Posts from our progressive community

Donald Trump and the Lies That Will Destroy Him

Montreal Simon - lun, 03/20/2017 - 06:09


Well we know that it wasn't exactly a meeting of minds. 

We know that Donald Trump acted like an orange oaf when he met with Angela Merkel.

Or like a very small man, with no manners or class. 

And we know how it ended...
Read more »

On pipelines to nowhere

accidentaldeliberations - dim, 03/19/2017 - 15:34
I'll be taking a look at the individual candidates in the NDP's leadership race over the next little while. But before I start into that review, I'll pause to discuss the most bizarre development of the leadership campaign so far.

As I noted in reviewing the first debate, Peter Julian's choice to brand himself largely through his opposition to the Kinder Morgan and Energy East pipelines figured to turn what could otherwise have been a broadly acceptable campaign into a highly polarizing one. And a combination of nonsensical reactions to Julian's message and a lack of pushback on his part has taken the division to extremes which look highly dangerous for the NDP as a whole.

At the outset, here's Julian's position on pipelines in the context of resource development generally (emphasis added):
Mr. Julian said it is “very clear” to him that the NDP must oppose pipelines and work towards transitioning to clean energy.

Mr. Julian says the government should refine and upgrade raw bitumen from the oilsands in Canada, instead of exporting it. The risk of spilling the diluted bitumen the pipelines carry was not worth the reward, he said. 
...
Mr. Julian said building refineries and using the resulting product in Canada would create more jobs than pipeline construction ever would, and it would decrease Canada’s dependency on oil imports. It would also eliminate the need for pipelines, he said. The same article notes that both Guy Caron and Niki Ashton are also opposed to Kinder Morgan and Energy East, and that the comparatively pro-pipeline position among the current candidates is found in Charlie Angus' slightly different emphasis as to the balance between the interests of pipeline operators and the people whose territory they use.

Somehow, that modest different in positions - coupled with Julian's emphasis on pipelines as an issue - has led to outbursts from NDP supporters which would fit far more comfortably within a Wildrose Party policy debate.

In one case, that's consisted of the classic capital-friendly position that any questioning of a business' wishes is predominantly an attack on the labour share of the resulting economic activity.

On that front, pipelines offer less wage bang for the buck of profit stashed away than nearly any other type of development Canada could pursue. And Noah Evanchuk's form of the theory is also false in attributing a hatred of refineries to Julian when he's the one candidate actually proposing to encourage more of them.

Even worse, the latest criticism of Julian from Doug O'Halloran has sunk to the level of echoing Ezra Levant's tired theme that some fabricated difference between "our oil" and "their oil" trumps the problems with locking ourselves into a future of burning carbon generally.

Unfortunately, Julian himself doesn't seem to have done much to set the record straight. And that might make sense for his campaign: to the extent he's trying to paint himself as the top choice for environmental voters (defined by opposition to pipelines), he may well have more to gain than to lose by allowing those attacks to stand unchallenged. 

But from the standpoint of talking responsibly about resource management, it could be disastrous for the NDP if its leadership debate serves to legitimize exactly the messages the party is trying to fight in the wider political scene. And hopefully the candidates who are trying to downplay the pipeline question will make that fact clear - and push both Julian and his critics toward the right balance.

hail hail rock 'n' roll: rip chuck berry

we move to canada - dim, 03/19/2017 - 14:40

To mark the death of rock legend Chuck Berry, everyone should watch "Hail Hail Rock 'n' Roll," Taylor Hackford's movie chronicling two concerts that celebrated Berry's 60th birthday.

If you want to know what all the fuss is about, if you need historical context to understand what Chuck Berry meant to all of rock, see this movie.

Here is Berry and "his band" performing my favourite version of my favourite Chuck Berry song.




I'm glad he lived to be an old man, and see his contributions honoured. This obituary by the great music writer Jon Pareles says it all.

Thomas Homer-Dixon Looks at Trump - From Bones to Entrails

The Disaffected Lib - dim, 03/19/2017 - 13:12
In today's Globe and Mail, author, historian and professor, Thomas Homer-Dixon tries his hand at vivisecting the Cheeto Benito, Donald Trump, to see what may lie in store for America and the world. Brace yourself.

The headline, "Crisis analysis: How much damage can Trump do? (A lot)" is a bit of a giveaway.

"Okay, here's what happened," wrote an American friend after the U.S. election. "Someone threw a switch, and now we're living in an alternative universe."

The big problem with alternative universes is that we don't know how they work. The assumptions, intuitions and rules of thumb we've previously used to anticipate events, and guide our navigation, suddenly don't apply. So we face an exploding range of possible futures, including many that once seemed crazy.

