Posts from our progressive community

More Of The Same

Politics and its Discontents - Sat, 11/15/2014 - 05:56

In today's Star, Thomas Walkom explains why the U.S. China climate deal is not likely to have any impact whatsoever on Harper's ongoing and egregious contempt for all things related to climate change:
For this prime minister, only one player in the climate change debate matters: the petroleum industry.

When Harper talks about dealing with climate change in a way that protects jobs and growth, he means jobs and growth in the Alberta tarsands.
In part, this is sheer politics. Alberta is the Conservative heartland. If Harper were to be seen as neglecting Alberta, he would risk triggering the same kind of rebellion that destroyed the old Progressive Conservative Party of Brian Mulroney and Joe Clark.

But in part, it is based on Harper’s theory of the Canadian economy. The prime minister views resources — particularly energy resources — as the driving forces of the entire economy.

Under this logic, whatever is good for oilsands producers is good for Canada.Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose Recommend this Post

Stephen Harper and the Politics of Fear

Montreal Simon - Sat, 11/15/2014 - 05:40

As I've mentioned several times recently, I've never seen this country so paranoid and so fearful.

So that even a small marine police exercise in the bay the other day, had some people wondering whether the terrorists were coming.

The ones Stephen Harper would have us believe would behead us in our bedrooms.

Which helps explain why I've never seen him look so happy, and yet so deranged...

To see the Fear Factor glowing red, even on Parliament Hill.
Read more »

write a letter, save a life: sign up now for write for rights

we move to canada - Sat, 11/15/2014 - 05:30
For the past few years, I have participated in Write For Rights, Amnesty International's annual write-a-thon for human rights - actually the largest human rights event in the world (Canada; US; elsewhere: Google it.)

Every year, on December 10 - International Human Rights Day, which celebrates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - tens of thousands of people all over the world shine a light into darkness. By writing letters, we tell governments that someone is watching. We tell political prisoners - people in jail for opposing dictatorships, for fighting for clean water for their communities, for standing up for women and girls - that they have not been forgotten.

It's really simple to do. Amnesty gives you "case sheets" with background stories and instructions, plus tips on letter-writing. And you write a letter. Or maybe more than one letter.

To make it more fun, you can invite a few friends, print out some case sheets, open a bottle of wine, and write letters together. Or to make it easier, you can write letters on your own. Either way, it's easy and not very time-consuming. And it makes a tremendous difference to people who are enduring real suffering.

After participating in Write for Rights for a few years, I decided to take the next step and join Amnesty's Urgent Action Network. This, too, is not a huge time commitment and not difficult to do. There are no meetings to attend and no fundraising involved. Just you and your keyboard or pen.

The greatest thing about doing activism for Amnesty is knowing that their methods work. Amnesty campaigns have helped win release for political prisoners all over the world. Their observers have helped expose injustice and begun the process of change. And time and again, when activists are finally released from prison, they say, "Without your letters, I couldn't have made it through," or "Knowing I was not forgotten helped me survive". That's a big incentive right there.

If you've never participated before, how about it? This December 10: one letter. Take the pledge.

The Day Stephen Harper Couldn't Hide Any Longer

Montreal Simon - Sat, 11/15/2014 - 00:56

He has always been a strange bird. 

When it comes to the Great War on Terror, or any war from 1812 onwards, he's a raging chicken hawk.

He can't get enough of it, or squawk loud enough

But when it comes to the Great War on Climate Change, he has always been a clucking chicken...

But at least now Stephen Harper can't hide any longer.
Read more »

Sounds of silence

Cathie from Canada - Fri, 11/14/2014 - 20:16

Just a note that I'm sorry for my silence this month.
Some family stuff is keeping me busy, but also I am being distracted by technology -- I now have a little tablet computer and I find I am using it more often during the day to check email and surf the web, and it is not set up to let me also do blockquotes and blog posts, etc.

Musical interlude

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 11/14/2014 - 18:17
Moist - Freaky Be Beautiful

Keeping Score in Cold War II

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 11/14/2014 - 13:08

When it comes to Cold War II, we're limited to snippets of information; an incident here and there, accusations and counter-accusations.  It's hard to get a meaningful picture of what's going on.

