Posts from our progressive community

How Deep is Canada in the War in Yemen?

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 05/13/2016 - 13:25
Is Canada militarily engaged in the war in Yemen? If so, which war? There's the brutal Saudi war against Yemen's Houthi population that often targets Houthi villages and civilians, a pretty blatant war crime. From Foreign Policy:

Saudi Arabia has repeatedly said the only way to resolve the year-long civil war in Yemen is through a negotiated political solution. But a Saudi general warned Wednesday that the oil-rich monarchy is prepared to launch a military offensive on the Yemeni capital of Sanaa if the current U.N.-brokered peace talks fail.

The implicit threat places new pressure on the struggling negotiations in Kuwait between Iran-allied Houthi forces and Yemen’s Saudi-backed exiled government to end a conflict that has killed more than 6,200 people and displaced as many as 2.5 million.

“We have two lines working in parallel — a political process and the military operation. One of them will reach the end,” Gen. Ahmad Asiri, spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, told reporters in Washington. “We hope that the talks will succeed. If not, we have troops around the capital.”

The Saudi-led forces are only kilometers away from Sanaa. The coalition is bolstered by several Arab and Western powers, including the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Turkey.

In reality there are several wars underway in Yemen. There's the Sunni government versus the Houthi rebels. The Saudis versus the Houthi civilian population. There's the Houthis versus al Qaeda and the Houthis versus ISIS. Then there's the Americans presumably versus al Qaeda. Despite their denials, the Brits are engaging in operations in Yemen.

Canada's role, so far as is known, is mainly supplying infantry weapons to the Saudis including sniper rifles, some of which have already fallen into Houthi hands. The Globe reported in February that Canadian-made armoured fighting vehicles, "Trudeau Jeeps," are also being used by the Saudis against the Yemeni rebels. Whether Canadian special forces are operating alongside their American and British counterparts is unknown.

Cruz Missiles

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 05/13/2016 - 11:20

I think the world just dodged a bullet. Days after folding his bid to become the next Republican president of the United States, Terrible Ted Cruz is calling for war or some reasonable facsimile thereof against Iran. In an op-ed in today's New York Times, Cruz writes it's only a matter of time before Iran rains Iranian nukes on Israel and the United States and calls for massive funding for Israeli missile defence.

ON Monday, the Iranian military’s deputy chief of staff announced that the Islamic Republic had successfully tested yet another ballistic missile — this time, a high-precision midrange weapon with a reported reach of 2,000 kilometers, or 1,250 miles, and with a degree of accuracy that he claimed to be “without any error.” If these statements are true, the entire Middle East, including Israel, is within the reach of the mullahs’ missiles.

It was not revealed if this missile had its genocidal intent actually inscribed on it, as other missiles recently tested by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps have — with the inscription in Hebrew “Israel should be erased from the map.” But it hardly matters. The mullahs’ objectives are plain enough for anyone with eyes to see: The Iranian regime is continuing its determined march toward not only a nuclear weapon, but also the means to launch it, first against Israel and then against the United States.

...As a first step, I look forward to working with my congressional colleagues this week and in coming months to make sure that President Obama’s failure to sufficiently fund Israel’s missile defense programs in his latest budget request is reversed. Shockingly, even after admitting that the nuclear deal with Iran places Israel in greater danger and making assurances that support for the Jewish state would be increased, the president could not find a single dollar to put toward procurement for the David’s Sling or Arrow-3 missile defense systems, which are being jointly developed by the United States and Israel.

Fingering Our Saudi Allies for the 9/11 Attacks

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 05/13/2016 - 11:02

It's the briefest of glimpses into what the American 9/11 Commission learned about the role played by the Saudis in the attacks but it may be enough to force the government to release the redacted 28-pages of the commission's report. From The Guardian:

Investigators for the 9/11 commission would later describe the scene in Saudi Arabia as chilling.

They took seats in front of a former Saudi diplomat who, many on the commission’s staff believed, had been a ringleader of a Saudi government spy network inside the US that gave support to at least two of the 9/11 hijackers inCalifornia in the year before the 2001 attacks.
At first, the witness, 32-year-old Fahad al-Thumairy, dressed in traditional white robes and headdress, answered the questions calmly, his hands folded in front of him. But when the interrogation became confrontational, he began to squirm, literally, pushing himself back and forth in the chair, folding and unfolding his arms, as he was pressed about his ties to two Saudi hijackers who had lived in southern California before 9/11.

