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The Worst Case Scenario

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 07/17/2015 - 11:51
FIFTY? Fifty self-reinforcing feedback mechanisms are now active? University of Arizona professor emeritus, natural resources, ecology and evolutionary biology, Guy McPherson no longer pursues pure science, environmental research. He can't. He's too busy digesting the mountains of research pouring in from other scientists and connecting the dots.

There's really no nice way to put this.  McPherson has now logged 50 self-reinforcing feedback mechanisms underway.  That's another way of saying "runaway global warming."  At the time of the interview below, back in March, he'd only identified 39.  Apparently eleven more have turned up since then.

In Dr. McPherson's assessment, we're screwed, it's done, over.  He believes it will claim the lives of most of us alive today.  Here it is, the Worst Case Scenario:

I've been following the major feedback mechanisms at work today - the melting seabed methane clathrates, the tundra fires, the thawing permafrost, the vanishing Arctic sea ice, the retreat of glaciers and the astonishingly rapid acceleration in the melting of the Greenland ice cap.

We may have flipped the switch on these feedback loops but they're progressing on their own now and we have no idea how to make them stop much less turn the clock back.  If the YouTube video wasn't convincing, you might read this July 7th article from Esquire.

Ah, forget all that 'doom and gloom'  Look on the bright side.  Aussie PM Tony Abbott is doubling down on his country's coal exports.  Tony knows it's "the very foundation of prosperity."  So there, Cobber, turn that frown upside down.

Stephen Harper and Natives

LeDaro - Fri, 07/17/2015 - 11:34

Stephen Harper's indifference towards Natives including aboriginal women's mistreatment.

To All You Dippers Who Claim the Greens are Right-Wing

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 07/17/2015 - 09:58

Relax.  You're just going through a bout of separation anxiety for deserting your post and abandoning the Left. You want to be Latter Day Liberals, you've gotta suck it up and learn to get over these pangs of conscience.  It's all part of the process of becoming the very thing that, for so many decades, you reviled.

Now, about those rightwing Greens.  Well this sounds really neoliberal. Elizabeth May would like to make an announcement of a new Green Party policy she calls the the Guaranteed Liveable Income, or GLI.

Our plan will ensure no Canadian’s income falls below what is necessary for health, life, and dignity.

Providing our most at-risk citizens with the resources they need to make ends meet greatly reduces the burden on our emergency and social services, saving our system money, and empowering all citizens to overcome periods of hardship.

Together, we can end poverty in Canada. 

The GLI provides reassurance for families struggling to make ends meet, a vital helping hand for stay-at-home parents, stability for the thousands of Canadians who can only find part-time work, and much needed support for those looking to complete their education and launch a successful career.

Cue La Marseillese and let's storm the Bastille of neoliberalism.  Or, if that's too progressive for you just vote for Tommy Angry Beard.  Hmm.  I wonder what Tony Blair would look like with facial hair?

Friday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 07/17/2015 - 08:54
Miscellaneous material for your Friday reading.

- Matthew Melmed examines how poverty early in life is both disturbingly widespread, and likely to severely affect a child's future prospects.

- Lawrence Mishel and Alyssa Davis track the extreme gap in wage growth for CEOs as opposed to workers. Robert Skidelsky argues that we can't rely on employment relationships to fully address poverty and inequality given the number of current jobs that will be mechanized out of existence before long. But on the bright side, Sara Mojtehedzadeh reports on Unifor's success in achieving significant improvements in wages and schedule predictability for retail workers.

- Robyn Benson discusses the need to put an end to the Cons' plan of cutting public services merely for the sake of cutting, no matter how much social and economic damage results. But Bill Curry reports on the Cons' refusal to even cooperate with provinces trying to ensure some basic level of security and dignity for their citizens, while Evan Webster discusses Harry Leslie Smith's observation that the corporate right is challenging and threatening the underpinnings of civilized society.

- Faces of Health Care offers a look at just a few of the stories as to how one of our most treasured social programs - which is of course under attack by the Cons and the corporate sector - can make all the difference in a patient's life. And Kenneth Davis points out how improved social services can ease the burden on health care providers.

- Finally, CBC reports on just the latest Alberta oil spill. And Warren Bell discusses the connection between Christy Clark's wild promises about natural gas production and its questionable deal with Petronas.

