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You Want a Carbon Tax? Then Do It Right.

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 09/20/2016 - 10:47

One of the greatest hurdles facing mankind in the struggle with climate change is the political factor. It's a terrible thing to leave the major decisions on this up to our political caste.  They're far more focused on getting elected in three or four years than they are in what might befall your grandkid 40 years down the road. Of course it's a massive conflict of interest and of course they get to decide whether they'll come down on their own side or your grandkid's. How do you think that's bound to turn out?

Carbon "pricing." Apparently Justin Trudeau intends to go that route. It's actually carbon taxing but what politician can bear to be that honest?

This is where we run into trouble. Carbon pricing is an exercise in political number fixing. Most of the numbers that constitute climate change orthodoxy are political numbers. That's because politics overrides science. We'll have no scientific numbers thank you very much. That would be irresponsible.

It'll be a gathering of the sphincters. Justin will pull a number out of his ass. Rachel will pull another number out of her ass. Brad will hunt around endlessly before angrily insisting there is no number up his ass.

The idea is that a carbon price discourages consumption of fossil fuels and it does, somewhat. Yet it only works if it hurts and if it hurts you've got another political football. Brad Wall has chosen to kick.

The sop for the hurt is to claim the tax will be revenue neutral. You're paying more at the pump but that'll be offset by cost reductions elsewhere. At the end of the day you'll come out about the same. Don't worry, be happy.

I've got a better idea. The first one concerns Canada's ailing, aging infrastructure. Even if we hadn't kicked Earth's climate into overdrive, a lot of our once awesome infrastructure is crumbling. Highways, overpasses, bridges, electrical grids, sewers and water mains - that sort of thing. It has served us well in the post-war era. It has allowed us to enjoy incredible prosperity. Yet now it's nearing terminal mode.

That infrastructure is what keeps the economy ticking over. It goes down, the economy goes with it. Think of it as the roof that keeps the rain out of your house. It doesn't last forever. Every 20 to 40-years it has to be replaced. Your house won't last long if you don't.

Climate change makes our infrastructure predicament much worse. I was reminded of this last night when we received another of our newfound biblical downpours. My eavestroughs were doing fine until the series of squalls passed overhead and then they quickly were overrun. Message: if we're going to be getting rains like this, and worse, I need new, larger capacity eavestroughs, downspouts and, probably, drainage tiles. Think of it as the first greeting card from the Anthropocene.

Climate change will be bringing the same reality to our core (can't live without it) infrastructure. Our aging infrastructure was designed by engineers to meet conditions of their day. It was not designed for today's severe weather events of increasing frequency, intensity and duration. The deluges that swamped first Toronto and then Calgary, utterly defeating their storm sewer systems demonstrates how vulnerable we've become. When a once-a-century flood starts turning up once in every five or ten years, you're facing a new reality and you have to figure out how to cope with it.

From sea to shining sea to shining sea we've got a looming infrastructure crisis of massive proportions. Think several hundreds of billions of dollars to do the job. One Canadian expert suggested it could reach upwards of a trillion Cdn. He also pointed out that the cost of not dealing with it will be far greater, potentially an economy killer.

Money isn't the only problem. As with most aspects of climate change, there's a big time factor. Time is not on our side. Even a Herculean effort would probably take 20 to 30-years. There's a lot of process involved - study, analyze, propose, evaluate, decide, contract and implement. That takes time.

What if, instead of fixing our carbon price based on some half-assed, negotiated political number reflecting a notional revenue-neutral pipedream, we decided to be honest? What if we decided the carbon taxes should be used, federally and provincially, for essential infrastructure rehabilitation and replacement? Why not take those carbon taxes and invest them in assets, infrastructure, that will yield economic dividends for decades to come?

If we're not going to let the economy and, with it, our society to collapse, we're going to have to find the money somewhere for a massive infrastructure makeover. That's code for "tax." Why not get some estimates for how much this is going to cost and work out what percentage of that cost should and could be realized through carbon taxes?

See what that does? That cuts out a whole lot of political numbers. Politicians instead would have to use numbers of calculated precision formulated by engineers, scientists and contractors. It won't be pretty but at least it will be grounded in reality.

"His Life Mattered"

Politics and its Discontents - Tue, 09/20/2016 - 06:40
“The big bad dude was my twin brother. That big bad dude was a father ... That big bad dude was a son. That big bad dude was enrolled at Tulsa Community College, just wanting to make us proud. That big bad dude loved God. That big bad dude was at church singing with all of his flaws, every week. That big bad dude, that’s who he was.”

- Tiffany Crutcher, talking about her brother who, unarmed and posing no threat, was murdered by Tulsa police on Friday.

Sometimes, all we can do is bear witness.