Even as he continued to deny any link to terrorists, Thumairy became angry and began to sputter when confronted with evidence of his 21 phone calls with another Saudi in the hijackers’ support network – a man Thumairy had once claimed to be a stranger. “It was so clear Thumairy was lying,” a commission staffer said later. “It was also so clear he was dangerous.”

Could Obama drop a bomb on Riyadh and the House of Saud? What a lovely parting gift for an outgoing president to bestow on his nation and on Saudi Arabia.
Barack Obama has said he is nearing a decision on whether to declassify the 28 pages, a move that has led to the first serious public split among the 9/11 commissioners since they issued a final report in 2004. The commission’s former chairman and vice chairman have urged caution in releasing the congressional report, suggesting it could do damage to US-Saudi relations and smear innocent people, while several of the other commissions have called for the 28 pages to be made public, saying the report could reveal leads about the Saudis that still need to be pursued.

Earlier this week, a Republican commissioner, former navy secretary John F Lehman, said there was clear evidence that Saudi government employees were part of a support network for the 9/11 hijackers – an allegation, congressional officials have confirmed, that is addressed in detail in the 28 pages.

The 9/11 investigation was terminated before all the relevant leads were able to be investigated,” he said on Thursday. “I believe these leads should be vigorously pursued. I further believe that the relevant 28 pages from the congressional report should be released, redacting only the names of individuals and certain leads that have been proven false.”

This would probably not be good for prime minister Slick and his boy, Steffie. These guys don't waste a chance to tell us what good allies Canada has in the Saudis.
As a footnote, I've been stumbling across references to Canadian support or participation in the Saudis war against the Houthis in Yemen. This goes beyond furnishing the Saudis with death wagons which now do, indeed, seem to be in action in Yemen. There is strong evidence that the Saudis are committing war crimes in attacking civilians in Yemen and, if we're actively assisting them (one report labeled Canada as a member of the Saudi-led coalition), then we may be party to those same war crimes. No wonder Steffi goes all wobbly.

While Slick is Up In Fort Mac...

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 05/13/2016 - 10:45

When our prime minister finishes his photo-op standing in the now cold ashes of Fort Mac maybe he should make his way to the air base at Cold Lake. From there he could commandeer one of those Hercules transports and wing his way up to the Beaufort Sea to witness the astonishingly early break up of the Beaufort sea ice. Wowser, it's months ahead of normal!!

Hmm, I wonder what that's all about? Maybe the villagers of Fort Yukon, Alaska could help Slick out on that one. Of course they're probably larking about. It's 75F up there now, 24 degrees above normal. They might be working out recipes for a delicious perma-defrost souffle.

Over the past 365 days, temperatures over the Arctic have been much higher than the rest of the world. Arctic sea ice is in a bad shape, ocean heat is very high... and rising, and high temperatures are forecast to hit the Arctic over the next week. Chances are that the sea ice will be largely gone by September 2016.

Arctic Sea Ice gone by September 2016?

Fort Mac's Lingering Demise. End of the Road for Canada's Petro-Pimps?

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 05/13/2016 - 10:12

The fire is a separate matter. Fort Mac was going terminal well before the blaze began. The Tyee's Andrew Nikiforuk writes of the other fire, "a slow economic burn" that's been smouldering, unmentioned for some time.

Although the chaotic evacuation of 80,000 people through walls of flame will likely haunt its brave participants for years, a slow global economic burn has already taken a nasty toll on the region's workers.

That fire began last year when global oil prices crashed by 40 percent and evaporated billions of investment capital in the tarsands.

As the project's most high cost producers started to bleed cash, corporations laid off 40,000 engineers, labourers, cleaners, welders, mechanics and trades people with little fanfare and even less thanks.

Many of these human "stranded assets" endured home foreclosures and lineups at the food bank.

Worker flights to Red Deer and Kelowna got cancelled and traffic at the city's new airport declined by 16 per cent. Unemployment in Canada's so-called economic engine soared to nearly nine percent.

...What resembles a string of bad luck may actually be the unfortunate consequence of rapidly developing a high risk and volatile resource with no real safety net.

The first undeniable factor is weakening demand for oil, the engine of global economic growth. China's economy, the world's largest oil importer, is faltering as its industrial revolution peaks and fades.

Europe, Japan and the United States are also using less oil, and their economies are stagnating too.

In such a world, little if any bitumen will be needed in the international market place. In fact economists now trace about 50 per cent of the oil price collapse to evaporating demand.

