Posts from our progressive community

Our New Normal

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 10/11/2016 - 09:39

I've noticed it. Chances are good you have too. "It" is the marked change in local precipitation patterns.

I live in a place where we're used to pretty torrential downpours from squalls coming off the Pacific. They manifest in heavy rainfall and very high winds that can give the rains a horizontal effect. That had been the baseline for heavy storms.

It's not unusual today to experience significantly heavier rains of increasingly longer durations. Word has it we're in for a 4-day deluge starting later this week.

We all remember the floods that hit Toronto, then Calgary and just recently, Nova Scotia. In my town we had a massive downpour that lasted exactly 18-minutes, start to finish, but dumped enough water, about an inch and a half, that cars were floating down the mainstreet that itself was just a gently sloping block distant from the sea.

Now research is suggesting that Hurricane Sandy grade flooding is becoming the "new normal."

The frequency of floods of the magnitude of Hurricane Sandy, which devastated parts of New York City in 2012, is rising so sharply that they could become relatively normal, with a raft of new research laying bare the enormous upheavals already under way in the US due to climate change.

These findings and two other fresh pieces of research have highlighted how the US is already in the grip of significant environmental changes driven by warming temperatures, albeit in different ways to the processes that are fueling hurricanes.
The number of storms with Sandy-like floods is rising exponentially

An analysis of past storms and models of future events as the planet warms has shown that Sandy-like floods have become three times more common in the New York area since 1800. This frequency is set to climb further, from once every 400 years to once every 90 years by 2100, due to the effects of sea level rise alone.

Worse still, when the impact of future storm conditions, supercharged by the warming oceans and increased atmospheric moisture, is considered, New York could be swamped by Sandy-level flooding as frequently as once every 23 years by the end of the century, according to research led by Princeton University.

...Michael Mann, a climatologist at Penn State University, said that the studies deal with very different processes but are “examples of climate change impacts that are already threatening us here in the US and around the world, the devastating and unprecedented wildfires in Alberta last spring and the coastal flooding and massive loss of life from Hurricane Matthew being just the latest reminders, and which will only worsen if we do not act on climate”.
But the federal government, Justin's government, isn't taking this lying down. It's going to introduce carbon pricing. So? That won't do bugger all to answer our problem. The problem is what scientists call our "broken hydrological cycle." We've already heated the atmosphere. Warmer air (1) holds more water vapour which only (2) warms the air that much faster but also (3) shifts global precipitation patterns (4) triggering severe weather events of increasing frequency, intensity and duration and (5) creating both sustained and cyclical flooding and droughts. I don't care if you scored a D- in physics, you can still understand that.
This is where Justin hasn't thought things through. For the sake of political cover he's casting his carbon price as "revenue neutral." The taxes collected will be returned to the provinces in which they're harvested to go into general revenues and onward to whatever groups the governments of the day choose to reward. In this era of "everyday low taxes" that revenue doesn't have much chance of going where it's most needed.
So, where is that money most needed? It could be invested in adaptation measures to at least blunt the impacts of our broken hydrological cycle. Early 20th century storm sewer systems don't meet the demands of 21st century deluges. Cities need floodways. In my view the money collected should be directly linked to measures to cope with the impacts arising out of the problem on which the tax itself is justified. Sort of like diverting excise taxes on tobacco products to defray the cost of medical treatment of lung diseases. The whole yin/yang thing.
We have to start getting our minds about public policy responses to these challenges. So far that's just not happening.

Tuesday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Tue, 10/11/2016 - 08:03
This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Baratunde Thurston makes the point that even beyond income and wealth inequality, there's an obviously unfair distribution of second chances in the U.S. depending on one's race and class. Denis Campbell reports on the link between poverty and childhood obesity, while Jen St. Denis highlights how poverty can cause and exacerbate mental health problems.

- Kyle Bakx points out how a systematic effort to encourage people living in poverty to file their tax returns can result in help getting where it's needed most. And conversely, the Star 's editorial board writes that piling fines on people with no means to pay them serves no useful purpose.

- David Cay Johnston examines the U.S.' tax rolls and finds a large number of wealthy Americans paying no income tax at all:
In 2014, the latest year for which we have data, more than two million of the 148.6 million tax-filing households reported negative incomes. The number of such households has been rising for years. In 1994 it was 0.8% of income tax returns, but in 2014 it hit 1.4%. That's one in 73, up from one in 125.

Some of these households have one-time losses, usually from failed business. But many must be wealthy, too, benefiting from liberal tax avoidance laws set by Congress.

My detailed analysis of the official data shows that those who reported negative incomes on average are wealthier and enjoy more cash flow by far than the average American.