May justice be served.Recommend this Post

Tuesday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Tue, 09/20/2016 - 06:36
This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Arthur Neslen points out how new trade agreements figure to make it impossible for governments to meet their environmental commitments. And Corporate Europe Observatory highlights how the CETA will give investors the ability to dictate public policy.

- The Economist discusses the effect of high executive compensation in the U.S., and finds that corporations that shovel exceptionally large amounts of pay to their CEO get sub-par returns for their money.

- Penney Kome writes that the sugar industry's work to mislead the public about its own health represents just one more example of the dangers of presuming that an undiluted profit motive is anything but antithetical to the public interest.

- On the bright side, Giles Parkinson notes that on a level playing field, solar power has become more affordable than any alternative no matter how dirty.

- Finally, Owen Jones discusses how a strong progressive movement needs to respond to being unfairly dismissed and derided by the corporate media:
A defeatist attitude – and a condescending one, too – says that the media programme people with what to think, reducing the electorate to Murdoch-brainwashed zombies. But a clever approach can neutralise media hostility. Take Sadiq Khan: he was subjected to one of the most vicious political campaigns in postwar Britain, portrayed by the press – including London’s dominant newspaper, the Evening Standard – as the pawn of Islamist fundamentalist extremists. He could have bellowed his frustration every single day, and would have been more than entitled to do so. But he didn’t. He focused on a positive, optimistic message, and not only won the election – he had glowing personal ratings, too.

Momentum, too, presented a masterclass last weekend in dealing with hostile media. Rather than taking aggressive swipes at the media, it framed a response to Dispatches before it was even aired. It projected disappointment rather than fury; it gave a platform to Momentum activists who contrasted sharply with the media portrayal; it was witty; and it showcased what it actually did, using the attack as an opportunity to get its own message across. And there is a lesson there. The left is bitterly accustomed to living with almost farcically hostile media in a country where the press is as much a sophisticated political lobbyist as a means of information. A natural response is to become grouchy, to shake fists angrily, or simply boycott the media altogether. It’s an approach that fires up some of the most dedicated leftwing activists, but it’s a strategic mistake. And both Khan and Momentum show the left can rebut media hostility – and even thrive.

Progress Is Incremental

Northern Reflections - Tue, 09/20/2016 - 05:27

There are those -- particularly Elizabeth May -- who are furious that the Trudeau government plans to keep the Harper government's emission targets. As I argued yesterday, it gives the impression that the Harper government never left. Chantal Hebert takes a different tack. She points out that the majority of Canadians support a tax on carbon:

According to an Abacus poll done last month, less than one third of Canadians oppose the introduction of a carbon tax as part of a larger climate change strategy. An overwhelming majority of non-Conservative voters support or could accept such a measure.
It is a rare tax that finds favour with a majority in the public especially on the heels of decade-long concerted federal effort to vilify the concept. According to Abacus, the rhetoric expended by Harper’s government on making a carbon levy politically toxic even fell on the deaf ears of almost four in 10 Conservative voters.
She argues that Trudeau is building a ladder for action on climate change:
It is hard to reach for the sky in the absence of a ladder.
The introduction of a national price on carbon is a crucial part of the building of a Canadian policy infrastructure sturdy enough to achieve steady progress on curbing carbon emissions. This is a policy for which governments will need public support for the long haul.
The popular consensus on carbon pricing was not born out of thin air. The fact that there is wide provincial support for the concept is an essential part of the mix.
And keeping Harper's targets, she argues, is not the same as keeping Harper's do nothing policy:
Keeping Harper’s targets is not the same as sticking with the Conservatives’ climate change plan. By maintaining the existing targets, Trudeau’s Liberals maximize the chances that the transition to a national price on carbon (complete with an escalator clause) is relatively seamless.
Given a choice between setting goals that may or may not be attainable at a prohibitively high political (and economic) cost, or putting in place the conditions for meeting more ambitious ones on a consensual federal-provincial basis over time, the latter should logically take precedence.In particular, the election of an NDP government in Alberta has altered the alignment of the stars.
All progress is incremental. Whether it will be too little too late remains to be seen.

Donald Trump and the First Family From Hell

Montreal Simon - Tue, 09/20/2016 - 02:41

They say an apple never falls far from the tree. Especially if it's rotten to the core.

And in the case of Donald Trumps's family, the would be first family of America, that couldn't be more true.

For this is what his ghastly spawn Donald Trump Jr. tweeted last night.
Read more »

If You're a Liberal, This Question is For You.

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 09/19/2016 - 12:41

Your guy has been in power for almost a year now. We all recall his promises from last year's election campaign and we've seen how he's dealt with those commitments.