...Murray Edwards, the billionaire tycoon behind Canadian Natural Resources, one of the largest bitumen extractors, has decamped from Alberta to London, England.

Edwards and company slashed $2.4-billion from CNRL's budget in 2015.

Since the oil price crash, by some accounts, Murray's company has lost50 per cent of its market value.

(Cenovus, another oilsands player, got cursed with junk bond status.)

...In addition Carbon Tracker, a market friendly group, now informs investors that low oil prices will favor existing production from low carbon and low cost conventional sources.

That's a terrible forecast for Alberta's oilsands and its product which is neither low cost to produce nor low carbon to refine.

...In February the Alberta government set a minimum value for bitumen at $10 per cubic metre. That equates to a value of about $1.50 per barrel of bitumen.
But in 2014 the government's monthly report valued bitumen at $421 per cubic metre. The data suggests that bitumen has lost 97 per cent of its value during the price collapse. In other words companies once worth billions are now worth millions.

Could that be why Edwards sailed to England?

...When oil prices stood at $100, rash bitumen development made some sense. But when prices fell below $45 the gamble turned into Russian roulette.
Unlike Saudi oil, most bitumen projects require prices of at least $60 to $70 a barrel to survive.

And so most tarsands extractors (except those who own refineries) are now bleeding cash; many banks have developed nervous twitches; and thousands of workers have found themselves unemployed.

The overproduction of bitumen explains why, says [former CIBC chief economist, Jeff] Rubin, "the oilsands morphed from an engine of economic growth into the epicenter of a made-in-Canada recession."

...The wise course of action for Alberta and Canada, therefore, rather than being caught by surprise, would be to plan for an orderly transition that protects communities and oilsands workers, and rewards them for the economic contributions they've made by providing funds for retraining and industry diversification.

It'll be interesting to hear what prime minister Slick has to say when he shows up for his photo-op in Fort Mac today. He'll probably go all Churchillian with grand promises of how we'll rebuild Fort McMurray bigger and better than ever, new pipelines and a great future for "the beating heart of the Canadian economy for the 21st century." Sorry, that quote was from the previous Liberal petro-pimp, Ignatieff.

Oh, yes, one other thing. Do make sure those energy giants clean up all those tailing ponds and restore those pits before they switch off the lights. Please? 

Friday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 05/13/2016 - 09:11
Assorted content to end your week.

- Ben Casselman writes that rather than looking to manufacturing jobs alone as a precondition to gains for workers, we should instead focus on the unions which helped to make the manufacturing sector the source of stable, higher-wage work:
Why do factory workers make more in Michigan? In a word: unions. The Midwest was, at least until recently, a bastion of union strength. Southern states, by contrast, are mostly “right-to-work” states where unions never gained a strong foothold. Private-sector unions have been shrinking across the country for decades, but they are stronger in the Midwest than in most other parts of the country. In Michigan, 23 percent of manufacturing production workers were union members in 2015; in South Carolina, less than 2 percent were.

Unions also help explain why the middle class is healthier in the Midwest than in the Southeast, where manufacturing jobs have been growing rapidly in recent decades. A new analysis from the Pew Research Center this week explored the state of the middle class in different parts of the country by looking at the share of households making between two-thirds and double the national median income, after controlling for the local cost of living. In many Midwestern cities, 60 percent or more of households are considered “middle-income” by this definition; in some Southern cities, even those with large manufacturing bases, middle-income households are now in the minority.
For all of the glow that surrounds manufacturing jobs in political rhetoric, there is nothing inherently special about them. Some pay well; others don’t. They are not immune from the forces that have led to slow wage growth in other sectors of the economy. When politicians pledge to protect manufacturing jobs, they really mean a certain kind of job: well-paid, long-lasting, with opportunities for advancement. Those aren’t qualities associated with working on a factory floor; they’re qualities associated with being a member of a union.- Meanwhile, Hanna Brooks Olsen writes that we should be looking to recognize that service work is skilled work which should be compensated accordingly - a point which is emphasized by Canada's high demand for labour in areas where employers expect to get away with paying less. Christine Saulnier points out how a fair minimum wage represents a broad, bottom-up solution to both inequality and economic stagnation.

- But Nadia Prupis writes that economic trends are headed in the wrong direction, with workers falling further behind both past standards of living and (especially) the current upper class. And Jim Hightower offers his take on how the gig economy makes matters worse for workers.