U.S. President Donald Trump's psychological characteristics make such uncertainty acute. It's clear, for instance, that Mr. Trump's lying is less a calculated political strategy than a reflection of his deep inability to distinguish fantasy from reality. He creates a make-believe world for himself and surrounds himself with people who, to advance their narrow ends, help him sustain that world. When Mr. Trump appears to be lying, he's simply reporting what he sees in his own alternative world, where fantasy and reality mush together.
...
Trump's Bill of Fare: Financial Crisis, Civil Violence, Authoritarianism and/or War.
"Moderate" authoritarianism could involve, for instance, use of federal resources to intimidate or constrain journalists and judges; substantially increased application of force to track, detain and deport immigrants; and criminalization of protest. Mr. Trump, or in the case of criminalization of protest, his acolytes at the state level are already checking some of these boxes, so I estimate the probability of this degree of authoritarianism in the administration's first year to be 70 per cent. "Severe" authoritarianism would involve actions like a declaration of a state of emergency, federalization of the National Guard, or suspension of key civil liberties. This outcome is much less likely; even after five years, I don't think it's higher than 30 per cent.

A "moderate" war crisis, by my definition, would include any regional conflict between the United States and an intermediate power like Iran, or a great power like China, say in the South China Sea. "Severe" war would involve use of massed military force against a great power like Russia. The category would also include any conflict, for instance, with North Korea, that carries a substantial risk of nuclear escalation. In part, because of Mr. Trump's expressed hostility towards Iran and China, and his tendency to see all international relations in zero-sum terms, I estimate the five-year probability of a "moderate" war crisis to be high, at 60 per cent.

The four crisis types are likely to be causally linked. In particular, civil violence or war could create conditions that Mr. Trump might use to justify an authoritarian crackdown. Financial crisis could also be a consequence of war. The administration's decision-making incompetence increases the risk of financial crisis, civil violence, and war. For instance, Mr. Trump's team of advisers contains little high-level economic expertise, so his administration could be out of its depth should serious trouble develop in financial systems overseas, say in China or Europe....
Yet the specific probabilities are less important than the overall analytical exercise of categorizing the types of crisis Mr. Trump might create and the causal pathways that might lead to them. It helps us see possible futures more clearly. In Mr. Trump's alternative universe, we need all the help we can get.

Sunday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - dim, 03/19/2017 - 09:02
This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Heather Whiteside discusses how the privatization schemes being toyed with at all levels of government represent nothing more than reckless gambling with public money and goods:
When a federal, provincial, or municipal government builds a bridge, a highway, a school, or a hospital, we know who owns it: we, the people. But when equity changes hands, which happens frequently with these kinds of deals, the companies originally hired by the government to partner in a P3 are no longer the owners. So the private equity partners that any given government thinks it’s bringing to the poker game might not stay until the last hand is dealt.

Equity holders are the private partner of a P3 project. Their role is consequential: they run the operations and maintenance of whatever got built — a hospital, school, highway, or bridge. They set highway tolls, they collect user fees, they hire and fire staff, they set targets and standards. And they earn the revenue. Private profit, not necessarily high quality, affordable, accessible public services, would be their main priority.

When private partners sell their equity stake to new project companies after the P3 contract is struck, community projects are turned into mere budget line items in a global asset portfolio. Transactions favour the top bidder, not necessarily the best quality partner. Public assets become equity trading cards, changing ownership hands multiple times.

Whether highways or hospitals, the bottom-line determines the rules of the game and private partners are [hoarding] the gains. For instance, private equity in Vancouver’s Diamond Centre P3 hospital has already changed hands twice since 2007; but the hands of the hospital’s public partner are tied — the new equity holders hire and fire the cleaning and maintenance contractors.
...
Instead of opening the flood gates, the public must have a say: Canada should be taking steps to control or bar equity sales, to avoid a future where public infrastructure is exposed to remote investor decision-making, profit leeching through user fees, offshore revenue loss for communities, distorted value for money, and a lack of accountability. - Brian Alexander examines the decline of one Ohio town in noting that the instability and precarity facing far too many workers and communities can largely be traced to corporate control over economic decisions. And Jordan Press reports on a federal government study showing how many jobs are in danger of being automated in the near future, while Alexander Panetta looks at the effects of foreseeable technological changes in greater detail.

- Lana Payne writes that women are rightly tired of waiting for promises of pay equity to be fulfilled. And the Canadian Press reports on a much-needed push for Saskatchewan to join the jurisdictions moving to ensure that people facing domestic violence aren't punished in the workplace.

- Finally, Robert Cribb, Vjosa Isai and Maham Shakeel expose the growth of pay-for-play health care in Ontario - which of course makes for a growing problem across Canada due to a lack of adequate resources for our universal health care system.

Why the Police Should Investigate The Con Leadership Race

Montreal Simon - dim, 03/19/2017 - 08:49


The other day I warned that the Con leadership race was becoming more desperate and more porky by the day.

With so many mediocre candidates, and no new ideas. 

And now to make matters even worse, the suffocating stench of scandal.

With Kevin O'Leary aka Mr Wonderful, claiming he was robbed.
Read more »

More On The Rogue Senator And Moral Coward, Don Meredith

Politics and its Discontents - dim, 03/19/2017 - 06:27
On Friday's Power and Politics, host Rosemary Barton was her usual relentless self, evident in her sharp questioning of Selwyn Pieters, the attorney representing disgraced Senator Don Meredith, about whom I posted on Friday. It seems to me that the only point she overlooked was when Pieters insisted that Meredith did not use his position of authority to influence the unnamed 16-year-old into a sexual relationship. In fact, the moral coward promised to get the young woman a Senate internship.