Some surprising facts:
  • More than a fourth of these non-taxpaying households had paying jobs in 2014.
  • These households had vastly more investment income than all but the top half of 1% of all households.
  • One in three negative-income households reported receiving taxable interest, compared to 29% of all taxpayers. The average amount they reported was $6,939. For comparison, those making $75,000 to $100,000 in 2014 reported average taxable interest of just $860.
What we do not know is how many of these are people reporting negative income just once – and how many, like Trump, have reported negative income year-after-year, despite huge incomes that they collect free of income tax.
When you get to even richer households, Donald Trump territory, you still find negative-income taxpayers: The 410,300 tax households reporting incomes of $1 million or more in 2014 had an average income that was more than $3.3 million. But 444 of these million-dollar-plus households – about one in 900 – paid no income tax.- Doreen Nichol rightly argues that children living on reserves shouldn't face continued systemic discrimination, while Jody Porter reports that First Nations residents needing medical travel are facing regular breaches of privacy compared to other patients. And CBC reports that the Idle No More movement is rightly demanding that Justin Trudeau live up to his promises, rather than pretending that rhetoric is enough to make up for continued unfair treatment.

- In a similar vein, Nathan Cullen discusses the need to hold the Libs to their promise of electoral reform. And Tavia Grant reports on the Libs' failure to follow through on a commitment to ban the use of asbestos.

- Finally, Judith Lavoie comments on the need for renewed anti-SLAPP protection to allow people to participate meaningfully in public debates about the issues that affect them. And Michael Geist offers his suggestions for the future of Canadian journalism.

Narcissism and the Growth of Hate Politics. . . .

kirbycairo - Tue, 10/11/2016 - 08:00
David Brooks wrote an excellent op-ed piece for the New York Times today entitled Donald Trump's Sad, Lonely Life. Brooks recounts the genuine state of mental illness and isolation in which Trump lives. Most poignantly, Brooks writes:

 "Trump continues to display the symptoms of narcissistic alexithymia, the inability to understand or describe the emotions in the self. Unable to know themselves, sufferers are unable to understand, relate or attach to others. To prove their own existence, they hunger for endless attention from outside. Lacking internal measures of their own worth, they rely on external but insecure criteria like wealth, beauty, fame and others' submission."

Admittedly, it is difficult to feel truly sorry for a guy like Trump because his mental/emotional problems make him a mean and angry person. But his problems are, I am sure, quite real and essentially rob him of the kinds of human contact and affections that most of us enjoy. I remember as kid I knew a bully who finally tried to bully the wrong new-kid in class. After getting beaten up in front of a cheering school-yard crowd the bully just sat there weeping on the grass as everyone walked away. And despite the fact that I had been one of his victims, I felt a very profound sense of pity that has never really left me. Because I saw at that moment that this boy had nothing, his only sense of self-worth was gained by dominating others and I knew at that moment, even as a nine year old, that he was never going to know the real joys of friendship and intimacy. Brooks continues:

"Bullies only experience peace when they are cruel. Their blood pressures drops the moment they beat the kid on the playground. Imagine you are Trump. You are trying to bluff your way through a debate. You're running for an office you're completely unqualified for. You are chasing some glimmer of validation that recedes further from view. Your only rest comes when you are insulting somebody, when you are threatening to throw your opponent in jail, when you are looming over her menacingly like a mafioso thug on the precipice of a hit, when you are bellowing that she as a 'tremendous hate in her heart' when it is clear to everyone you are only projecting what is in your own."

I get what Brooks is saying here. It is right on point. Of course, I don't lie awake nights worrying about what a sad, pathetic, and lonely man Trump is. His racism and misogyny might be rooting in childhood trauma, but that doesn't make them any easier to tolerate, nor does that make Trump any more likable a man.

But reading Brooks' piece got me thinking about what has happened to politics, not just in the US but in many places. The Conservative party in Canada, is no less pathetic than Trump; we have a host of Conservative leadership candidates who fall over themselves to say more despicable things about other leaders as well as the weak and vulnerable. England has a new Prime Minister who seems to pride herself on a lack of human empathy. But politicians are so often the worst kinds of people, people who are hungry for attention and power, just like Trump.

What of their followers and supporters? That is the question that keeps haunting me. It is relatively easy to see a pathetic man like Trump as not quite stable, perhaps a victim of some kind of trauma or mental illness. It wasn't even that hard, at times, to see Canadian Prime Minister Harper as a troubled narcissist who never really knew intimacy or friendship but only hungered for dominance and authority. But this new crop of "hateful" leaders are inciting a new generation of hateful followers; seemingly average people who revel in the vitriol and hate spouted by these pathetic leaders. This is, in a way, much more troubling than the leaders themselves. You only have to watch television or read internet comments to see that there are thousands, even millions of people who are getting off on this stuff, they love to see some politician legitimize their own hatred and anger.

What conclusions can we draw from this? Are we entering a new age of mass delusion, mass anger, and mass narcissism? Has it always been this way but just gets muted at some stages? Is there a prevailing sense of fear motivated by growing social insecurity and social shifts that are causing the weaker minded to lash out with anger and hate? I really don't know what's going on but it has, I am sure like many others, shaken me to the core.