To be sure I think most of us are glad to see Stephen Harper gone. Many of us, however, have reason to lament he's not gone but lives on in his successor, Justin Trudeau.

So here's the question. If you have to put up with three more Harper-esque years like the past one, will you still be voting Liberal in the next election?

Because We Need to Hear This Again - and Again.

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 09/19/2016 - 11:56
The world is pretty thoroughly screwed up and a big part of that is the fallout of fundamentalist Christianity, Islam and Judaism. The late Chris Hitchens makes the point we must never overlook.

Waaaaah! Grifters Whine about "Prolife" Cheapskates

Dammit Janet - Mon, 09/19/2016 - 10:43
This is amusing. Fetus-freak grifters complain about anti-choice cheapskates. (Bold mine, italics in original.)

The number of Americans who self-identify as pro-life is very high, and most of them are philanthropic. In fact, about sixty million adults who give to some sort of cause also share a pro-life worldview. However, only about one in six of those generous adults engage financially in efforts to end abortion. And among those who do support the cause monetarily, the estimated contribution per adult is less than one hundred dollars per year.More whinging:
These ardent supporters of preborn children and their families are apparently not interested in financially supporting efforts to end abortion.They did a survey to find out why.

The most popular personal reason why a self-identifying abortion opponent does not donate to a pro-life organization is they are not entirely certain their pro-life worldview is correct.Hee. "Not entirely certain."

More reasons (bold mine, typo in original).

Organization-related reasons for not donating included the perception of pro-life organizations as too extreme, rabid, of [sic] fanatical. Others viewed pro-life organizations as too old-school or out-of-touch, and respondents also reported not finding an organization with which they fully identified, lacking confidence in organization leaders, and lacking passion for the organizations themselves.
But the best reason is actually rather comforting (italic in original).

Curiously, a strong majority of pro-life believers who eschew financial support of pro-life organizations consider children the most important cause to support financially.
Curiously? "Extreme, rabid, fanatical" grifters whose purpose is to shame women who have sex are surprised that saner "pro-life" people prefer to donate their dough to ACTUAL children in need.

"Out of touch"? You betcha.

Has the 2016 Election Debased America?

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 09/19/2016 - 10:30

That's "debase" in the sense of lower the moral quality, degrade, cheapen, discredit, tarnish.

We all sensed that America was on a new path when it elected the buffoon, George w. Bush. Ditto when the American people actually elected him the second time around.

This year Americans are gearing up to select a new president, choosing between two candidates neither of whom is even liked.

On one hand you've got the Orange Behemoth who daily demonstrates that his presidential attributes are limited to racism, misogyny, shocking ignorance and a pathological aversion to truth in any form. On the other hand you have Hillary who, while competent enough, is simply not very likeable.

Yet today Trump is closing in on Hillary in the polls and an increasing number of pundits are warning he could in fact win in November. Who are these Americans who think a guy like Trump should be their president, the erstwhile leader of the "free world" (whatever that is today)?

In a way it feels like we've just been warned of an approaching asteroid but no one is sure if it's going to hit us or just give us a damn good scare. We won't know until election night whether the world as we knew it has ended or it was just a near miss.

Either way, when the sun rises on November 9, America will be a different place. Even a win for Hillary won't be a reset to America as it was. All countries change from one generation to the next but America has undergone pretty seismic changes since the Reagan era and the rise of neoliberalism, oligarchy and corporatism vanquishing the middle class and undermining their democracy. The Hillary/Trump squabble is just another chapter in this decline which has shown itself a true work in progress.

When the dust settles, Trump's "deplorables" may have cemented their control of the Republican Party. Even if they don't there'll still be some sort of civil war as the Republican establishment struggles hard to reclaim their party. One way or the other, somebody is leaving.

And what of us? How will outsiders see America the morning after? The appearance of stability is largely gone. It's no longer reliable, trustworthy. It's become something else but what isn't clear. Like the mouse in bed with the elephant, a little uncertainty can go an awfully long way.

This Reality Is Becoming Too Pressing To Ignore

Politics and its Discontents - Mon, 09/19/2016 - 09:56

The other day I wrote a post describing how the National Media Council dismissed a complaint from a Toronto Star reader that arose from a New York Times story detailing climate change's impact on the people of Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana. The reader objected to the fact that climate change was cited as a reason the residents are facing relocation.

The judgement was that there was no need to provide a counterbalance, as the complainant insisted, on the climate change assertions made in the story; the Council declared that climate change is a fact that has been scientifically established, and hence junk science alternatives were not required for balance.

The fact of climate change is evident for anyone who cares not to indulge in willful ignorance. Increasingly intense storms, floods, droughts, habitat destruction, loss of biodiversity and wildfires are attested to in the media almost daily; it seems we have crossed a line, and the changes are happening far more rapidly than predicted by the models.

