Posts from our progressive community

Will the E.U. Again Pull the Rug Out From Under Harper's Feet?

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 02/19/2015 - 11:26
The European Union's FQD, fuel quality directive, was once seen as a bitumen killer.  It's intended to encourage the use of lower-carbon oil and to kill off the European market for tar sand oil.

It had been reported that the Canadian government persuaded the Euros to drop the regulation, opening Europe to Athabasca exports.  Now it seems the FQD isn't dead after all.

The EU’s most senior energy official confirmed that the fuel quality directive (FQD) to encourage greener road fuels will not be scrapped at the end of the decade, as had been thought.
Asked by the Guardian whether that meant the FQD would continue after 2020, the EU’s vice president for energy union, Maroš Šefčovič, said: “My first reaction is yes. We just have to adjust it to all the lessons learned from biofuels, and all the [other] lessons learned from the previous time.”

The FQD has been a platform for measures intended to price tar sands out of the European market – and for targets to provide 10% of Europe’s transport fuel from low carbon sources,mostly biofuels, by 2020.

And the Next Nuclear Power in the Middle East Is....

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 02/19/2015 - 09:45

You're probably thinking Iran.  What about Saudi Arabia, the bunch of radical Sunni extremists we consider our close ally?

Take it from The Times (of London, of course) where it's reported that the Saudis, with CIA approval, secretly aquired DF-21 ballistic missiles from China plus British-built cruise missiles, all with an eye to taking on Iran.

Saudi Arabia, once a reliable client state of the US, is busy putting distance between Washington and Riyadh.  China is in the running to sell armed drones to the Saudis.  Riyadh is also considering adding the Pakistani-Chinese JF-17 fighter to its arsenal.  Then there's the $15-billion worth of armoured fighting vehicles, LAV II, that the Saudis have ordered from Canada.

If the Saudis do introduce nuclear weapons it's possible they'll come from Pakistan, home to the "Islamic Bomb."

Oh, My God! What If We Got This One Completely Wrong?

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 02/19/2015 - 08:41
A recent article in Aviation Week claims that senior officers in the Pentagon are beginning to evaluate whether counter-measures already developed by the two obvious adversaries of the F-35 have seriously compromised its effectiveness.

The article explains that what is going on is preparation for what the staff of the next president will have to wrestle with.

What's most interesting is the part that deals with the Pentagon's obsolescence policy.  These same people are trying to catalog all the very good technology within the F-35 so that they can be incorporated into the next warplane, the one to be built to correct all the F-35's mistakes. That's the history of the evolution of warplanes.  You progress from two wings to three to just one; from air-cooled to liquid-cooled engines to jets; from canvas covered surfaces to metal covered; from straight wing to swept; from rifles to machine guns to precision-guided bombs and radar-guided missiles.

Progress is a process.  You take what works and quickly find new ways to do what doesn't.  The point has been made all along.  This overdue, over-priced and under-performing warplane is very prototypical.  It's more a technology demonstrator than a well-rounded warplane.  Lockheed may boast that the F-35 is at the leading edge of 5th Generation fighter technology but, if that was true, it would have to be Generation 5.0 Beta.  They got some things very, very, brilliantly right.  They got as many things very, very wrong and they haven't distinguished themselves in how they've dealt with those shortcomings.

Before we, and our allies, get saddled with what might be a lame horse straight out of the gate, we need to get reliable intelligence on whether the F-35's vaunted stealth cloaking, for which it compromised speed, agility, range and payload, remains valid and for how long?  Lockheed isn't going to provide us with F-35s we can stage at Cold Lake along with all the other warplanes worth looking at so that we could have a legitimate fly-off.  Since we're not getting the option to kick the tires, at the very least we need to know if this hyper-expensive warplane has already been neutralized.  The Pentagon wants to know - and prepare for the possibility - and we should too.

With the sort of money it costs to build a modern fighter, you really can't afford to get it wrong.  Once you own it, it'll be a 'come as you are party' for the next 30+ years.

I have not lost such confidence in Canada to believe that, when the F-35's shortcomings are exposed, we will allow our aircrews to still use them as our front line, Swiss Army knife warplane.  We will, however, have to deal with a huge hole in our federal budget as we scrape up money to buy the next plane, the F-35's successor, the one that will have many of the best parts of the prototype but with the wrinkles ironed out.