Meanwhile, Toronto Star letter-writers are unanimous in their opinion of the miscreant-senator: Disgraced senator must resign or be sacked.

I offer but one of several missives that tell us why he must go:
I am disappointed with the leniency your editorial treated the senator by asking him to resign. He should be sacked. His resignation should not be accepted.

How could a senator, an ordained pastor and a married father be allowed to get away with this serious offence by allowing him to resign? First, he denied, then he tried to derail the investigation, and when the report was ready he apparently requested two versions: a sanitized report for public consumption, the other for the Senate.

Is our red chamber so rotten?

Muri B. Abdurrahman, ThornhillRecommend this Post

what i'm reading: a mother's reckoning by sue klebold

we move to canada - dim, 03/19/2017 - 05:00
On April 20, 1999, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, two teenagers from Littleton, Colorado, marched into Columbine High School with explosives and automatic weapons. Their plan to blow up the entire school failed -- only because their homemade bombs did not explode -- so they walked around the school shooting people. They killed 12 students and one teacher, wounded 24 others, and unleashed untold mental suffering on their entire community, before killing themselves.

I very clearly remember hearing about this, and just as clearly remember thinking that the Klebold and Harris families had suffered the worst tragedy of all. What could be worse than your child dying in a school shooting? To me, the answer is all too obvious: knowing your child took the lives of other children. I remember, too, feeling so sad and discouraged when some Columbine parents refused to allow Klebold and Harris to be memorialized along with the other victims, insisting the memorials acknowledge 13 dead, not 15.

When I saw a book review and noticed the author's last name, I knew instantly who she was, and immediately put the book on hold at our library. This is a rare opportunity to look behind the scenes at the bizarre phenomenon of mass shootings, from a perspective of kindness and mercy.

In the first half of the book, Sue Klebold details the day of the shooting, and the days and weeks that followed, from her own perspective. In the second half, she writes about her journey to try to understand her son's actions, and her long-term survival, as she finds community -- in this case, survivors of suicide loss -- and becomes a suicide-prevention activist. Her writing is vivid and intensely emotional. Some parts of this book are so raw and laden with such pain that they are barely readable. Reading this book sometimes feels like peering too deeply into someone's most private heart.

Throughout, Klebold is meticulously careful to explain that seeking to understand what her son did does not mean she is excusing it. Again and again, she writes that Dylan was responsible for his own actions and that probing his mental illness does not negate that. She writes this so often, as though she wants anyone who opens the book to any random page to read this. I found it very sad that she felt she needed to do that -- but her story makes it obvious why she did.

It did not surprise me to learn that almost everything written or said in the media about the Klebold family was completely wrong. This book is clearly, in part, an attempt to set the record straight, or at least get another perspective in the public view. And again, when one reads what was said versus what actually existed, the writer's desire to do this is very understandable.

The book is suffused in regret. Sue Klebold remembers every instance, every tiny moment, where she chided or nagged when she could have hugged, when she said, "Get yourself together!" instead of "How can I help you?" Yet these instances, as she recounts them, are so ordinary, so commonplace. She was a loving mother and if at times she was irritated with or tough on her teenage son, it was all within the bounds of normalcy.

One might say that Dylan Klebold exhibited no signs of depression or other mental illness before the shooting. Sue Klebold emphatically rejects this idea, and insists there were signs, but she and Dylan's father didn't know how to read them.

I cannot agree. I didn't think any of the instances she recounts were a red flag for such violence, nor did there seem to be a pattern. All the behaviour seemed like that of a normal, if somewhat troubled, teenager -- and "troubled teenager" can be a redundancy. After reading this book, I believe the only way Sue and Tom Klebold could have known that their son was at risk for violence is if they had constantly searched his room -- something they had no cause to do and an act that might have driven him further out of reach.

When Sue Klebold read her son's journals (found by police) and saw the videos the two boys made, she felt as though she was looking at a total stranger. Dylan Klebold led two lives. As some supportive letter-writers told Sue Klebold, if someone really wants to hide something, they will. (Eric Harris is a different story. There were many clear signs.)

I knew that many Columbine families blamed the parents for the boys' actions, which strikes me as strange, cruel, and grossly unfair. Because of that, I was very heartened to know that the Klebolds received thousands of letters of sympathy and support -- from people whose children had committed atrocities, from survivors of suicide loss, from victims of bullying who thought it lucky incidents like this don't happen more often. Many people understood the family's pain and wanted them to know they were not alone. I took great relief from this.

The latter portion of the book is largely about suicide prevention, and recognizing the signs of clinical depression in children and teens, which are different than in adults. Klebold calls for nothing less than an entirely new approach to mental health.

This is a very sad book, but in the end, it's a book about survival. Sue Klebold lived through a tragedy of immense proportions. She chose to survive and, eventually, found a way to create meaning from her loss. Her book is sure to help many other people do that, too.

Ezra Levant's Grotesque International Embarrassment

Montreal Simon - dim, 03/19/2017 - 04:09


For years Ezra Levant has disgraced himself, and disgusted decent people all over Canada, with his ugly professional bigotry, and his total lack of class.

Or the way he begs for money all the time, like a screaming beggar.

