliberal notion that nothing can be done whereas, as Zygmunt Bauman argues, crisis speaks to the need to address what exactly needs to be done.

...Amid the elevation of extreme violence and its degeneration into a cultural and pedagogical spectacle, historical, individual, and social modes of agency degenerate and pose a serious challenge to the very possibility of addressing diverse crises. Instead of responding to crises with the desire to correct a wrong and reimagine a different future, all that appears to be left in American culture is the desire to merely survive in the face of endless representations of state and non-state violence. The mass public indifference to the threat of human extinction, the use of state torture, the mass and indiscriminate killing of children, the shutting off of water to the poor in Detroit, the rise of debtors prisons, the war against women, the indifference to the nuclear war machine, the state violence against student non-violent protesters, and the brutality that fills youth detention centers are only a small indication of how the shadow of the apocalypse and the experience of actual suffering have moved out of the realm political and moral sensibility and responsibility into the black hole of a disimagination machine...

The United States is in a new historical conjuncture defined largely by global neoliberal capitalism in which the moment between cultural institutions, political power, and everyday life has become central to how we understand politics and the work that it does. At one level the market has eroded the affective and symbolic bonds that create public trust, public life, and the bonds of social life. At the same time, politics has become intensely educative in terms of how it constructs the ways in which people understand themselves, their relations to others and the wider society. Doreen Massey is right in arguing that “it is the internalization of the system that can potentially corrode our ability to imagine that things could be otherwise.”

...Democracy is under assault and appears to have fallen over the edge into what Hannah Arendt once called “dark times”, but as Catherine Clement has noted “every culture has an imaginary zone for what it excludes, and it is that zone that we must remember today.” I believe that such a zone is crucial to remember because it makes visible the long history of struggle by labor, unions, workers, young people, feminists, civil rights advocates, gay activists, progressive educators, and others who believed in the promise of a radical democracy along with the necessity to struggle with a renewed sense of urgency and collective strength. It is time for that struggle to deepen so as to shake off the authoritarian nightmare now engulfing American society.



Teach Your Children Well

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 08/25/2014 - 08:22


They're already facing some serious challenges coming their way before all that long, let's teach them the difference between absurdity and reality, the gift of critical thinking.  That's been heavily drummed out of us these past two or more decades and it shows in the mess we've created during that interval.

Dan Arel, in his book "Parenting without God,"  argues that, in a society "ruled by absurd religion and other dogma," critical thinking is more important than ever.

One important thing to teach our children is how to think critically. It is easy to tell them they should, but it is not as easy to teach them how, mainly because we may not be that great at it ourselves.

How many atheists do you know who are anti-GMO or anti-vaccination? We know these can be smart people who took on a position that is full of emotion, misinformation or bad research methods.

...Our children should be using this method every day in all matters of life. With claims from friends, family, parents, and teachers, they should be well prepared to question everyone and everything. Doing this also allows them to become their own person and not simply a carbon copy of what people are telling them to be.
 Many of us, especially those who grew up in religion, had it engrained that the questioning of claims is frowned upon and God has an exact plan for who we should be. Many never break out of that cycle and allow those they consider authorities to dictate how their lives should be led. The generation we want to raise would be a generation that questions everything, from religion to government and even science.

We often imagine we cannot question science, but the core of scientific research is questioning. That is what peer-review is all about. Theists, especially creationists, often claim we all have faith in science, or call science a religion because we simply accept what scientists say. This could not be further from the truth. However, this is something important we should be teaching our children. The method in which we apply critical thinking to science, the scientific method and the rigorous testing scientific ideas are put through ensures that only sound ideas come out the other end as scientifically valid. All the others are discarded as nonsense or failures.

In Canada, of course, we struggle under a government that abhors critical thinking.  The Harper government is intensely faith based.  It believes in belief and spurns facts and science and demonstrated proofs.  How many Harper supporters do you know who defend their choice on raw belief, on faith in this prime minister?  My experience suggests it's not so much a matter of intellectual dishonesty as it is intellectual laziness that creates a willingness to avoid critical thinking whenever possible.  It's perhaps the intellectual equivalent of reversed polarity.

The Double Bind of Climate Change

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 08/25/2014 - 08:00


I'm still hopeful that we will see a workable, international agreement on climate change in 2015 but why does that have to feel like a pensive Charlie Brown with Lucy holding the football?  And why does Lucy remind me of Stephen Harper?

A new research study from Norway's Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research in conjunction with Statistics Norway (a Scandinavian StatsCan), concludes that the chances of getting an effective agreement are slim.  The study concludes that the measures likely to get political agreement would be ineffective while an agreement that could produce results would be "politically unviable."  Kyoto, anyone?

