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Time Will Tell

Northern Reflections - Tue, 09/29/2015 - 05:16
                                     THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Pierre Trudeau's ghost haunted Roy Thomson Hall last night. Stephen Harper has been doing battle with that ghost since he entered public life. And, last night, Tom Mulcair tried to call it from the grave. Michael Harris writes:

Several times during this entertainment, Mulcair linked Bill C-51 to the invocation of the War Measures Act. As Tommy Douglas had stood against the War Measures Act in 1970, Mulcair’s NDP was now standing up against Bill C-51 — unlike Justin Trudeau, he insisted.

The Liberal leader stole Harper’s family values turf by standing up for his famous father, who died exactly 15 years ago yesterday. Justin defended Pierre Trudeau from the attacks of the two other leaders with whom he shared the stage. He talked about his pride in being the son of such a man as Canada’s most famous prime minister — a stark contrast to the image of Pierre Trudeau offered by NDP leader Thomas Mulcair.  “Fifteen years ago tonight he passed away," Justin reminded his audience, "and he wouldn’t want us fighting battles of the past.” 
Even committed Harperite Tasha Kheiriddin admitted that Trudeau won the night:

But even if you disagree vehemently with his positions, you couldn’t deny that he delivered them with conviction. Throughout the night, he clearly articulated Liberal policies, defended them passionately, threw in some good zingers (describing Stephen Harper’s northern strategy as “all sled, no dogs”) and, most importantly, didn’t trip up. And so, Trudeau won last night’s debate.
Perhaps, Harris suggests, that's because Trudeau -- who was supposed to be not ready for prime time -- is a better politician than either Harper or Mulcair:

It started with the arrival of his bus at the place Toronto’s mucky mucks gather to celebrate culture. While both the other leaders pulled up at the main entrance and quickly disappeared inside, Trudeau’s bus stopped 50 meters from the venerable front doors.

A cavalcade of acolytes poured out, Justin following closely behind. It had the feel of a heavyweight boxer making his way to the ring for the main event minus the hoodie and the shadow boxing. Sort of like Mick Jagger taking to the stage at the El Mocambo in another era. A rock star in the age of the rock star.

Trudeau waded into the crowd of supporters standing behind the ropes on the sidewalk with that big bear embrace that excites royal photographers. The money shot. The guy with the royal jelly embracing the great unwashed. Democracy.
Time will tell.

The Munk Debate and the Justin Trudeau Challenge

Montreal Simon - Tue, 09/29/2015 - 04:52

I thought it was the best debate so far, if only because at long last it was all about our precious and very threatened Canadian values.

And as predicted, as soon as Stephen Harper stopped groping the hands of his opponents, he set out to destroy them.

By reaching into Lynton Crosby's sweaty bag of dirty wedge issues, and challenging his opponents to criticize his decision to strip a convicted terrorist wannabe of his Canadian citizenship.

And since it is such an explosive wedge issue, I was glad to see the way Justin Trudeau rose to the challenge. 
Read more »

bernie sanders, the pope, and the politics of amnesia

we move to canada - Mon, 09/28/2015 - 19:00
I see a lot of excitement online, in places like Common Dreams and The Nation, and in my Facebook feed, about Bernie Sanders, supposedly remaking US politics, and Pope Francis, supposedly remaking the Roman Catholic Church.

About Sanders, I shake my head and wonder why long-time Democrat voters do not see him and his candidacy for what it is. About the Pope, I wonder why progressive people allow themselves to care.

Sanders is the new Dean

Bernie Sanders has been praised as a maverick, an independent, and a socialist. All of which may have been true at various points in his political career.

Right now Sanders is running for President as a Democrat. He is not spearheading a movement to build a new alternative. He is not refusing corporate funding and appealing to the grassroots. He is not "challenging politics as usual," as headlines in progressive news sites often say. He is seeking the Democratic nomination, which means he will play within the boundaries of that game.

And that game demands that Bernie Sanders not run for president. I suspect it's already a done deal: that in return for firing up progressive voters and helping them to believe that their cause is the Democrats' cause, he has already been offered a cabinet position, should Hillary become POTUS. I'd be shocked to learn that this is not the case.

However, whether or not there is already a backroom deal in place, we can be assured that Bernie Sanders will not be the Democratic presidential nominee. No matter the size of the crowds at his appearances, no matter the polls. The nominee is not chosen based on crowds, nor on polls.

Just as we have always been at war with Eastasia, there has always been a Bernie Sanders. His name has been Dennis Kucinich, and Howard Dean. His name has been Jesse Jackson, and Paul Wellstone. He exists to reassure and corral the liberal vote. He does his part, then fades away, as the "electable" candidate is tapped for the big show.

I recently saw this headline: Sanders and Trump Offer Two Roads Out of Establishment Politics—Which Will We Follow?. In what way does Sanders offer a "road out of establishment politics"? During his tenure in Congress, he has voted with the Democrats 98% of the time. Sanders is seeking the Democratic candidacy and Trump is seeking the Republican candidacy. What is anti-establishment about that?