But now Levant and his hate mongering rag The Rebel have finally hit rock bottom. 
Read more »

The Disappearing President

Northern Reflections - dim, 03/19/2017 - 03:29


Maureen Dowd's analyses of presidential character are always interesting. She uses Freudian and Shakespearean analogies and, for students of literature like herself, she makes interesting reading. She cottoned on early to Oedipal issues in George W. Bush, as the son vainly tried to live up to his father's expectations. In yesterday's New York Times she turned her attention to Donald Trump. She wrote:

Consumed by his paranoia about the deep state, Donald Trump has disappeared into the fog of his own conspiracy theories. As he rages in the storm, Lear-like, howling about poisonous fake news, he is spewing poisonous fake news.

He trusts his beliefs more than facts. So many secrets, so many plots, so many shards of gossip swirl in his head, there seems to be no room for reality.
His grandiosity, insularity and scamming have persuaded Trump to believe he can mold his own world. His distrust of the deep state, elites and eggheads — an insecurity inflamed by Steve Bannon — makes it hard for him to trust his own government, or his own government’s facts.
Trump's disdain for facts is particularly disturbing: 
According to CNN’s Jeff Zeleny, Trump got furious reading a Breitbart report that regurgitated a theory by conservative radio host Mark Levin that Barack Obama and his allies had staged a “silent coup.”
It is surpassingly strange that the president would not simply pick up the phone and call his intelligence chiefs before spitting out an inflammatory accusation with no proof, just as it was bizarre that Trump shrugged off the regular intelligence briefings after he was elected. He preferred living in his own warped world.
And Trump's minions -- who were hired for their loyalty, not their brains -- make fools of themselves trying to explain Trump to the world:
Sean Spicer offered a shaky Jenga tower of media citations to back up the president, including the contention of Fox’s Judge Andrew Napolitano that Obama had used GCHQ, a British intelligence agency, to spy on Trump.
But the world isn' t buying what they're selling:
In a rare public statement, the GCHQ called the claim “utterly ridiculous.” Fox News also demurred, with Shepard Smith saying it “knows of no evidence of any kind that the now president of the United States was surveilled at any time, in any way. Full stop.”
Even Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, gave up the Sisyphean effort of defending Trump’s tripe. He said that if you took Trump’s remarks “literally” — as we expect to do with our commander in chief’s words — “clearly the president was wrong.”
Only those who live in Trumpworld believe him. And, as the believers fall away, Trump diminishes himself with each passing day. He is the disappearing president. 
Image: Pinterest

"This Is What Empires Do When They're Getting Ready to Collapse."

The Disaffected Lib - sam, 03/18/2017 - 16:40
You know it's happening. You see it, you feel it on a daily basis. It's inescapable. It's hard to grasp just what it really means or where the bottom is, assuming there is a bottom. Chaos is setting in across America.

US Army colonel and former chief of staff to state secretary, Colin Powell, Lawrence Wilkerson says America is a sinking ship. Wilkerson says it's going to take seismic upheaval to prevent that. "Does that mean revolution? It might."



Canadians need to keep a close eye on events south of the line for our economy is so tightly lashed to America's that we're along for their ride.

Trump May Be the Final Step in the Evolution of the Predator State

The Disaffected Lib - sam, 03/18/2017 - 14:19

Something twigged when I heard Trump budget spokesman, Mick Mulvaney, announce that this supposed president wouldn't be wasting a dime funding climate change research.

I quickly went to Trump's decision to take American car giants off the hook for fuel economy requirements introduced by Obama.

Then there was the proposal to gut the Affordable Care Act and reformulate it as a giant tax cut for America's richest of the rich while stripping 24-million Americans from healthcare coverage.

This morning there are reports that Trump plans to rescind Obama's embargo on "conflict resources," gold, tin and rare earth minerals used by Third World warlords to fund their wars.

Eventually it dawned on me. I was thinking of a passage from James Galbraith's, "The Predator State" and the transition that began to sweep America from the early 80s.

"...as power ebbed from the corporation in the late 1970s an d 1980s and became vested, once again, in free-acting individuals, the basis for collaboration between comparitively progressive elements within business and a broadly progressive state tended to disappear. Instead business leadership saw the possibility of something far more satisfactory from their point of view; complete control of the apparatus of the state. In particular, reactionary business leadership, in those sectors most affected by public regulation, saw this possibility and directed their lobbies ...toward this goal. The Republican Party, notably in the House of Representatives under Newt Gingrich and later Tom DeLay, became the instrument of this form of corporate control. The administration, following the installation of George W. Bush, became little more than an alliance of representatives from the regulated sectors - mining, oil, media, pharmaceuticals, corporate agriculture - seeking to bring the regulatory system entirely to heel...

This is the Predator State. It is a coalition of relentless opponents of the regulatory framework on which public purpose depends, with enterprises whose major lines of business compete with or encroach on the principal public functions of the enduring New Deal. It is a coalition, in other words, that seeks to control the state partly in order to prevent the assertion of public purpose and partly to poach on the lines of activity that past public purpose has established. They are firms that have no intrinsic loyalty to any country. They operate as a rule on a transnational basis, and naturally come to view the goals and objectives of each society in which they work as just another set of business conditions, more or less inimical to the free pursuit of profit. ...in the Predator State the organization exists principally to master the state structure itself.