A case clearly in point is what is happening to the people of Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost municipality in the United States, now facing the prospect of becoming climate-change refugees.
Warming air, melting permafrost and rising sea levels are threatening their coastline, and researchers predict that by midcentury, the homes, schools and land around Barrow and its eight surrounding villages will be underwater. This despite decades of erecting barriers, dredging soil and building berms to hold back the water.

“The coastline is backing up at rates of 10 to 20 metres per year,” says Robert Anderson, a University of Boulder geomorphologist who has studied Alaska’s landscape evolution since 1985 and who first noticed in the early 2000s how alarming the erosion was becoming. “It’s baffling.”

When the sea ice melts, the coast becomes exposed to waves, wind and storms that slam into the shore, causing erosion. As ice moves farther from shore, waves can be six-metres high when they reach land, Anderson says.

“The only thing we can do, as far as I’m concerned, is move our towns inland,” says Mike Aamodt, the former acting mayor of Barrow and its surrounding villages of the North Slope Borough, which stretches over 230,000 square kilometres, an area larger than Southern Ontario.Yet another danger the residents face is posed by a thawing permafrost:
As air and sea temperatures have notched up, there has been a warming of the permafrost, the thousands-of-years-old subsurface layer of frozen soil, rocks and water. That layer can be as much as 600 metres deep in parts of this area.

“Sometimes I have that eerie feeling — I’m, like, ‘Oh gosh, we’re on the permafrost,’ ” says Diana Martin, a Barrow-born Inupiaq who works in the town’s museum, over a bowl of caribou soup at her sister’s home a little more than a kilometre from the coast. “What if we start floating away?”Adaptation has not worked in Barrow, and the remaining alternative, relocation, is fraught with problems, not the least of which are the costs that would be involved in such a migration:
One of Barrow’s nearby villages, Point Lay, “is (a mere) 400 people, 40 houses, big buildings, an underground utility system, pipes,” he says. But it’s “probably $500 million to move that town. Then we have Wainwright: We need to move that town, too. It’s on a bluff right against the ocean. That’s 700 people, so I imagine $700 (million) to $800 million.”So the grave problems caused by human activity and indulgences are continuing apace, with no real plans for either mitigation or adaptation. It is all well and good, for example, for Barack Obama to call for $10 billion annually to combat climate change, but as you can see in the case of Barrow and surrounding Alaskan communities, that amount will prove a mere pittance in the very near future.Recommend this Post

Back to Bullshit City

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 09/19/2016 - 09:18

Is our new prime minister just the old prime minister only with a friendlier face? So far, writes Michael Harris, it looks that way and it's time that Justin Trudeau proved otherwise.

"Selfies, canoe sorties, sunrise rituals and tattoos all have their place in post-substance politics. But they do not replace credible legislative action in the long run."

"...Trudeau may have appointed a former regional chief, Jody Wilson-Raybould, justice minister of Canada, but that won’t trick First Nations peoples into believing he has their interests at heart. Buckskin jacket and all, Trudeau is beginning to make them wonder.

"Instead of acknowledging aboriginal rights, Trudeau has allied himself on the infamous Site C dam project with one of the most unpopular politicians in the land, B.C. premier Christy Clark. He granted federal permits to allow BC Hydro to flood 83 kilometres of the Peace River Valley, a highly controversial project opposed by Treaty 8 Indian bands, farmland advocates, and Amnesty International.

"Worse, Trudeau has done this while Indigenous Peoples are arguing against Site C in the courts. Until the courts decide whether the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations gave their “free, prior, and informed consent” to the project, no one knows if this decision by two levels of government is even constitutional.

"And then there is the country’s foreign policy, which was supposed to announce to the world that Canada was back. It really looks like Stephen Harper never left.

"The Trudeau government has denounced any Canadian who agrees with the Boycott, Divest and Sanction strategy proposed by many people around the world to force Israel to end its illegal occupation of Palestinian lands and return to the negotiating table.

"Global Affairs minister Stephane Dion has mimicked the foreign policy of the previous government in Ukraine, where the main thrust seems to be to provoke the Russians.

"Most disturbing of all, the Trudeau government proceeded with the Harper government’s immoral arms sales to Saudi Arabia, granting export licenses to make the delivery of Canadian-made armoured vehicles to that country possible."

"...Trudeau’s moment of truth begins with this new session of parliament. He can change house-leaders and make best-dressed lists till the cows come home, but he has some real governing to do.

"What pipelines, if any? What will electoral reform look like and how will it be advanced? When will Bill C-51 be amended and what will it look like? Will there be a new health accord with the provinces and will it guarantee a national Medicare system for all? And will these measures be truly debated in the House of Commons, or jammed through using the same dictatorial process trotted out so often during the Harper years?"