In War, Soldiers and Sailors Get Killed

Northern Reflections - Tue, 10/11/2016 - 05:59

When Justin Trudeau brought Canada's CF-18's back from Iraq, Canadians might have thought that our armed forces personnel were out of harms way. But, Tom Walkom writes:

On Thursday, a senior general acknowledged that, over the last few months, Canadian special forces operating in northern Iraq have become increasingly involved in front-line skirmishes against Daesh fighters.
“The mission has changed,” said Brig.-Gen. Peter Dawe. “We are more engaged on the line … the risk has increased.”
The truth, whether the government wants to admit it or not, is that Canada's soldiers are in harm's way: 
Both the current Liberal government and the Conservative one it replaced have gone to great lengths to assure Canadians that Iraq is not another Afghanistan. So these semantic debates over the definition of word “combat” have taken on great political meaning.
The Conservatives used to say shooting in self-defence was not real combat.
Under the Liberals, the military brass is engaging in similar linguistic contortions to avoid the dreaded word.
According to one, Canadian troops have to be the “principal combatants” to engage in combat. 
According to another, combat only occurs once soldiers have crossed an imaginary line on the battlefield.
In Iraq, it's always been hard to distinguish the difference between enemy and ally:
But in the real world of war, the differences become blurred — particularly when the battle lines are fluid.
Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish forces don’t trust one another. Moreover, as the Financial Times reported last week, the fissures that have always existed within these three major groups are beginning to widen.
It’s not that long ago that rival Kurdish parties in northern Iraq were involved in a murderous shooting war with one another.  So let's stop fogging things up with semantic distinctions. Canada is at war. Our troops are in the middle of it. In war, soldiers and sailors get killed.
Image: Michelle Clelland Toronto Star

Donald Trump and the Republican Civil War

Montreal Simon - Tue, 10/11/2016 - 05:47

Donald Trump is said to be holed up in his bunker in the Trump Tower, surrounded only by his most faithful supporters, like Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie, and the usual gang of neo-nazis.

He's still claiming that he won the last debate.

And that he's going to win the election, and Make America Great Again. MAGA!! MAGA!!

But with every hour that passes the mood in the bunker grows grimmer.

And with good reason.
Read more »

Donald Trump on Hillary Clinton: Now and Then

Montreal Simon - Mon, 10/10/2016 - 21:39

As we know these days Donald Trump can't say enough bad things about Hilary Clinton.

He calls her "lying, dying, and crooked Hillary" and accuses her of enabling her husband's sexual scandals.

And during Sunday night's debate he called her the "devil" and vowed to jail her if he ever becomes President. 

But seventeen years ago when Clinton was still coping with the fallout of those scandals, Trump couldn't praise her enough.
Read more »

Former Senior US Prosecutors, Republicans, Slam Trump

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 10/10/2016 - 18:27
Add to the growing ranks of prominent Republicans turning on Donald Trump, a number of senior prosecutors and Justice Department figures. From Politico:

...former Republican appointees to senior Justice Department posts used words like “abhorrent,” “absurd” and “terrifying” to describe Trump’s threat to use the legal system to imprison Clinton.

“For Donald Trump to say he will have a special prosecutor appointed and to have tried and convicted her already and say she’d go to jail is wholly inappropriate and the kind of talk more befitting a Third World country than it is our democracy,” said Paul Charlton, who spent a decade as a federal prosecutor before serving as U.S. attorney for Arizona under President George W. Bush.

Added Charlton: “The Department of Justice isn’t a political tool and it ought not to be employed that way.”

Another GOP lawyer, Marc Jimenez, who served on the legal team backing Bush in the Bush v. Gore Supreme Court showdown and later as a Bush-appointed U.S. attorney in Miami, said he was deeply disturbed by Trump’s remarks.

“This statement demonstrates the clear and present danger that Trump presents to our justice system. For a president to ‘instruct’ an attorney general to commence any prosecution or take any particular action is abhorrent,” Jimenez said. “If it occurred, it would be a politically motivated decision that would cheapen the Department of Justice and contradict the core principle that prosecutors should never consider political factors in their charging or other decisions.”

The worst of Richard Nixon haunts Trump.
While presidents appoint the attorney general, they do not make decisions on whom to prosecute for crimes — and were Trump to do so, prosecutors warned, he would spark a constitutional crisis similar to that of the “Saturday Night Massacre” in the Nixon administration. In that case, Nixon attempted to fire the prosecutor investigating the Watergate scandal, and the top two Justice Department officials resigned on the spot.


Foreign Policy Backs Clinton

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 10/10/2016 - 18:00

Foreign Policy magazine has, for the first time in its half-century history, endorsed a candidate for president of the United States.

While the magazine and its columnists are anything but leftist, they have repudiated Donald Trump and endorsed Mrs. Clinton. The FP endorsement begins with a truly scathing indictment of everything that is Donald Trump.