The Harper government (Harper and MacKay especially) has spun so many lies about the F-35 that they no longer have any credibility.  They lied about cost. They lied by trying to claim there was a contract, one put in place by the Liberal government of Paul Martin.  The most preposterous of their lies is that the F-35 will be in front-line service with Canada for upwards of 50-years.

The Aviation Week article uses the term "cannibalize" to describe the process now underway.  Senior defense officials are looking to cannibalize the F-35 - to take from it all the best stuff and leave the rest on the hangar floor.  Yet we're expected to buy it warts and all.  What do you do if it turns out to be a flying wart?

Note - I've not been able to find the article online to link to it.  I can access it through a Zinio subscription.  It is published in the February 2 issue.

Feeding His Base

Northern Reflections - Thu, 02/19/2015 - 07:44

Fear fueled Stephen Harper's victory in 2011. Back then, he stoked fears about a coalition government. This time  around, he hopes to surf back to power by fanning two categories of fear -- fear of jihadists outside the gates and fear of criminals within. Frances Russell writes that fear of the criminals within is completely unfounded:

“The 2011 Canadian rate of 1.73 homicides per 100,000 population is the lowest of all the Americas, 14 times lower than in Mexico and about one-third of the rate in the United States. The homicide rate in Canada is more comparable to many European countries and Oceania (Australia and New Zealand), but remains much higher than the rate in Japan and Hong Kong.”

So reports Statistics Canada in its latest international comparison of homicide rates.

Yet to listen to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his cabinet and their ongoing “tough on crime” drumbeat, you would think Canada was in the midst of a major crime wave.
Crime isn't rising in Canada. But our incarceration rate is. Howard Sapers, Canada's Correctional Investigator, reports:

 “Over the last three or five years, we’ve definitely seen a population increase and it’s definitely around eight to 10 per cent at the federal level and perhaps a little more at the provincial level.”

And the dominos just keep falling. “We’re now seeing, for example, a higher proportion of provincially incarcerated individuals are being held pre-trial which means they’re simply being held on remand and haven’t even been convicted.”Russell writes that many prisoners are now incarcerated before trial:

It’s not uncommon now for 60 to 65 per cent of all provincial and territorial jails having to house inmates who are still at the pre-trial stage – in other words, serving time before they’ve been found guilty and sentenced. In case the government won’t tell you, that’s akin to denying the ancient right to due process.No one seems to be questioning the fairness -- or the wisdom -- of this change:

In reality, the whole safety/punishment mantra has nothing to do with science and evidence. It’s simply raw political opportunism by a governing party who likes to use fear and threat to capture every populist wave it can generate to mine more support and money from its already rock-solid base.
Harper believes he will win by feeding his base -- even if the country loses.

Godwin without apology: a panicky juxtaposition

Dawg's Blawg - Thu, 02/19/2015 - 07:27
Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and... Dr.Dawg

On oversight

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 02/19/2015 - 06:48
Since one of the main issues talked about so far in relation to the Cons' terror bill is the question of oversight, I'll point back to what I said the last time we were told that the way to split the difference between abuses of power and a desire for secrecy was to allow only a small number of elected officials to know - but not act on - what's going on:
Remember that many of the worst abuses by the U.S. government under Bushco were defended later on the basis that Democrats were informed of their existence. And that the fact that the opposition officials were sworn to secrecy and lacked any practical means to stop the abuse didn't stop a bullying government from claiming that their failure to act immediately made for tacit agreement with the policy.

Of course, that wasn't a reasonable position by any stretch of the imagination. But it did create a handy distraction tactic as soon as revelations did leak into the public eye - ensuring that the governing party wouldn't bear sole responsibility for its own actions, while the public would perceive insiders of all parties as having hidden information.  And the need is even more glaring in the case of C-51. Instead of merely investigating past misconduct as in the case of the Afghan detainee scandal, any oversight mechanism would need to be able to assess and respond to the use of nearly-unfettered powers on an ongoing basis. And a term of tightly-scripted Con majority government should put to rest any hope that MPs from the party currently in power will lift a finger to hold the executive accountable for anything.

Of course, the best option for now is to challenge whether those powers are actually needed in the first place. On that front, the answer looks to be an emphatic "no".