Enter the European Leadership Network, a think tank made up of former senior political and diplomatic types.  They've released a report, "Dangerous Brinkmanship, Close Military Encounters between Russia and the West in 2014."  The report makes for pretty chilling reading.

Here are just some of the 40-major incidents chronicled in the report.

April 12: An unarmed Russian aircraft makes 12 passes over the US warship the USS Cook, stationed in the Black Sea. 

June: Russia simulates an attack on the Danish island of Bornholm as it plays host to 90,000 guests at a political festival. It is regarded as the most aggressive simulation against Denmark since the end of the Cold War. 

August 30: Putin tells a youth camp that other countries should realise "it's best not to mess with us". "I want to remind you that Russia is one of the most powerful nuclear nations," he says. "This is a reality, not just words. We are strengthening our nuclear deterrence forces and our armed forces."

September 4: As NATO members meet in Wales, Russia simulates an attack on the US, flying its strategic bombers to within striking distance of [Ottawa, Montreal] New York, Washington, and Chicago.

September 20: Six Russian airplanes, including two fighter jets and two long range bombers, come close to US airspace off the Alaskan coast. Two US F-22 fighter jets scramble to intercept the planes. 

October 2: Russian sends a fighter jet to trail a Swedish signals intelligence plane, which photographs the Russian jet 30 metres away. 

October 16: Putin says further sanctions against Russia would amount to "blackmail". He warns sanctions could create "discord between large nuclear powers".

October 17: The Swedish military begins scouring the Stockholm archipelago for an underwater vessel, smaller than a conventional submarine, rumoured to be Russian. The search for the "plausible foreign underwater operation" is called off a week later. 

November 13: Russia sends its "Leopard" radar unit to an eastern Ukrainian battlefield near Donetsk. The 1RL232, an armoured, weaponised surveillance system with a 40-kilometre range, gives Russian weapons greater accuracy.

This week, as Russian warships sailed toward Queensland waters, a new report found Russia's behaviour fuelled "dangerous brinkmanship" at Cold War levels. 

"The intensity and gravity of incidents involving Russian and Western militaries and security agencies has visibly increased," the European Leadership Network, a policy group, found.

"These events add up to a highly disturbing picture of violations of national airspace, emergency scrambles, narrowly avoided mid-air collisions, close encounters at sea, simulated attack runs, and other dangerous actions."

It's a dangerous game, fraught with peril and unintentional outcomes, that both sides are playing.  Our own sandbox warrior, Harper, seems to have a genuine appetite for it.  Today, the sort of statesmanship needed to keep these dangers in check is in dreadfully short supply.

Forget About the 1%. It's the .1% Who Are the Emerging Problem.

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 11/14/2014 - 12:39
They're now buying elections as efficiently as they once had to settle for buying politicians (or judges) and they're buying their way to ever dizzying heights of aberrant prosperity.

They're the top one-tenth of the top one per cent and, thanks to rampaging inequality in the United States, their wealth today is about the same as the bottom 90%.

And spare us the nonsense about a rising tide lifting all boats. 

The growing indebtedness of most Americans is the main reason behind the erosion of the wealth share of the bottom 90%, according to the report’s authors. Many middle-class families own their homes and have pensions, but too many have higher mortgage repayments, higher credit card bills, and higher student loans to service. The average wealth of bottom 90% jumped during the stock market boom of the late 1990s and the housing bubble of the early 2000s. But it then collapsed during and after the most recent financial crisis.

Since then, there has been no recovery in the wealth of the middle class and the poor, the authors say. The average wealth of the bottom 90% of families is equal to $80,000 in 2012— the same level as in 1986. In contrast, the average wealth for the top 1% more than tripled between 1980 and 2012.

Yes, America is the extreme case when it comes to inequality but it sets the course for America's key trading partners also.  Oh well someone has to bear the cost of remaining "competitive" in our globalized economy and those on the top have the means to ensure it's not going to be them. 

Why the Obama-Xi Emissions Deal is Window Dressing.

