Posts from our progressive community

And We're a Long Way From Done Yet

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 08/19/2016 - 09:13


Here's the problem. When our leaders are debating how little they can get away with doing about climate change,  they're looking only at the tip of the iceberg, the part above water. That's their frame of reference.

Despite how much publicity it has received, most of us have a poor if not erroneous understanding of atmospheric greenhouse gases and what they hold in store for the next few decades and over the two centuries following that.

There's already a lot of atmospheric GHG, enough that we've already locked in 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming even if we abandoned fossil energy entirely tomorrow. The stuff is very persistent, especially CO2, and it will continue to cause the planet to heat until, over a very long time, we're long gone and it finally dissipates.

At last December's Paris climate summit there was general agreement to limit warming to 1.5 C. We are effectively already there, just give it a couple of decades to work its magic.

Then there are the knock-on effects this 1.5C will create. That could add another 1.5C over a couple of centuries from the heating effect of the loss of reflective ice caps and glaciers. That's a total of 3 degrees Celsius without factoring in other natural feedback loops such as a massive methane release from melting permafrost and warming northern lakes and seabed.

Now, bad as this mess already is, we have a new government dragging its heels in the footsteps of its predecessor, intent on driving the extraction and export of ever increasing amounts of Athabasca bitumen. The greenhouse gas emissions from that initiative go directly on top of the basic 1.5 C plus the additional, long-term 1.5C plus the added warming from the methane feedback loop and so on.

Is "genocidal" too strong a word to use? There is credible scientific opinion concluding that we're on the path to a major extinction event, the first in our planet's history created by any species of life, by one species - mankind. It lacks the malevolence of concentration death camps of the Holocaust, the killing fields of Cambodia or the slaughterhouse of Rwanda yet, in raw numbers, it could eclipse all of them in sheer numbers.

Some, such as Gaia hypothesis creator, James Lovelock, foresee mankind emerging from this century with a population reduced to a few hundred million. If he's remotely correct that's talking not about millions of deaths or even hundreds of millions but many billions of humans wiped out through man's own indifference, greed and neglect. How genocidal is that? Global, encompassing almost every species, the lot wiped out. Maybe we should change it to "omnicidal."

Think about the image of that iceberg the next time you're treated to a heaping helping of climate change nonsense from Trudeau enviromin, Lady Cathy - especially when she gets to the part about keeping warming under 1.5C. When she starts on about 1.5C you know she's talking with her head up her past.

And We're a Long Way From Done Yet

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 08/19/2016 - 09:13
Here's the problem. When our leaders are debating how little they can get away with doing about climate change,  they're looking only at the tip of the iceberg. That's their frame of reference.

Despite how much publicity it has received, most of us have a poor if not erroneous understanding of atmospheric greenhouse gases and what they hold in store for the next few decades and over the two centuries following that.

There's already a lot of atmospheric GHG, enough that we've already locked in 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming even if we abandoned fossil energy entirely tomorrow. The stuff is very persistent, especially CO2, and it will continue to cause the planet to heat until, over a very long time, we're long gone and it finally dissipates.

At last December's Paris climate summit there was general agreement to limit warming to 1.5 C. We are effectively already there, just give it a couple of decades to work its magic.

Then there are the knock-on effects this 1.5C will create. That could add another 1.5C over a couple of centuries from the heating effect of the loss of reflective ice caps and glaciers. That's a total of 3 degrees Celsius without factoring in other natural feedback loops such as a massive methane release from melting permafrost and warming northern lakes and seabed.

Now, bad as this mess already is, we have a new government dragging its heels in the footsteps of its predecessor, intent on driving the extraction and export of ever increasing amounts of Athabasca bitumen. The greenhouse gas emissions from that initiative go directly on top of the basic 1.5 C plus the additional, long-term 1.5C plus the added warming from the methane feedback loop and so on.

Is "genocidal" too strong a word to use? There is credible scientific opinion concluding that we're on the path to a major extinction event, the first in our planet's history created by any species of life, by one species - mankind. It lacks the malevolence of concentration death camps of the Holocaust, the killing fields of Cambodia or the slaughterhouse of Rwanda yet, in raw numbers, it could eclipse all of them in sheer numbers.