But we should also press to make sure that any powers which might be granted are accompanied by full and public disclosure as soon as the immediate reason for action has abated. Because if the Cons think so little of the public as to believe we should have no knowledge of what's being done in our name, there's no reason for confidence they'll think any more of us when it comes to using and overseeing new secret police powers.

Diseased Leadership

Politics and its Discontents - Thu, 02/19/2015 - 06:28

Almost four years ago I wrote a post on failed leadership, using the Elizabethan notion of The Great Chain of Being as it pertained to the relationship between the governed and those who govern. In essence it postulated that if the leader was good, the nation would prosper, but if bad, it would suffer. That suffering could take many forms, including the corruption of the people.

In many ways, it echoes what has happened in our modern age. Instead of inspiring and cultivating the best in the people, our leaders often seem far too intent on bringing out the worst in us, appealing not to our nobler impulses but our darker ones. Greed, self-interest, and suspicion abounds as our demagogues bray about 'the other' and ignore the collective.

A letter in today's Star, I think, very effectively captures how Canadians and the larger world have been adversely affected by the diseased leadership of Stephen Harper these past long nine years:
Re: Harper plays politics of hate, weakens our democracy, Opinion Feb. 15

Thanks for the excellent column on the damage that Stephen Harper and his ilk are doing to our society. People who I always thought were tolerant and open are picking up on his hateful venom. Even worse, he is cynically using this to get votes.

I hope it backfires and people see through it. I’m dismayed that the opposition parties are not calling him out on this but they too seem to be afraid to call it what it is — hate mongering.

I lived in three Muslim countries — Nigeria, Algeria and Oman — for a total of two years in the 1970s and now hardly recognize them. I lived in the northeast of Nigeria for almost a year while leading a Canadian and Nigerian team of surveyors and explorers mapping the whole northeast part of Nigeria. The situation there has almost brought me to tears when I see the terrible things that Boko Haram is doing to innocent people in the name of religion.

I felt the same way a few years ago when Muslim fanatics were killing entire villages in Algeria. Many of the towns where the violence is taking place in Nigeria are towns that I spend months in and where I made many local friends. They were peaceful places when I was there in 1974.

The whole Muslim world is suffering from the collapse of the world’s 19th century empires and the battle for control of oil in the Middle East. Unfortunately, the stability provided by the Ottomans has not been replaced and this battle for control will continue for some time yet.

Yuval Noah Harari in his book Sapiens points out that the situation in the Middle East since the end of World War I, with no empire in control, is unprecedented in the last 2,000 years or more. Islam has suffered the same damage in this battle as Christianity did in the European religious wars of the 16th century. Protestants and Catholics killed each other for a long time and their theology is far closer than Sunni and Shia Islam. It really wasn’t about religion but for control of political power and resources, as it is today in the Muslim world.

Canada needs to recognize this and, at the very least, do no more harm, like Harper is doing both here and in the Middle East. We may not be able to achieve much in the short term in settling this huge problem of bringing stability to the region but being cheerleaders for Israel certainly isn’t helping.

We need to be even-handed and do all we can to support those who wish to bring peace and stability through democracy, the rule of law rather than dictators, tolerance, economic development and many more building blocks of civil society.

Maybe the collapse of the oil market and ultimately the replacement of oil by renewable electricity for transportation will allow the citizens of the Muslim world to begin solving their problems without interference from others protecting their grip on oil.

I went to the movie American Sniper and was saddened by the glorification of the killing of Iraqis who, misguided or not, were protecting their country from foreign invaders there to take their oil. It’s going to take some time to change attitudes.

Alex Miller, TorontoRecommend this Post

New column day

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 02/19/2015 - 05:32
Here, on the Cons' attempt to spin an election narrative out of a fictional bogeyman rather than protecting or helping Canadians.

For further reading...
- The National Academy of Sciences offers a comparison of death rates from multiple causes in Canada and elsewhere, while Statistics Canada has more detailed data. And it's also worth a reminder as to the large number of deaths caused by inequality.
- In contrast to the real risks we face and accept every day, even the Cons' attempt to fabricate a paper trail around terrorism resorts to labeling arrests as failures or dangers (rather than examples of threats being detected and eliminated) in order to pretend there's a problem.
- Global Research makes the case for greater perspective in comparing risks from a U.S. perspective, while Paul Adams highlights the massive distance (in geography and other connections) between Canada and any serious threat. And of course Dan Gardner is always worth a read for a longer-form analysis.
- Finally, the most obvious discussion of threats (real or imagined) has surrounded the Cons' terror legislation. On that front, the NDP is taking the lead role in challenging pointless intrusions into our civil rights, and earning praise from even the likes of John Ivison in the process. Matthew Behrens notes that the Cons' message is a combination of warmed-over George W. Bush war rhetoric and ignored warnings from the RCMP (yes, that RCMP) about conflating terrorism with legitimate activity. And having already offered an important summary of C-51, Craig Forcese now examines how it's designed to attack purely peaceful and democratic activism.