It's Hard to Believe We Were That Stupid

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 07/17/2015 - 08:45
Just as Europe undermined the EU so too did we undermine, potentially fatally, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.  Both organizations foolishly indulged in a promiscuous bout of expansion that has left them unwieldy, incoherent and perhaps even dangerous.

This is EU Europe:

This is NATO:

Both began and operated quite well with a small, well integrated membership, capable of reliably cooperating to achieve clearly understood objectives.  And then they both got just a little whorish in the bacchanal that marked the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Oh my, look, there's one missing - the Duchy of Grand Fenwick.

How they got left out I'll never know.  I guess Bush and Cheney forgot about them in their race to march NATO to Russia's doorstep.

When it comes to NATO it might be a good idea to cull the membership herd, especially if we see the E.U. beginning to come part at the seams.  There are a lot of scary people and movements waiting in the wings to exploit that chaos and we might not find their table manners exactly pleasing.

Don't forget that Article 5 business, the "mutual aid" clause that says an attack on one NATO member is an attack on all.  There's no Article 5(b) that covers the situation where one NATO member attacks another.  Worse yet, there are some NATO aspirants that might like nothing better than to provoke a regional adversary (can you say Russia?) and then drag in the NATO muscle. Think Georgia. Think Ukraine.

NATO was built to face threats from without, namely the Soviet bloc.  It cobbled together nations of the Western European tradition on an implied assumption of shared values and principles. What a happy bunch of chaps - well, except for those uppity French.  DeGaulle, you know.

NATO picked up some dodgy characters in its rampage of expansion to the East. Take Hungary, which joined in 1999.  Sixty years earlier it joined another alliance, the Axis powers.  And today you wouldn't consider Hungary a particularly enthusiastic adherent to democracy.  Sort of like the little kid who's standing still in the corner of the pool.  You just know he's peeing.

It's like having more kids than you can possibly feed. When you get the urge to add a few more, don't.  And try to get the kids you do have educated and out the door as soon as you can.

Quick, put a call through to Grand Fenwick. I need to speak to the Duke.          

Before the fall

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 07/17/2015 - 08:33
Shorter Brad Wall:
The whole concept of "From many peoples, strength" doesn't do much for me. But "From many dinosaur remains, climate devastation", now that gets me - and any right-thinking Westerner - all tingly with pride.

Why Isn't This Getting Wider Coverage?

Politics and its Discontents - Fri, 07/17/2015 - 05:31
While this story seems most timely and relevant, given the ongoing Council of the Federation meeting discussing pipeline growth, I couldn't even find a reference to it in this morning's Toronto Star. It should be front-page news.

Recommend this Post

The Imitation Of Who?

Northern Reflections - Fri, 07/17/2015 - 05:01


Two weeks ago, Conservative MP Wai Young told the congregation at the Harvest City Church that, when he pushed through Bill C-51, Stephen Harper was walking in Christ's footsteps. All analogies eventually break down. But this one never even got out of the gate. That's why Michael Harris has so much fun with it:

Sorry, Wai — the case for Steve being Christ-like is not compelling. It’s like comparing Donald Trump to Mother Theresa, or John Baird to Gandhi.For one thing, Steve was born in a hospital, not a manger. For another, I think you would agree that Jesus Saves, while Steve spends and spends and spends. Seven years to record a balanced budget of his own — and even then he only managed it through the tawdry tactic of robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Jesus could feed the multitudes with a few loaves and fishes. Steve needs the federal treasury and $8 billion of taxpayers’ money to buy a measly election.
And, given some of Harper's disciples, the comparison verges on the obscene:

Jesus had disciples who later went on to great things. Steve had accomplices who found their way to court with astonishing regularity. Instead of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John, Steve had Arthur, Peter, Bruce and Dean — confidantes and advisors who were persons of interest to the police. Some even made it to the handcuff-and-shackle set. No wonder Steve wants to build more prisons.
 In the end, there are more differences than similarities between Christ and Harper:

Jesus believed in forgiving people and turning the other cheek. Steve believes in turning the other screw and being cheeky.