- Jeff Spross highlights how a housing first system represents a simple starting point in combating both homelessness and numerous other related problems. And Carol Off interviews Marni Brownell about the effectiveness of small cash investments in improving child health.

- Finally, Linda McQuaig makes the case for postal banking to improve both the sustainability of Canada Post, and public access to needed financial services.

They're Perseverating

Northern Reflections - Fri, 05/13/2016 - 05:14
Just before Mike Duffy's acquital,  the leader of the Conservative caucus in the Senate, Leo Housakas, released the following statement:

“In the event Senator Duffy is acquitted on all counts, he will immediately be reinstated to the Senate as a member in full standing with full pay and access to all office resources. Senator Duffy will be allowed to take his seat in the Chamber at the next scheduled sitting.”
Now he's changed his tune. Even though Justice Viallancourt found his expenses legitimate, Housakas wants to review them. Michael Harris writes:

Instead of turning the page, Housakos is trying to turn the page back. Here’s what is on the table: Out of the $124,000 in travel expenses and contracts examined by the RCMP — the spending that provided the foundation for its charges against Duffy — Housakos wants his committee to review $56,546 in travel and $16,995 in contracts.
Why? Harris speculates that:

The operative idea here seems to be that if Conservatives in the Senate can find Duffy guilty of something — anything — it will have a restorative effect on Harper’s soiled reputation, and take the sting out of Judge Vaillancourt’s otherwise devastating verdict.
The Conservatives are perseverating -- which, by the way, is one of the indicators of brain injury.


The Cons and the NDP Go After Sophie Trudeau

Montreal Simon - Fri, 05/13/2016 - 03:57

Well I suppose it was inevitable, she's young, she's smart, she's Justin Trudeau's princess.

So first the Cons went after Justin, then they went after their children, then they went after Margaret Trudeau.

And now they're going after Sophie.
Read more »

March for Lies 2016, Part 2: UMPTY-GAZILLION ATTENDEES!

Dammit Janet - Fri, 05/13/2016 - 03:40
There were great expectations for this year's March for Lies. First, its traditional organizer, Catholic Campaign Life, graciously invited all anti-choice groups to participate.

And second, Parliament is debating and will pass the tragically flawed medical assistance in dying act, which one would have thought would rev up the "womb to tomb" gang.

So the turn-out was going to be MASSIVE, yes?

In Part 1 of our annual Delusion Watch, we compared the size of yesterday's rally to April's 4/20 marijuana rally.

Doing this again. Compare rallies. 4/20 on left #MarchforLife #m4l on right.

— Fern Hill (@fernhilldammit) May 12, 2016

So how many people were there?

The Ottawa Citizen had veteran fetus freak watchers, Kady O'Malley and David Akin, live blogging/tweeting the event.

This really doesn't look quite as big as last year. #m4"

— kady o'malley (@kady) May 12, 2016

Kady reported that an on-stage speaker claimed 20K in attendance and added "I'd put it closer to 6K, but we'll see what the RCMP says."

What did the RCMP say? CFRA Radio:
Rough RCMP estimates indicate more than 10,000 people participated in the march.
But that's not what David Akin reported.

Also: my count of crowd - and I walk through crowd actually counting — is 4,500. Smallest #M4L I can recall

— David Akin (@davidakin) May 12, 2016

He added in another tweet that "police" said 3,000.

We were still breathlessly awaiting LieShite's outrageous inflation estimate and today we found out.


So, there you have it. Somewhere around 3,000 (RCMP officer to Akin), 4,500 (Akin), 6,000 (O'Malley), 10,000 (RCMP), 20,000 (from the stage), or 22,000 (LieShite) people attended this year's Futility Bunfest.

Akin made a 40-second Facebook video with this introduction:

Here's my March For Life crowd in 40 seconds. Smallest turnout I've seen at this event. I actually count myself - takes about 20 minutes -- and I got 4,500 at 1230 ET (and I might be a little generous) RCMP officer told me: 3,000. Organizers from the stage said there were 20,000.
We called it in April. The anti-choice movement in Canada is *snerk* dying.

Even with the widening of the tent and the extra impetus of imminent government action on assisted dying, the ranks of forced birthers are thinning remarkably.

But the bald-faced lying is as strong as ever.

Last year's report.

The Incredible Gall of Postmedia's Paul Godfrey

Montreal Simon - Fri, 05/13/2016 - 00:53

I knew that the Postmedia boss Paul Godfrey is absolutely desperate, as his sinking media empire takes on more water, or debt, with every passing hour.