Some, such as Gaia hypothesis creator, James Lovelock, foresee mankind emerging from this century with a population reduced to a few hundred million. If he's remotely correct that's talking not about millions of deaths or even hundreds of millions but many billions of humans wiped out through man's own indifference, greed and neglect. How genocidal is that? Global, encompassing almost every species, the lot wiped out. Maybe we should change it to "omnicidal."

Think about the image of that iceberg the next time you're treated to a heaping helping of climate change nonsense from Trudeau enviromin, Lady Cathy - especially when she gets to the part about keeping warming under 1.5C. When she starts on about 1.5C you know she's talking with her head up her past.

"The Way We've Been Thinking Can't Be Right"

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 08/19/2016 - 08:51

It was some 30-years ago that those shameless libertines - Thatcher, Reagan and Mulroney - hopped into bed with the comely whore, neoliberalism, and we've been getting screwed over ever since.

Their successors are still in bed with neoliberalism. Yeah, that goes for Trudeau too - in spades. But that's not the worst of it. The real creepy part is that , today, they're in bed with a corpse and yet they're still just merrily shagging away.

A corpse, I say? Pay no heed to what I say but you might want to listen to those who are calling out our political necrophiles. People like John Ralston Saul who took neoliberalism's pulse a decade ago and found its once beating heart, globalism, stilled and dead.

Or, if Ralston Saul isn't to your liking, how about Joseph Eugene Stiglitz, economist extraordinaire, Nobel laureate and all?

Since the late 1980s and the so-called Washington Consensus, neoliberalism — essentially the idea that free trade, open markets, privatisation, deregulation, and reductions in government spending designed to increase the role of the private sector are the best ways to boost growth — has dominated the thinking of the world's biggest economies and international organisations like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

The policies of Ronald Reagan and Clinton in the US and Margaret Thatcher in the UK are often held up as the gold standard of neoliberalism at work, while in recent years in Britain George Osborne and David Cameron's economic policies continued the neoliberal tradition.

Since the 2008 financial crisis, however, there has been a groundswell of opinion in both economic and political circles to suggest that the neoliberal consensus may not be the right way forward for the world. In the past few years, with growth low and inequality rampant, that groundswell has gained traction.

Stiglitz, who won a Nobel Memorial Prize in economics in 2001 for his work on information asymmetry, has been one of neoliberalism's biggest critics in recent years, and he says the "neoliberal euphoria" that has gripped the world since the 1980s is now gone.


"We've gone from a neoliberal euphoria that 'markets work well almost all the time' and all we need to do is keep governments on course, to 'markets don't work' and the debate is now about how we get governments to function in ways that can alleviate this," he said.

In other words, Stiglitz says: "Neoliberalism is dead in both developing and developed countries."

Stiglitz is not alone in his belief that neoliberalism has its problems, though his argument that the consensus is "dead" is somewhat more forthright than those of many others. In a blog post in May, three economists from the IMF — long one of the greatest champions of the neoliberal consensus — questioned the efficacy of some aspects of it, particularly when it comes to the creation of inequality.


..."The increase in inequality engendered by financial openness and austerity might itself undercut growth, the very thing that the neoliberal agenda is intent on boosting," Jonathan Ostry, Prakash Loungani, and Davide Furceri argued. "There is now strong evidence that inequality can significantly lower both the level and the durability of growth."

"There are a lot of people thinking the same thing at this point, that basically some aspects of the neoliberal agenda probably need a rethink," Ostry told the Financial Times on the day the blog was published, adding: "The crisis said: 'The way we've been thinking can't be right.'"


We are not thinking right, indeed. The evidence is all around us, inescapable. Yet not one of our political leaders, Trudeau included, has thought about slipping out of that bed and maybe taking a long, hot shower. Nope, it's their turn, and they've got some more shagging to do.
And there's the problem. Three decades of hard-thrusting neoliberalism has rendered statesmanship and leaders of vision, redundant and worthless.  The political process, thanks to globalism, has been so neutered as to tolerate only technocrats like Harper and Trudeau. The way they're thinking can't be right. It isn't.

Friday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 08/19/2016 - 07:44
Assorted content to end your week.

- PressProgress points out that a large number of Canadians are justifiably concerned about our economy, with a particular desire to rein in income and wealth inequality. And Guy Caron notes that there's no reason for politicians to keep facilitating tax avoidance which exacerbates the gap between the lucky few and the rest of us: 
A basic principle of any modern democracy is equality before the law. That principle includes tax law.