None of these enterprises has an interest in diminishing the size of the state, and this is what separates them from the principled conservatives. For without the state and its economic interventions, they would not themselves exist and could not enjoy the market power that they have come to wield. Their reason for being, rather, is to make money off the state - so long as they control it. And this requires the marriage of an economic and a political organization, which is what, in every single case, we actually observe.

Galbraith, son of Canadian-born John Kenneth Galbraith, is an economist who holds the chair in government/business relations at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas, Austin. Predator State was published in 2008 and a decade later as the world is roiled by the Trump regime and public purpose relentlessly subordinated to powerful corporate forces it seems more relevant than ever. It's a good read.



Saturday Afternoon Links

accidentaldeliberations - sam, 03/18/2017 - 11:15
Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Robert Reich comments on the absurdity of Donald Trump's plan to shovel yet more money toward a military-industrial complex and corporate profiteers who already have more than they know what to do with.

- Sara Fraser and Laura Chapin write that food insecurity is primarily an issue of insufficient income. And Psychologists for Social Change studies (PDF) the anticipated benefits of a basic income in reducing avoidable stressors.

- Carter Sherman discusses the detrimental health effects of climate change, while Benjamin Israel highlights the health damage caused by coal in particular. And CBC reports on Kirsten Zickfeld's warning that we're rapidly running out of time to limit global warming to manageable levels.

- Gloria Galloway reports on the Libs' new "you can't make me!" position on ending discrimination against indigenous people. And Doug Cuthand questions why Saskatchewan's First Nations are suddenly being deprived of their usual right of first refusal on Crown lands up for sale.

- Finally, Noah Smith examines David Autor's work in showing that "free trade" has failed to up to its billing:
Autor, like most top economists, was once an orthodox thinker on the trade issue. He had expected American workers would adjust well to the shock of Chinese imports, finding other jobs for similar wages after a short period of dislocation. That was largely what happened in the 1980s and 1990s in response to Japanese and European competition. Instead, he and his co-authors found that trade with China in the 2000s left huge swathes of the U.S. workforce permanently without good jobs -- or, in many cases, jobs at all.

This sort of concentrated economic devastation sounds like it would hurt not just people’s pocketbooks, but the social fabric. In a series of follow-up papers, Autor and his team link Chinese import competition to declining marriage rates and political polarization. Autor told me that these social ills make the need for new thinking about trade policy even more urgent...

So, I asked, how should trade policy be changed? Autor’s answers again surprised me. He suggested that the process of admitting China to the World Trade Organization back in 2000 should have been slowed down significantly. That would have given American workers and industries time to prepare for, and adjust to, China’s competitive onslaught. He also endorsed the border adjustment tax now being considered by Congress. That tax would probably benefit U.S. exporters at the expense of importers.

But Autor went quite a bit further. He told me that the U.S. government should focus attention on manufacturing industries, and even use industrial policy to bolster the sector.

Oh Dear, Buyer's Remorse Already.

The Disaffected Lib - sam, 03/18/2017 - 10:53


An article in The Guardian this morning about Trump voters who are coming to realize they were had. Like Jacques Parizeau's lobsters today they find themselves in a hot pot with no way out. Hard to be sympathetic. They chose to suspend disbelief and put their faith in the most pathological liar in the history of American politics.

Trump promised them a new healthcare deal - universal coverage, lower premiums, better health services. Instead Trump is pimping a big tax cut for the richest of the rich wrapped in the mantle of reformed health care that will see 24-million Americans lose their coverage entirely.

That's Trump's unmentioned policy, the real one that reads, "you play ball with me and I'll stick the bat straight up your ass." Oh you silly Gullibillies.

Trump is on a rampage trying to delegitimize everyone and everything except Donald J. Trump. He's attacking the judiciary. He's attacking Congress, even  his own Republicans. He's attacking the European Union and NATO. He's attacking America's intelligence and security agencies. He's attacking everything except himself.  It's perverted, it's nihilistic and that's just what Trump's puppeteer, Steve Bannon has declared he's after.

Reminds me of an Ottawa politician I knew many years ago. Back then he was the reeve of Gloucester township, "Doc" McQuarrie. One day Doc took me aside and said that the art of politics was in understanding that there's a difference between scratching your ass and tearing it all apart.  Trump pretty plainly doesn't understand that.

So far Trump hasn't gotten around to droit de seigneur or jus primae noctis, the right of the lord to shag brides on their wedding night but that's probably just oversight. If it was good enough for Mobuto Sese Seko, it should be fitting for a sexual goat like Trump.

As Trump's degeneracy ramps up it will be interesting to keep an eye on some early players such as Britain's cadaverous prime minister, Theresa May, who jumped the gun to fly to Washington to give Trump a lap dance in the White House champagne room before inviting him back to London for a stay with the Queen. Now that he's smeared her intelligence centre, GCHQ, accusing the Brits of spying on Trump and the Trumpettes at the behest of Obama, P.M. Terry, the Right Honourable member for Maidenhead, on whose watch this must have happened has surely got her knickers in a bunch. Oh dear, this is one of those blunders that could cost her, especially when Angela gave Trump a couple of smacks upside the head on her visit yesterday.