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 11/14/2014 - 11:54

The CO2 emissions deal reached this week by the presidents of the US and China is a positive step, no doubt about that.  It's also far too little, much too late, although it's reflective of how inflexible our global society has become even in matters of our very survival.

Even the numbers are squishy.  Obama has pledged that America will reduce CO2 emissions by 25 to 28% from 2005 levels by 2020.  The Chinese pledge is even more obscure.  It commits China to cap its emissions by 2030 and then begin reductions.

What's wrong with this?  Well, for starters, these are political numbers.  Neither commitment is demonstrably tied to a clear objective or purpose.  The numbers can't be shown as relevant in the context of avoiding climate "tipping points" that will trigger natural feedback mechanisms that lead to runaway global warming.

Taking a step toward the "exit" sign when the church hall is afire is a good thing but it'll take a lot more than a step if you're going to have any chance of escaping the flames.

Another troubling aspect of the Obama-Xi deal is the fudging of benchmark dates.  Look at what the Euros are doing.  The EU has pledged 40% reductions from 1990 levels.  1990, not 2005 - big difference.  1990, not 2030.

Slashing emissions is critical.  In its 2011 outlook, the International Energy Agency, warned we had five years to stop building fossil fuel energy plants and get into renewables or "the last chance of combating dangerous climate change will be lost forever."  Fast forward three years to the IEA's 2014 outlook.  Echoing an OPEC forecast released last week, the IEA predicts CO2 emissions to increase another 20% between now and 2040.  And the IEA concludes our fossil fuel habit will lock in at least 3.6 degrees Celsius of warming, "making catastrophic sea level rise, polar ice cap loss, water shortages and other severe effects nearly inevitable."

A meaningful emissions reduction programme doesn't begin with a number pulled out of the air.  It begins by identifying the problem.  Then you have to calculate what's needed to solve it before moving on to the practical questions of how you can achieve that.  Tossing out percentages and dates that aren't coherently linked to the problem is simply disingenuous.  Yet perhaps we're really not capable of much more than that today.

We need to focus intently on tipping points.  At the end of the day there's nothing that matters more.  We need a clear idea of the point at which our man-made greenhouse gas emissions trigger natural feedback mechanisms that will drive uncontrollable global warming.  It's a bloody dangerous game, akin to holding a pistol to your head and trying to guess just how far you can squeeze the trigger before you release the firing pin to strike the round in the chamber.  That, however, is the game that we're in.

Why do we approach climate change as a stand-alone problem?  It's not.  In fact, you have to add climate change, in all its permutations, to overpopulation, in all its permutations, to over consumption, in all its permutations.  We need to see climate change, overpopulation and over consumption for what they are - symptoms of a larger, more intractable threat to our survival.

A few months ago I read a paper on food security written by three top Chinese experts.  What struck me was that these experts saw China, by 2030, growing by another 200-million people while per capita GDP soared from $7,000 today to $16,000.  That's an enormous increase in economic activity that will require commensurate increases in fossil fuel consumption, equally large increases in production and even greater increases in emissions, waste and pollution of all descriptions.  China is already the world's biggest single greenhouse gas emitter. Now imagine that more than doubling in under two decades.  Best not to dwell on what's in store for India, Brazil, etc.

Population.  Just a few years ago we projected our global population would peak around 9-billion.  Now we commonly hear 11-billion by 2100, perhaps more.  At the same time, we're growing a huge "consumer class" within that burgeoning population.  We're racing ahead on raw numbers and on per capita consumption. Can you see where this is heading?

Water.  In the minds of some rather bright people we're in a freshwater predicament potentially as perilous to our civilization as climate change.  The reason we were able to grow from under 3-billion at the end of WWII to 7+ billion today, heading for 9+ billion by 2050, has been our access to cheap fossil energy and abundant freshwater.  It took both.  That was the miracle.  Yet in our post-war growth spurt we came to view our water resources quite differently from the past.

In the post-war era we began to mine groundwater rapaciously.  We didn't give a second thought to just how much or how little water actually existed underground.  We just went at it and it produced some amazing results.  India, that had a history of periodic famine, achieved not only full food security but even ventured into the food export markets.  This same phenomenon allowed both India's and China's populations to treble in the post-war era.  Truly amazing.

