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Monday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Mon, 12/08/2014 - 07:43
Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Will Hutton compares the alternative goals of either shrinking government to the point where it does nothing or harnessing it to meet everybody's basic needs, and explains why we should demand the latter:
A financial crisis has been allowed to morph into a crisis of public provision because the government of the day will not lift a finger to compensate for the haemorrhaging of the UK tax base. What the state does is not the subject of a collective decision with concerned weighing of options. Instead, it’s an afterthought, with the greater priorities a reduction in public borrowing and freezing or lowering tax rates.

All the state can spend is what is left after those two greater priorities are met, and if it has to shrink to pre-modern levels then so be it. The market will provide: charity will alleviate suffering; people will get by; the roof will not fall in. Lifting taxation can never be considered to close the gap. It is, it is alleged, both economically self-defeating and immoral.
...
(T)here is never a weighing up of the benefits of raising taxes against a particular use for public spending, nor any strategic long-term programme of investment.

This is bad enough in ordinary times, but when a chancellor refuses to consider raising taxes as the tax base collapses it is a recipe for disaster. It results in a minimal state, with implications for prisons, schools, courts, policing, legal aid, care, security and defence that are profound. Some of this could be avoided if, as both Labour and the LibDems propose, capital investment was not lumped in with current spending so that virtuous borrowing could be separated out. The country may also get lucky: wages stop stagnating and income tax receipts rise.

But the bigger truth is that if Britain wants the scale of public activity congruent with a civilised society, it has to be paid for.
...
There is a different future, and our politicians of the centre and left have to argue for it, but they must accept it has to be paid for. This has become an existential divide. Politics and political argument have never mattered more. - Meanwhile, Bill Curry notes that the Harper Cons are matching their UK cousins by "balancing" a budget only based on unexplained and implausible assumptions which make it all too likely that we'll end up losing important public assets at fire-sale prices.

- Linda Tirado offers her observations on the high cost of being poor. And Adam Walsh discusses the difficulties faced by the people left behind in boom times.

- Tony Burke writes about the need for both more fair taxation and stronger collective bargaining to ensure that workers benefit from economic gains.

- Finally, Michael Harris highlights the Cons' cynical attempt to cling to power by replacing any expectation of effective government with a non-stop spin cycle.

Firing Up The Base

Northern Reflections - Mon, 12/08/2014 - 05:46

                                                   http://www.hilltimes.com/

It's interesting to consider the titles of bills that the Harper government steamrolls through parliament. Consider a few: The "Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act.” Or the "“Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act.” That's the new prostitution law. Or "The Black April Day Act." If you missed that one, Michael Harris reminds you that it:

created April 30 as the day to commemorate the diaspora of Vietnamese citizens after Saigon fell to the Viet Cong in 1975. Thousands of those refugees from South Vietnam came to Canada.

There is only one problem with dissing Vietnam with the Black April Day Act. That country is now an important trading partner and a key ally in the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations. Vietnam’s ambassador didn’t care much for the name of the private member’s bill or its intent. So he decided to act. He asked to appear before the Senate committee to air his concerns.

As reported by CP, he was turned down. The ambassador was then invited to make a written submission. He complied. But while it was being translated into French, the committee completed its “study” of the bill and his objections were never formally considered. Nor were the objections of any other witness who opposed the legislation.
Obviously, the act had nothing to do with the Vietnamese. It was all about firing up Harper's base:

Harper is merely driving in the wedges. He knows that the base doesn’t like the idea of prostitution, so they will approve of the moralistic bent of the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act – and send in $5. He knows that his Christian base also abhors polygamy, so they will also send in $5 to support the Barbaric Cultural Practices Act. And they will also send in $5 to support the Black April Day Act because it is a reminder of the horrors of godless Communism.

And, as long as he can fire up his base -- and keep the opposition fighting about sexual harassment -- he'll continue to be prime minister.


Help Stop (or at least embarrass) CPC Cheaters

Dammit Janet - Mon, 12/08/2014 - 05:15
Remember the 2010 Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament movement? Then, before Twitter was as omnipresent as it is now, the CAPP Facebook group built more than 200,000 followers.

Now that the CONs have their majority and have had 4+ years to fuck the country -- and doing an excellent job at it -- we have a chance next year to get rid of the bastards.

But. They're going to do everything they can to stop us.

Including of course cheating. In each of the past three elections, CONservatives have been caught cheating.

With the absolute minimum cost or penalty.

You think they won't do it again? What or who can stop them?

Us.




Here's the petition.

It was started on December 5. When I signed about 5 p.m. yesterday (Sunday, Dec. 7), it had about 660 signatures. By 11 p.m., it had over 800.