This is a story that still has no conclusion. Trump's just getting started, not even two full months under his belt at this point. Something has to give. Something is going to break. But there's no guarantee that America won't be left like Humpty Dumpty.





The Glass Half Full

The Disaffected Lib - sam, 03/18/2017 - 10:02

The good news. Global CO2 emissions remained stable last year for the third year in a row despite an overall increase in GDP. That means our increased production of stuff is being met with alternative, clean energy resources. Good news for renewables and all that jazz.

The other news. 1, 2, and 3. We're still growing, we're still making more stuff and we're still not slashing our greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, the Cheeto Benito in the White House is intent on wrecking his nation's commitment, perhaps the world's, to the fight against climate change. To Drumpf it's just a "waste of money."

As I've preached here for years, you can't fight climate change unless you're also willing to tackle overpopulation and overconsumption of our world's oh so finite resources. It simply can't be done. And we're not even beginning to address those other two crises.

It's great that we've held the line on GHG emissions but that's less than what we should be doing. We should be making serious emissions cuts by now, not holding the line.

A lot of people will like the idea that the global economy grew by 3.1% last year but that means a commensurate increase in our already ravenous over consumption of the world's resources, renewables and non-renewables. The problem with non-renewables is obvious. When you're out, you're out. The really insidious part, however, is our over consumption of renewables, everything from freshwater to biomass. Last year mankind's ecological footprint was 1.75 times greater than the Earth's rate of resource renewal, also known as the environment's "carrying capacity." Last year, it seems, we added another 5% or so to that overload.

I'm focusing on over consumption because it reveals the core problem we're having with all these existential crises - equity, as in "fairness." When resources are inadequate you could say it's unfair for 5% of the population to consume 40% of the pie. That's like the two society matrons in the bow of the lifeboat gorging themselves on the emergency rations before tossing the scraps to the plebs manning the oars.

We of the Developed World, especially we Norte Americanos, have grown fat and sassy by consuming the lion's share of the world's fossil energy but, in the process, sharing with the entire world all of our carbon emissions. Doesn't sound very equitable, does it?

We could atone for our sins, at least a bit, but that would mean two things - one, that we decarbonize our economies first and very rapidly; and two, that we voluntarily accept a huge reduction in our per capita consumption, our Rich Man's World environmental footprint. And now Donald Trump has served notice, plain as day, that these sorts of fairness arguments are dead on arrival as far as the White House is concerned. Yet before we heap too much blame on Trump let's admit that damned few of us would accept this sort of sharing sacrifice either.

Canadians have no right to be smug either, not after the Dauphin has cleared the way for massive expansion of Tar Sands production. Sure the crud will be burned overseas but that'll be 100% Athabasca CO2 and plenty of it wafting into the atmosphere.

It's good news that we seem to have arrested growth in CO2 emissions, however temporarily. Good news, let's just take that for what it is.



mighty leaf tea: green tea and greenwashing

we move to canada - sam, 03/18/2017 - 08:00
I recently tried a new brand of tea. I'm always looking for almond tea, which is difficult or impossible to find (more on that below), and noticed Mighty Leaf had an Almond Spice. It's green tea, and I prefer black, but I thought for the almond, I'd take a chance.




The Mighty Leaf Tea box is covered in stories about how carefully they care for the tea, the quality of their tea leaves, and how green the company is. The tea is whole leaf only, the tea pouches are made from the greenest material, and so on.

Back when we had organics recycling, we always tossed used tea bags in the "green bin". Now, living in an apartment, we no longer have that option. The tea bag is going in the trash anyway, so the greenness of the pouch isn't a big concern for me. However, ordinary tea bags are fine for organics recycling, so I'm not sure why this pouch is so special.

When I brought the tea home and opened the box, I was surprised and dismayed to find each individual pouch packaged inside a plastic sleeve! Fifteen tea pouches, 15 plastic sleeves! What the...?

Mighty Leaf tea pouch
Mighty Leaf tea pouch as packaged
I tweeted the company and did not get a response, then tried email.
Hello,

I recently bought a box of Mighty Leaf tea for the first time. When I opened the box, I was horrified to find each pouch packaged in an individual plastic bag! I would never have bought this tea if I had known this -- and it is exactly the opposite of all the promotional copy on the box.

I am planning on writing about this on my blog, but wanted to contact you first, so I can include your statement or reaction.

I'm guessing this plastic is some specially made material that is considered biodegradable. But as I'm sure you know, almost nothing biodegrades in landfill. Are the plastic pouches suitable for organics disposal? If so, why doesn't it say so on the box?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you,
I received this response.
Hi Laura,

Thank you for your e-mail. Our tea pouches are in fact bio-degradable and compostable, although we would recommend industrial composting available in many parts of Canada. Our tea pouch has in fact won awards for being environmentally friendly:

[This was pasted in.] Artisan Hand-Stitched Pouches

In ancient traditions around the world, a freshly brewed pot filled with whole tea leaves is revered as the richest in character. Inspired by this legacy, Mighty Leaf specially created the silken Tea Pouch filled with the world’s finest whole tea leaves, herbs, fruits and flavor. No longer was it necessary to brew a pot of tea and use a strainer or an infuser to experience whole leaf tea the way it's enjoyed in gardens across the world!