Now we're in a real water jam.  NASA's Grace satellites have been mapping global surface subsidence which is used to measure the state of our aquifers.  As Maude Barlow has warned for many years, we're running on empty.

The groundwater at some of the world's largest aquifers - in the US High Plains [Ogallala], California's Central Valley, China, India, and elsewhere - is being pumped out "at far greater rates than it can be naturally replenished."

The most worrisome fact: "nearly all of these underlie the world's great agricultural regions and are primarily responsible for their high productivity."

So dependent are we on ever increasing access to a rapidly diminishing resource that a recent US intelligence estimate foresaw water wars looming within a decade: "As water shortages become more acute beyond the next 10 years, water in shared basins will increasingly be used as leverage; the use of water as a weapon or to further terrorist objectives will become more likely beyond 10 years." 

Where are these "water wars" hot spots?  They're all in areas that are already water stressed, that have critical groundwater issues and shared access to equally critical surface water.  Foremost is Asia where Pakistan, India and China have conflicting dependencies on the Himalayan headwaters.  As local groundwater resources falter, the dependency on this surface water worsens.  Did I mention that all three nations have nuclear arsenals?

Next up are the Tigris and Euphrates and the conflicting dependencies of Turkey, Syria and Iraq.  Of the three it's Iraq, as the downstream nation, that is most at risk from water diversion by the upstream neighbours.

Then there's the Nile where Egypt relies on an old colonial-era British pronouncement for its claim to 70% of the river flows.  Egypt's several upstream neighbours don't think much of the British ruling and seek to divert Nile waters for their own purposes.  Egypt responds by regularly threatening to bomb any installations these smaller countries might dare construct.  Yet as dependencies deepen and approach the threshold of survival itself, countries can become destabilized and threats escalate into armed conflict. 

Climate change compounds all this.  One aspect of our warming atmosphere that's most obvious is our broken, hydrological cycle.  Precipitation patterns are badly skewed.  Rather than receiving the relatively steady, moderate rainfalls that were so essential to the expansion of modern agriculture, we're now experiencing cycles of drought and flood that are also more severe, more sustained and more frequent.  That, in turn, increases the demands on the dwindling remnants of global groundwater reserves.

The global water crisis points to a major part of the solution to what truly ails mankind - fairness.  Only equitable approaches can possibly forestall conflict. Nations - all nations - have to share and that includes sacrifice.  When you have a pie cut into four pieces and you suddenly find it has to feed twelve people, you have to cut each of those pieces into three.  The problem is we're not conditioned to do that.  We want others to do the sharing and the sacrifice, just leave us out of it.  That's practically the mantra of the Tea Party.

Equity is deliberately omitted from the Obama-Xi emissions pact.  Nowhere is there any discussion of whether the relatively modest cuts envisioned are "fair" to the rest of the world, especially the poorest and most vulnerable nations of the Third World.

Emissions quotas are about more than cuts.  They're also a way of defining a claim to some share of the atmosphere's remaining greenhouse gas carrying capacity.  We know how much that is with some pretty specific numbers.  Yet just who 'owns' the atmosphere?  Who holds what right to pump what amount of emissions into it?

The issue is fraught with unwelcome implications.  If we explore the nature of the atmosphere it's clearly a "commons."  It belongs to nobody and, hence, to everybody.  That means a nomadic herder on the Sahel has as valid a claim to it as a bitumen worker in Athabasca.  But if we ever recognized that we'd be in a hell of a fix because our way of life is dependent on keeping the lion's share of the remaining emissions carrying capacity.  We need the atmosphere as our own and we need it free of charge.  That the people whose equitable entitlement to it we're rejecting are also those reeling from the worst impacts of our Industrial Revolution emissions and for whom catastrophic climate change is already a reality is merely the icing on the cake - our cake.  Ours first, ours alone.

During the 19th and 20th centuries the major powers wrestled and periodically fought each other over how to divide the world among them.  The French got this, the Germans that, the Spanish and Portuguese bits here and there, the Brits everything else.  It seems to be an approach we're going to stick with on the environment.