As for forgiveness, Steve believes that vengeance is his, no matter what the Lord sayeth. Just ask Helena Guergis, Mike Duffy or Tom Flanagan. Never mind the New Horizons probe and all those NASA snaps of that frozen meatball on the edge of our solar system; Flanagan was the first to orbit Pluto after raising the ire of Steve. Jesus forgives. Steve consigns trespassers to the outer darkness.
Christ proclaimed that the meek shall inherit the earth. Perhaps Young thinks meek means stupid.

dogs, apartments, and anxiety: in which diego returns to school

we move to canada - Fri, 07/17/2015 - 05:00
As I mentioned (almost a month ago now), our pack of four is moving to a new den. We're going to stop renting houses, as we have done for the past ten years, and move back to apartment life. Although I've adjusted to the idea, I'm no happier about it. I'm heartsick that we'll no longer have the private oasis of a backyard.

We've found a great apartment: three bedrooms, two bathrooms, well-maintained building, lots of green space outside, dog-friendly building (it's the law in Ontario, but not always followed or enforced), good location for both driving and transit. Honestly, had I seen this apartment when I lived in New York, I would have considered it luxury. Now it just makes me sad.

But there's another factor involved in this move, a big, drooling, barking factor named Diego.

Drooly BoyIn our old house, before the flood, we were working with Diego on better on-leash behaviour, especially his reactions to other dogs. Off-leash at the dog park, Diego is playful and well socialized; on the leash, a barking, pulling maniac.

This is a common issue. We were working with a trainer when the flood upended our lives. We ended up moving, and we never resumed training. This meant I stopped walking Diego, except when the four of us walk together, and Allan can take the big boy while I walk Tala. I couldn't manage him at all.

As soon as we realized we were moving to an apartment, in a building full of dogs, I knew we needed to re-boot Diego's education.

The amazing trainer we had been working with has moved out of the area, but we are working with her by email, phone, and video. We've got a fridge full of Rollover, something this trainer turned us on to: a training treat that is nutritionally balanced, and can substitute for your dog's regular food. We're using a complicated harness-Gentle Leader-collar combination that gives me maximum control, and produces a calming effect on the dog. And we're working daily in our neighbourhood.

Buster posing with some antiquated technologyDiego has already made a lot of progress. It's hard for me to imagine him walking calmly past another dog we might encounter in the lobby, or not going nuts if the elevator door opens and a dog appears, but every walk is a training opportunity, and we'll just keep at it.

And there will be plenty of opportunity! We'll have to walk Tala and Diego separately for the foreseeable future, and we're on the 19th floor of a 20-story building.

But wait, there's more. There's yet another factor at play: my own anxiety. Many years ago in New York, we had a very bad experience with Buster, our pit-mix rescue who had severe fear-aggression to other dogs. This resulted in many things, including a four-day hospital stay for Allan, a famous animal behaviourist donating time to us, and a pitbull on Prozac.

And it resulted in one more thing. Walking Buster became a source of great fear and anxiety for me... which is how I learned more about post-traumatic stress syndrome. Apparently once a person has experienced a state of extreme emergency, their neural pathways are permanently changed. The threshold to trigger the fight-or-flight response is much lower. So I'd wake up in a state of anxiety, just before I had to walk the dogs. Buster and I both needed medication to go on walks! (If only he could have understood rationally. Buster was a dog of extreme obedience - a soldier who lived to follow orders. If he could have controlled himself to please us, he would have done so in a heartbeat.)

Whoever thought she'd be the calm one!And here we are, 15 years later. It's a different dog, who is not an emotionally damaged abuse survivor, but a part of my brain doesn't know that. Dogs, of course, sense your anxiety and react to it. If their person is fearful, there must be something to be fearful and vigilant about. So Diego has to calm down for me, and I have to calm down for him.

The Early Election Call and the Cowardice of Stephen Harper

Montreal Simon - Fri, 07/17/2015 - 04:22

As you know I'm deeply concerned by the horrible thought that Stephen Harper could ruin our summer, or steal it, as only Great Maniac Leader could.

By calling an election one month earlier than most people had expected. So he can use a longer campaign to bankrupt his opponents.

So I'm very glad to see that at least the NDP isn't worried. 
Read more »

The Con Oil Pimp Brad Wall Declares War on Central Canada

Montreal Simon - Thu, 07/16/2015 - 23:58

Oh great. Just what this broken bleeding country needs. 

Another Con oil pimp like Brad Wall, the Premier of Saskatchewan.