Each portion of whole leaf tea is precisely measured and carefully wrapped in our hand-stitched pouches. These large, silken pouches showcase the distinctive beauty of our special blends and give the leaves room to unfurl as they steep, allowing the nuanced flavors to fully infuse for the ideal tea experience.

Besides the beautiful leaves you’ll notice that our pouches have a lot of tea inside. Typically our pouches contain about two and a half grams of tea, which allows you to brew a large cup of tea (btw 12oz to 14oz).

Each tea pouch is hand stitched with 100% unbleached cotton. The silken material is made from polylactic acid (PLA), which is derived from corn starch. The pouches are biodegradable and can be composted in an industrial composter.The email also included this image.


I find the tea-pouch narrative a bit much. But in practical terms, did this person really misunderstand my question? Was my question unclear? I tried again.
Hi,

Thank you for your reply. However, I was not referring to the tea pouches. Each pouch is packaged in an individual plastic sleeve. I am referring to that outer container or sleeve.He replied:
Hi again Laura,

In order to conserve the freshness of our teas and herbal infusions we need to hermetically seal them in some form of envelope. Unfortunately nobody has yet developed a material in which you can hermetically our teas which is also biodegradable. As you can tell from the environmentally friendly efforts that we made with our tea pouches, as soon as someone does, we will look at using it.

Enjoy our teas!I'm afraid I took it one step further, and I did (unintentionally) ignore the word "hermetically".
Are you kidding me? One already exists. It's called paper.Their response.
Hi again Laura,

No, I don’t believe I am kidding you – paper cannot hermetically seal, unless of course you wax it and then it won’t biodegrade.Does tea really need to be hermetically sealed? Why isn't a paper envelope -- similar to how Lipton (US) and Red Rose (Canada) are packaged -- adequate? My all-time favourite tea, Bewley's (Ireland and the UK), uses mesh bags with no string and no paper. Works great.

I didn't like the almond tea very much, probably because it is green tea rather than black. But no matter how much I enjoyed it, I would not buy a product loaded down with unnecessary plastic packaging.

* * * *

The story of the almond tea. I used to love Celestial Seasoning Almond Sunset tea, but it disappeared many years ago, apparently discontinued. I have not been able to find a decent substitute, even in expensive loose-leaf tea, which I would rather not buy. For this post, I found the Celestial Seasoning website -- and they have a Canadian site, too -- which encourages you to contact them if you cannot find what you want in stores. If I could buy Almond Sunset directly from CS, that would be amazing.

And why don't I use loose-leaf tea? We do sometimes buy and enjoy loose tea for interesting flavours or because we find ourselves in a nice tea shop. But we drink tea every day, and we both enjoy the convenience, the strong flavour, and the consistency of tea bags. Our favourite is Bewley's Irish Tea, which we used to go out of our way to buy in New York. We have not found a convenient place to buy it in the GTA, but if I ever see a box, I would pounce on it.

Donald Trump's Cruel and Monstrous Budget

Montreal Simon - sam, 03/18/2017 - 06:53


It's a budget plan only the monstrous Donald Trump and his bestial followers could love. 

A plan that would take money from the poor and the vulnerable, and hand it over to the police, the military, and the millionaires.  

One that would attack the arts and the humanities as only fascists can.

And one that could only be the product of those who would describe the crippling of meals-on-wheels programs all over America as an act of "compassion."
Read more »

An Outstanding Letter!

Politics and its Discontents - sam, 03/18/2017 - 06:31


While I have always considered myself an able letter-to-the-editor writer, I have also developed ability over the years to recognize superior work when I see it. The following letter from Cathy Allen of Toronto is emblematic of such work. She inspires me, as a Canadian, by her vision of what our country could be:
When I was 18, I attended Expo 67 and voted for Justin Trudeau’s father. Now that I am a widowed senior and disabled and I can’t afford to pay my rent without my son’s help, I find that I am not as proud as I once was to be a Canadian.

When will I be proud to be a Canadian again?

When we build more geared-to-income housing and repair the ones we have so every Canadian can afford a roof over their heads that costs less than 50 per cent of their income.

When nursing homes are given more than $8 dollars and change for a daily food allowance and residents can have a bath when they want.

When no one in Canada is homeless and living on the street and we can afford to bring the minimum wage and pensions above the poverty line because we’ve closed the loopholes and made the corporations that do business in this country pay their fair share of taxes.

When we restore the environmental laws that protect our rivers and lakes and enforce them.

When we stop trampling on our indigenous peoples’ sacred sites and respect their culture and land rights and pay them the compensation due them so they can build decent housing and hospitals and recreation centres and libraries, or their children can move anywhere they want and no longer feel they are not part of our society.

When working-class women with children under the age of 3 are not forced to work but may, if they wish, because we have an affordable daycare system up and running.

And, finally, when we stop calling waging war “peacekeeping” and no longer ship tanks and guns and instead send aid.