The dangers Trump presents as president stretch beyond the United States to the international economy, to global security, to America’s allies, as well as to countless innocents everywhere who would be the victims of his inexperience, his perverse policy views, and the profound unsuitability of his temperament for the office he seeks.

The litany of reasons Trump poses such a threat is so long that it is, in fact, shocking that he is a major party’s candidate for the presidency. The recent furor over his vile behavior with women illustrates the extraordinary nature of his unsuitability, as does his repudiation by so many members of his own party — who have so many reasons to reflexively support their nominee.

Beyond this, however, in the areas in which we at FP specialize, he has repeatedly demonstrated his ignorance of the most basic facts of international affairs, let alone the nuances so crucial to the responsibilities of diplomacy inherent in the U.S. president’s daily responsibilities. Trump has not only promoted the leadership of a tyrant and menace like Vladimir Putin, but he has welcomed Russian meddling in the current U.S. election. He has alternatively forgiven then defended Russia’s invasion of Crimea and employed advisors with close ties to the Russian president and his cronies. Trump has spoken so cavalierly about the use of nuclear weapons, including a repeated willingness to use them against terrorists, that it has become clear he understands little if anything about America's nuclear policies — not to mention the moral, legal, and human consequences of such actions. He has embraced the use of torture and the violation of international law against it. He has suggested he would ignore America’s treaty obligations and would only conditionally support allies in need.

Trump has played into the hands of terrorists with his fearmongering, with his sweeping and unwarranted vilification of Muslims, and by sensationalizing the threat they pose. He has promised to take punitive actions against America’s Pacific trading partners that would be devastating to the world economy and in violation of our legal obligations. He has dismissed the science of climate change and denied its looming and dangerous reality. He has promoted a delusional and narcissistic view of the world, one in which he seems to feel that the power of his personality in negotiations could redirect the course of other nations, remake or supplant treaties, and contain those tyrants he does not actually embrace.

He has repeatedly denigrated the U.S. military — its leadership, service members, veterans, and the families who stand behind them. He has also derided the intelligence community. Many of the most prominent Republican national security and foreign-policy specialists have repudiated him publicly. Indeed, he is not simply seen as a dangerous candidate by members of the Democratic Party, but virtually no single credible GOP foreign-policy advisor has joined his team. This is because Trump either undercuts or has placed himself in opposition to the best foreign-policy traditions of the Republican Party and to the standards and ideals of every GOP administration in modern history.

He has shown such a complete disregard for the truth that he has arguably done more than any other single individual to seek to usher in a new and unwelcome post-fact era in America’s political debate. That is not just odious but if it becomes more accepted could compromise and undercut governance in the United States for generations to come. His proposed policies on immigration and for dealing with Muslims in America show scorn for the Fourth Amendment. Based on a lifetime of statements and actions, Donald Trump has revealed himself to be a racist and, again and again, a misogynist. Throughout this election he has cynically embraced the support of white supremacists and anti-Semites.

He would therefore put at risk our way of life, our freedoms, and our alliances. His reckless behavior has already undermined America’s standing internationally. His proposed embrace of some bad actors and his provocations toward others, his dangerous views on the use of weapons of mass destruction, his failure to understand how the global economy works, his lack of appreciation for the importance of alliances, and his temperamental defects all suggest that were he to claim the Oval Office, he would be a destabilizing force that would undercut American leadership instantly and for generations to come.His spotty track record as a businessman compounds these flaws further still.

Indeed, we are not the first to say it, but Trump is the worst major-party candidate this republic has ever produced.

----Now, for all of you pretend progressives who see a nullifying equivalency between Clinton and Trump, it's time to put your conspiracy theories back in your toy box and under your bed.

Fortunately, not only is Trump opposed by a worthy candidate, but his opponent is, on foreign-policy and national security issues — all of the areas we cover here at FP — one of the best qualified candidates this country has produced since World War II. As first lady, New York senator, and secretary of state, Hillary Clinton regularly distinguished herself by her intelligence, dogged work ethic, ability to work across the political aisle, and leadership on difficult issues. She has devoted her entire life to public service and has been a powerful and effective advocate for women, children, and those in need at home and abroad. Whether you agree with all the policy stances of her campaign or not, impartial eyes will conclude that her proposals on climate change, combating terrorism, and human rights are thoughtful and comprehensive — and ultimately worthy of consideration.

Hillary Clinton is a quality candidate who is unquestionably well-prepared to lead this country. What is more, we do not think it is a small thing that by her election she will be righting a deep wrong that has compromised U.S. democracy since its inception: the exclusion of women from its highest offices. Were she to be elected as this country’s first woman president, not only would it be historic and send an important signal about both inclusiveness and Americans’ commitment to electing candidates who have distinguished themselves on their merits, but she would enter office having already put down one great threat to the United States of America — the grotesque and deeply disturbing prospect of a Donald Trump presidency.