Sweeping out of the West to declare war on Central Canada. 
Read more »

Ducks sign ex-Canuck Ryan Kesler to massive 6-year, $41.25 million contract extension

Metaneos - Thu, 07/16/2015 - 21:00
Thomas Drance - Canucks Army
Oh, wow. Short term, this might be an okay contract, but six years? This is probably too long contract for Kesler, who already has shown signs of decline in his game.

The European Union Backstory. Greece Is the Least of Its Problems.

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 07/16/2015 - 18:43

We may be on the verge of witnessing a ground shaking, dangerous and scary spectacle - the dismemberment of the European Union.  The recent events in Greece may have set some wheels in motion but Harvard professor of international relations, Stephen Walt, says the collapse of European unification traces much further back to five triggering events. He writes that no Western nation will emerge unscathed if it all falls apart.

As an economic unit, the EU has a combined GNP larger than that of the United States, considerable wealth, advanced industries, and significant military potential. The United States is formally allied with most of its members and has long benefited from cooperation with its fellow democracies there. Europe’s future course is therefore of considerable interest to the United States.

...Unfortunately, it is hard to be optimistic about the EU’s prospects today, especially its stated goal of an “ever closer union.” Despite its past achievements, the EU now suffers from growing tensions and several self-inflicted wounds. The EU is likely to experience repeated crises and internal divisions, and one cannot rule out a gradual and irreversible decline in its cohesion and influence. Because a prosperous and tranquil Europe is in America’s interest, this is not good news for the United States.

Today, the EU faces five fundamental challenges. None of them will be easy to overcome.

Problem No. 1: Overexpansion

The EU today is a victim of its past success. What began as a limited arrangement among six countries to coordinate coal and steel production has become an elaborate supranational organization of 28 members governed by a bewildering array of institutions and subsidiary agencies and hamstrung by the need to reach consensus before taking important decisions. At the same time, its members are still independent nation-states with their own governments and their own complicated internal political arrangements. America’s complex federal system is a model of simplicity by comparison.

Moreover, as the EU has expanded, its membership has become increasingly heterogeneous. Germany’s GDP is more than 300 times larger than Malta’s, and Luxembourg’s per capita income is nearly seven times higher than Latvia’s and five times higher than Greece’s. The geographic size, population, and economic resources of the member states are vastly different, and their respective cultures and national histories have become less similar as the EU has grown. Not surprisingly, expansion has made the EU more cumbersome, more divided, and less popular. In 2014, more than 70 percent of EU citizens surveyed believed their voices do not count in EU decision-making, and nearly two-thirds declared that the EU does not understand the needs of its citizens.

Gee, it sounds like the European Union fell victim to the same expansionist insanity that befell NATO.  Go figure.

Problem No. 2: The collapse of the Soviet empire

Although the disappearance of the Soviet Union was a welcome development, it removed one of the main motivations for European unity. The EU is often seen as a purely economic and political project, but security concerns were a key part of its rationale from the start. That rationale faded as NATO grew stronger, and it disappeared when the Warsaw Pact collapsed. The absence of an external danger encouraged European leaders to focus more on selfish national concerns and to see the EU as a way to limit and constrain German dominance. (That last goal, needless to say, has not worked out quite as well as they hoped.) Since the early 1990s, EU members have repeatedly pledged to develop a “common foreign and security policy,” but they have never succeeded in doing so. Today, the incoherent European response to events in Ukraine highlights the lack of consensus on basic security issues.
Problem No. 3: The euro crisis

The third problem facing the EU today, of course, is the euro crisis.

It is now clear that the decision to create the euro was an enormous blunder, as skeptics warned at the time. It was done for political rather than economic reasons: to renew momentum for unity, to bind a reunified Germany more tightly inside European institutions, and to put Europe on a more equal footing with the United States.

But as the euro’s critics emphasized early on, the EU lacked the political and institutional mechanisms needed to make a currency union work. Instead, the euro’s proponents simply assumed the common-currency members would never let themselves get into serious financial trouble, and if this happened anyway (as, of course, it did), they further assumed that it would be easy to create the institutions that the eurozone lacked.