But who knew that after turning Postmedia into a branch of the Con propaganda machine, that attacks Justin Trudeau and his Liberals every single day of the year.

Godfrey would have the gall to ask the government to give him a tax break.
Read more »

Should the Summer Olympics Be Called Off?

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 05/12/2016 - 17:15

There's a perfect storm raging in Brazil. The country is in a catatonic state over the impeachment of president Dilma Rousseff. Social unrest is growing. The government, meanwhile, is doing virtually nothing to curb Brazil's particularly virulent strain of the Zika virus.

Amir Attaran, a biologist and lawyer at the University of Ottawa who recently argued for canceling the 2016 Rio Olympics, told Foreign Policy that the “on-again, off-again impeachment” has hampered the government’s already-flawed efforts to control Zika.

Are we going to have a problem going into the coming few months with Zika and other infectious diseases in Brazil? Most definitely,” Attaran said in an interview hours before Rousseff was stripped of her presidential duties ahead of the impeachment process.“And that is most definitely caused by the political dysfunction reminiscent of a soap opera, and the long-term structural inequalities and failures of the Brazilian state.”

And now, the Olympics could help a dangerous strain of Zika go global. Attaran, who has served as an advisor to Brazil’s Ministry of Health, argued in the Harvard Public Health Review that Zika in Brazil is much more serious than previously acknowledged, and that allowing Rio to host the 2016 Olympics will speed up a global health crisis.

Rio has the highest number of probable Zika cases in the country, and the virus is more dangerous than previously thought — and not just for pregnant women, Attaran said.

If Attaran is right, Canada shouldn't be sending our athletes to Brazil and it shouldn't be allowing ordinary Canadians to go either.
Would we have hesitated to act if, instead of zika it was ebola, and, instead of Brazil it was Guinea hosting the Olympic games?
The name is the giveaway - Olympic games. They're games. They're important games, sure, but even important games aren't worth the risk of speeding up a global health crisis. 
I know. Let's find another country with usable Olympic facilities that has a functional government and isn't beset with the zika virus. Give them an extra month or two to get the facilities ready as best they can and then just head there.
Brazilian cities are terrible for humans but wonderful for disease,” Attaran said. “The reality is that you would not have a Zika outbreak if you had a properly governed country where there weren’t open pools of water where mosquitoes could breed. Where people did not live in ramshackle housing where mosquitoes could enter at will.”

Meanwhile, Rousseff’s efforts to control the virus through mosquito eradication appear to have been a failure, despite a military mobilization that Attaran calls “the single-biggest foray the country has had militarily, including during the military dictatorship.”
While it is impossible to compare the 2016 cases of Zika to 2015’s due to a lack of data, dengue fever rates suggest that the military eradication strategy was a failure. Dengue is spread by the same mosquito as Zika, so if the mosquitoes had been diminished, dengue rates would also have lowered. Instead, the first quarter of 2016 has seen a sixfold increase in dengue from last year.

Donald Trump's Longtime Butler Says Obama Should Be Killed

Montreal Simon - Thu, 05/12/2016 - 16:55

About a week ago I saw a British TV documentary where Donald Trump's former butler Anthony P. “Tony” Senecal, talked about the man he served for almost two decades.

And revealed that Trump likes everything gold, and lots and lots of mirrors.

Surprise, surprise.

And while at the time Senecal appeared to be a nice old man.

I'm sorry to say appearances can be deceiving.
Read more »

A Step Back for the West Coast.

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 05/12/2016 - 16:18

One step forward, another step back.

Just as I heaped praise on the federal government for re-opening the Kitsilano Coast Guard station in Vancouver, it's time to dock a few points for the closure of the Coast Guard radio facility in Comox on Vancouver Island.

That leaves us with two radio facilities for the Pacific coast - Prince Rupert up in the north and Victoria in the south. Kitsilano in vote-rich Vancouver provides ready response and rescue to the south coast.

What's so important about Comox? For starters that Coast Guard station was adjacent to Canadian Forces Base Comox, the only military airfield in British Columbia which, by default, makes it the province's search and rescue centre. That's where the Cormorant helicopters and the Buffalo and Orion search aircraft are based. That's where the searches are organized and co-ordinated. Think of it as the epicentre of British Columbia's rescue operations.

Vancouver and Victoria are pretty close so there'll be a fair bit of overlap in coverage. Then there's a long stretch of empty ocean before you reach Rupert on the north coast. That gap used to be filled by Comox. Not any more.