It's Official: Trump Won The Debate

Politics and its Discontents - Mon, 10/10/2016 - 17:26
So declares America's favourite crazed evangelical, Pat Robertson. Presumably, his assessment came from on high.

Recommend this Post

What You Don't Know Will Hurt You

Politics and its Discontents - Mon, 10/10/2016 - 13:30

While much of western society enjoys living in willful ignorance about climate change, the fact is, what you don't know can hurt you. Tim Wallace of the New York Times reports that much of the heat of our rapidly warming world is being absorbed by oceans, and the long-term effects will be devastating.
Ocean temperatures have been consistently rising for at least three decades. Scientists believe that global sea surface temperatures will continue to increase over the next decade as greenhouse gases build up in the atmosphere.

Last year, nearly all observed ocean surface temperatures registered above average because naturally occurring conditions caused by El Niño combined with human-induced warming. About a quarter of those observations broke record highs.This excess energy has largely been sucked up by the oceans, which have a huge capacity to store heat. As the oceans store more heat, however, they expand. Scientists have shown that over the past decade, this thermal expansion has caused about one-third of the rise in sea levels.But what is happening below the surface?
The near-surface ocean takes only decades to warm in response to elevated greenhouse gas concentrations, but the deep ocean will take centuries to millenniums, raising sea level all the while. In the meantime, warmer ocean temperatures may also increase the destructive potential of extreme weather, like cyclones and hurricanes.
Out of sight, out of mind is no longer a viable strategy, as we are now seeing, and far, far worse is yet to come.Recommend this Post

First, the Good News...

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 10/10/2016 - 12:01

The World Energy Council predicts global demand for energy will peak in 2030 and decline thereafter.

That's the good news.

Now, for the bad news. That's "per capita" global demand for energy. And since we're about to welcome another couple of billion "capitas" gross global energy consumption will just keep increasing.

...while overall per capita energy demand would begin to fall, demand for electricity would double by 2060, the council said, requiring greater infrastructure investment in smart systems that promote energy efficiency.

The “phenomenal” growth of solar and wind energy is predicted to continue, while coal and oil will fade from the energy mix. Solar and wind accounted for 4% of power generation in 2014 but could supply up to 39% by 2060, while hydroelectric power and nuclear are also expected to grow.

But fossil fuels will remain the number one source of energy, having fallen just 5% since 1970 from 86% of energy supply to 81% in 2014.

The council drew up three scenarios to assess different areas of energy use. The range of outcomes could see fossil fuels provide anything from 50% to 70% of energy by 2060, said the council, which is the UN-accredited global energy body.

Under two of the scenarios, oil production will peak in 2030 at between 94m barrels per day (bpd) and 103 mb/d, although the third scenario would see it peak and plateau at 104 m/bpd for a decade from 2040.

...But the council warned that keeping global warming below 2C would require an “exceptional and enduring effort, far beyond already pledged commitments and with very high carbon prices”.

Its predictions for carbon emissions vary wildly depending on the strength of efforts to tackle the problem, from a reduction of 61% by 2060 to a slight increase of 5%.

Overall, the report’s theme of a grand transition envisages lower population growth, radical new technologies, greater environmental challenges and a shift in economic and geopolitical power.

Oh yeah, and for all three scenarios presented by the Council, we'll shatter the "carbon budget" in the coming 30 to 40 years. However, if we're sticking with the 1.5C carbon budget, we'll blow through that in the next five years.

Columbus is no hero of mine

JOE FANTAUZZI Thoughts about power - Mon, 10/10/2016 - 10:48
Italian-North Americans — especially those of us with roots in the Mezzogiorno (and I include the Ciociaria and Abbruzzo here) — don’t need a Genoese genocidal rapist as our hero. It’s time to eliminate Columbus Day. It’s time for #IndigenousPeoplesDay   Some good reading and watching: ‘All Indians Are Dead?’ At Least That’s What Most Schools Teach […]

Monday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Mon, 10/10/2016 - 08:41
Assorted content to start your week.

- Bruce Johnstone notes that rather than further attacking public services which have already been under siege throughout his stay in office, Brad Wall and his government should be looking to question Saskatchewan's inexplicable giveaways to businesses:
Well, if Doherty is looking for some “low-hanging fruit” to make our tax system more “competitive, simple and fair,” he might want to start plucking a few of the hundreds of millions of dollars spent every year on subsidies, exemptions and tax breaks for rural Saskatchewan, especially the farm sector.
According to the 2016-17 budget, the rationale for tax exemptions or tax expenditures for certain sectors, like manufacturing, farming and small business, is to allow governments to “attain some of their social and economic goals by reducing the taxes paid by certain taxpayers.”

But provincial auditor Judy Ferguson couldn’t find any justification for the fuel tax exemption. Her 2016 report says the government “has not clearly defined, in a measurable way, its fuel tax exemptions for farmers and primary producers.” And the fuel tax program is getting more expensive; since 2010, the cost has increased by $22.5 million, she said.
When the provincial government or its third-party agencies, like health districts, start cutting funding to emergency shelters, laying off nurses, closing down community correctional facilities, shutting down northern educational programs, reducing subsidies to low-income families and people with disabilities, then it’s time to take a long, hard look at the revenue side of the ledger.