Nobody likes to pay taxes. It is often said that it is the price to pay for civilization. After all, they help pay for our schools, our roads, our health-care system and a social safety net that helps decrease income inequality. However, the pill is easier to swallow when everyone pays their fair share.

It's increasingly clear that in Canada -- and in most industrialized countries -- many are not. We have a two-tier system where the wealthy and the corporations can escape their obligations, and the rest of us can't.

As early as 1992, the auditor general of Canada pointed out the dangers of this unfair situation, when it warned that "Avoidance mechanisms also have a negative effect on the equity and integrity of the tax system and on public attitudes toward voluntary compliance. Access to such mechanisms is usually limited to those who can afford expensive advice. Those who cannot, therefore, may be denied equitable or even-handed treatment."
...
The problem is systemic in nature.

To put an end to tax evasion, aggressive tax avoidance, double standards and the culture of secrecy, we need to reform the system in Canada and on the international scene.- Sadie McInnes examines how homelessness (or the threat thereof) particularly affects Canadian women. And Ben Casselman points out why a focus on extremely long hours is antithetical to any attempt to reach pay equity.

- Andrew Coyne rebuts a few of the more outlandish lines of attack against proportional electoral systems with examples of highly successful countries which use them. And Devon Rowcliffe notes that PR's international track record actually involves improvements in representational diversity and political cooperation.

- Amanda Connolly reports on the Libs' delays and half-measures in reviewing Bill C-51, while Paul Wells argues that we shouldn't be surprised that the Trudeau Libs' idea of change to the Cons' surveillance policies is limited to matters of branding rather than substance. And James Di Fiore takes a closer look at Justin Trudeau's attempt to substitute carefully-managed photo ops for actual transparency:
Inadvertently, the piece outlined one of the most glaring problems with the Trudeau government: its brain trust has placed such a high value on presenting a certain image to the public that they have replaced transparency with celebrity, a strategy meant to seduce and distract rather than inform the public.

This calculation is duplicitous; it showcases an accessible leader but one with little time to get into the specifics of the policies that run counter to Trudeau's reputation of a real progressive. Keep giving the media the casual, approachable Trudeau, but keep the centre-right material in the vault. - Finally, Doug Cuthand discusses how the senseless killing of Coulten Boushie (and even more senseless attempts to justify or excuse it) has brought ingrained racism to the surface.

A Time For Some Critical Thinking

Politics and its Discontents - Fri, 08/19/2016 - 06:34

With Canada's police chiefs clamoring for new powers that would allow for a massive invasion of our collective privacy, Canadians need to take some time to think critically about our rights and freedoms. As you will see in the following, the first commentator, Rich van Abbe of Toronto, has done just that:
Re: Police chiefs pushing for your passwords, Aug. 17

It’s a bedrock principle of our justice system that no one should be compelled to give evidence against him- or herself.

That makes the demand by Canada’s police chiefs that a law be enacted to force citizens to divulge their computer and phone passwords such an odious suggestion.

There’s no question that authorities engaged in a lawful investigation should be able to obtain warrants from the courts to search suspects’ homes or businesses to seek evidence — even to bust down a locked door if necessary.

But no law requires that a subject of a search tell the cops where evidence may be concealed, or help them retrieve it. Finding it is what detectives are paid to do.

The law the chiefs are demanding might make investigators’ jobs easier, but it would enshrine a perverse violation of the principle of no self-incrimination, one of our most cherished legal protections.

The federal government should slap down this foray against Canadians’ rights in no uncertain terms.The second letter-writer, Claude Gannon of Markham, is quite happy to surrender his privacy, because he has "nothing to hide":
The police want my password? Here it is. I have nothing to hide.

The Internet has given criminals and radicalized individuals the possibility to operate anonymously, so the police and other law-enforcement bodies must be given the tools to curtail their activities. If this involves getting a hold of someone’s password, then so be it. Honest citizens have nothing to hide and will support the police.

Of course, civil libertarians and constitutional lawyers are very quick to cite privacy concerns, but safety and security should come first. Look around you: do people really care about privacy? Most of us are quite happy sharing our lives with banks, credit card companies, major retailers, rental companies…and the list goes on. Some people even display their whole lives on Facebook.