Thursday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 02/19/2015 - 05:20
This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Jeffrey Sparshott discusses new research into how automation stands to displace workers and exacerbate inequality, while a House of Lords committee finds that 35% of the current jobs in the UK could fall prey to exactly that process. And Szu Ping Chan reports on Andy Haldane's warning that a vicious cycle could prove disastrous for everybody:
Mr Haldane warned that robots could soon replace workers en-masse.

"Intelligent robots could substitute for lower-skilled tasks. If the capacity of the machine brain approached, or surpassed, the human brain, higher-skilled jobs could also be at risk. Where this leaves trends in employment, inequality and social capital is unclear. But, most likely, this would be far from blissful ignorance," he said.

"A second secular headwind, closely related to rising inequality, concerns human capital," he added. "Inequality may retard growth because it damps investment in education, in particular by poorer households. Studies show parental income is crucial in determining children’s educational performance. If inequality is generational and self-perpetuating, so too will be its impact on growth."

"In sum, if history and empirical evidence is any guide, this cocktail of sociological factors, individually and in combination, could restrain growth. They could jeopardise the promise of the fourth industrial revolution. Pessimists’ concerns would be warranted." - Of course, a more fair distribution of wealth and income could go a long way toward ensuring that nobody is left behind even as the economy changes. And Tom Clark observes that there's far more public appetite to catch and punish wealthy tax dodgers than people receiving public benefits.

- Meanwhile, Angella MacEwen offers some needed suggestions to ensure that Employment Insurance is available when workers need it - rather than seeing its funds used for political purposes.

- Scott Clark and Peter DeVries note that the Cons' economic rhetoric is sounding more detached from reality by the day. And Steve Barnes discusses the double whammy of low wages and no benefits facing far too many workers in Ontario.

- Finally, Keith Stewart writes that while it's not yet a crime to act to help the environment in Canada, the Cons have designs on changing that fact. Andrea Germanos notes that the RCMP's report on the oil industry goes beyond even peaceful protest, and moves squarely into criticism of issue advocacy where it's inconvenient for the oil industry. And PressProgress points out much more bizarre material in the report.

Ralph Nader to Stephen Harper: What's Happening to Canada?

Montreal Simon - Thu, 02/19/2015 - 04:16

In the monstrous darkness of Harperland, and when I read a poll like this one.

There’s rarely been a bill before Parliament that was more popular. The public Conservatives’ new anti-terror legislation is filling a public demand for tough new measures aimed at a terrorism threat that Canadians believe is serious, and close to home, according to a new poll. 

More than four in five Canadians – 82 per cent – back the new legislation to expand the powers of intelligence agencies and police, according to the survey of 1,509 Canadians conducted by the Angus Reid Institute. Far from seeing it as too sweeping, they tend to want more: 36 per cent say it does not go far enough.

I wonder what's happening to my country. And how so many could surrender their freedoms so easily.

So I'm glad to see that a person like Ralph Nader is asking the same question in this open letter to Stephen Harper. 
Read more »

Tom Mulcair, Bill C-51, and the Monstrous Xenophobia of Stephen Harper

Montreal Simon - Thu, 02/19/2015 - 02:24

It was good to see Tom Mulcair finally take a stand against the Con regime's totalitarian anti-terrorism bill. 

Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair says the NDP will fight the Conservative government's new anti-terrorism bill when it goes before the House on Wednesday and pushed for the Liberals to do the same. After his party's weekly caucus meeting, Mulcair said the real threat of terrorism requires responsible measures, not the "dangerous, vague, ineffective" Bill C-51.

Because it needed to be said: Bill C-51 is a rotten bill and should be scrapped.