Francis is not the new anything

And then there's the "radical pope". If ever there was a time for the "you keep on using that word" meme, surely it is when the word radical is applied to the leader of the largest hierarchy on the planet.

In what way is this pope radical? He has said some things. He has made some statements.

Pope Francis has declared that Catholic priests will temporarily be allowed to absolve the sin of abortion without obtaining special permission from a bishop. And media hailed this as the Church softening its stance on abortion!

Absolution? The Pope should be begging our forgiveness for the untold number of women who have died from illegal abortions, the orphans and desperately poor children whose mothers were denied contraception, the families forced into poverty by the Church's own policies. The Church offers a brief amnesty for women who exercised their human rights? Fuck you.

Pope Francis has made some statements against unchecked capitalism and in sympathy with the world's poor. Has the Church renounced its immense, tax-exempt wealth in order to feed the hungry world?

"God weeps," said this Pope, at child sexual abuse, and similar statements of contrition that survivors have heard from two popes before him. Pope Francis praised his bishops' handling of the sex abuse crisis, only to back down after an outcry from survivors and advocates. One more "carefully choreographed" statement. One more nothing. If survivors themselves had not risen up and demanded the world hear them, the Church would still be playing whack-a-mole with pedophile priests.

Pope Francis has acknowledged that LGBT people are human beings, and perhaps will not suffer eternal damnation for leading their own lives. Gee thanks, Pope.

There is no doubt that Pope Francis has changed the tone of a tone-deaf institution that is decades, if not centuries, behind the times. Because liberation movements - of women, LGBT people, indigenous people, sexual abuse survivors - have changed our very world, the Church was finally forced to acknowledge modernity.

But he has altered nothing of substance, and certainly has not moved one iota towards radical change.

This pope name-dropped the great radical leader Dorothy Day, much as every US politician quotes Martin Luther King, Jr. But besides his speeches in the US, what did Pope Francis actually do? He canonized Father Junípero Serra, a Spanish priest who was actively complicit in the genocide of indigenous peoples of North and South America.

Yet this change of tone and some heartfelt conciliatory speeches are enough for the media - including much alternative media - to hail Pope Francis as a Great Bringer of Change.

Mass amnesia

I watched in wonder as liberal USians hailed Obama as the Great Bringer of Change, then had their hearts broken, as per usual. Yet now, less than a decade later, they appear to be hypnotized again.

Bernie Sanders will not save us. Pope Francis will not save us. We are the people we have been waiting for. If we want radical change, we have to band together and create it ourselves. Idle No More. Occupy Wall Street. Fight for 15. The member organizations of Food Inc. No One Is Illegal. Marinaleda. Los Indignados. And a million other groups - groups without names, groups without media coverage - groups of people, acting collectively. This is the way forward.

Vote for Sanders in the primaries. Then dutifully vote for Hillary for president. And wonder why nothing ever changes.

#ShoutYourAbortion Reveals the Stigma Enablers

Dammit Janet - Mon, 09/28/2015 - 13:19
Lindy West tells the story behind the hashtag, #ShoutYourAbortion.

But the deck sums it up nicely:

I set up #ShoutYourAbortion because I am not sorry, and I will not whisper
A recent study demonstrates what we intuitively knew: 95% of women who have abortions do NOT regret them.

But still we don't talk about it, because society has successfully stigmatized an ordinary, common, medical procedure.

I love #ShoutYourAbortion -- go have a look -- because it collects all the asinine anti-choice so-called arguments in one place; it encourages women to speak up, if they want to; and it's been driving antis insane for days now.

And there's a further reason. It is revealing people who call themselves pro-choice but who nonetheless are appalled, offended, or squeamish at the audacity of those using the hashtag.

I call them Stigma Enablers.

They are able to admit that abortion is sometimes necessary, but at the same time, want us still to whisper about it.

Yesterday I tweeted that observation and a very peculiar exchange began.

@fernhilldammit I'll keep my moral compass and conscience, thank you.

— Melyssa Hubbard (@SpankCityHall) September 27, 2015

This woman, Melyssa Hubbard, who claimed to be prochoice, describes herself thus on her profile.
Author & Advocate of Self Actualization | Indiana Tea Party Founder | Former Pro DominatrixInteresting combination of attributes, yes?

The exchange went on for a while. She was complaining that we were forcing our shamelessness (or something) on her. Which is amusing, considering her claim to be a pro dominatrix. Classic "likes to dish it out, but can't take it"?

Woman reads twitter hashtag. Is offended. Whines people are "involving" her. And antis call #prochoice self-centred.

— Fern Hill (@fernhilldammit) September 27, 2015

Other people got involved.

@fortyfs @fernhilldammit A puritanical celibate dominatrix spending her spare time policing & shaming women on twitter. Intriguing.

— Chris Caple (@chriscaple) September 27, 2015

Then Melyssa started scrubbing some of her more idiotic tweets and I hadn't taken screen caps.

Oh well.

No one is forcing anyone to talk about their abortion if they don't want to.

No one is forcing anyone to read the hashtag if they don't want to.

But if you're going to call yourself "pro-choice," you can't oppose the movement (if it is that) without participating in stigma enabling.