It could be argued that the Obama-Xi deal is an exercise along these same lines. Obama has essentially decreed how big will be America's excessive share of the atmospheric commons in the future.  China says it'll let us know what it's after by 2030.  Other countries, our own Canada for example, are playing coy, jockeying for an even larger share.  It's a ploy that will eventually lead to the failure of whatever efforts we take to deal with climate change.

If we can't find an equitable solution to the atmosphere our chances of finding acceptable solutions to global fisheries or water resources or any of the other threats and challenges now looming are significantly diminished.  You simply have almost no hope of solving these problems when you're constrained by the straight jacket of neoliberalism.

Some, such as renowned intellectual John Raulston Saul, see revolution in our future.

“The collapse started in 1973,” Saul continued. “There were a series of sequential collapses afterwards. The fascinating thing is that between 1850 and 1970 we put in place all sorts of mechanisms to stop collapses which we can call liberalism, social democracy orRed Toryism. It was an understanding that we can’t have boom-and-bust cycles. We can’t have poverty-stricken people. We can’t have starvation. The reason today’s collapses are not leading to what happened in the 18th century and the 19th century is because all these safety nets, although under attack, are still in place. But each time we have a collapse we come out of it stripping more of the protection away. At a certain point we will find ourselves back in the pre-protection period. At that point we will get a collapse that will be incredibly dramatic. I have no idea what it will look like. A revolution from the left? A revolution from the right? Is it violence followed by state violence? Is it the collapse of the last meaningful edges of democracy? Is it a sudden decision by a critical mass of people that they are not going to take it anymore?”

It's best not to get too gushy about the Obama-Xi deal for it speaks more to their limitations and shortcomings than it does of any genuine commitment to address our existential threats.

Would You Hug A Terrorist?

Politics and its Discontents - Fri, 11/14/2014 - 11:50

There is no question that here in the West, we like to treat death almost as an embarrassment; we sanitize it, hide it away in hospitals and palliative care units, and conduct our lives with a kind of cognitive dissonance, believing on some level that while it happens to others, somehow an exception will be made in our case.

Not for us the graphic horror of many deaths: severed limbs, exposed entrails, torrents of blood. One need only look at how photos of the Boston Marathon victims were doctored to realize the truth of our aversions.

Unfortunately, in the many war-torn areas of our fractured world, especially the Middle East, people do not have that option. Their lives are often a daily series of bombardments shattering their communities and their lives that cannot withstand even the greatest efforts at denial.

Why are we so isolated from their suffering, their maiming, their deaths? Modern technology, of course, allows countries like ours to attack from a distance, using drones, long-range missiles, etc., the resulting images just fuzzy war-video game images that are broadcast to us. It is all too easy to dissociate from real life and its deadly consequences.

Fortunately, there is a movement entitled Hug A Terrorist that is seeking to combat the depersonalization that permits us to accept obscene terms such as 'collateral damage' with equanimity. It was started last summer by two Palestinian-Syrian girls as a response to the carnage in Gaza to show that the people who are labelled terrorists are often just innocent, ordinary people, many of them mere children:

Yesterday, McMaster University in Hamilton hosted an event inspired by that video. You can click here to watch the news report.

While it garnered widespread support, there were those who objected to it, such as local Harper MP David Sweet, who tweeted that he agreed with [the]sentiments ... [but] considered the campaign "outrageous and poorly timed."

Others felt even more strongly:
[A] handful of other Mac students watched the activity. Wearing a yarmulke, 3rd-year student Zach Harris said he thought the campaign made light of terrorism.

"It belittles the word," he said.

Another nearby student, Sarah Kohanzadeh, said she thought students passing by were uncomfortable with the campaign.

Neither Harris nor Kohanzadeh went across the hall to talk with the pro-Palestinian students, they said. Both of them belong to the university's Israel on Campus group, but said they were watching the campaign in the Student Centre independently of the group.

"We're trying to stay low," Kohanzadeh said.

Jacob Klugsberg, a 4th year student, said he found the campaign offensive in using the concept of terrorism "ironically or in a joking way." He said he did walk across the hall to talk. He said he hopes the campus can be a place where discussions happen to move toward "lasting peace."Happily, unlike in the 'real world,' disagreements did not devolve into violence.