But what was depressing, and deeply alarming, was to see how Stephen Harper reacted:
Read more »

The Totally Wonderful Downfall of Dean Del Mastro

Montreal Simon - Wed, 02/18/2015 - 14:45

Well it was a brave attempt, some might say an outrageous attempt, to put a fork in the wheels of justice.

But sadly for Dean Del Mastro it just didn't work, and he will not be getting another trial.
Read more »

The Running of the Hounds. Westminster KC 2015

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 02/18/2015 - 13:01

I'm a dog fancier.  I love dogs, most types anyway.  Not so much the fru-fru dogs, those little furballs that some people tote around but 'real' dogs - terriers, setters, retrievers and, most of all, hound dogs.  I love the hounds.

For the past forty years I've been a beagle guy.  I've had a few.  All of them have been great - hounds.  I like to think of the beagle as the Steve McQueen of the canine world.  Never comfortable with authority, an animal that takes the world strictly on its own terms.  When a beagle receives a command from its owner it goes through a two-stage process.  First it receives the command.  Then it asks itself, "alright but what's in it for me?"

Most people know a beagle to see one but few understand what makes these hounds so unique.  They've been around for many centuries.  Some say they go back around 2,500 years.

There are those who say that a beagle cannot be trained.  That is untrue. Thousands of years of careful breeding has produced a hound that is actually self-training.  They train themselves in accordance with their own needs and values and, when their interests coincide with yours, you get to claim the credit for the result.  Those who sow doubt as to the beagle's trainability are simply incapable of recognizing perfection.

We had a "beagle moment" yesterday when a BC-bred hound, "Miss P" took Best in Show at the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club dog show.  Our British Columbia hound is the grand-niece of Uno, who, in 2008, became the first beagle ever to win the top honour at the Westminster dog show.

Now, don't get me wrong.  Miss P is a splendid looking hound and a deserving grand champion.  That said she really doesn't rise to the standard of my current hound, Buddy.  She's close, very close but she just doesn't have it all.  I would never put Buddy in the show ring lest it ruin the hopes and aspirations of all other breeders in a giant collapse of their collective morale.

Last night was Miss P's last competition.  She's 4-years old and she has a line to continue.  

Cry Me A River

Politics and its Discontents - Wed, 02/18/2015 - 12:31

The frequently lachrymose Dean Del Mastro has yet another reason for tears:
An Ontario judge has dismissed former Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro’s attempt to have a mistrial declared in his election overspending case.

Del Mastro will appear before Cameron in Lindsay, Ont., on Thursday, where sentencing arguments are expected to be made in his case.

He was found guilty of exceeding spending limits, failing to report a personal contribution of $21,000 to his own campaign and knowingly submitting a falsified document.

He faces a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $2,000 fine on each of the three convictions.It would seem that Justice Lisa Cameron did not agree with the assertion of the disgraced former top Harper operative and defender that her finding him guilty was only her opinion.

And that of millions of other Canadians, he might have added.Recommend this Post

The Way We Wage War, We Never See This Coming and Probably Never Will.

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 02/18/2015 - 10:20

We absolutely luuuuv our air wars, whether it's over Serbia or Libya or Iraq. Load up those underwing hard points and let's go drop some bombs.  Yeah, that's the ticket.

We like air war because it's cheap and dirty.  It eliminates the need for benchmarks to distinguish victory from defeat.  It's like going on a big family picnic.  You send a six-pack of CF-18s and everyone else chips in with a handful of whatever they have that's still airworthy and the party's on.

Take Kosovo, remember that place?  In 2008 we bombed Milosevic's Serbia for weeks until old Slobodan agreed to let 'our' people go.  We liberated Kosovo for its Albanian Muslim population.  It must be blissful today, eh?  Not so much. Even the Kosovars don't like the place and they're beating feet for Europe, Germany in particular.  Why would they not when its economy is largely based on cigarette and cement smuggling and organized crime?

Then we had Libya in 2011, a dandy air war against the holdout forces of Muammar Gaddafi.  Some, such as this blogger, called for an Egyptian invasion to quickly topple Gaddafi and restore order to make way for a new, civilian government.  The Egyptians next door had masses of late-build American F-16 fighters and M-1A1 Abrams tanks and could have taken Tripoli in a matter of days.