C'est tout.

Stephen Harper knee-qabs the opposition

Dawg's Blawg - Mon, 09/28/2015 - 11:50
I know there’s a whole group of people…who talk about civil liberties and about the freedom of having the right to pretty much choose to do what you like. Folks, that’s not the country we live in. ~Ron Liepert, Conservative... Dr.Dawg

A Day Well-Spent

Politics and its Discontents - Mon, 09/28/2015 - 07:34

There is something both restorative and energizing about spending time among people who are politically engaged, and that is probably the best way to describe those in attendance at both the Toronto Star Tent and the Bestsellers Stage yesterday at Toronto's Word On The Street. As much as I have a strong aversion to Toronto's congestion, it has an energy that so many other cities lack.

It was, weather-wise, a perfect day to go down to Harbourfront Centre, the new home of the annual celebration of the written word. And for the first time, I got there early enough to snag a decent seat (actually, it was front-row) at the Toronto Star Tent, where Tim Harper, Thomas Walkom and Bruce Campion-Smith held forth on the current federal election campaign. That alone was worth the trip.

Hilariously hosted by Dan Smith, who described himself as "a recovering journalist," the format this year lent itself to far more questions from the audience than did last year's event. Here are a few highlights:

While none of the journalists was able or willing to predict the outcome of the election, Thomas Walkom said that its outcome depends on the answer to this question: "How sick are you of Harper?" Assuming the majority of Canadians are very fatigued of the current regime, the outcome will depend upon how the vote splits. He would not even rule out the possibility of a majority government.

Tim Harper said the two things were a surprise to him in this campaign, one being the fact that Justin Trudeau is still very much a contender, having brought control to his messaging after having had an earlier propensity for speaking off the cuff and getting himself into trouble. The other surprise is the Mulcair campaign having adopted a very cautious strategy; it is, in fact, something he writes about in today's Star.

All three journalists were rather dismissive of polls as merely being "snapshots in time" rather than predictors of election results. What surprised me was that the 'free polls' made available to the media are what were described as "cheap polls," ones with shallow samplings that pollsters provide for the free publicity it brings their companies. Parties' own commissioned polls, which are not released to the public, are much deeper and expensive. Were I able to have a real conversation with these fellows, however, I would question the relatively benign cloak they cast over polls; I have always been of the opinion that they not only reflect public sentiment but also influence it.

Disheartening for me was the assertion by Tim Harper that the niqab is an election issue, and not just in Quebec. The banning of it at citizenship ceremonies has widespread support judging by the email he gets, and it could cost Mulcair support. Walkom has no doubt that it is simply Harper playing upon anti-Muslim sentiment. Writer Michael Harris has some interesting things to say today about the issue in iPolitics.

Despite my repeated efforts to be recognized by the host to ask a question, it was not to be. I therefore approached Tim Harper at the end of the session to ask him what he finds most disappointing about this campaign. His answer echoed what I think many of us feel - the fact that big issues like climate change and pharmacare are not really being addressed, attributing it to the caution the two opposition parties have adopted owing to the closeness of their standings in the polls. He did add that this campaign is hardly unique in that failure, which reminded me of what Robert Fisk said the other night about the lack of statesmanlike vision afflicting contemporary politicians.

The afternoon session I attended was interesting as well, featuring Kevin Page and Bob Rae speaking about their respective new books.

Addressing the general dysfunction of our politics, Rae observed that its hyper partisanship, and the fact that campaigning seems to go on year round, 24/7, is a major problem and has debased discourse. He said that it is incumbent upon both citizens and the media to ask the hard questions and hold the parties responsible, a prescription I usspect is far easier said than done. I was able to get myself recognized to ask him a question, which basically revolved around whether or not the Canadian soul has been too debased these past several years to be able to recover to the point where a healthy democracy is now possible.

Rae answered by saying he did not think that was the case, and he cautioned against laying all the blame on the Harper regime, as it is far from the only party responsible for our sad state of affairs. Had I been permitted a follow-up question, I would have asked him that since all parties have contributed to the problem, what are the chances of any kind of rehabilitation of the Canadian psyche taking place?

While still trying to maintain a certain objectivity that, I suppose, comes from the years he spent as a civil servant, Kevin Page, who has a surprising facility for deadpan humour, lamented the loss of nobility that once came with being an MP out to serve the public good and to hold the executive to account. He observed the loss of values and vision that echoed what Tim Harper alluded to, but he also said that decision-making has become debased (that is my word, not his).

Page says that spending information has to be made available to the entire parliament, but he relayed his frustrating experiences while serving as the Parliamentary Budget Officer seeking such information from deputy ministers only to be told that he couldn't have it. Decisions are therefore made in a fiscal vacuum; the cost of a politicized public service has been high.

Beyond the monetary considerations, however, Page observed that there is no discussion on what kind of institutions we want, be they military, parliamentary, or what have you. This is an ideological government bent on enacting legislation on that basis alone. It used to be that civil servants, for example, would present three options for a decision. Now they are told those options are not needed if they don't fit into the government's 'vision.'