This morning it has over 900.

These things are maddeningly slow at the beginning. But they soon start to snowball.

Let's get this Big Canadian Snowball rolling.

It's a delicious win-win for us. If it gets a respectable number of signatures, questions will be asked and the issue of election fraud(s) gets re-aired.

If it gets an impressive number of signatures, it will make CONs squirm as more questions are lobbed at them.

If it goes, as they say, viral, it will make international news. Mockery and finger-pointing will ensue. More squirming by CONs.

And Harper wins too! He gets to add to his Enemies List. :)

Well, 'tis the season. You wanna be on a List, don't you?


Stephen Harper and the Jihadi From Hell or Ottawa

Montreal Simon - Mon, 12/08/2014 - 01:48


When I first heard the news that another Canadian jihadi had surfaced on YouTube, and was making wild threats against us, at first I was naturally terrified.

Could Great Closet Leader really have found another warrior wannabe like himself, to scare the cowardly into voting for his foul Con regime?

And try to justify turning us into a police state.

But then I saw it was only this loser. 
Read more »

Land of the Free

Dawg's Blawg - Sun, 12/07/2014 - 14:49
No, not that barbarous fake one. This one. Ég get andað!... Dr.Dawg http://drdawgsblawg.ca/

Excuses, excuses

accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 12/07/2014 - 10:39
Shorter Leona Aglukkaq:
It's absolutely essential that we align our greenhouse gas emissions policies with the U.S. if that means delaying regulations which could limit pollution from the tar sands. Also, it's absolutely essential that we refuse to align our greenhouse gas emission policies with the U.S. if they're committing to targets which could limit pollution from the tar sands.

Sunday Afternoon Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 12/07/2014 - 10:32
Assorted content for your Sunday reading.

- Walden Bello discusses the need for our political system to include constant citizen engagement, not merely periodic elections to determine who will be responsible to implement the wishes of the elite:
Even more than dictatorships, Western-style democracies are, we are forced to conclude, the natural system of governance of neoliberal capitalism, for they promote rather than restrain the savage forces of capital accumulation that lead to ever greater levels of inequality and poverty. In fact, liberal democratic systems are ideal for the economic elites, for they are programmed with periodic electoral exercises that promote the illusion of equality, thus granting the system an aura of legitimacy.
...
To reverse the process requires not just an alternative economic program based on justice, equity, and ecological stability, but a new democratic system to replace the liberal democratic regime that has become so vulnerable to elite and foreign capture.

First of all, representative institutions must be balanced by the formation of institutions of direct democracy.

Second, civil society must organize itself politically to act as a counterpoint and check to the dominant state institutions.

Third, citizens must keep in readiness a parliament of the streets, or “people power,” that can be brought at critical points to bear on the decision-making process: a system, if you will, of parallel power. People power must be institutionalized for periodic intervention, not abandoned once the insurrection has banished the old regime.- As a prime example of the problems with the status quo, Eric Lipton exposes how U.S. Republican elected officials see their main job as repeating and amplifying the message of their oil-sector backers. Bronwen Tucker points out that the Harper Cons are likewise taking the side of the tar sands over people and the planet. And Dean Baker notes that the most recent set of international trade agreements goes far beyond even earlier versions in limiting health and environmental regulations.

- Meanwhile, Tyler Cowen offers some suggestions as to how technology could blunt the impacts of income inequality. But it's hard to see how those theoretical possibilities would accomplish much if not accompanied by a concerted effort to spread the benefit around - rather than merely being allowed to evolve in ways that favour the people in control of current capital and technology.

- Indeed, David Kynaston observes that a shift toward private education has only exacerbated inequality in the UK. And every bit of attention and funding directed toward corporatized education represents resources not put toward something more important - such as food for hungry children.

- And finally, the ILO reminds us that it's corporate decision-making rather than anything beyond employers' control that's led to the growing gap between the executive and shareholder classes and people working for a living.

Journalists First

Northern Reflections - Sun, 12/07/2014 - 07:52
                                                http://www.quillandquire.com/

Except for the occasional episode of The Nature of Things, I don't watch CBC Television. But I do listen to Radio 1. The Gomeshi Affair has revealed deep seated problems at CBC Radio. So I read Noah Richler's piece in today's Toronto Star with interest. Richler writes:
There are many bright lights at the CBC and some very accomplished journalists and perhaps even good managers, without question, but these are up against the obdurate culture of an institution under siege. Fighting to remain the same is not an option. Only radical change will save the place. Great swathes of CBC airtime are handed over to single people. You would think, listening to CBC Radio, that only Eleanor Wachtel had ever read a decent foreign novel; that Bob McDonald was our only adjudicator of science and that Peter Mansbridge is the only person who can read the news.