Why did I advocate an Egyptian campaign against Gaddafi in February, 2011? Because al Qaeda announced - quite openly announced - that they intended to get into the Libyan civil war in order to establish a toe hold to spread throughout North Africa.  They were candid about having missed their opportunity to get established in Egypt during the uprising against Mubarak and were determined not to repeat that blunder in Libya.

Egypt, only Egypt, had the means to get to Tripoli fast and keep al Qaeda out.  It would have been a matter of a few days and it would have saved thousands of lives and years of utter chaos.

Gwynne Dyer also came out in favour of Egyptian intervention on March 15:

...What is actually needed is active military intervention on the ground and in the air by disciplined, well-trained Arab forces, sent by a revolutionary Arab government that is in sympathy with the Libyan rebels. So where is the Egyptian army when the Libyans need it?

Egypt has an open border with the rebel-controlled east of Libya, and just one brigade of the Egyptian army would be enough to stop Gaddafy’s ground forces in their tracks. The Egyptian air force could easily shoot down any of Gaddafy’s aircraft that dared to take off, especially if it had early warning from European or American AWACS aircraft

Then on March 23, Parliament unanimously endorsed Canadian participation in maintaining a "no fly zone" over Libya which led me to note:

Approval wasn't automatic. Questions were asked. According to the G&M, the opposition asked when the mission would end, what would constitute success and what the whole thing would cost. Apparently satisfied when the government couldn't answer even one of those questions, they all stood up on their hind legs, let out a manly "Hurrah" and voted to endorse the mission that, plainly, no one understands.

And so we wound up going through a NATO-centric bombing campaign against Gaddafi forces that dragged on for 160-days.  Gaddafi was captured, summarily executed and Harper staged a victory fly-past over Parliament Hill even as al Qaeda was consolidating its own victory back in Libya.
Flash forward from 2011 to 2015 and where are we?  Libya hovers on the cusp of becoming a failed state.  It is incapable of forming a democratic government as no one is really in effective control.  ISIS has followed al Qaeda in setting up shop in Libya.
Today's National Post (via Britain's Telegraph) reports that ISIS is planning to use its presence in Libya as a springboard for attacking into Europe.  
The group has already established Libyan-based cells, who on Sunday released a video showing a mass beheading of 21 Egyptian Christian guest workers. The video, which prompted Egypt to launch retaliatory bombing raids on ISIS positions in Libya, included footage of a khaki-clad militant pointing a bloodstained finger northward, declaring, “We will conquer Rome, by Allah’s permission.”

The ISIS propagandist [Abu al-Libim] describes Libya as having “immense potential” for the group. He points out with relish it is awash with weapons from the country’s civil war, when large quantities of Gadhafi’s arsenals were appropriated by rebels. Some of those weapons came from Britain, which supplied the Gaddafi regime with machine guns, sniper rifles and ammunition during his final years in power, when he was seen as an ally against Islamist terrorism.

Libim also points out Libya is less than 490 kilometres from parts of the nearest European mainland.

“It has a long coast and looks upon the southern Crusader states, which can be reached with ease by even a rudimentary boat,” he writes

“The number of trips known as ’illegal immigration’ from this coast, which are huge in number … if this was even partially exploited and developed strategically, pandemonium could be wrought in the southern European states and it is even possible that there could be a closure of shipping lines and targeting of Crusader ships and tankers.”

Harper will need a lot more than a six-pack of aging CF-18s to deal with this bunch.  Wait, I forgot, we've already had our triumphalist flypast to commemorate our amazing victory over Libya.  That file is closed.
Fortunately our current air war over Iraq will be a rousing success where our previous air wars flopped.  Or, maybe not.  Oh well it keeps a lot of people, especially the Liberal Loudmouth (TM), happy and, at a paltry million dollars a day, it's peanuts.

You don't win a war without a winning strategy and the necessary commitment and perseverence.  You need a clearly understood objective and a plan of what you need to achieve it.  If you choose to skip on the strategy and duck the planning business, you're setting out to avoid failure which pretty much ensures you'll fail.  We're already well into our second decade of whack-a-mole warfare and it has failed us at every turn.  

On Egregious Stupidity And Willful Ignorance

Politics and its Discontents - Wed, 02/18/2015 - 09:20

I readily admit to being intolerant of people at times. Not for me are the excuses that others may make for their shortcomings, such as the limitations of their upbringing, their education, or their natural abilities.