I will end this rather lengthy post with an anecdote Bob Rae told about talking to a cab driver. Rae asked him who he favoured, and he replied, "Rob Ford and Donald Trump." When asked why, he said that they speak what is on their minds. In other words, to this man they had 'authenticity.'

A sharp and perhaps bitter reminder of what contemporary mainstream politicians seem so sorely lacking in today.

Recommend this Post

Turnaround Tom, Where Are You?

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 09/28/2015 - 06:53
I knew that New Dems were getting wobbly in the knees about their party's flagging campaign when I started getting the line about how a vote for the Green Party is a vote for Harper. Isn't that what they used to call "projection"?

The NDP doesn't need my help to sink their campaign. Tom Mulcair seems to be doing that for them.  The Toronto Star's Tim Harper writes the NDP needs to focus on putting some spine back in their campaign.

In the early months of 2015, the team around Mulcair worked hard to humanize their man, having him drop biographical snippets into his speeches, trying to ensure he looked accommodating and non-threatening.

With it came the ubiquitous reassuring smile. But Mulcair began the campaign so focused on appearing comforting and prime ministerial that his passion appeared to be vacuumed out. In the French debate a bit of his aggressiveness returned, but Mulcair seems so leery of being caricatured again as “Angry Tom” that he has forgotten that part of his appeal in the first place was the indignation he regularly flashed when taking on Harper in Ottawa. He was channelling some of the passion of voters seeking change, but too few voters have seen that Mulcair and have only been exposed to this toned down, more vanilla version of the NDP leader.

He argues that Mulcair made a strategic blunder when he 'toned down' his platform.

Mulcair would raise the corporate tax rate, but not tax the upper income 1 per cent or make any changes to Harper’s child care benefit. It is Trudeau who would tax the rich and take the child benefits away from “millionaires.”

A drug-buying scheme that sounds like pharmacare stops just short of being pharmacare. A bold daycare plan would take years to unspool and is predicated on provincial buy-in.

Trudeau would end any bid to buy the F-35 fighter jet, leaving Mulcair to muddle in the middle of the jet fighter debate, criticizing Harper’s defence procurement but defending the open competition process.

It’s not that the NDP hasn’t put an electoral package on the table. It is that they seem reluctant to go the extra, bold step in selling their ideas because Mulcair got trapped in the cautious front-runner frame of mind.

Now he has a niqab problem in Quebec. He has had to spend too much time threading the needle on issues — and taking on Trudeau instead of Harper.

Similarly on the question of the environment and pipelines, proximity to power has forced Mulcair to pull his punches.

His position on the Energy East pipeline sounds murky to this ear and he has to be careful of the opposition to the pipeline in Quebec, home to the lion’s share of his support, while appearing sufficiently responsible on the energy sector to look like a man who could run the country. It is a tight fit politically.

An election campaign is a lousy place for the timid. To some you may appear indecisive, to others insincere.

The Munk Debate and Stephen Harper's Foreign Policy Trial

Montreal Simon - Mon, 09/28/2015 - 06:48

Tonight Stephen Harper will take past in the Munk Debate on foreign policy, along with the other leaders.

And if there is any justice it should be a trial of his insane foreign policy. 

And the way he has shamed us in the eyes of the world. 

For as this leaked report reveals, the damage couldn't be more devastating.  
Read more »

Monday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Mon, 09/28/2015 - 06:20
Assorted content to start your week.

- Robert Reich writes that the most important source of growing inequality in the U.S. is a political system torqued to further enrich those who already had the most:
The underlying problem, then, is not just globalization and technological changes that have made most American workers less competitive. Nor is it that they lack enough education to be sufficiently productive.

The more basic problem is that the market itself has become tilted ever more in the direction of moneyed interests that have exerted disproportionate influence over it, while average workers have steadily lost bargaining power -- both economic and political -- to receive as large a portion of the economy's gains as they commanded in the first three decades after World War II.

Reversing the scourge of widening inequality requires reversing the upward pre-distributions within the rules of the market, and giving average people the bargaining power they need to get a larger share of the gains from growth.

The answer to this problem is not found in economics. It is found in politics. Ultimately, the trend toward widening inequality in America, as elsewhere, can be reversed only if the vast majority join together to demand fundamental change.

The most important political competition over the next decades will not be between the right and left, or between Republicans and Democrats. It will be between a majority of Americans who have been losing ground, and an economic elite that refuses to recognize or respond to its growing distress.- Alexander Kaufman interviews Gabriel Zucman about the role of tax havens in entrenching a new aristocracy. And in a related (if dated) story, Rajeev Syal reports on how the Cons' hired gun Lynton Crosby sheltered income through an offshore trust even while running the campaign of a party which feigned concern about exactly that type of abuse.

- Michael Harris slams the Cons for a foreign policy oriented toward war, profiteering and political gain rather than any principle worth pursuing. And Haroon Siddiqui highlights what we've lost in becoming associated with that mindset around the globe, while Steven Chase and Shawn McCarthy report that the Department of Foreign Affairs is well aware of Canada's fading reputation.