Let’s face it, we live in an increasingly dangerous world, and we need to give law-enforcement agencies all the help they need to combat crime and terrorism. If this means the occasional breach of privacy, then so be it!Finally, some fitting irony from Randy Gostlin of Oshawa:
Perhaps we should just assume everyone’s guilty until proven innocent —except, of course, for police. They’re always innocent.Recommend this Post

No Reason To Reject The System Outright

Northern Reflections - Fri, 08/19/2016 - 05:21


As Canada moves towards proportional representation, the Cassandras are wailing loudly. Andrew Coyne gives two examples -- from opposite ends of the political spectrum:

Here, for example, is Bill Tieleman, B.C. NDP strategist, writing in The Tyee: “How would you like an anti-immigrant, racist, anti-abortion or fundamentalist religious political party holding the balance of power in Canada? … Welcome to the proportional representation electoral system, where extreme, minority and just plain bizarre views get to rule the roost.”

At the other ideological pole, here’s columnist Lorne Gunter, writing in The Sun newspapers: “PR breaks the local bond between constituents and MPs … In a strict PR system, party leaders at national headquarters select who their candidates will be, or at least in what order they will make it into Parliament …” 
To the sceptics, Coyne writes, look at the countries where PR has been adopted:

Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland, all of whose parliaments are wholly or partially elected by proportional representation. 

We can at least describe accurately how their political system actually works, rather than rely on caricatures born of half-remembered newspaper clippings.

At one end, you have countries such as Austria, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg and Sweden, all with six to eight parties represented in their legislatures — or about one to three more than Canada’s, with five. At the other, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and Switzerland, with 10 to 12. 

Virtually all of these countries have some element of local representation: only the Netherlands, whose total area is less than that of some Canadian ridings, elects MPs at large. And none uses the “strict” form of PR Gunter describes, known as “closed list.” Rather, voters can generally choose which of a party’s candidates they prefer, so-called “open lists.”

How unstable are these systems? Since 1945, Canada has held 22 elections. In only one of the PR countries mentioned has there been more: Denmark, with 26. The average is 20. It is true that the governments that result are rarely, if ever, one-party majorities. But, as you may have noticed, that is not unknown here. Nine of Canada’s 22 federal elections since 1945 have resulted in minority parliaments. 
The sceptics like to point to two countries -- Israel and Italy. But both countries are outliers:

The Israeli parliament has 12 parties, Italy’s eight. By comparison, France, which uses a two-round system, has 14, while the United Kingdom — yes, Mother Britain — now has 11. More to the point, there are circumstances unique to each, not only in their parliamentary systems — Israel uses an extreme form of PR, while Italy’s, which has gone through several, defies description — but in their histories and political cultures. 
So, yes, it's important that the system be designed with care. But the fact that two countries have designed their systems poorly is no reason to reject the system outright.

Image: canadians.org

Catching Up With the Adventures of the Republican Clown Donald Trump

Montreal Simon - Fri, 08/19/2016 - 03:06


During the almost three weeks I spent in Scotland, I wasn't able to follow the adventures of the RepubliCon clown Donald Trump as closely as I normally do.

Because as you may know, most Scots can't stand Trump and would rather ignore him.

So you can imagine how surprised I was to turn on CNN when I got home last night, and see the angry orange sounding almost reasonable.

Read more »

New column day

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 08/18/2016 - 07:44
Here, on the forces competing to determine the scope and shape of Canada's security state - and why we shouldn't think it's good enough to settle for a status quo which includes needless intrusions into our civil liberties.

For further reading...
- Jim Bronskill reported here on Randall Garrison's plans to bring C-51 back before Parliament rather than letting the Libs keep delaying. And the bill establishing a closed-door parliamentary committee to review security matters (subject to full government control over both what it sees and what it reports) can be found here.
- CBC reported here on the outline of Aaron Driver's case, while Elizabeth Thompson highlighted how the system set up under C-51 failed utterly in managing an individual who was identified as a risk. And again, Murtada Hassain discussed Driver from the standpoint of the congregants of the mosque he attended.
- Finally, Bronskill also reports on the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police's resolution calling for people to be required to hand over electronic passwords. And Susana Mas reports on Ralph Goodale's response.

Thursday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 08/18/2016 - 07:27
This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Andrew Jackson makes the case for a review of Canada's tax system focused on boosting revenue from the wealthy people and corporations who can readily afford it:
These tax loopholes are costly. Partial inclusion of capital gains in taxable income costs the federal government alone $3.6 billion per year; partial inclusion of stock options costs $725 million per year; and special tax treatment of dividends costs $3.7 billion per year.