But coast guard workers say running two communication stations is not enough to ensure the waters are safe.

"At times there will be one person covering the entire coast for safety which we feel is quite unsafe," said Scott Hodge, vice president of the coast guard union, Unifor 2182.

...But mariners have reported frequent outages and problems with the quality of the coast guard radio signal on the West Coast.

Hodge recalls one time when the signal was intermittent for hours.

"The entire west coast of the Island was unmonitored for about 14 hours — they were having interrupted communications there," said Hodge.

"This sort of thing has happened quite a bit. And we're worried this could happen in Victoria."

More worrisome yet is that prime minister Slick seems to have become increasingly amenable to the idea of an armada of dilbit-laden supertankers plying the waters of the BC coast. Hell of a time to lose radio coms.

Where is Anonymous Now That We Need Them?

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 05/12/2016 - 14:47

Cyber vigilantes Anonymous need to get busy. They need to take down the web site of United Gun Group.

UGG has stepped in to conduct the online auction of the automatic pistol George Zimmerman used to execute Trayvon Martin.

The online website, Gun Broker, initially had the weapon for sale but took the listing down when the owners realized what was going on.

In a statement on Facebook, United Gun Group says that their stance is that as long as Mr Zimmerman "is obeying the letter of the law, his personal firearm sale will be permitted on our network."
Todd Underwood, who owns United Gun Group, confirmed the listing and told theWashington Post that "I don't support it, I don't condone it, I don't have anything against it. It's his property, it's his decision."And, as for that asshole, Zimmerman, he says he'll use the proceeds of the sale  "to 'fight' the Black Lives Matter movement and oppose Democrat Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign."

They're Killing Our Country. It's Only a Matter of Time.

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 05/12/2016 - 11:13

The thing is they don't even think of themselves as neoliberals. They see themselves as Conservatives or Liberals or, yes, New Democrats. They're not identical, of course not, but they are in general free traders and free market fundamentalists.

It's reached the point where to not be neoliberal would be to become revolutionary. And there's nothing revolutionary about the Liberals or the NDP. Nothing. They all seek, with varying degrees of success, to run the existing neoliberal state and to perpetuate it.

They don't seek to dislodge the forces of corporatism that have come to co-govern our nation. They don't seek to reclaim the elements of our national sovereignty that were yielded much like the natives who traded Manhattan for beads.

Canadians are like other nationalities. We're tribal people. We identify ethnically, socially, and politically. A lot of us want to belong to a team and so we choose the Liberals or the Tories or perhaps the New Democrats. Many of us, once enjoined, become intensely loyal even when that loyalty turns out to be just one way. It takes a lot for most of us to leave.

A lot of us self-identify as progressive. It's a nice word - progress. Surely that's good, eh? Yes, that's for us! Only, for a lot of self-styled progressives, it means very little. Perhaps to them it's anything to the Left of Conservative. There are some who think the Liberals are a progressive party. Many New Dems are convinced their party is decidedly progressive.

Reality check. Neoliberalism is the antithesis to progressivism. Neoliberalism is corporatism. It is our modern political dynamic. None of our major parties has any interest in reverting to progressivism. That doesn't prevent us from wishing they did, even pretending they did. We cling to this empty notion that progressivism still dwells somewhere within the body politic. Okay, show me where.

Nobody fights for labour any more, not even the NDP. Addressing social issues has degenerated into how to tweak tax policy. Empty gestures.

Nobody seeks to drive the moneylenders out of the temple. With each successive free trade deal, which usually has little to merit either "free" or "trade", we yield a little more sovereign authority to our steadily growing corporate co-governor. This defeats the very essence of progressivism. In the progressive state corporations have no vote, no voice in government. The progressive state regulates commerce for the benefit of its people, not for the benefit of the government - real or perceived. That is a distinction we have lost sight of and we're paying for it. The progressive state balances the competing interests of capital and labour to ensure that individuals can provide their state, their communities and their families with the fullest benefit of their efforts. We lost sight of that too and, with it, our once vibrant, robust middle class. A progressive state wouldn't tolerate today's corporate media cartel that utterly confounds any hope of achieving an informed electorate capable of choosing how best they shall be governed.

In today's neoliberal reality, the interests of the state are not coterminous with the interests of the people. I can give you proof positive of that.

My interests and yours are long term. They're the measure of my life and my kids' lives and their kids' lives and generations to follow them.