- Shannon Gormley writes that contrary to the Cons' spin, the only bogus element of Canada's relationship with refugees is the mindset used to attack people in need of a home.

- And finally, Aaron Wherry takes the Cons to task for their politicking around the niqab as a threat to the very idea of individual rights.

He Thinks They're One And The Same Thing

Northern Reflections - Mon, 09/28/2015 - 05:55

At tonight's Munk debate, Stephen Harper will claim that -- just as he is  a master of economic policy -- he is also a foreign policy guru. But, Michael Harris writes, Harper's foreign policy is all about milking the world for money while being guided by humanity's darker angels:

Behind the emotional appeal to the worst angels of our nature and fear mongering is a decade’s worth of diplomatic disaster.  The world has become a much more dangerous place for Canadians due almost solely to the Harper approach, and Canada has been involved in some of the darkest episodes post 9/11 – including a dubious role in Afghanistan that might yet spark a public inquiry into allegations of war crimes.
Harper's betrayal of Canada's traditional role in the world is breathtaking:

Consider some of the breathless reversals of Canadian foreign policy under Harper: While even China announces a cap-and-trade policy to reduce carbon emissions in the name of planetary salvation, Harper was the first world leader to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol.

He also refused to honour Canada’s commitments at Copenhagen to reduce carbon emissions. To be sure it wouldn’t come back on his watch, he then dismantled the entire climate change branch within Foreign Affairs and has yet to regulate the energy industry.

Under Harper, and without informing either Parliament or the United Nations, Canada withdrew from the UN convention to fight drought in Africa and other vulnerable countries, making Canada the only state to do so out of 193 that signed on to the convention. The rest of the world saw encroaching deserts as an urgent problem because they are so obviously tied to famine and poverty. Then foreign minister John Baird referred to the convention as a fruitless “talkfest.”
For Harper, foreign policy must -- first and foremost -- generate profits:
After a brief flirtation with moralizing against evil-doers, Harper now routinely does deals with the devil. Despite its human rights record, Harper has cut huge deals with China, including Sinopec, the giant Chinese petroleum and chemical company. That $4.6 billion deal for 9 percent of Syncrude was eclipsed by the sale of Calgary-based resource company Nexen to the China National Offshore Oil Corporation. The price-tag was $15 billion but the conditions could prove much steeper – Canadian sovereignty. That’s because Harper granted China the right to sue Canada for unlimited damages if domestic laws by any level of government in this country harmed the value of Chinese investment here.

 Once upon a time, Harper said this: “I don’t think Canadians want us to sell out important Canadian values. They don’t want us to sell that out to the almighty dollar.” If you are wondering what happened to the man that spoke those words, he has undergone a sea-change. The new Harper now sells out Canadian values without so much as a blink.How else can it be explained that Canada just sold $15 billion worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia, a country recently described by The Atlantic as a world champion of human rights abuse? This is a country that plans to behead and then crucify 21 year-old Ali al-Nimr for protesting against the state during the Arab Spring when he was a teenager. But I thought the beheaders were the bad guys? Now it turns out ISIS is something quite different: Saudi Arabians without money.
Harper knows nothing about economics or foreign policy. But what's worse, he thinks they're one and the same thing.

Why Did the MSM Fail To Dig Up Stephen Harper's Past?

Montreal Simon - Mon, 09/28/2015 - 03:25

As you know, a large number of candidates from all parties have had to resign after their past came back to haunt them.

Which is depressing, and makes me wonder how far we have fallen in this decaying  Harperland. Rotting like a corpse from the head down.

But what it also makes me wonder, is whether Stephen Harper would ever have been prime minister if his past had been dug up years ago.

Because it's not pretty.
Read more »

the great weed of 2015?

we move to canada - Sun, 09/27/2015 - 15:30
You will not be surprised to learn that Allan and I own a lot of books. And CDs. And even LPs! Many, many hundreds of each. We have culled our collection a bit over the years, out of necessity, but living in houses for the past 10 years, we expanded again without much thought.
Now here we are in an apartment. It's a large apartment, to be sure, but we no longer have extra rooms where we can stash as much stuff as we like. And neither of us wants to fill up every inch of wall and floor space with books and music.  Thus we are contemplating weeding our own library. And this is very strange. 
Books are us. Or are they?
When I was in my 20s, I wanted to own every book I'd ever read. I was one of those people who believed that my personal library was a statement about myself. I needed to proudly display my politics and my tastes through my bookshelves and records. I loved seeing other people's libraries, and loved when people perused mine. I can recall that when we found ourselves in the home of a new friend, we would soon be looking through their books and music.
For many years, we loved amassing as large a music collection as we possibly could. Allan wrote about music, and we were inundated by freebies. At the time it seemed like the coolest thing in the world. Music would just appear! On our doorstep! For free! Eventually the piles and piles of CDs irritated me. But still, free music! 
We both still drool over huge, beautiful libraries. When we watched "It Might Get Loud," we had to pause to stare in wonder at Jimmy Page's gorgeous music collection on what must be custom-made shelves. 
Now we're talking about weeding our CDs by as much as half. Allan has a huge amount of digital music, but we both recognize we listen to only a small fraction of what we own. 
Do as the digital natives do?
The whole concept of a library being a personal statement has been erased by the digital age. Most people under a certain age have never owned a physical medium of music. The sharing ethos of the internet has led to things like BookCrossing, BookMooch, Read It Foward, and Little Free Libraries.  
How this affects writers and musicians is another story, and a sad one. But somehow all these readers and listeners manage to form their identities and communicate their points of view without owning a whole bunch of stuff that sits on a whole bunch of shelves. 
I don't know if this is a function of working in a library and having ready access to so many books, or just a general change in my desires. I was much more materialistic when I was younger. But I don't know what's driving this urge to purge.
Here, a minimalist writes about breaking the sentimental attachment we feel towards our books. I'm not sure I'm ready for that. But it suddenly doesn't seem as important to have all these books. 