And, of course, Harris wrote this before word got out that on climate change, Harper's laughable emissions reduction targets are now Trudeau's targets.

Then there's the latest from The Star's Tom Walkom who writes that the much cherished tool of Canadian business for suppressing wages, the temporary foreign worker programme will be returning with relaxed conditions very soon. And you thought Liberal had some connection with liberal. Silly you.

And, since it's piling on day, The Guardian has a detailed piece on Trudeau and Canada's First Nations or what it calls "turning the language of liberation into a contraption of conquest."
It's telling that during the Harper decade of deep darkness, Liberals didn't hesitate to denounce the Conservative prime minister for acts that his Liberal successor continues and yet nary a peep out of those Whig scolds today.

Monday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Mon, 09/19/2016 - 07:15
Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Michael Harris argues that it's long past time for the Trudeau Libs to start living up to their oft-repeated promise of real change - rather than merely slapping a friendlier face on the same old regressive Con policies.

- Tom Parkin notes that Canada's working class has been left out of the Libs' economic plans. And as an example of the spread of precarity, Laurie Monsebraaten reports on the increased Food Bank use by Toronto residents of working age and with advanced education.

- Matt O'Brien points out that a massive success in exposing financial-sector fraud isn't about to deter the Republicans from wanting to trash Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and any other form of regulation.

- Andre Picard argues that Saskatchewan should be declaring HIV/AIDS to be a provincial public health emergency. But instead, the primary focus of the province's health system seems to be on slashing workers rather than caring for anybody. And on that front, the Leader-Post makes the case that we need a real debate as to whether we should raise enough revenue to keep our health care system on its feet - rather than simply having the Saskatchewan Party decree that cuts are the only option.

- Doug Saunders highlights new research showing that schools with a higher proportion of immigrant populations have significantly less bullying (along with other superior outcomes).

- Finally, Eric Stoner interviews George Lakey about Scandinavia's path toward durable egalitarian policy - and the prospect of other countries following the same course.

what i'm reading: the evil hours, a biography of post-traumatic stress disorder

we move to canada - Mon, 09/19/2016 - 05:00
The Evil Hours: A Biography of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is an outstanding book -- meticulously researched, but written in a compelling, accessible style, and with great humanity and compassion.

Author David J. Morris unearths the social and cultural history of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the fourth most common psychiatric disorder in the US. He surveys the potential treatments. He explores the role of social justice in our understanding of PTSD.

But above all, Morris confronts the meaning of trauma, in society and in his own life. Morris was a U.S. Marine stationed in Iraq. After narrowly escaping death, he returned home questioning everything he thought he knew -- and eventually having to face the reality of his own trauma. Morris' dual role as both researcher and subject give this book a unique power as history, social science, and personal essay.

People have known for centuries, for millennia, that traumatic events produce after-effects, but different cultures in different eras have explained those effects in different ways. The modern history of trauma is linked to the carnage of 20th Century war. And our current understanding of PTSD owes everything to the Vietnam War, and the experience of returning veterans who publicly opposed the war.

In this way, the history of PTSD encompasses a history of 1960s and 1970s peace activism, especially of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, a group that began a sea-change in the culture of the United States. As a student of peace, I found this part fascinating.

Taking this even further, Morris links PTSD and social justice. Powerless and marginalized people are more likely to be traumatized by one or more of the four principal causes of PTSD: war, genocide, torture, rape. Taking a social and cultural perspective forces us to confront a world that causes these traumas. In this view, PTSD is not so much an illness as a moral condition brought on by the worst of human society.

The United States Veterans Administration (VA) sees it quite differently. To the VA, PTSD is strictly a medical condition. And this matters greatly, because research about PTSD is almost entirely funded and controlled by the VA. Explaining trauma as purely medical or biological doesn't address the causes at all. In fact, it does the opposite -- it normalizes PTSD as a natural consequence of unavoidable circumstances.

As for treatment, Morris surveys what's out there and finds most of it useless. VA hospitals and insurance companies prefer therapies that can be "manualized" -- made uniform, with a certain number of treatments and little or no emotional engagement from the therapist. Statistically, these types of therapies appear to be useful -- until one learns that the numbers don't include all the patients who drop out! Talk about cooking the books: everyone for whom the treatment isn't working or, in many cases, is actually worsening their symptoms, is simply ignored.

Morris himself feels that therapeutic talks with an empathetic person with some training goes further than neuroscience can. "What they [the VA] seem to want instead," Morris writes, "is mass-produced, scalable, scripted therapies that make for compelling PowerPoint slides."