Similarly, Jian Ghomeshi was awarded every single trendy arts beat in the country ad nauseam. Did we really need the allegations of his beating women to discover that Rick Mercer could do the Scotiabank Giller job better? Will the latter now do that show forever?

The point is that there are huge numbers of qualified and entertaining Canadians ready to be discovered that the CBC is shutting out by its reliance on just a few people to do the work. Indeed, one of the pleasing effects of the vacant seat at Q is that — as is ordinary, for instance, at the BBC — the audience has been enjoying multiple hosts. It would be proper for listeners to be treated to more of this, but this too is unlikely as the CBC’s complacency in this regard is exacerbated by the tendency to chase the grail of high ratings that celebrity brings to it in its ailing state.
Unfortunately, CBC Radio has followed the American model. If Peter Jennings or Morley Safer could become stars south of the border, why not encourage that culture in Canadian broadcasting?  The powers that be concluded that we no longer needed any more gravel voiced Norman DePoes,  bespectacled Knowlton Nashes or non-photogenic Peter Gzowskis. Stars they weren't. But they were journalists first.

We would do well to return to the maxim Journalists First.

10 reasons you should participate in write for rights on wednesday, december 10

we move to canada - Sun, 12/07/2014 - 06:00
This Wednesday, December 10, is Human Rights Day. The date was chosen to commemorate the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948, the first document of its kind.

Every year on December 10, Amnesty International holds a global letter-writing event: Write For Rights (in Canada). Thousands of people around the world write letters calling for action for victims of human rights abuses, and offering comfort and support to political prisoners.

Here are 10 reasons you should participate in Write For Rights 2014.

1. It's easy. Amnesty makes it really easy to participate. Read, type, send.

2. You can do do it from any computer. No meetings to attend, no schedule to keep. Just more of something you do all the time anyway: typing.

3. It's free. No need to donate money. The most this will cost you is postage.

4. You'll feel good about yourself. Enjoy that warm buzz you get from voluntarily helping other people. There's nothing quite like it.

5. You can choose how much to participate. Write one letter, write two letters, write three. Spend 10 minutes writing or spend an hour.

6. You can choose what to focus on. Write about an issue in your own country. Write about an issue in your country of origin. Write for children, or for women, or for LGBT people, or for workers, or for environmental activists, or for another issue that you care about.

7. You're busting stereotypes. We supposedly live in a selfish age where all we care about is I, me, mine. Challenge yourself to say it ain't so.

8. It works globally. Every fight against injustice begins with someone shining a light in a dark place. Be that light.

9. It works locally. When political prisoners are released, they often attest to the difference letters from strangers made in their lives: that knowing they were not forgotten helped them survive.

10. You enjoy your own human rights every day. Why not use them to help someone who can't?

Write for Rights in Canada

Write for Rights in the US

Write for Rights internationally.

On Facebook

Twitter: #Write4Rights

Is It Time To Shame Those Who Still Support the Cons?

Montreal Simon - Sun, 12/07/2014 - 02:32


It was a magnificent and moving sight, fourteen beams of light reaching into the sky from the top of Montreal's Mount Royal.

One for each of the women murdered at the École Polytechnique, in the shadow of the mountain where I want my ashes scattered, twenty-five years ago.

But as beautiful as that sight was, for some reason it also reminded me that I live in the darkness of Harperland.

Where the points of light are few and far between, and all is ugly and CRAZY.
Read more »

In the Time of the "Official Truth" There's No Room for Journalism

The Disaffected Lib - Sat, 12/06/2014 - 10:01

John Pilger looks at what the Western media offer up as journalism and sees instead propaganda.  He sees the essence of the mainstream media as not information but power.