PEGIDA Canada: "We're Not Racists"

Anti-Racist Canada - Sun, 09/27/2015 - 14:53
When one is challenging groups such as PEGIDA Canada the accusation that the membership and supporters of similar groups hold racist views is countered by the statement that, "Islam is not a race." In our view, there's a lot of parsing of the terminology going on here, however when we refer to the views held by the membership and supporters of groups like PEGIDA Canada who target Muslims we usually refer to them as bigots to avoid that argument. That term is challenged as well, as PEDIDA Canada suggest they are not against Muslims, but are in fact opposed to Islam. That claim is frequently made on the PEGIDA Canada Facebook group page, and example of which follows:

A second statement found on the Facebook group's page also makes a similar claim lamenting the accusation of racism, but the underlying message seems clear enough to all who can read it:

We decided to take a closer look a PEGIDA Canada to test their claim that they are not in fact racists or bigots. Though we will inundate you, our dear readers, with screenshots from the PEGIDA Canada Facebook page that dehumanize Muslims (foreign, immigrant, refugee, and Canadian citizens) and which celebrate violence against Muslims (and anti-racists for that matter), we really could summarize the collective will of the members and supporters of PEGIDA Canada with this single post:

Yeah, they are racists and bigots, though we don't think this will really come as a significant revelation to many.

Read more »

On game theories

accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 09/27/2015 - 13:05
Paul Dechene's riff off of this post is definitely worth a read. But while we're largely in agreement on the significance of polls, I will challenge his wider view as to what election coverage means:
Policies? Platforms? These are not the weapons political parties wield in an election. Those are the clothes political hopefuls wear. They define the personalities of the contestants. They’re the pixeled skins that overlay each blank politician sprite. This guy here is the angry Bowser who’s scary and likes to blow things up but at least he’ll cut your taxes. Here’s the cheerful Princess Peach who’s kind and generous, but oh, her naivete is going to get her into trouble. And look! Over there it’s Yoshi! He’s a dinosaur! He’s green! And he has a sticky tongue! How can you not vote for him?

In other words, you root for the guy in the costume you like best.

All that stuff that the activists and academics and huffy old columnists dismiss as political theatre is the actual election.

Is most of that morass of petty conflicts, dirty tricks, flubbed press conferences and debate shenanigans nothing more than random noise? Hellz ya. But humans are storytelling creatures and taking a chaotic pile of stupid nonsense and constructing a narrative from it is one of our brains’ favourite things to do.

And polls are just one more expression of our storytelling natures. They gather up a bunch of people’s opinions, quantify them, put them on graphs. Then everybody makes guesses about what it all means and what’s going to happen next.

Polls take the noise of a real life election and turn it into a game involving little racing red and blue and orange and green avatars in exactly the same way that a Nintendo machine takes a bunch of random numbers and the inputs from your controller and turns them into Super Mario Kart.I've commented before on the concept of elections being treated and commented on as a game rather than an event of political and social importance. But Dechene effectively raises two related questions arising out of the view that's how campaigns are currently covered: can we treat campaigns as something more than a game whose primary importance is as a source of entertainment? And if so, should we bother?

On my reading, Dechene seems to answer the first question with a no, rendering the second irrelevant. But even if we recognize that elections will fall short of a "lost Platonic state of democracy", that doesn't mean we're stuck with it instead representing nothing more than a matter of rooting for laundry.

In fact, the same experts who have pointed out our tendency to jump to conclusions and frame what we see around biases and preferred narratives have also noted that we do have another cognitive system available - one which requires more effort to use, but results in a far more thorough analysis than our initial reaction to events. And a conscious effort to use the latter system seems to be largely successful in providing an appropriate challenge to the surface analysis.

There's no prospect of analyzing everything that happens in a campaign through that more detailed lens even on an individual level. But I'd suggest it is possible to prioritize coverage to shift how we see politics on the margins: by talking more about substantive issues than trivia, by evaluating them with something going beyond a surface analysis, and by encouraging others to do the same.

And the potential importance of doing so is hard to overstate. While the election itself can be lumped in with any given sporting event as having a winner, one or more losers, and lots of characters to be discussed, the result of an election (being the election of the people empowered to chart a social course on our behalf) has profound implications for everybody within the influence of political decision-making.