Readers of this blog may know that I have PTSD. Much of The Evil Hours brought a shock of recognition -- the feeling that someone else is expressing your own thoughts, saying exactly what you've been thinking all along. Morris perfectly articulates how trauma plays out in one's life, the depths of change it brings about.

Morris writes: "We are born in debt, owing the world a death. This is the shadow that darkens every cradle. Trauma is what happens when you catch a surprise glimpse of that darkness.”

In the immediate aftermath of my own trauma, while trying to write about my experience, this is exactly the image I fixated on. We are, all of us, dancing on the edge of a great precipice, usually unaware of how terrifyingly close we are to that edge. Then something happens, and we understand it, not in some theoretical way, but immediately and profoundly, perhaps in a way humans are not equipped to understand. We talk about "the fragility of life" but we don't know what that is -- until we do. Then we spend a lifetime trying to live with the knowledge.

"One of the paradoxes of trauma," writes Morris, "is that it happens in a moment, but it can consume a lifetime. The choice of how much time it is permitted to consume is usually in the hands of the survivor."

The Evil Hours may be very useful for people who are figuring out how to stop PTSD from consuming any more of their lives. It is certainly a must-read for anyone interested in the effects of trauma on the human mind.

Time To Deliver

Northern Reflections - Mon, 09/19/2016 - 04:36

The clock is ticking on Justin Trudeau. Michael Harris writes that, all indications to the contrary, it's beginning to look like the Harper government never left:

On several fronts, Trudeau’s cabinet has behaved with an all-too-familiar sense of entitlement. After two years of torture for Sen. Mike Duffy on his public spending, there shouldn’t be any confusion in the mind of any federal cabinet minister, or their staff, on the expenses issue. But there has been.

Big bills for limo rides (Health minister Jane Philpott), billing their departments for expenses related to partisan events (Justice minister Judy Wilson-Raybould), and $6,600 for photographs (Environment minister Catherine McKenna). There has even been a resignation from cabinet, the details of which were covered up with a furtiveness worthy of the Harper thought police.
Instead of resetting the relationship with Canada's native peoples, it appears that the story line hasn't changed:

Instead of acknowledging aboriginal rights, Trudeau has allied himself on the infamous Site C dam project with one of the most unpopular politicians in the land, B.C. premier Christy Clark. He granted federal permits to allow BC Hydro to flood 83 kilometres of the Peace River Valley, a highly controversial project opposed by Treaty 8 Indian bands, farmland advocates, and Amnesty International.

Worse, Trudeau has done this while Indigenous Peoples are arguing against Site C in the courts. Until the courts decide whether the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations gave their “free, prior, and informed consent” to the project, no one knows if this decision by two levels of government is even constitutional.
And, on foreign policy, Harper's ghost haunts Global Affairs:

The Trudeau government has denounced any Canadian who agrees with the Boycott, Divest and Sanction strategy proposed by many people around the world to force Israel to end its illegal occupation of Palestinian lands and return to the negotiating table.

Global Affairs minister Stephane Dion has mimicked the foreign policy of the previous government in Ukraine, where the main thrust seems to be to provoke the Russians.

Most disturbing of all, the Trudeau government proceeded with the Harper government’s immoral arms sales to Saudi Arabia, granting export licenses to make the delivery of Canadian-made armoured vehicles to that country possible.
Trudeau promised real change. It's time to deliver or get off the pot.


Con Millionaire: The Selling of Stephen Harper

Montreal Simon - Mon, 09/19/2016 - 03:58

As you may have heard, Stephen Harper is finally gainfully employed again, after getting paid to do nothing for so long.

And although he hasn't yet asked Big Oil for a job, he's clearly got plans to become a very rich man.

For not only does he have his own consulting business, he has joined Dentons the world's largest law firm. 

Which as you can see has made him very, very, happy.
Read more »

Another Empty Promise?

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 09/18/2016 - 11:50

The federal government has indicated it wants a ratification vote on the Paris climate pact sometime in the next week or two. With the U.S. and China already on side, Trudeau/McKenna don't want to show up at the next summit, in Morocco, with empty hands.

The Prairie Poindexter, also known as Brad Wall, is furious. How dare the federal government exercise its power to make and ratify treaties without Brad's say so? With a population of 1.13 million, Saskatchewan is less than a fifth the size of greater Toronto. Maybe it doesn't exactly deserve a veto.

That said, ratification of the Paris climate pact doesn't mean much. It's essentially saying, "I promise to do better." And if you don't? Well, nothing really. There is no binding enforcement mechanism in the deal and no such thing on the horizon either. We just have to take it on faith that the major emitters, Canada included, will voluntarily begin to slash their greenhouse gas emissions just as soon as they get the go-ahead from the United Nations. You can also take it on faith that the cheque for that 50 bucks you loaned me is indeed in the mail. I mean it. I oughta know, right?