My government's interests rarely extend beyond the next electoral cycle. What do I need to do to achieve a result in four or five years hence? What policies will do that for me? Those are the policies I shall implement as though they were the best policies for the nation, the best policies for the people. Who can help me and what do they require in return?

Neoliberal governments don't actually govern. They administer. Too much of the sovereign power has been yielded to permit actual governance as it was once known. Neoliberal government is purposefully diminished governance. We have allowed ourselves to be inextricably knitted into a global fabric in which commercial interest and sovereign power must co-exist in a power sharing relationship.

We even have regulators and referees from the World Trade Organization to the IMF to the secret courts of investor-state dispute settlement pacts. In this way governments subordinate the public interest to commercial interests - effectively forever.

Don't look to the Liberals or even the New Democrats to extract us from this. They're invested in it right up to their eyeballs. They'll have no answers for you, my Sunny Jim.

We're on the path to illiberal democracy that has already claimed other friendly nations. We may not be there yet, not fully, but we are going in that direction. You might expect electoral reform to miraculously cure this contagion but if that's your delusion of choice I suppose you're welcome to it.

What do I think we need? A new political movement, a very broad-based effort not limited by left or centre or right. A movement anchored not by some narrow band of the political spectrum but by a dedication to the restoration of progressive democracy (which, coincidentally, seems to be the title of this blog). It has to be broad based, as inclusive as possible, for it faces a daunting challenge of throwing over the existing neoliberal scourge and that is not going to happen without a fight.

I don't know. Are you up for a fight?

March for Lies 2016, Part 1

Dammit Janet - Thu, 05/12/2016 - 11:04
Clever me. I saved screen shots of the 4/20 marijuana rally from the Hill Cam to compare with March for Lies, Futility on the Hill Bunfest.

Top image today at 1:26, just before the marching, at max attendance.

Bottom image 4/20 at 4:20.


Speakers at today's bunfest claimed there were 20,000 people there.

David Akin, veteran reporter of these events, estimated 4,500, adding that that might be generous.

Or as I said:

If that's 20K people I'll eat a Knights of Columbus hat. #MarchforLies #m4l

— Fern Hill (@fernhilldammit) May 12, 2016

Part 2 will be a report on the fetus freaks' inflation of this sparse event to SEVEN GAZILLION!

I know, I Know - It Sounds Ridiculous. Still...

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 05/12/2016 - 10:04

There are two much different ways to look at severe weather events. One is to take the small view and look at the event either as a local or national issue. The other is to go for the big picture and look at what's happening with that type of event globally.

Looking at the Fort Mac fire as a Fort McMurray or Athabasca region issue allows a guy like prime minister Slick to say "there have always been fires." Right. Looking at the devastating wildfires sweeping the world invites you to wonder if there's not something more to this than Slick wants to talk about.

Right now drought is a major issue in many regions of the planet. It's become a multi-year critical threat in the arc stretching from Bangladesh through to Vietnam. It seems our prairie provinces will be in for it again this summer. The coast too, apparently.

When you have leadership like we have in Slick, they can and often do the funniest things. There's a lot of unrest building in India over drought and water shortages. The Monsoon isn't due for another month but it hasn't been punctual or reliable lately and it's unclear whether parts of India will be able to hang on until precipitation returns. Seriously, they're talking about no water - not just for crops, not just for livestock but for people. If you're out of water it doesn't make a damn bit of difference if rains are coming in six weeks or two months. Might as well be two years.

I came across a report out of India that a member of parliament from the BJP is recommending that the Indian people organize yagyas for rain. Took a bit of digging to find out what a yagya is. Now I know. It's this:

A yagya is a Hindu ritual involving fire and sacrifice to invoke some blessing, in this case rain. Those crazy buggers, eh?

Well they're no crazier than Georgia governor, Sonny Perdue. In November, 2007, Sonny organized an official state prayer vigil for Divine intervention in the form of rain. It was a bust. In 2011 it was then Texas governor, Rick Perry's turn. Perry decided to up the ante. He didn't settle for a one or two hour prayer vigil. Perry declared a 3-day official Days of Prayer for Rain in the State of Texas. That too was a bust and it's hard to imagine yagyas doing much better.

But I guess when you've exhausted all rational options, why not pray for rain?