...Even worse, the crisis has sown deeper divisions within the continent, with debtors and creditors exhibiting a level of resentment and hostility not seen for many years. Instead of demonstrating a powerful commitment to European unity, EU member states now try to get what they want by threatening to blow up the entire enterprise. Greece used the threat of Grexit to try to win concessions from its creditors, and France used much the same threat to force Germany to soften its demands (however slightly).

Next up: British Prime Minster David Cameron will use the threat of a referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership in the EU to extract some special deals from the other members. When different states keep threatening to exit in order to blackmail their supposed partners, it hardly conveys the “one for all, all for one” spirit that is supposed to inspire and justify the broader European project. Needless to say, this situation is not what the euro’s creators had in mind when they took that fateful step.

Problem No. 4: A deteriorating regional environment

The EU now faces serious turmoil on its periphery, with direct consequences for Europe itself. State failures in Libya, Syria, Yemen, and sub-Saharan Africa have produced a flood of refugees seeking to get in, while the emergence of al Qaeda, the Islamic State, and other extremist movements has had worrisome repercussions among some of Europe’s Muslim populations. The danger of homegrown or lone-wolf terrorism is often exaggerated, but it is not zero. And some Europeans now want to roll back the open internal borders that were a key achievement of the 1986 Single European Act. Meanwhile, the conflict in Ukraine raises new concerns about the security of the EU’s eastern frontier. The EU has been unable to agree on new measures to address any of these challenges, however, further underscoring its dysfunctional decision-making process.

Problem No. 5: The persistence of nationalism

The EU’s final challenge is the stubborn hold that nationalism exerts on the populations of the individual member states. The elites who launched the original European project hoped it would transcend existing national loyalties, but nationalism remains alive and well throughout the continent. Britain may vote to leave the EU next year (though I believe this is unlikely), Scottish nationalism may lead it to exit the United Kingdom, and nationalist sentiments continue to simmer in Catalonia and elsewhere.

Economic stagnation, high youth unemployment, and concerns about immigration have also fueled a resurgence of Euroskeptic nationalist parties that reject the core principles on which the EU is built. Add to this mix Europe’s unfavorable demography — its overall population is declining and the median age is rising rapidly — and you have a recipe for slow economic growth and growing dissatisfaction with mainstream parties and existing political institutions. If these trends eventually allow groups like the National Front in France to gain real power, support for an “ever closer union” will erode even further.

Professor Walt foresees just three possible outcomes to Europe's woes.  It could find a path to resolve these five threats but he doesn't think they've got the leadership to do it.
There are no European leaders today with the vision and stature of an Adenauer, de Gaulle, or Thatcher, and it would take years for serious reforms to work their way through the EU’s elaborate consensus-based governing machinery.

Instead of an “ever closer union,” therefore, the EU is more likely to simply muddle through. It will keep applying Band-Aids to contain the euro crisis and will hope that trade deals with the United States and China will provide an economic boost. In this scenario — which I regard as the most likely — the EU will stay in business, but robust growth will remain elusive, support for the union will decline, and Europe’s global influence will continue to wane.

But there is a third possibility: The EU experiment could start to unravel. A Greek exit from the eurozone would set a dangerous precedent, nationalist resentments could deepen, leaders with more authoritarian inclinations could come to power (as has already occurred in Hungary), and Greece could dissolve into widespread social unrest (or worse). Some European states might even look to Moscow for help (though they are unlikely to get much). If disintegration begins, the only question will be: How far and how fast will it go?

...To sum up: Since the end of World War II, stability and prosperity in Europe have been of enormous benefit to the United States. The European Union has been a key ingredient in a world order that has been highly favorable for America. If the EU’s best days are behind it, Americans will have to prepare for a world that is less stable, secure, and prosperous than the one to which they have become accustomed. We should hope this is not the case, but it is the most likely outcome given where Europe is today.

GORILLA - Supaman

Metaneos - Thu, 07/16/2015 - 18:00

Jesus H. Christ

Dawg's Blawg - Thu, 07/16/2015 - 11:28
I guess we’ve finally learned what the initial stands for.... Dr.Dawg

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? No One, Angela, No One.

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 07/16/2015 - 11:01

Is it the Euro or is it Angela Merkel - or both?  Whatever the case, Merkel's brutal subjugation of Greece has the neighbours outside the Eurozone good cause to think twice about joining the common currency, the Euro.