Then there's the bottomless well of cognitive dissonance also known as the Trudeau government. Don't forget that it was the Dauphin who assured Canadians that ramping up production and export of the highest carbon ersatz oil, bitumen, would give the feds the money they need to slash emissions. Huh? Oh dear.

And who can forget our freshly minted environment minister, Dame Catherine McKenna, flush from her triumphant campaign in Paris last December, who, on meeting Alberta's enviromin promptly curled up into a fetal ball, bleating "national unity, national unity."

Ratification of the Paris climate pact will be as meaningful or meaningless as Justin Trudeau chooses. Unfortunately, every time he's come up against a tough issue he's turned all wobbly and folded. He's done the easy stuff, the low hanging fruit, brilliantly, and he's a virtuoso of the photo op, but I think the western premiers have the measure of Justin and they're ready to give him a mauling.

Paris is a beautiful city. So too is Kyoto.

Sunday Afternoon Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 09/18/2016 - 11:38
This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Andrew Jackson discusses how the rise of right-wing, prejudiced populism can be traced to the failures of global corporate governance. And Dani Rodrik argues that it's time to develop an international political system to facilitate - rather than overriding - democratic action:
Some simple principles would reorient us in the right direction. First, there is no single way to prosperity. Countries make their own choices about the institutions that suit them best. Some, like Britain, may tolerate, say, greater inequality and financial instability in return for higher growth and more financial innovation. They will opt for lower taxes on capital and more freewheeling financial systems. Others, like Continental European nations, will go for greater equity and financial conservatism. International firms will complain that differences in rules and regulations raise the costs of doing business across borders, but their claims must be traded off against the benefits of diversity.
Second, countries have the right to protect their institutional arrangements and safeguard the integrity of their regulations. Financial regulations or labor protections can be circumvented and undermined by moving operations to foreign countries with considerably lower standards. Countries should be able to prevent such “regulatory arbitrage” by placing restrictions on cross-border transactions — just as they can keep out toys or agricultural products that do not meet domestic health standards.... Third, the purpose of international economic negotiations should be to increase domestic policy autonomy, while being mindful of the possible harm to trade partners. The world’s trade regime is driven by a mercantilist logic: You lower your barriers in return for my lowering mine. But lack of openness is no longer the binding constraint on the world economy; lack of democratic legitimacy is.
It is time to embrace a different logic, emphasizing the value of policy autonomy. Poor and rich countries alike need greater space for pursuing their objectives. The former need to restructure their economies and promote new industries, and the latter must address domestic concerns over inequality and distributive justice. - William Lazonick and Matt Hopkins note that already-appalling estimates of the gap between CEOs and other workers may be severely underestimating the problem. And Iglika Ivanova laments British Columbia's woefully insufficient changes to its minimum wage which will keep large numbers of workers in poverty.

- In one positive development for corporate accountability, Telesur reports that the International Criminal Court is now willing to take jurisdiction over land grabbing, environmental destruction and other corporate crime.

- Harry Stein writes that there are significant economic and social gains to be achieved by better funding social infrastructure.

- Finally, Jeremy Nuttall interviews Robert Fox, the NDP's new national director, on the plan to building a more activist party - both in the sense of better engaging with existing activists, and developing a culture of ongoing action. And Robin Sears offers a long-term path for the NDP to once again lead Canada toward progressive policies.

Thank You, Germans, For Fighting What Should Also Be Our Battle

Politics and its Discontents - Sun, 09/18/2016 - 06:57
While Canadians by and large seem content to sleep through the entire CETA negotiations, uttering nary an objection to a deal that will severely compromise our sovereignty, ordinary Germans are turning out en masse to protest its dangers:
Demonstrators took to the streets of Berlin and six other German cities Saturday to voice their displeasure with pending trade deals, one between the European Union and Canada and another with the U.S.

The treaties they’re concerned with are the yet-to-be ratified EU pact with Canada, known as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), and the EU’s Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) [the Canadian version is called the Trans Pacific Partnership, but carries essentially the same perils] deal with the U.S. that is still being negotiated.
While the deal between the EU and Canada has escaped the same scale of criticism and widespread outrage among the Canadian public, it continues to be a hot button political issue in Germany and one that protesters are hoping to stop from being ratified sometime in the fall.In broad terms the critics say that CETA would give multinational corporations too much power within European Union markets and they object to a dispute resolution mechanism that has been proposed in the framework agreement.