Realistic reform of these three tax preferences would likely limit them rather than eliminate them entirely. For example, the stock options deduction might continue, with a capped value and some exemption for employees in start-up companies. One might contemplate an increase in the capital gains inclusion rate to, say, 75% where it stood before 2000, with some protection for inflation, or a cap on the total amount of capital gains accrued.

Nonetheless, it is clear that significant additional tax revenues could be gained by limiting federal tax loopholes on capital income, and that this could lower the proportion of after-tax income received by the most affluent Canadians and promote greater income equality.- Will Denayer highlights how concentrated wealth can result in centuries of inequality. And Josh Boak discusses the issue of income inequality as it's been addressed in the U.S.' election campaign.

- Eric Holthaus weighs in on the need for immediate action to rein in climate change - along with the danger that we've already caused more damage than our planet can handle.

- Meanwhile, Ben Parfitt exposes BC Hydro's recognition that fracking and its resulting earthquakes could cause severe damage to hydro dams and other existing power infrastructure. And Derrick O'Keefe suggests that if fracking can't withstand a factual debate about its impacts, we should be hesitant to allow it at all.

- Finally, while some try to argue as to the main label to be affixed to the NDP, Don Braid nicely sums up what the party stands for at all levels:
The NDP always sees Alberta from the bottom up: from the street rather than the executive suite.

That simple fact explains how Premier Rachel Notley’s government behaves. It’s a useful lens for those still deeply disoriented by the first non-conservative government since, oh, early 1935.
...
The PPA dispute is just the most dramatic example of this instinctive sympathy for the underdog. More than a dozen policies reflect this, in every area from the workplace to the marketplace, from worker safety and consumer ripoffs to relations with First Nations.

The list includes minimum wage hikes; strict new controls on predatory payday loans; child tax benefits; investigating the Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council; the controversial farm safety bill; a review of condo deals; allowing victims of family violence to break residential leases; an apology to victims of mistreatment in residential schools; recognizing gender identity and expression; and a post-secondary tuition freeze.
...
That’s how the NDP sees the world — from down below. After decades with a government that was more comfortable with a corporate view, it takes getting used to.

Can They Survive?

Northern Reflections - Thu, 08/18/2016 - 05:12


The Conservative Party of Canada is a pretty fractious group. Consider each of the party's leadership candidates. Brent Rathgeber writes:

Kellie Leitch comes from the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario. Before entering politics, she worked with the late Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and his wife Christine Elliot, and was encouraged to run by former Ontario premier Bill Davis. Her support for the ill-fated barbaric cultural practices tip line notwithstanding, Dr. Leitch qualifies as a ‘progressive’ conservative.

Tony Clement served under Mike Harris before entering federal politics. He is a former president of PC Ontario and was said to be close to Mike Harris. He can be a fiscal hawk. He’s also the king of pork-barrel politics, having infamously diverted G8 security money to unrelated projects in his own riding.

Michael Chong is both a Red Tory and a democratic reformer. The author of the Reform Act, he once quit a cabinet position on a matter of principle. He knows how responsible government and parliamentary democracy are supposed to work.

Although Deepak Obhrai is tied for the longest-serving Conservative MP record, I don’t recall ever having heard him give a speech on domestic politics. I’m not sure what he stands for. His interests lie primarily in global affairs. If nothing else, the Tanzanian-born politician’s entry into the race shows that the CPC is still relevant to new Canadians.

Max Bernier is the darling of the libertarian wing. His plans to abolish supply management and end industrial subsidies also appeal to fiscal hawks and free-market classical liberals. But his live-and-let-live attitudes on social issues put him in direct conflict with Brad Trost, who entered the race yesterday.

Trost is unapologetically pro-life and anti-gay marriage. At the May CPC convention in Vancouver, Trost was the MP spokesperson for delegates opposed to a resolution deleting from official Tory policy the traditional ‘one-man-one-woman’ definition of marriage.
Each sect in the party has its candidate. But you see the problem. There appears to be no one who can bridge the divides. And those divides could tear the party apart. Conservatives may soon be asking the same question the Republicans are asking: Can the party survive its leader?