At the top of my list are those who either embrace or promote egregious stupidity and willful ignorance. And while no part of the political spectrum is exempt from such offenders, they do seem to be disproportionately represented by the right. Anti-vaxxers, climate change deniers, and ardent supporters of the Harper regime readily come to mind.

Lazy thinking is no substitute for critical thinking, and while the latter, I am convinced, cannot happen without a a good education, whether formal or acquired through wide reading, there is no assurance that those who call themselves educated are in fact able to think critically. Bias, tunnel vision, and a myriad of other factors can militate against that capacity.

Given how much the Harper regime has invested in promoting and exploiting ignorance and stupidity (a look at some of its convoluted rhetoric around Bill C-51 offers ample illustration), now seems to be a propitious time to examine a few basic guidelines that can help promote better thinking.

My first source is an article from The Hamilton Spectator whose purpose was to help people think more rigorously about the science around vaccinations, but most are readily transferable to other topics as well:
Here are 10 questions to ask yourself when you read a piece about science and medicine:

1. Who's saying it and what's their reputation?

2. Where and how are the results being presented?

3. Who paid for the work and who pays the researcher?

4. Are you reading anecdotes or evidence?

5. Are there comments from an arm's length unbiased expert? How does that fit in to the picture?

6. What do the numbers really tell me?

7. How large was the study? (Generally, the bigger, the better.)

8. How was the study carried out? A test tube? Mouse? Dying patient? Healthy patient? (The closer the results are to the general population, the more important they are.)

9. How substantial are the benefits and how big are the risks?

10. Are opposing viewpoints included? If so, what's their reputation?
An even better and more comprehensive set of guidelines is taken from a university website:
1. Ask questions; be willing to wonder. (Re. research problems)

To think critically you must be willing to think creatively - to be
curious about the puzzles of human behavior, to wonder why
people act the way they do, and to question received wisdom and
examine new explanations of why things are as they are.

2. Define your terms. (Re. operational definitions)

Identify the problem in clear and concrete terms, rather than vague ones like "happiness," "potential," or "self-esteem."

3. Examine the evidence. (Re. data: empiricism, reliability, and

Consider the nature of the evidence supporting various
approaches to the problems under examination. Is there good
evidence one way or another? Is it reliable? Valid? Is the
"evidence" merely someone's personal assertion or speculation,
or is it based on replicated empirical data?

4. Analyze assumptions and biases - your own and those of others. (Re. empirical/objective observations: biases and

What prejudices, deeply held values, and other
biases do you bring to your evaluation of a problem? Are you
willing to consider evidence that contradicts your beliefs? Can
you identify the assumptions and biases that others bring to their

5. Avoid emotional reasoning. (Re. empirical observations)

The fact that you feel strongly about something doesn’t make you
right! Remember that everyone holds convictions about how the
world operates (or how it should operate), and your opponents
are probably as serious about their convictions as you are about
yours. Feelings are important, but they should not be substitutes
for careful appraisal of arguments and evidence.

6. Don't oversimplify. (Re. Generalizations)

Look beyond the obvious; reject simplistic thinking ("All the evil in the world is due to that group of loathsome people") and either-or thinking ("Either genes determine everything about personality and behavior or they count for virtually nothing"). Be wary of "argument by anecdote," taking a single case as evidence of a larger
phenomenon. For example, reading about one chilling case of a man who murders while on parole should not be the basis on
which you assess parole programs in general.

7. Consider other interpretations. (Re. alternative explanations,or hypotheses; mutual exclusiveness and exhaustiveness)

Before you draw a conclusion from the evidence, think creatively
about other possible explanations. When you learn that two
events are statistically correlated, for example, be sure to think
carefully about which one is the cause and which the result - or
whether a third factor might be causing both of them.

8. Tolerate uncertainty. (Re. Theories and data: testing and

This is probably the hardest step in becoming a critical
thinker, for it requires that we hold our beliefs "lightly" and be
willing to give them up when better evidence comes along. It
requires us to live with the realization that we may not have the
perfect answer to a problem at the moment, and may never have
it. Many people want "the" answers, and thy want science to
provide them: "Just tell me what to do!" they demand.
Pseudoscience promises answers, which is why it is so popular;
science gives us probabilities that suggest one answer is better
than another - for now - and warns us that one day we may have
to change our minds.Recommend this Post


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