That will be the day I will be proud to be a Canadian again. Right now, all I am is relieved that I am not an American.Recommend this Post

When We Lose Our Memories

Northern Reflections - sam, 03/18/2017 - 05:49


Henry Giroux writes that, if we are looking for a way to explain the rise of Donald Trump, we should look to our memories -- which Giroux believes we have lost:

Trump is the fascist shadow that has been lurking in the dark since Nixon’s Southern Strategy. Authoritarianism has now become viral in America, pursuing new avenues to spread its toxic ideology of bigotry, cruelty, and greed into every facet of society. Its legions of “alt-right” racists, misogynists, and xenophobic hate-mongers now expose themselves publicly, without apology, knowing full well that they no longer have to use code for their hatred of all those who do not fit into their white-supremacist and ultra-nationalist script.

Trump’s victory makes clear that the economic crisis and the misery it has spurred has not been matched by an ideological crisis– a crisis of ideas, education, and values. Critical analysis and historical memory have given way to a culture of spectacles, sensationalism, and immediacy. Dangerous memories are now buried in a mass bombardment of advertisements, state sanctioned lies, and a political theater of endless spectacles. The mainstream media is now largely an adjunct of the entertainment industries and big corporations. Within the last 40 years training has taken the place of critical education, and the call for job skills has largely replaced critical thinking. Without an informed public, there is no resistance in the name of democracy and justice; nor is there a model of individual and collective agency rising to such an occasion.
There was a time when the memory of Fascism in Europe was still fresh. But it's been seventy years since the end of the Second World War. We are three generations away from that event. And those who lived through it are dying off. Giroux writes that a memory is a terrible thing to waste, because once it is gone, what is left in its wake is ignorance. And those who assume power compound the problem by manufacturing ignorance:

Manufactured ignorance erases histories of repression, exploitation, and revolts. What is left is a space of fabricated absences that makes it easy, if not convenient, to forget that Trump is not some eccentric clown offered up to the American polity through the deadening influence of celebrity and consumer culture. State and corporate sponsored ignorance produced primarily through the disimagination machines of the mainstream media and public relations industries in diverse forms now function chiefly to erase selected elements of history, disdain critical thought, reduce dissent to a species of fake news, and undermine the social imagination. How else to explain the recent Arkansas legislator who is pushing legislation to ban the works of the late historian Howard Zinn? How else to explain a culture awash in game shows and Realty TV programs? How else to explain the aggressive attack by extremists in both political parties on public and higher education? Whitewashing history is an urgent matter, especially for the Trump administration, which has brought a number of white supremacists to the center of power in the United States. 
It is abundantly apparent that Donald Trump is a profoundly ignorant man. And those who elected him are equally ignorant of the world in which they live.

Friday Evening Links

accidentaldeliberations - ven, 03/17/2017 - 19:01
Assorted content to end your week.

- Linda McQuaig discusses the need to fight fake news about Canada's health care system (and the corporate raiders trying to amplify it):
(I)t was with some pleasure last week that I watched as a Republican congressman tried to insist that Canadians routinely flock to the U.S. for health care, only to have MSNBC host Ali Velshi stop him dead in his tracks.

“Sir, I grew up in Canada,” Velshi declared. “I live in Canada. My entire family is in Canada. Nobody I know ever came to the United States for health care. I am sure you have a handful of stories about things like that. It is not actually statistically true.”

Whenever Americans start tinkering with their deeply dysfunctional health care system, we feel the reverberations up here, as right-wing commentators seek to denigrate our system of universal health care coverage, which they know sets a dangerous example.

With the ruling Republicans now poised to take health care coverage from 14 million Americans (eventually 24 million) and keep a straight face while insisting this is about increasing their “choice,” it’s worth reminding ourselves just how merciless, cruel (and stupid) so many of the Trump/Republican solutions truly are.

Health care is a particularly stark example, but it is symptomatic of the Republican keenness to fully embrace the private marketplace, even though that means abandoning vast numbers of their fellow citizens by the side of the road.
...
American commentators talk about how “complicated” reforming health care is. True, if you utterly reject the simple solution that works — a Canadian-style public system — it does become awfully complicated devising a solution that pleases the broader American public while also satisfying two radical extremists who together have the world’s largest fortune and a deep aversion to sharing. - But Joyce Nelson examines Toronto's apparent interest in following Chicago's disastrous path toward privatizing parking as an example of foolish U.S. ideas can infiltrate Canadian politics.

- Crawford Kilian's review of Walter Schiedel's The Great Leveler points out that past reductions in inequality have largely arisen only in times of crisis, while wondering whether we can move past that trend. And on the bright side, Laurie Monsebraaten finds that Ontario's basic income pilot project is receiving massive public support - as well as questions as to why it isn't going further sooner.

- Jason Warick reports on the millions of dollars the Saskatchewan Party is burning on barely-used rural highways while slashing services for Saskatchewan's citizens. And Adam Hunter offers a look at the laid-off workers who seem to be the only people being forced to sacrifice for Brad Wall's poor governance.

- Finally, Brendan Kennedy writes about the reality of Canada's incarceration of immigrants - making for a particularly embarrassing contrast to Justin Trudeau's attempts to claim to offer opportunities for all.

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