Once, it was an exclusive club that nearly all of Europe aspired to join. Now, in the wake of Greece's latest financial crisis and the hard-line response from many of the Continent's powers, becoming a partner in the European common currency seems less and less appealing to many of the countries lined up for their chance.

From Poland to the Czech Republic to Hungary and points farther south and east, joining the euro is increasingly seen as rife with risks and costs - including a substantial surrender of sovereignty - that outweigh the benefits. And while many of the countries that have not yet adopted the single currency had doubts before the Greek crisis flared, the heavy penalties incurred by Athens to stay in the eurozone have made the trade-offs even clearer and the political leanings against membership more pronounced.

The qualms about partnership in the currency raise further questions about the ability of the European Union to maintain momentum toward its long-held and oft-stated goal of ever-closer union. More than any other policy, the single currency was intended to bind the members economically and politically while reducing the chances of conflict, and the decline in enthusiasm for the union has tracked a more general reassessment of European integration.

The doubts are now playing out primarily in the countries that most recently joined the European Union, primarily in Central and Eastern Europe. Lithuania became the 19th and newest adopter of the euro in January.

...Zoltan Pogatsa, a political economist at the University of West Hungary, said the greatest benefits to joining the eurozone came from undertaking the financial reforms required to become a member. Once that stability is achieved, he said, it may be wiser to keep the local currency and peg it to the euro, as Denmark and Sweden have done.

"This way, you preserve your option to devalue, and you do not fall under the technocratic dictatorship of austerity," he said.


Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 07/16/2015 - 10:07

It's an old adage going back to the legend of the Trojan Horse described by Virgil in the Aeneid.  In Latin it's Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes which translates into 'beware of Greeks, even those bearing gifts.'

I'm not sure if Angela Merkel has read much Virgil but maybe she should as she considers the Greek parliament's gift of capitulation they delivered up to her this week.

It was remarkable.  The Greeks accepted endless, brutal austerity and a state of perma-recession without end made all the more remarkable by the clear voice of the Greek people in the referendum less than a week earlier and the IMF's Pontius Pilate act of washing its hands of Merkel's insane demands just a day before.

Substitute souvlaki for schnitzel and you've got the makings of a 21st century Weimar Republic with all the hardship, social unrest, and instability that brought that most famous German leader of the 20th century to power.  And it's the sort of contagion that might not be contained within Greece either. When the Germans come marching it unsettles a lot of Europeans.

Merkel's ham-fisted demands, like most irrationalities, were fear-driven. Germany was afraid that if Greece's creditors were forced to take a "hair cut", grant debt relief to Athens, it would send a message to the rest of Europe's debtor nations -  foremost among them Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy. Something of such a seismic magnitude could wreck European unity. Better that the Greeks be destroyed. Anything else would send the others the wrong message.

The problem that Merkel has made for herself is how to keep Greece from becoming her Trojan Horse.  How will she stabilize it if its people are consigned into permanent indentured servitude? How will she keep the Greek people from being radicalized? Does she think European unity can withstand a repressive military takeover of the civil government in Athens? She has already set Greece into a death spiral. How does she think that's going to end? Even Germany's brightest minds are saying she's set Germany's reputation back a half century.

Jürgen Habermas, one of the intellectual figureheads of European integration, has launched a withering attack on the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, accusing her of “gambling away” the efforts of previous generations to rebuild the country’s postwar reputation with her hardline stance on Greece.

Speaking about the bailout deal for the first time since it was presented on Monday, the philosopher and sociologist said the German chancellor had effectively carried out “an act of punishment” against the leftwing government of Alexis Tsipras.

“I fear that the German government, including its social democratic faction, have gambled away in one night all the political capital that a better Germany had accumulated in half a century,” he told the Guardian. Previous German governments, he said, had displayed “greater political sensitivity and a post-national mentality”.

Habermas, widely considered one of the most influential contemporary European intellectuals, said that by threatening Greecewith an exit from the eurozone over the course of the negotiations, Germany had “unashamedly revealed itself as Europe’s chief disciplinarian and for the first time openly made a claim for German hegemony in Europe.”

The outcome of the negotiations between Greece and the other eurozone member states, he said, did “not make sense in economic terms because of the toxic mixture of necessary structural reforms of state and economy with further neoliberal impositions that will completely discourage an exhausted Greek population and kill any impetus to growth.”