The world is facing the prospect of major war, perhaps nuclear war – with the United States clearly determined to isolate and provoke Russia and eventually China. This truth is being turned upside down and inside out by journalists, including those who promoted the lies that led to the bloodbath in Iraq in 2003.The times we live in are so dangerous and so distorted in public perception that propaganda is no longer, as Edward Bernays called it, an “invisible government”. It is the government. It rules directly without fear of contradiction and its principal aim is the conquest of us: our sense of the world, our ability to separate truth from lies.The information age is actually a media age. We have war by media; censorship by media; demonology by media; retribution by media; diversion by media – a surreal assembly line of obedient clichés and false assumptions.Pilger observes that the collapse of mainstream media, their all too willing surrender to messaging and propaganda in lieu of journalism, has proven to be an extremely deadly affliction.  The American and British pogrom on Iraq is an example....had journalists done their job, had they questioned and investigated the propaganda instead of amplifying it, hundreds of thousands of men, women and children might be alive today; and millions might not have fled their homes; the sectarian war between Sunni and Shia might not have ignited, and the infamous Islamic State might not now exist.Even now, despite the millions who took to the streets in protest, most of the public in western countries have little idea of the sheer scale of the crime committed by our governments in Iraq. Even fewer are aware that, in the 12 years before the invasion, the US and British governments set in motion a holocaust by denying the civilian population of Iraq a means to live.Those are the words of the senior British official responsible for sanctions on Iraq in the 1990s – a medieval siege that caused the deaths of half a million children under the age of five, reported Unicef.  The official’s name is Carne Ross. In the Foreign Office in London, he was known as “Mr. Iraq”.  Today, he is a truth-teller of how governments deceive and how journalists willingly spread the deception.  “We would feed journalists factoids of sanitised intelligence,” he told me, “or we’d freeze them out.”The handmaidens of suppression have done their job well.  Consider the effects.  In 2013, a ComRes poll found that a majority of the British public believed the casualty toll in Iraq was less than 10,000 – a tiny fraction of the truth. A trail of blood that goes from Iraq to London has been scrubbed almost cleanThe most effective propaganda is found not in the Sun or on Fox News – but beneath a liberal halo. When the New York Times published claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, its fake evidence was believed, because it wasn’t Fox News; it was the New York Times.The same is true of the Washington Post and the Guardian, both of which have played a critical role in conditioning their readers to accept a new and dangerous cold war. All three liberal newspapers have misrepresented events in Ukraine as a malign act by Russia – when, in fact, the fascist led coup in Ukraine was the work of the United States, aided by Germany and Nato.
Pilger questions whether we're being conditioned for war.  He's not alone.  In August, the leading German financial newspaper, Handelsblatt, warned that we're being "mentally mobilized" to accept war with Russia. “If you wonder,” wrote Robert Parry, “how the world could stumble into world war three – much as it did into world war one a century ago – all you need to do is look at the madness that has enveloped virtually the entire US political/media structure over Ukraine where a false narrative of white hats versus black hats took hold early and has proved impervious to facts or reason.”Parry, the journalist who revealed Iran-Contra, is one of the few who investigate the central role of the media in this “game of chicken”, as the Russian foreign minister called it. But is it a game? As I write this, the US Congress votes on Resolution 758 which, in a nutshell, says: “Let’s get ready for war with Russia.”Pilger concludes by apparently calling on journalists to heal themselves, something that strikes me as unimaginable until we first break up the corporate media cartel.“When the truth is replaced by silence,” said the Soviet dissident Yevtushenko, “the silence is a lie.”It’s this kind of silence we journalists need to break. We need to look in the mirror.  We need to call to account an unaccountable media that services power and a psychosis that threatens world war.In the 18th century, Edmund Burke described the role of the press as a Fourth Estate checking the powerful. Was that ever true? It certainly doesn’t wash any more. What we need is a Fifth Estate: a journalism that monitors, deconstructs and counters propaganda and teaches the young to be agents of people, not power. We need what the Russians called perestroika – an insurrection of subjugated knowledge. I would call it real journalism.It’s 100 years since the First World War. Reporters then were rewarded and knighted for their silence and collusion. At the height of the slaughter, British prime minister David Lloyd George confided in C.P. Scott, editor of the Manchester Guardian: “If people really knew [the truth] the war would be stopped tomorrow, but of course they don’t know and can’t know.”It’s time they knew.
Canada is in no better position that Britain or the United States.  If anything, our corporate media cartel - Sun Media, PostMedia, Bell, CTV, the G&M - don't even make much of an effort any more to conceal their conservative/corporate alignment.  Their cartel has to be broken up if we're to preserve a democratic Canada for future generations.As I wrote in July, 2013:Concentrated, corporate owned media and politics are mutually corrupting because each can, and invariably will, do the other invaluable favours all at the public expense.  For both of them, it's "win-win."  For you, it's all "lose-lose."You can't have a corporatist state and a democratic state at the same time.  You can't end corporatism when you have a corporatist government operating under the cover of a corporate media cartel.  Can't be done.Democracy cannot exist without an informed electorate.  To achieve an informed electorate the voting public must have ready access to the broadest range of views and voices: left, right, and everything in between.  The public needs information to empower them to make informed decisions.The corporate media cartel in service to a corporatist state doesn't sell information.  It peddles messaging, slanted information, groomed information, that is of itself a form of misinformation. 
In December, 2012, I wrote a piece, "Freedom of the Press, Freedom From the Press," that reflected on Canada's media cartel and how it flogs messaging that is tantamount to propaganda, undermining Canadian democracy.Here's a link to the item dealing with the Handlesblatt article, "Warning from Germany - We Are 'Mentally Mobilizing' for War."In October, 2013, I posted an item about the role of Canada's media in misleading Canadians, "Our Democratic Deficit Begins in Canadian Newsrooms."If you don't hear about this ongoing and dire threat to Canadian democracy from Justin Trudeau or Tom Mulcair, it's no oversight.  They're fine with the status quo.  They're fine with the corporate media cartel.  They either see no purpose in dismantling the corporate media cartel or they consider it in their personal best interests to allow our media predators to gorge themselves on the Canadian public undisturbed. 