Recommend this Post

Can we move beyond our culture of violence??

kirbycairo - Fri, 11/14/2014 - 08:58
One only need reject a few of the prevailing beliefs of one’s society to be almost entirely alienated from vast majority of people. In Canada all you really have to do is dislike Hockey and you suddenly find yourself marginalized. But all marginalization should be not be regretted, because sometimes holding unpopular beliefs is the beginning of chance. Some marginalized beliefs can keep you outside the mainstream while giving you counter-culture credibility. The abolitionist movement in England was such a case. Over a period of one hundred years the abolitionists went from being marginalized to being a credible, and much admired, political force. However, certain core beliefs of a society are so widely accepted without question that to bring them into doubt not only sets you against the vast majority but also can make you appear downright unhinged by most people. If, for example, you were an Aztec and you suggested that the sun was not a god, your fellow citizens would simply think you were crazy.
According to the well-known German philosopher Jürgen Habermas this notion of unquestionable beliefs is what sets modern society apart from so-called more traditional ones. Habermas in his ground-breaking work The Theory of Communicative Action, claims that what sets “modern” societies apart is that its citizens can voice competing moral and normative claims and that those people can, if called upon, discursively redeem these claims. In simpler terms, this simply means that, according to Habermas, we can disagree about social and moral issues and we can discuss them and potentially defend them through some form of ‘rational’ discourse. When I read Habermas’ work in the early 1990s I was fairly dubious about this claim. The more I thought about it the more it seemed to me that, just like older societies, our own “modern” society contained certain beliefs that are simply not up for discussion. If, for example, you claim in our society that competition is a bad thing, ninety-five percent of people will simply think are crazy or stupid.
There are other, deeply held, beliefs that our society overwhelmingly accepts without question. Patriotism is one such belief. Try questioning the notion of patriotism in mixed company and watch the reaction. People will either have a strong (even violent) reaction, or they will just seem utterly confused and treat you as some kind of weird hippy or naive, mental incompetent. I know this because I have experienced such reaction to many of my beliefs all my life. And no belief has elicited a stronger reaction than my rejection of the military.
From the time I was a young kid, I was deeply disturbed and confused by society’s unquestioning and unconditional support for the military. (And I grew up in Vietnam-Era US, where there was much more doubt about the military than there is today.) My argument was, and continues to be, simple. The military is an institution whose sacred operational mechanism is blind obedience among its members to kill anyone that the state tells them to. Of course, as I became older I realized that like with so many things, the majority of people believe that their own nation’s military is somehow different from all the others in the world and throughout history, and that their military would only do good things. But regardless of what I believe is willful naivety on the part of most people, I think the issue is still very simple, and history demonstrates it remarkably well. Standing armies unquestionably obey any orders that they are given and killing is their stock and trade. Let me dispense, from the beginning with the obvious objections that will come, probably vociferously, to many people’s minds. Of course, killing isn’t the only thing that soldiers do. Professional Hockey players don’t only play hockey – their job involves lots of activities – but hockey is their institutional imperative. Putting aside whether this or that war is ‘necessary’ or morally justified, many good things might happen in the midst of an armed conflict. The real question here is the notion of what they used to call a ‘standing army,’ a fixed institution that relies on a set hierarchy and blind obedience within the ranks and, ultimately, to the state.
Part of my objection to the military grew gradually out of my experience with people’s reaction to armed conflict. Though practically everyone I met claimed that they thought war “is bad,” the claim more often than not seemed entirely hollow. The longer I live, the more I think that the slogans “war is bad” or “war is a necessary evil” are ideas that people feel the need to say but seldom actually believe. In fact, as Bertram Russell came to believe through his pacifist activism, I think many people are secretly thrilled by the idea of war. If they weren’t, I don’t think war movies and violent action films would be so overwhelmingly popular. The idea of military conflict makes people feel powerful and in many cases I would even contend that it gives many people (particularly many men) a psychosexual thrill. I have come to believe that this thrill has become central to our social and political systems. People continually pay lip-service to ‘peace’ and to anti-bullying campaigns, politicians tell us that violence is terrible and even cowardly, but bullying and violence are integral to their very operation.