Habermas added: “Forcing the Greek government to agree to an economically questionable, predominantly symbolic privatisation fund cannot be understood as anything other an act of punishment against a leftwing government.”

Which again makes me wonder what Tsipras was thinking when he persuaded the Greek legislators to throw in the towel. Was this his Trojan Horse? Has he calculated that Germany will find itself with far more to lose than Greece? Is this just a means of bringing the illogic of these insane demands to a head? Is the Greek government essentially staging a pan-European "sit in" and defying Merkel to take the next, and perhaps final, step?

No matter how you look at the situation, one thing is clear. This game is not over. It's only just begun.

But before bidding adieu to Jurgen Habermas, consider his further remarks not just in the context of a Europe in turmoil but in relation to Canada.

Recently, the 86-year-old has aggressively criticised Merkel’s leadership in Europe in books such as The Lure of Technocracy, while also coming under criticism himself. In 2013, Habermas clashed in a series of articles with another influential German leftwing intellectual, sociologist Wolfgang Streeck, who has identified the kind of European federalism espoused by Habermas as the root of the continent’s crisis.

Habermas told the Guardian that he agreed with many of his critics’ main points. “Streeck and I also share the view that this technocratic hollowing out of democracy is the result of a neoliberal pattern of market-deregulation policies,” he said. “The balance between politics and the market has got out of sync, at the cost of the welfare state.

“Where we differ is in terms of the consequences to be drawn from this predicament. I do not see how a return to nation states that have to be run like big corporations in a global market can counter the tendency towards de-democratisation and growing social inequality – something that we also see in Great Britain, by the way."

As I've followed the ups and downs of Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain and even the now relatively dormant Forconi movement in Italy it was obvious that these were reactions to the devastating social impacts of neoliberalism, market fundamentalism and the substitution of corporatism for democracy - something that is also setting in here at home in Canada.  The Left has been abandoned, vacated, and with it Canada's political spectrum has narrowed and stands enfeebled, capable of squeezing into the democracy-suffocating confines of the age of neoliberalism.  The New Dem faithful will angrily deny it but that's because they're not looking hard enough.

Nexen pipeline leak in Alberta spills 5 million litres

Metaneos - Thu, 07/16/2015 - 09:30
CBC News
Wow, Nexen really bent itself over backwards trying to lower the impact of the headline, pipeline spill.
Emulsion? That's new. It was, er, emulsion that spilled, which is an entirely different thing than diluted tar. No siree Bob, we don't have a single thing to worry about if it was emulsion that spilled.
And what is emulsion? Had to look that word up. It's a mixture of two liquids that are normally unmixable. In this case, tar, sand, and water. And probably something in it that makes it all mixable, too, but no one's reported what that is, yet.
What's worse are these news organizations giving cover for Nexen, running with a headline probably thought up in Nexen's PR department. Whatever. Hopefully, the new Alberta NDP government dings this company, good and hard.
Incidentally, isn't this the same company bought by one of China's state owned companies?

Sometimes We Have to Take Matters Into Our Own Hands and Out of the Hands of Failed Leaders

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 07/16/2015 - 09:02

Given that all of Canada's mainstream parties embrace the petro-state, it's pretty obvious that change is going to have to be driven from without, not within.  All this bullshit - get involved with the party, change it from inside - is really just bullshit.  C'mon in, vent a little, then sit down and shut up.

The opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline and the Kitimat supertanker port didn't come from within the "anything but" Liberal party of Christy Clark.  It came from ordinary residents of British Columbia who were fed up and had simply had enough.  Suddenly we had Crusty and Justin and the rest of the Pack of Fools muttering about "social licence."

I was reminded of this when I read an opinion piece in today's Guardian by the paper's new 'social media' writer, Ellie Mae O'Hagen (yeah, I know. "Ellie Mae"? Really?) about how she came to join the social activist group, UK Uncut, and the remarkable things it accomplished just by trying.

...I was idly scrolling through Twitter (some things don’t change) and I noticed something stirring. A group of activists hadoccupied Vodafone’s flagship store in protest against the company’s alleged tax avoidance. .They shut Vodafone down. It was amazing: new, young, immediate, exciting – and totally different from the A-to-B marches I’d taken part in beforethe UK invaded Iraq in 2003.