Image: telegraph.co.uk

Canadians Demand Action to Get the Gore Out of Our Faces

Dammit Janet - Thu, 08/18/2016 - 05:10
Abortion is a legal, common, safe -- and except in the tiny minds of a tiny minority -- ordinary medial procedure.

For the tiny minds, however, it is "killing" and they want it stopped.

To that end, some groups -- most notably the Fetal Gore Porn Gang, aka Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform -- will go to any lengths, including endangering drivers, scaring children, and disgusting just about everyone with their antics.

Some towns and cities have stood up to the gore-meisters. Others have caved, in fear of being taken to court over "free speech."

Well, Canadians are sick of the gore shoved in their and their children's faces and sick of their craven politicians, elected -- supposedly -- to represent constituents.

An e-petition to the Parliament of Canada is demanding action.

Text of the petition:
Petition to the Government of Canada
Whereas:
• Groups have been gathering in peaceful protest against abortion showing graphic imagery;
• The sight of such imagery is being exposed to nonconsenting individuals and children;
• Imagery may be triggering for persons who have suffered trauma and loss involving pregnancy, infancy, childbirth, etc.., including but not limited to: miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, abortion, domestic violence, and fleeing a country involved in war.

We, the undersigned, Citizens and residents of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to please intervene and create law setting out the limitations as to what imagery and content can be used in a protest or similar demonstration that is subject to public viewing.
The petition was started on August 15 and yesterday at about 7 p.m. I saw a tweet from Campaign Lie.

Petition sponsored by @MPCelina 2 stop graphic abortion images. Is this how @liberal_party defends #freedomofspeech? https://t.co/H4KyXiMpMD

— CampgnLifeCoalition (@CampaignLife) August 17, 2016

When I signed it, it had just over 1200 signatures. This morning, over 1800.

Clearly, this is something Canadians care about and want fixed.

If you care too, please sign it and pass the link along.

Here's the link in plain text for easy copying: https://petitions.parl.gc.ca/en/Petition/Details?Petition=e-485

(We at DAMMIT JANET! contend that such ads and displays constitute hate speech. They target the patients and providers of a particular legal medical service and hold them up to ridicule, hate, and possibly violence. We'll have more to say about this later.)



Image source from Hamilton, Ontario, September 2013.

Scotland and the Battle to Free Canada

Montreal Simon - Wed, 08/17/2016 - 22:42


Every year when I return to my family home in Scotland I find myself doing the same things.

Reliving my childhood on the massive beaches that line the north east coast.



Returning to the bay where I first learned to sail, as the jet fighters from the nearby RAF base scream overhead.
Read more »

I am skeptical of hate speech laws

Dawg's Blawg - Wed, 08/17/2016 - 16:01
It’s probably not a secret around here that I take a more libertarian approach to free speech issues than our master the Dawg, heh. One of the reasons for this has been slowly revealing itself in the alarming growth... Mandos http://politblogo.typepad.com/

On neo-Maoism

Dawg's Blawg - Wed, 08/17/2016 - 11:00
This year is the fiftieth anniversary of the so-called Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, launched by Mao Zedong to root out “bourgeois tendencies” among the Chinese population. This purity-fest went on for a decade, at enormous cost. China’s schools were shut... Dr.Dawg http://drdawgsblawg.ca/

Wednesday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Wed, 08/17/2016 - 10:53
Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Ann McFeatters reminds us of the good a government can do when it dedicates itself to identifying and responding to urgent public needs. And Bill McKibben makes the case for an all-out mobilization against climate change:
We’re used to war as metaphor: the war on poverty, the war on drugs, the war on cancer. Usually this is just a rhetorical device, a way of saying, “We need to focus our attention and marshal our forces to fix something we don’t like.” But this is no metaphor. By most of the ways we measure wars, climate change is the real deal: Carbon and methane are seizing physical territory, sowing havoc and panic, racking up casualties, and even destabilizing governments. (Over the past few years, record-setting droughts have helped undermine the brutal strongman of Syria and fuel the rise of Boko Haram in Nigeria.) It’s not that global warming is like a world war. It is a world war. Its first victims, ironically, are those who have done the least to cause the crisis. But it’s a world war aimed at us all. And if we lose, we will be as decimated and helpless as the losers in every conflict--except that this time, there will be no winners, and no end to the planetwide occupation that follows.