The violence and machismo that is at the heart of our military, and people’s admiration of the military and unwillingness to question it, is part of a web of violence that permeates our society. There has been a great deal of talk recently about our ‘rape culture.’ But we will never eliminate our culture of rape while bullying and violence still permeate every part of our society. Albert Einstein said that “we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” And he is right. To achieve peace, equality, and a life without violence means fundamentally changing the way we think about our most sacred institutions like the military, sports, education, and our political culture. It cannot happen overnight. We are all, to a great degree, products of our environment and we carry all sorts of difficult baggage into daily life. But until we are willing to at least question notions like “necessary war,” or cut-throat elections, or our hero-worshipping, our obsession with appearances, etc., then real social change will continue to be well beyond our reach.

Their Real Enemy

Northern Reflections - Fri, 11/14/2014 - 07:48

From the very beginning, Stephen Harper has claimed that he stands for and with the troops. But, Michael Harris writes, the men and women who have actually been in battle have declared war on the Harperites:

In fact, the veterans are here not to praise Caesar but to bury him. That’s why veterans Ron Clarke and Mike Blais have launched an Anybody But Conservative campaign to rally opposition against the government in time for the election.

Those who have been watching the veterans’s file closely on Harper’s watch — rather than listening to the Top Gun drivel being dished out by the PM — know that a national disgrace has been unfolding in Canada. While the Harper government has been a great little military monument-builder ($50 million added to that budget), it has abandoned the flesh-and-blood veterans who came back from war needing help.

The budget tells the story:

Since 2011, the Harper government has cut $226 million from Veterans Affairs administrative funding — a 30 per cent chop. That’s why one of Harper’s strongest supporting groups — veterans — has turned against him. Or rather, Harper abandoned them first.
And statistics tell the sad tale of what has happened to vets under Harper's watch:

Take the issue of suicide. The Canadian Forces have a suicide rate that is twice as high as the rate in the British Armed Forces, which are three times larger. What ever happened to the idea of hiring an adequate number of mental health workers to deal with the victims of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the handmaiden of suicide in many cases? When Peter MacKay was minister of Defence, he promised to hire extra medical personnel to deal with this dire legacy of Afghanistan. I guess he couldn’t figure out how to turn it into a photo-op.
Worst of all, Harper appointed Julian Fantino to the veterans portfolio:

The Harper government saved $3.8 million by closing those nine VA centres. It proceeded to add $4.5 million to Fantino’s ad budget to assure the viewers of Hockey Night in Harperland that the government was doing a great job with vets.
Canada's veterans figured out long ago that the man who likes to walk around in a flight jacket talks out of both sides of his mouth. They are rising in a growing chorus to tell it straight. They know their real enemy.

Friday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 11/14/2014 - 06:35
Assorted content to end your week.

- Jonas Fossli Gherso discusses the unfortunate (and unnecessary) acceptance of burgeoning inequality even by the people who suffer most from its presence. And Ryan Meili interviews Gabor Mate about the ill health effects of an economic system designed to keep people under stress:
(T)he very nature of the system in which people live their lives is a significant source of illness. Now there are obvious factors like environmental pollution, toxins, and then of course there are the social determinants of health that you write about in A Healthy Society: the impact of poverty, the impact of inequality, the impact of history and continued racism. There’s an article in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix today about sentencing practices in the courts of Saskatchewan. People who are identified as Aboriginal are likely to get double the sentences of people who are not identified as Aboriginal. That’s going to have a health impact.

But I’m going to go beyond even that and say that even the people who are not on the wrong end of economic inequality or systemic racism are still made ill just by how we live our lives. The stress that we live under, the competition, the aggressiveness, the uncertainty, the loss of control that we experience in our lives. The gender inequalities, these are not just social phenomena, they have an actual impact on community health. The isolation people are experiencing. - Meanwhile, Charles Smith points out how young workers are losing out as a result of policy choices designed to maximize employer leverage at their expense:
Canadian young people are among the most educated in the world. According to the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development, in 2014 Canada had the highest percentage of university or college trained population in the world. Recognizing that, Statistics Canada reported in 2010 that most OECD countries were more successful than Canada in employing individuals with university or college education.