This dispute resolution mechanism would allow companies to bypass national courts in both countries, allowing then to argue their cases in front of international arbitration panels instead.Despite the fact that we have access to the same information about the dangers of these free-trade deals, few seem upset by the unbridled enthusiasm that both Justin Trudeau and his poodle Chrystia Freeland profess for them:

Despite Freeland's rhapsodic recitation of the improvements that have been made in the CETA deal, a quick check of the facts reveals something quite different, unless motherhood statements and feel-good empty rhetoric are your thing. I would encourage you to read about these 'improvements' yourself under the pertinent sections, but here are a few highlights:
Dispute Settlement

CETA includes a more robust voluntary mediation mechanism than has been included in Canada’s previous trade agreements. Mediation is a cost-effective and expeditious way to resolve disputes without the need for a third party to decide the outcome. When parties choose arbitration rather than mediation, CETA improves on the WTO dispute settlement mechanism by streamlining and shortening the process. In addition, CETA includes an accelerated arbitration procedure for cases requiring urgent resolution, such as those involving live animals and perishable or seasonal foods.So in other words, the great improvements Freeland was extolling have nothing to do with changing what might come under dispute, such as environmental and labour laws, but only offers a faster and potentially cheaper way to resolve conflicts. There is nothing that protects our national sovereignty here, nothing that prevents the signatories from suing governments that enact legislation that may hamper the profits of corporations.

Similarly, the language dealing with labour, environment and sustainable development are peppered with platitudes like commitments to cooperate, provisions encouraging Canada and the EU to continue developing our resources in a way that is environmentally sustainable, establishes shared commitments to promote trade in a way that contributes to the objectives of sustainable development in Canada and the EU, etc.

All in all, empty language that enables the Trudeau government to lie to Canada's citizens. But at least our Prime Minister has a nice smile, perhaps something to dream about as we continue our long, collective snooze.

Recommend this Post

Get Out Of Jail Free Cards

Northern Reflections - Sun, 09/18/2016 - 03:01

We have been told for decades that Investor Settlement Dispute Mechanisms were essential in the new globalized economy, because they spurred economic growth.  But, after thirty-five years, the evidence is in. Murray Dobbin writes:

Financial Times analyst Martin Wolf recently argued bluntly that globalization no longer drives the world economy.

He points out that "…ratios of world trade to output have been flat since 2008, making this the longest period of such stagnation since the second world war. According to Global Trade Alert, even the volume of world trade stagnated between January 2015 and March 2016…"

In addition, says Wolf, "The stock of cross-border financial assets peaked at 57 per cent of global output in 2007, falling to 36 per cent by 2015." Foreign direct investment has also declined.

So if global trade isn't going to pull the world economy out of its persistent doldrums, why are countries putting so much political energy into signing these agreements? They do little or nothing to enhance growth in global trade -- trade is driven by global demand -- also flat. Amongst the countries primed to sign these agreements trade is already virtually tariff free.

Even the government's Global Affairs department's recent analysis estimates the Pacific Rim deal, the TPP, would increase GDP by a minuscule .127 per cent ($4.3 billion in a $2 trillion economy) -- but not until 2040! In short, we will gain virtually nothing.
So, if they don't catalyze growth, why do governments keep insisting that IDSMs be included in trade deals?

Over the past 10 years ISDS provisions in literally thousands of agreements have become tools for criminals, greedy law firms, and "investors" in ISDS cases.

In an excellent four-part series, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Chris Hamby reveals that: "Companies and executives accused or even convicted of crimes have escaped punishment by turning to this special forum."

Hamby cites several cases: "… an Egyptian court had declared a foreign company's purchase of a factory corrupt and nullified the deal, court records show. But after the company filed an ISDS claim, the government agreed to pay $54 million in a settlement…"

In another, two financiers had been convicted of embezzling $300 million from an Indonesian bank but used an ISDS finding to force Interpol to back off, protect their investment, and "…effectively nullify their punishment."

Hamby found more than 35 cases where "…the company or executive seeking protection in ISDS was accused of criminal activity, including money laundering, embezzlement, stock manipulation, bribery, war profiteering, and fraud." One ISDS lawyer admitted privately: "You have a lot of scuzzy sort-of thieves for whom this is a way to hit the jackpot."If it's it not criminals escaping justice, it's corporations gaming the system, perverting it so that the profit comes not from a planned or existing investment but from the increasingly enormous settlements demanded of governments if they win an ISDS arbitration.
As in the old board game, an ISDM  is a Get Out Of Jail Free card.


Donald Trump's Deranged and Dishonest War On the Media

Montreal Simon - Sun, 09/18/2016 - 02:33

As we know Donald Trump is always attacking the media, and going after reporters who criticize him, or don't flatter his bloated ego.

Blasting away at them on his deranged Twitter account, in an obvious attempt to intimidate them.

He has vowed that if he becomes President he will change the law to make it easier to sue them for libel.

And this weekend his tiny fingers have been typing away furiously, threatening the New York Times.
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