Like Doherty said, everything should be on the table.- Sujata Dey highlights the difference between trade and plutocracy, while noting that the agreements sold as promoting the former are almost entirely oriented toward entrenching the latter. Daniel Gros points out that we're all worse off as a result of blind faith in big business, while even Lawrence Summers is recognizing the reality that the combination of economic stagnation and inequality is unsustainable. And Maude Barlow and José Bové discuss the damage the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement would do to the public interest.

- Sara Mojtehedzadeh reports on the needed push for decent work in Ontario - while noting that businesses are predictably trying to avoid offering anything of the sort. And Hannah Finnie notes that the millenial generation is seeing bleak employment prospects as its reward for pursuing unprecedented levels of education - but points out that a renewed union movement is vital to ensuring security for new workers.

- Finally, Michael Vonn warns that CSIS is assuming all the powers of a secret police force - which we should see as antithetical to government by and of the people.

Donald Trump and the Night of the Stalker

Montreal Simon - Mon, 10/10/2016 - 06:52

When the latest chapter in the horror show that is the U.S. presidential election was finally over last night, I was shocked to hear a CNN pundit declare that he thought Donald Trump had won the debate.

Because while Hillary Clinton didn't perform as well as she did in the first one, and didn't deliver a knockout blow.

I thought Trump lost the debate even before it began.
Read more »

Once Again, Look At The Facts

Northern Reflections - Mon, 10/10/2016 - 05:54

It was an ugly night. The kind of night that -- after it's over -- leaves you with the feeling that you've got to hit the shower. This morning, The New York Times published a page which fact checked statements from the debate. Not everything that Hillary Clinton said -- particularly about her emails -- was true.

But what is disturbing is the tsunami of lies which Donald Trump unleashed in the space of ninety minutes:

Trump said Clinton wants "amnesty for everybody, come on it, come on over." -- Not True.  He claimed,"Clinton was there for Obama's line in the sand"  -- Not True

Trump said the United States signed a "peace treaty" to bring an end to the war in Syria. It was a ceasefire.

Trump said "growth is down to 1%" and the United States and that country has the highest taxes in the world. Absolutely false.

Trump said that Clinton wants to go to a single payer health care system -- as we have here. Again, absolutely false.

Trump said Clinton has never used the phrase "radical Islamic terrorism." That, too is a flat out lie.
You get the idea. I don't know if truth matters anymore in American elections. And, as Trump paced the stage, it was clear that he has the attention span of a five year old child.



A World-Class, Non-Stop Deviant

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 10/09/2016 - 17:11
Wherein Trump tells Howard Stern how he drifts backstage at his beauty pageants to get an "owner's eyeful."

Nourishment for a Hungry Mind

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 10/09/2016 - 12:04

What follows is a lengthy excerpt from a book I only too recently read. I'll present this passage largely uninterrupted and unburdened with editorial comment. It's a lot better that way:

...we really do have some ability to choose our future. But we have to recognize what kind of forces we're up against, we have to have courage, and we have to be smart - not only at the time of the social earthquake and the moment of contingency that follows but well in advance. Specifically, if we're going to have the best chance of following a different and positive path, we must take four actions. First, we must reduce as much as we can the force of the underlying tectonic stresses in order to lower the risk of synchronous failure - that is, of the catastrophic collapse that cascades across boundaries between technological, social and ecological systems. Second, we need to cultivate a prospective mind so we can cope better with surprise. Third, we must boost the overall resilience of critical systems like our energy and food supply networks. And fourth, we need to prepare to turn breakdown to our advantage when it happens - because it will.

The first action, reducing the force of underlying stresses, is the most obvious, largely because it resembles a conventional management approach to dealing with our problems. Experts of all types have generated a considerable quantity of good ideas about how we can reduce the force of the tectonic stresses identified in this book - population imbalances, energy shortages, environmental damage, climate change and income gaps. Yet too often the experts operate only within the silos of their disciplines and professional communities. Demographers don't talk to energy specialists, agronomists don't speak to economists, and climate scientists don't talk to epidemiologists. Instead, experts usually target the problem they understand, and because they don't think much about how to integrate their ideas with the ideas of experts focusing on related problems, the policies they propose are too narrowly focused.

This highly compartmentalized approach doesn't work in a world of converging and synergistic stresses. We must bring experts together across disciplinary barriers, just as we must bring governments together across cultural, ideological and political barriers. And we also need to realize there's no magic bullet: there's no single technical solution, institutional response, or policy that will neatly resolve all our challenges in one fell swoop. More than ever in humanity's history, we have to be aggressively proactive on multiple fronts at the same time.