Professor Jon Hovi, of the University of Oslo and Cicero, headed the project. He says there are three essentials for a robust agreement:
It must include all key countries—in other words, all the major emitters.
It must require each member country to make substantial emissions cuts.
Member countries must actually comply with their commitments.
While emissions cuts benefit all countries, he says, each country must bear the full costs of cutting its own emissions. So each is sorely tempted to act as a “free rider” to enjoy the gains from other countries’ cuts while ignoring its own obligations.

“Cutting emissions is expensive, and powerful interests in every country proffer arguments as to why that particular country should be exempted,” Professor Hovi explains. “This inclines the authorities of all countries to take decisions that make them free riders.”

The researchers identified five types of free rider. Some countries—the US, for example—never ratified the Kyoto Protocol. Others, such as Canada, ratified it but later withdrew.

“We must eliminate free riding,” Professor Hovi says. “Each and every country must be certain that the other countries are also doing their part. It’s the only viable option.”

He thinks any country avoiding its treaty commitments must face consequences: “Free riding must be met with concrete sanctions. The question is what type of enforcement could conceivably work and, if such a system exists, would it be politically possible to implement it.”

The researchers say that some countries—such as the US—support international systems of enforcement that can safeguard compliance with an agreement. “At the same time, other key countries have stated a clear opposition to potent enforcement measures—either as a matter of principle or because they know that they will risk punishment,” Professor Hovi says.

“For example, China opposes mechanisms that entail international intervention in domestic affairs as a matter of principle. China is not even prepared to accept international monitoring of its own emissions.

The UN principle of full consensus allows countries opposed to enforcement measures to prevail by using their veto right during negotiations.”

Consider that the "Lucy Gambit."  All Harper needs is to toss in his "nyet" and it's game over for any viable climate change deal.  He'll probably side with China and possibly India in thwarting any meaningful action and he'll bury his veto under a landslide of justifications, excuses and claptrap.




Monday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Mon, 08/25/2014 - 07:44
Assorted content to start your week.

- Robert Jay Lifton discusses the "stranded ethics" of a fossil fuel industry which is willing to severely damage our planet in order to protect market share:
Can we continue to value, and thereby make use of, the very materials most deeply implicated in what could be the demise of the human habitat? It is a bit like the old Jack Benny joke, in which an armed robber offers a choice, “Your money or your life!” And Benny responds, “I’m thinking it over.” We are beginning to “think over” such choices on a larger scale. 
This takes us to the swerve-related significance of ethics. Our reflections on stranded assets reveal our deepest contradictions. Oil and coal company executives focus on the maximum use of their product in order to serve the interests of shareholders, rather than the humane, universal ethics we require to protect the earth. We may well speak of those shareholder-dominated principles as “stranded ethics,” which are better left buried but at present are all too active above ground. ...
The climate swerve is mostly a matter of deepening awareness. When exploring the nuclear threat I distinguished between fragmentary awareness, consisting of images that come and go but remain tangential, and formed awareness, which is more structured, part of a narrative that can be the basis for individual and collective action.
In the 1980s there was a profound worldwide shift from fragmentary awareness to formed awareness in response to the potential for a nuclear holocaust. Millions of people were affected by that “nuclear swerve.” And even if it is diminished today, the nuclear swerve could well have helped prevent the use of nuclear weapons.
With both the nuclear and climate threats, the swerve in awareness has had a crucial ethical component. People came to feel that it was deeply wrong, perhaps evil, to engage in nuclear war, and are coming to an awareness that it is deeply wrong, perhaps evil, to destroy our habitat and create a legacy of suffering for our children and grandchildren. - But Mike De Souza reports on ALEC's latest meeting - demonstrating that there are plenty of well-funded corporations (including TransCanada and other tar sands operators) and their pet legislators doing everything in their power to make sure ethics get shouted down in any political discussion of climate change.

- Travis Lupick discusses how the Cons' anti-social crime policies are creating more dangerous prisons.

- Meanwhile, Tim Harper comments on Stephen Harper's aversion to asking "why". And Don Lenihan points out that Canada's premiers may be less than accepting of federal-provincial relations that consist of nothing other than Harper imposing on the provinces while refusing to accept questions, examine evidence or offer explanations - with Harper's intransigence toward missing and murdered aboriginal women being the most appalling example at the moment.

- Finally, Ajamu Nangwaya discusses the contrast between organizing people to better give voice to their own concerns, as opposed to merely mobilizing them toward others' causes - and emphasizes the ultimate need to do far more of the former.

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