I emailed the activists: “That was amazing! Is there anything going in Liverpool?” A man, now one of my best friends, emailed me back. And that was the moment that changed me.

To this day, I don’t know what spurred me on to take up the challenge and organise a protest in Liverpool, but a few days later I had gathered a ragtag bunch of activists I’d never met before. And the mere suggestion that we might take direct action caused Vodafone to shut down both its Liverpool stores in advance.

Those London-based activists, of which I was now one, were the beginning of the direct action network UK Uncut. Since its inception it has inspired more than 800 protests across the country; it’s been derided by establishment institutions from parliament to Fox News; it was one of the reasons Starbucks felt compelled to pay £20m in tax to the Treasury; it propelled tax avoidance up the political agenda; and it introduced me to some of my now closest friends, changing my life irreversibly.

The events flowing from that email led me to a realisation that I have never forgotten: change is possible. Since my time with UK Uncut, I have spent a lot of time talking to people about activism, and the most common sentiment I hear is that it’s pointless: “They won’t listen anyway.” It’s the same inertia I fell into after the Iraq war, but it couldn’t be more wrong.

People in power aren’t ambivalent about protest; they’re terrified of it. Social progress plods along like a tortoise, and protest is the jet pack you attach to its back. It’s not true to say protest doesn’t work: in fact, it’s the only thing that does work. That’s why we’re constantly encouraged not to do it.

I’ve seen how people’s lives can be changed through taking action, sometimes at enormous cost (as with many activists I’ve met in Colombia) – sometimes with enormous rewards, and often both at the same time. I’ve seen how activism can be a transformative process for activists themselves, as well as for the society they wish to change.

I took in my little town's Tuesday evening summer market this week.  Local artisans set up booths and sell their wares mainly to the tourists who come to our resorts.  Some were a lot more successful than others and I noticed one with a line up of customers.  As I got closer it was a "Save Our Coast" kiosk dedicated to opposing the Kinder Morgan and Northern Gateway dilbit initiatives.  People were lining up to buy T-shirts and hats and stickers emblazened with the "Save Our Coast" slogan.  The merch seemed to be flying off their tables.  The message was so simple but it was also so connective "our coast." Yes, it's ours. It belongs to all of us. It's ours to save, to defend. That's a powerful thought to convey and the visitors who bought that stuff will be spreading that message even further when they get home.  And, eventually, the message filters up until the people who most need to hear it can't avoid it any longer.

Thursday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 07/16/2015 - 09:02
This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Carol Goar rightly criticizes Stephen Harper's plan to deal with an apparent recession by making Canada's economy even worse off through yet more cuts. Andrew Jackson writes that denying or ignoring an economic downturn won't make it go away, while Louis-Philippe Rochon traces its origins to the Cons' own ill-fated choices. And Michal Rozworski makes the case for stimulus which would both boost our economy in the short term, and better position it for the longer term:
(T)here is a space and an opening here in which to push for alternatives. The coming election is an opportunity to push the debate towards more than fumbling the ball better or worse. Far beyond that, however, there is room to orgainize around and popularize economic alternatives. The mainstream of the environmental movement is calling for jobs alongside climate justice. And here is a list of demands that was just released by the heads of the provincial labour federations:
  • $15/hour minimum wage across the country;
  • doubling of the Canada Pension Plan;
  • creation of an affordable national childcare program;
  • the revival of the Canada Health Accord;
  • comprehensive immigration strategy with a pathway to citizenship; and
  • establishment of a Green Jobs agenda for Canada.
Just these measures speak loudly in a desert of popular alternatives and they are but some examples. And the question of how to fund any of these demands will raise the question of who pays and how much: difficult, necessary questions that have their mirror in those about who has gained over the past two decades of growth.- Larry Schwartz offers a jarring list of facts about the U.S.' gross level of inequality.

- Patrick Krueger, Melanie Tran, Robert Hummer and Virginia Chang find a direct relationship between one major dimension of inequality (variance in education) and mortality rates. And Kate McInturff examines gender inequality within and between Canadian cities.

- Finally, Patrick Wintour reports on the UK Cons' latest set of attacks on workers. And Zoe Williams writes that the move should only serve as a reminder of the vital role of labour in ensuring that increased wealth isn't concentrated only among the lucky few.


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