In other words, the problem with finding full and meaningful employment is not necessarily a problem with individual young people, but a broader problem of government and private sector employers.
Outside the classroom, students are demanding social change, pushing our organizations in new and exciting directions, challenging traditional pedagogy, and creating a new generation of community and ecological awareness.

At the University of Saskatchewan, young women are challenging traditional forms of power by creating new organizations and demanding justice in public and private life. Indigenous students are reclaiming space and demanding greater access to opportunities long denied to them.

All of this suggests that today's students are multi-talented, skilled and ready to lead. It is time that government and private employers recognized this by promoting an industrial policy designed to create meaningful full employment.- Alan Kors reports on Stephen Lewis' advice in advocating for child care as a public good, not a benefit limited to those who immediately find spaces. And Jeffrey Simpson highlights how much work there is to be done in fixing a tax system built around the Cons' trinkets and baubles.

- Finally, Michael Den Tandt recognizes that the Cons' interest in Canadian troops goes no further than using them in photo ops. And Michael Harris notes that a direct clash between the Cons and the veterans they've left behind may make for an important piece of Canada's next election campaign.

Philosophical Differences versus False Allegations: Defunded Fake Clinic Responds

Dammit Janet - Fri, 11/14/2014 - 05:48
Yesterday (November 13/14), Lambton Crisis Pregnancy Centre announced the rescinding by the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) of the second instalment (amount unknown) of a $83,800 grant.

Here it is.
Due to a fundamental philosophical difference the OTF has decided to rescind the grant.  This means we received funding for one year’s operation but will not receive further funding for the second year. 

. . .

One particular blog has been making false allegations regarding our Centre and is taking credit for the rescinding of the OTF grant.  This same group has been making allegations against other Pregnancy Centre’s [sic] in Canada.Hilarious, yes?

They claim to have "fundamental philosophical difference" with the once and future (?) major granting organization, but throw "false allegations" at a wee (unnamed) blogger.

The CPC in question seems to have set a stalking horse on us in the person of commenter and self-proclaimed videographer Nathan Colquhoun who takes issue with my post about inappropriate medical equipment at the Lambton outfit here and here.

He claims to have no dog in this fight but his profile shows him to be some kinda xian pastor.

Okey-dokey then.

Are they laying the groundwork to sue us?

In its blogpost the Lambton Liars refer to a paper supposedly refuting Joyce Arthur's damning report "Exposing Crisis Pregnancy Centres in BC".

When a couple of those fake BC clinics tried to sue Joyce for defamation over her report, it did not end well for them.

Lambton CPC's argument, of course, should be with the Ontario Trillium Foundation, not moi.

But, hey, this is totally typical behaviour for bullying liars. Take on the small fry while kissing the big kahuna's ass.

What I find mysterious -- and OTF must find relaxing, at least for the moment -- is the total disinterest by mainstream media over what seems to me (ahem) to be a fairly Big Story.

Major Grant Foundation (All But) Admits Error in Funding Prolife Liars!

OK, that's probably not the headline they'd go with -- but that's the story.

Stay tuned. . .

Joe Oliver and the Incredible Shrinking Surplus

Montreal Simon - Fri, 11/14/2014 - 03:56

It was hard to imagine a scarier sight, than old Joe Oliver delivering his fiscal update to an audience of Bay Street business types the other day.

And announcing that Canadians should support the Cons, because he's blown the surplus trying to buy votes.

So they can't trust the opposition to run or ruin the economy!!!
Read more »

Stephen Harper's Great Failed War on Marijuana

Montreal Simon - Fri, 11/14/2014 - 02:21

As you know, Stephen Harper has made The Great War on Marijuana one of his main  weapons in the Great War on Justin Trudeau.

So he could accuse him of being a dangerous junkie who would make the drug more accessible to kids...

But when that attack ad didn't work, he decided to use our tax dollars to produce an anti-marijuana ad.

And get the country's doctors to endorse it...

But the doctors refused to play his game. 

Because they they could see right through it, like so many other Canadians.
Read more »


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