...Alas, humankind's track record when it comes to proactive policy, especially in response to slow-creep problems, doesn't inspire much confidence that we will succeed in these tasks. Today, most of us are simply too deep in denial, and our political and economic systems are too hobbled by powerful vested interests for real change to happen in the absence of a sharp push or shock from outside. With colossal effort by the relatively small numbers of people today engaged in trying to do something about these problems, and perhaps with a good deal of luck, we might divert or somewhat weaken the tectonic stresses. But we're unlikely to weaken them enough to reduce significantly the danger we face, so we'd better get ready for social earthquakes.

...We can't possibly flourish in a future filled with sharp nonlinearities and threshold effects - and, somewhat paradoxically, we can't hope to preserve at least some of what we hold dear - unless we're comfortable with change, surprise, and the essential transience of things, and unless we're open to radically new ways of thinking about our world and about the way we should lead our lives. ...Hunkering down, denying what's happening around us, and refusing to countenance anything more than incremental adjustments to our course are just about the worst things we can do. These behaviors increase our rigidity. When a social earthquake eventually occurs, we'll have no new concepts, ideas, or plans to help us cope and no alternative ways of seeing our future. Without alternatives there will be no constraint on fear and we'll be especially vulnerable to the kind of amplification effect we experienced within our psychological networks in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

...A prudent way to cope with invisible but inevitable dangers to build resilience into all systems critical to our well-being. A resilient system can absorb large disturbances without changing its fundamental nature. an increasingly uncertain and dangerous world, we should sometimes give up extra efficiency and productivity in order to gain resilience - especially to improve our ability to prevent foreshocks from triggering synchronous failure. We can do this in many ways. One involves loosening some of the coupling inside our economies and societies and among our technologies. ...The more energy we produce with solar panels on our rooftops, the less vulnerable we'll be to power disruptions far way. ...We can gain resilience, too, by increasing the buggering capacity or slack in our economies. Industries can rely less on just-in-time production - a particular obsession of the past two decades - and instead build up inventories of feedstocks and parts so they can keep running even when supplies of essential inputs are temporarily interrupted. And finally, since malicious groups and individuals will probably someday target the highly connected hubs of our scale-free energy, food, information, transportation, and financial networks, we can identify these hugs and either redesign our systems to remove them entirely or replicate them to create redundancy.

...Of course, many of these recommendations fly in the face of the ideology of today's globalized capitalism. In its most dogmatic formulation, this ideology says that larger scale, faster growth, less government, and more efficiency, connectivity and speed are always better. Slack is always waste. So resilience - even as an idea, let alone as a goal of public policy - isn't found anywhere on the agendas of our societies' leaders. ...And because our leaders hardly ever think about resilience, we keep doing things that make our lives progressively less resilient - we pile on more debt, build tract housing over the finest cropland, develop addictions to distant sources of energy, become so specialized that we can't take care of ourselves when everyday technologies fail, and fill every nook and cranny of our days with so much junk information and pointless running around that we don't have time to reflect on what we're doing or where we're going.


These excerpts are taken from Thomas Homer-Dixon's 2006 book, "The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity and the Renewal of Civilization." I only recently twigged to it by a recommendation from friend, Sal, "The Salamander." I picked up a good copy for a few bucks from Abe Books but I expect it'll be available from your neighbourhood library.

I am as susceptible to conformational bias as the next guy and I found in this book persuasive corroboration of ideas I've bandied about over the past decade on this blog. Many times I've sought to make the argument that our modes of organization - social, economic, industrial, political, even military - have long outlived their utility no matter how tightly our institutions and leadership cling to them. Mankind passed into a new reality sometime in the early 70s when our population first passed 3-billion and we dragged our planet, our atmosphere and every other form of life with us.

Today we consume Earth's renewable resources at a steadily increasing rate that now stands at 1.7 times their replenishment rate, our biosphere's absolute carrying capacity. And I regularly stress that the most worrisome part isn't that we're doing this but that we have allowed ourselves to become absolutely dependent on something that ensures our own destruction. It's akin to a smoker who increases his daily consumption from one year to the next, from one pack a day to two to three. How does that end? Would you call that madness? Do you think it any less mad when our leaders, political and commercial, pursue that same pattern, taking us along for the ride?

Homer-Dixon accepts the inevitable. There are too many forces looming from too many directions at the same time. This guarantees that at some point two or more of them will hit and we'll face a "synchronous failure" that our modes of organization are not designed to handle and won't. That's the doom and gloom part of Upside and it's convincingly made out.

The best part of Homer-Dixon's book is indeed the "Upside" - how we can make the best of an inevitability by preparing for its arrival and using it as an opportunity to introduce new modes of organization, free of the calamitous models today's leaders cannot let go.

Do yourself a favour. Get your hands on the book, read it - slowly. Take it all in. There's plenty of food for thought. It'll take a while to digest.