If we currently lack a critical mass of voters willing and able to shape our democratic future based on more than either entrenched affiliations or nebulous narratives, I'd consider that a problem worth solving, not an inevitability to be accepted. And while the political theatre which shapes votes absolutely does matter, we can work within that reality without giving up on the cause of a better-informed electorate.

what i'm reading: the doubt factory, a young-adult thriller by paolo bacigalupi

we move to canada - Sun, 09/27/2015 - 13:00
A thriller about public relations? And for teens? It sounds improbable, and The Doubt Factory by Paolo Bacigalupi is an improbably terrific book. Marrying a somersaulting plot with heart-pounding suspense to an unabashed political agenda and a hot love story, Bacigalupi has delivered a stunning youth read.

On the political front, we contemplate "the place where big companies go when they need the truth confused. . . . when they need science to say what’s profitable, instead of what’s true.” All the tricks of the trade - astroturfing, fronts, false flags, sock puppets, money funnelling, stealth marketing, planted news, and outright false data - are touched on, along with the human damage they cause.

And the political is nothing if not personal. Alix leads the good life of a private school girl in Connecticut, and is forced to confront the possibility that her privilege is built on other people's pain. That pain is impossible to miss, when she meets a group of homeless kids, all orphaned, one way or another, by her father's handiwork.

Pharmaceuticals, pesticides, fossil fuels - you name it, Alix's dad has helped confuse the public, shield wrongdoers, and ultimately cause the death of thousands, while a few brave class-action litigants are painted as selfish and greedy, and those who say otherwise are branded as conspiracy kooks.

Alix is attracted - perhaps dangerously so - to a young man who turns out to be the leader of a radical group focused on exposing her father's complicity in all that suffering. Betrayal lurks behind every door, but who will betray, who will be betrayed, and who will be exposed?

My only minor complaint is that the political agenda gets a teensy bit preachy at times. Preachy politics in fiction are usually a dealbreaker for me, but with The Doubt Factory, I was so hooked by the plot and the suspense that I didn't mind. More importantly, I don't think young readers would give it a second thought.

Let's make ALL the girls and women wear niqab, RIGHT?!

Dammit Janet - Sun, 09/27/2015 - 11:15

Now that I have your attention, my point is that Harper and the CPC are cravenly using the niqab to push hot buttons during this election.

The political cartoon above suggests the niqab issue will provide Harper with a "wind at his back" which he needs desperately needs to win the election race.

There are dozens of institutions that oppress women.  The niqab is the least of them but Harper's Attack Dingo™ Lynton Crosby has found one with formidable scaremongering OPTICS, right?

Susan Delacourt unpacks CPC doublespeak with regard to the niqab.

Rational people and critics of Harper's regime nail what the CPC tactic obfuscates:

This happened north of Ottawa last week. Basil Borutski 'allegedly' executed three women. How can this still occur, in Ontario, in 2015?
“Our systems need to try to pick out these warning signs sooner and do everything we can to provide safety and security,” [Illingworth] said. “There are absolutely gaps.”

The province’s Domestic Violence Death Review Committee, which works with the coroner’s office to review every domestic homicide in Ontario over more than a decade, has compiled a list of risk factors that “indicate the potential for lethality” within relationships or, to put it another way, a check-list to figure out the likelihood that an abuser will kill his partner.

Most of the boxes would be ticked off when it came to Borutski: a history of violence, an escalation of violence, obsessive behaviour, unemployment, isolation of victims and victims having an “intuitive sense of fear.”
From here:
Leighann Burns, the executive director of Ottawa women's shelter Harmony House, said many women feel that abusive men are not monitored closely enough after being released from jail, and that conditions placed on those who are released can, in some cases, easily be ignored.

"We hear from women routinely that the offences that men commit against them are not treated seriously in the criminal justice system," Burns said.

"Somebody who is lethally violent, who has clearly got no respect for the system or any sanctions that are meted out — there's not much that can be done, other than to lock him up or keep her hidden," she said.
So, probation officer are overworked, likely because of a large client load which, at the risk of provoking shrieks from Babs Kay, I will guess is 90% male offenders.

Remember Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti Shafia, 13, along with Rona Mohammad Amir, 50? Their bodies were found in the family’s Nissan, submerged in the Rideau Canal on June 30, 2009. The family members who killed them were able to "justify" their murders using the same twisted patriarchal ideology that motivated Borutski.  

Women "provoke" their murderers by defying the Gawd-given control entrusted to men to extract resources from women.  If women and girls refuse to provide men with what they want and demand, they're disposable.  They can be threatened, harmed, damaged, tortured and killed with impunity.  That chilling premise is the core of patriarchal extremism throughout the world.

So, the niqab? Just as oppressive as Harper's Hard-On Crime regime of venal liars who did NOTHING during their 9 years in government to make Canada safer for women and girls.

For a rueful chuckle to end my pessimistic rambling, check out my co-blogger's post about #CdnNiqab as well has the photos that folks posted on Twitter.