Saturday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sat, 12/06/2014 - 09:14
This and that for your weekend reading.

- Reviewing Darrell West's Billionaires, Michael Lewis discusses how extreme wealth doesn't make anybody better off - including the people fighting for position at the top of the wealth spectrum:
A team of researchers at the New York State Psychiatric Institute surveyed 43,000 Americans and found that, by some wide margin, the rich were more likely to shoplift than the poor. Another study, by a coalition of nonprofits called the Independent Sector, revealed that people with incomes below twenty-five grand give away, on average, 4.2 percent of their income, while those earning more than 150 grand a year give away only 2.7 percent. A UCLA neuroscientist named Keely Muscatell has published an interesting paper showing that wealth quiets the nerves in the brain associated with empathy: if you show rich people and poor people pictures of kids with cancer, the poor people’s brains exhibit a great deal more activity than the rich people’s. (An inability to empathize with others has just got to be a disadvantage for any rich person seeking political office, at least outside of New York City.) “As you move up the class ladder,” says Keltner, “you are more likely to violate the rules of the road, to lie, to cheat, to take candy from kids, to shoplift, and to be tightfisted in giving to others. Straightforward economic analyses have trouble making sense of this pattern of results.”

There is an obvious chicken-and-egg question to ask here. But it is beginning to seem that the problem isn’t that the kind of people who wind up on the pleasant side of inequality suffer from some moral disability that gives them a market edge. The problem is caused by the inequality itself: it triggers a chemical reaction in the privileged few. It tilts their brains. It causes them to be less likely to care about anyone but themselves or to experience the moral sentiments needed to be a decent citizen. 
Or even a happy one. Not long ago an enterprising professor at the Harvard Business School named Mike Norton persuaded a big investment bank to let him survey the bank’s rich clients. (The poor people in the survey were millionaires.) In a forthcoming paper, Norton and his colleagues track the effects of getting money on the happiness of people who already have a lot of it: a rich person getting even richer experiences zero gain in happiness. That’s not all that surprising; it’s what Norton asked next that led to an interesting insight. He asked these rich people how happy they were at any given moment. Then he asked them how much money they would need to be even happier. “All of them said they needed two to three times more than they had to feel happier,” says Norton. The evidence overwhelmingly suggests that money, above a certain modest sum, does not have the power to buy happiness, and yet even very rich people continue to believe that it does: the happiness will come from the money they don’t yet have. To the general rule that money, above a certain low level, cannot buy happiness there is one exception. “While spending money upon oneself does nothing for one’s happiness,” says Norton, “spending it on others increases happiness.” - Lucinda Platt discusses the devastating effects of poverty on childhood development - while noting that more than half of children experience poverty at some point.

- CBC News reports on the continued growth of food bank use in Saskatchewan - a fact which seems to be entirely in keeping with Brad Wall's plans. And Will Chabun reports on a new CCPA/Parkland Institute study showing that the Sask Party's determination to privatize liquor sales will make it far more difficult to fund adequate social programs or other public priorities in the future. 

- Meanwhile, thwap highlights how we face both constant demands to borrow for the sake of meeting consumer expectations, and severe punishments for giving in to that pressure.

- Kathleen Mogelgaard examines what's needed for a climate change summit to be successful. And the Cons' familiar distraction tactics (with the obvious goal of continuing to facilitate pollution from the tar sands) have absolutely no place in accomplishing anything useful - while their international lobbying to avoid having anybody else make up for the Cons' negligence may not be working out as planned.

- Finally, Ian Welsh writes that while it might seem obvious that police violence should be discouraged and punished, the complete lack of consequences for police officers killing civilians reflects an authoritarian culture working as intended rather than a failure of the system in its present form.

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