Half of this is true already

The Winnipeg RAG Review - Thu, 05/12/2016 - 08:00
Painting of Cassandra in front
of Troy by Evelyn De Morgan

Obtained from Wikipedia.
Throughout the election members of Manitoba's pundit class have denounced concerns over cuts and comparisons to the Filmon administrations of the 1990s. A lot of this shade on Filmon comparisons did the admirable job, for the Pallister CONs at least, of obscuring the likely differences in governing approach between the two parties and giving the (without consideration of past governments) track record free Tories a clear advantage. Manitobans let Brian Pallister off the hook mostly on ambiguous promises of a "better Manitoba" and finding efficiencies, though in the latter days of the campaign Pallister announced plans to change labour relations in our province.

Making the last time Manitoba's had a Tory government not up for legitimate consideration was particularly strange. The man from yesterday the Conservatives chose as leader and who is now Premier of this province was a member of the Filmon cabinet. He has said "I think the Filmon government's record was admirable and I think historians will say that was one of the finest governments that Manitoba has been blessed with". There hasn't been a sharp lurch, ideologically, in the Manitoba Conservative Party away from the Right since the 1990s. Given the prominence of very rightwing figures from southern rural Manitoba in the Tory caucus and even hard right members representing Winnipeg ridings the party may even be more conservative than it was in the 1990s.

Left-progressives have been doing some preemptive organizing. Geoff Bergen, a spokesperson for the grassroots movement Solidarity Winnipeg, told The Winnipeg RAG Review the following:

Its extremely likely that if they win they will look at the books and announce that they have less money then they thought (true or not) and will institute austerity measures that will effect social services and workers livelihoods in Manitoba.- Geoff Bergen, Solidarity Winnipeg spokesperson
From the Winnipeg Free Press yesterday

"It’s worse than we thought. It’s definitely worse than we thought," he [Pallister] told reporters after his 40-member caucus was sworn in on Wednesday in a ceremony at the Legislative Building.

("Budget coming in just over two weeks: Pallister". Kusch, Larry. Winnipeg Free Press (May 11, 2016)) 
It is clear, regardless of whatever spin assuaged people that there wouldn't be a fundamentally distinct direction taken by the Pallister Government, things are playing out as skeptics predicted. This leaves us with the question of how long will it take Manitobans to recognize that the Cassandras were right? 

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Thursday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 05/12/2016 - 06:42
This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Neil MacDonald discusses the unfairness in allowing a wealthy class of individuals to set up its own rules, while Jeffrey Sachs notes that the U.S. and U.K. are among the worst offenders in allowing for systematic tax evasion. And Alex Hemingway rightly points out that the recognition that a privileged few are able to flout the law makes it more difficult to establish the trust needed for society to function.

- Meanwhile, Jared Bernstein highlights the costs of trade agreements in transferring wealth and power to those who already have the most, while noting there are other factors which need to be counterbalanced as well:
There are a lot of forces other than global trade suppressing the earnings and opportunities of large swaths of workers, but trade is often the most visible one. Most economists think the lion’s share of wage inequality and stagnation is because of changes in technology that have increasingly tilted against noncollege educated workers, and Froman is saying that there’s nothing much in the way of technology dynamics against which opponents can rally.

In fact, there’s less in the way of solid, ADH-style evidence that technology is a lead culprit here. The decline of unions, eroding minimum wages, the rise of non-productive finance, and especially the persistent absence of full employment labor markets all reduce worker bargaining power, and that is the fundamental force driving wage stagnation amid growth. But Froman’s point that trade bears a disproportionate share of the public’s anger is a good one.

Still, the main message from ADH, Bivens, and the rest of us who’ve been trying to raise this cost side of the equation for decades is that these costs are real. They’re acute for many people and places and diffuse to some degree for others. Economic platitudes about how trade is always worthwhile as long as the winners can compensate the losers are an insult in the age of inequality, where the winners increasingly use their political power to claim ever more winnings.

If we don’t deal with these costs by creating real, substantive, remunerative opportunities for those hurt by trade, some demagogue is sure to come along Trumpeting a case for xenophobia, walls, tariffs and protectionism. If he’s not … um … here already.- Matthew Yglesias theorizes that work is getting safer and more fulfilling with time - which may explain in part the lack of a concerted effort to further reduce the time spent on the job.

- David Wheeler offers his take on a universal basic income, while Allan Pall writes that social programs are instead headed toward exclusion of youth among other groups.

- Finally, Thomas Walkom reminds us of the importance of putting extreme weather events such as the Fort McMurray wildfire into the context of the environmental factors which cause them. And Martin Lukacs suggests that the cost of cleaning up and rebuilding should be borne by the industry most responsible.


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