Sunday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 10/09/2016 - 10:29
This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Cindy Blackstock offers a reminder of Canada's long and shameful history of discrimination against First Nations children. And Donna Ferreiro takes a look at some of the faces of the Sixties Scoop which saw Indigenous children separated from their families due solely to racial and cultural prejudice.

- Matt Apuzzo, Sheri Fink and James Risen document the mental scars left behind by the U.S.' torture program under the Bush administration. And Neil Strauss offers a contrast between the increasing use of the politics of fear, and the decreasing real-world justification for the political spin:
Around the globe, household wealth, longevity and education are on the rise, while violent crime and extreme poverty are down. In the U.S., life expectancy is higher than ever, our air is the cleanest it's been in a decade, and despite a slight uptick last year, violent crime has been trending down since 1991. As reported in The Atlantic, 2015 was "the best year in history for the average human being."

So how is it possible to be living in the safest time in human history, yet at the exact same time to be so scared?

Because, according to Glassner, "we are living in the most fearmongering time in human history. And the main reason for this is that there's a lot of power and money available to individuals and organizations who can perpetuate these fears."

For mass media, insurance companies, Big Pharma, advocacy groups, lawyers, politicians and so many more, your fear is worth billions. And fortunately for them, your fear is also very easy to manipulate. We're wired to respond to it above everything else. If we miss an opportunity for abundance, life goes on; if we miss an important fear cue, it doesn't.

"The more we learn about the brain, the more we learn it's not something that's supposed to make you happy all the time," says Andrew Huberman, a Stanford neurobiology professor who runs a lab studying fear. "It's mostly a stress-reactive machine. Its primary job is to keep us alive, which is why it's so easy to flip people into fear all the time."

In other words, our biology and psychology are as flawed and susceptible to corruption as the systems and politicians we're so afraid of. In particular, when it comes to assessing future risks, there is a litany of cognitive distortions and emotional overreactions that we fall prey to.- Meanwhile, Scott Santens argues that one of the most important functions of a basic income may be to turn down the amount of fear and stress people experience a a result of income insecurity.

- Cassie Werber highlights the World Economic Forum's conclusion that greenhouse gas emissions can be decoupled from growth, while Andrew Nikiforuk discusses Robyn Allan's study showing the Trudeau Libs are relying on flawed advice to the contrary. And Rick Smith offers a hopeful take that Canada may be turning the corner in acting to fight climate change - though I'd caution there's a difference between recognizing the right direction, and generating the necessary momentum to reach a destination.

- Finally, Margaret McGregor and Lisa Ronald question why Christy Clark's B.C. Liberal government is insisting on inferior, for-profit senior care rather than allowing for public facilities.

Why Next Month's Presidential Election Weighs Heavily on My Mind

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 10/09/2016 - 09:17

For starters, I don't like Hillary either. I do, however, want her in the White House in January.

I'm worried. I'm worried about Syria, about tensions in the Baltics and along Russia's western borders, about climate change and a host of other issues that will confront the next American president.

Anyone with any sophisticated grasp of these problems knows that Hillary alone has the experience and aptitude to deal with them.

I truly believe that from here on in every presidency is going to be more challenging with ever higher stakes than what we've known for generations. We're coming into a dangerous, volatile time.

Earlier this month I came across a chilling piece in Foreign Policy suggesting that, no matter who wins next month, America is likely to get drawn into a shooting war in Syria. That could bring America muzzle to muzzle with Russia in an active war zone. The possibilities, as they say, are endless.

My thoughts wandered to all the sabre-rattling that's going on today and it is plentiful and loud. It's as though somebody found the Cold War switch and flipped it back on. That reminded me of an editorial published in Germany's prominent financial paper, Handelsblatt, in August, 2014, warning that the people of the West were being "mentally mobilized" for war. True enough then. Truer yet now. The spectrum of options narrows, displaced by the politics of escalation.

It would be comforting if Donald Trump was an aberration on the world scene. He's not. If anything, he's just America's part of a contagion that's becoming established in Central and Eastern Europe, South Asia and Asia Pacific, and could soon spread elsewhere.

This malignancy goes deep. Last week I wrote of a retired, 4-star US Navy admiral's impassioned defence of the Trans Pacific Partnership, casting it as a weapon of economic warfare against China. It reminded me of the last time the US used economic warfare against an Asian rival and how that led to the events of a Sunday morning on December 7, 1941 and ended with ushering in the age of nuclear warfare.

America is already wounded. Its democracy - save for the trappings - has been torn out to make room for the establishment of oligarchy. Even its highest court has succumbed to oligarchy, a sad fact evidenced by its decision in Citizens United. Republicans see this election as their last hope of continuing the judicial subjugation of the American people in order to underwrite the ascendancy of the corporatist state.

Will Hillary do much good? I don't know but I doubt it. That said I don't want Donald Trump to have the nuclear codes. I don't want Donald Trump calling the shots on who will fill the existing and upcoming vacancies on the U.S. Supreme Court. America's future hangs on these things and so might our own.


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