It's a Dog Eat Dog World in GOP Politics

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 09/27/2015 - 10:21
Just how Tea Party does a Republican have to be now to get elected?  In North Carolina, Repug representative Renee Ellmers won office five years ago by defeating an incumbent Democrat she smeared for supporting a "Victory Mosque" in lower Manhattan.

Since then Renee's shown glimpses of moderation on women's reproductive rights, gay marriage and immigration - and it looks as though it's going to cost her. Ellmers' challenger, Kay Daly is bringing some firepower to the race.

Sunday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 09/27/2015 - 09:44
This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Jennifer Wells writes about the drastic difference in pay between CEOs and everybody else. And Henry Farrell interviews Lauren Rivera about the advantage privileged children have in being able to rely on parents' social networks and funding rather than needing to learn or work for themselves:
One of your most counter-intuitive arguments is that students from working class and lower-middle class backgrounds are less likely to get elite jobs, because they concentrate on studying rather than their social life at college. That’s the opposite of what the conventional wisdom would suggest. How does these students’ devotion to academic seriousness hurt their job prospects?

LR – Working and lower-middle-class children are less likely to participate in structured extracurricular activities than their more privileged peers while growing up (and when they do, they tend to participate in fewer of them). This hurts their job prospects in two ways. First, it affects the types of schools students attend. Elite universities weigh extracurricular activities heavily in admissions decisions. Given that these employers—which offer some of the highest-paying entry-level jobs in the country—recruit almost exclusively at top schools, many students who focus purely on their studies will be out of the game long before they ever apply to firms. Second, employers also use extracurricular activities, especially those that are driven by “passion” rather than academic or professional interest and require large investments of time and money over many years, to screen résumés. But participation in these activities while in college or graduate school is not a luxury that all can afford, especially if someone needs to work long hours to pay the bills or take care of family members. Essentially, extracurriculars end up being a double filter on social class that disadvantages job applicants from more modest means both in entering the recruiting pipeline and succeeding within it.- In a similar vein, the Economist examines the high costs of living in poverty. And Justin Kong points out how an improved minimum wage would go a long way toward providing needed income security.

- Daryl Copeland discusses how the Cons have trashed Canada's reputation on the international stage, turning us from a productive partner into a pariah. And Derek Stoffel reports on how the tarnished perception of Canada as a country is extending far beyond the diplomatic sphere.

- Thomas Walkom writes that Ontario voters may learn a lesson from the political scene as Kathleen Wynne, one of the main faces of the federal Libs, collapses under the weight of scandals and broken promises.

- Finally, Alice Musabende raises the concern that Canada's political parties are being too quick to pull candidates over minor controversies.

Nationalize and deliver

Dawg's Blawg - Sun, 09/27/2015 - 09:00
Neoliberal capitalism is suffering from a sort of erectile dysfunction that not even the Viagra of quantitative easing (QE) is able to cure consistently. Central bank nterest rates are stuck at effectively zero, with the slightest hint of an... Mandos

On accurate readings

accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 09/27/2015 - 08:48
Paul Barber offers a rundown of the problems with an overreliance on polls, while Heather Libby goes further and suggests that we ignore national polls altogether. But I'll follow up on the argument I've made before that rather than taking any concerns about poll data as a basis for throwing polling out the window altogether, we should instead treat them as reasons for caution in interpreting useful information.

Barber focuses largely on the methodological issues involved in trying to get a representative sample from an electorate in which people are less and less inclined to respond to requests to participate in the first place. And there are certainly reasons to question each of the workarounds on their own.

That said, if we face the choice of either (a) lending at least some credence to the view that each methodology might have some merit while using competing polls (and ultimately electoral results) as a check, (b) buying completely into one style of poll and thus excluding all other data, or (c) trusting no polling information at all and thus relying solely on parties and pundits to tell us where an election stands, I'd have a hard time seeing how we're well served by any option other than (a).

And fortunately, the poll information we have is then compiled in ways which makes it relatively easy to analyze national-level data. So while we should absolutely question whether a single poll tells the full story (particularly in its subsamples), we can check with public aggregators for both a big-picture look at the national race, and a test as to the plausibility of new polling information.

Of course, those sites focus largely on the national level. So what about Libby's view that there's a meaningful distinction between national and riding-level poll data, and that we should pay attention only to the latter?

The problem there lies in the limited number of riding-level polls actually conducted. Parties, pollsters and media outlets may decide to conduct polls in ridings of particular interest - but we should have learned by now that national and regional trends make a huge difference in determining what ridings actually affect electoral outcomes in the first place. And then, if a small number of polls are conducted in a riding, a single skewed sample or methodological issue can grossly warp the results.

Again, those are cautions as to the use of riding-level data alone. But if we can compare a single-riding poll to see how it fits into broader national or regional pictures, then we have a far better chance of finding the right balance between the two.

And that should be our ultimate goal. While some partisans who should know better have been particularly motivated to cherry-pick polls to tell only the story they want told, the fact is that all polling information is potentially useful if we recognize its limitations. And rather than looking for excuses to throw out some or all of the data we have based on either partisan preference or methodological squabbles, we should instead be incorporating it into a full analysis of what's happening around us.


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