The question is not, are we in a world war? The question is, will we fight back? And if we do, can we actually defeat an enemy as powerful and inexorable as the laws of physics?
...
Today we live in the privatized, siloed, business-dominated world that took root under McNamara and flourished under Reagan. The actual wars we fight are marked by profiteering, and employ as many private contractors as they do soldiers. Our spirit of social solidarity is, to put it mildly, thin. (The modern-day equivalent of Father Coughlin is now the Republican candidate for president.) So it’s reasonable to ask if we can find the collective will to fight back in this war against global warming, as we once fought fascism.

For starters, it’s important to remember that a truly global mobilization to defeat climate change wouldn’t wreck our economy or throw coal miners out of work. Quite the contrary: Gearing up to stop global warming would provide a host of social and economic benefits, just as World War II did. It would save lives. (A worldwide switch to renewable energy would cut air pollution deaths by 4 to 7 million a year, according to the Stanford data.) It would produce an awful lot of jobs. (An estimated net gain of roughly two million in the United States alone.) It would provide safer, better-paying employment to energy workers. (A new study by Michigan Technological University found that we could retrain everyone in the coal fields to work in solar power for as little as $181 million, and the guy installing solar panels on a roof averages about $4,000 more a year than the guy risking his life down in the hole.) It would rescue the world’s struggling economies. (British economist Nicholas Stern calculates that the economic impacts of unchecked global warming could far exceed those of the world wars or the Great Depression.) And fighting this war would be socially transformative. (Just as World War II sped up the push for racial and gender equality, a climate campaign should focus its first efforts on the frontline communities most poisoned by the fossil fuel era. It would help ease income inequality with higher employment, revive our hollowed-out rural states with wind farms, and transform our decaying suburbs with real investments in public transit.)
...
The next president doesn’t have to wait for a climate equivalent of Pearl Harbor to galvanize Congress. Much of what we need to do can—and must—be accomplished immediately, through the same use of executive action that FDR relied on to lay the groundwork for a wider mobilization. The president could immediately put a halt to drilling and mining on public lands and waters, which contain at least half of all the untapped carbon left in America. She could slow the build-out of the natural gas system simply by correcting the outmoded way the EPA calculates the warming effect of methane, just as Obama reined in coal-fired power plants. She could tell her various commissioners to put a stop to the federal practice of rubber-stamping new fossil fuel projects, rejecting those that would “significantly exacerbate” global warming. She could instruct every federal agency to buy all their power from green sources and rely exclusively on plug-in cars, creating new markets overnight. She could set a price on carbon for her agencies to follow internally, even without the congressional action that probably won’t be forthcoming. And just as FDR brought in experts from the private sector to plan for the defense build-out, she could get the blueprints for a full-scale climate mobilization in place even as she rallies the political will to make them plausible. Without the same urgency and foresight displayed by FDR—without immediate executive action—we will lose this war. - David Camfield discusses the clash in visions as to Canada Post's future as either a long-term provider of needed public services, or an organization devoted to shrinking services and expectations for workers and the public alike. And Katie Simpson examines how federal workers are justifiably reluctant to take overtime work when they're unlikely to get paid for it.

- Bianca Wylie points out the lack of funding for Toronto's anti-poverty strategy, while recognizing the importance of following through on the commitment. And Poverty Free Saskatchewan offers its take (PDF) on a provincial budget which looks to be going backwards in the name of corporate-run "transformation".

- Finally, Alison highlights the Libs' choice to facilitate the sale of arms to human rights abusers - and their bizarre spin about revisiting the desirability of the loopholes they've opened up.

The Lie That Won't -- But Should -- Die

Dammit Janet - Wed, 08/17/2016 - 10:25
My heart sank a few days ago when I saw yet another headline in the fetus freak media SHRIEEEKING about the abortion=breast cancer (ABC) link-lie. Not because I expected anything other than the usual half-baked BS, but because I've taken on the Sisyphean task of refuting every new -- and they come around like clockwork every couple of years -- AMAZING STUDY that "proves" abortion causes breast cancer.

After I read beyond the headline, I realized it was just Angela Lanfranchi flapping her gums and re-upping her anti-choice creds. Nothing new.

But I got thinking about it from another angle.

Why do they keep doing this? The ABC link has been repeatedly, exhaustively, comprehensively trashed by major medical research organizations every time the freaks roll it out.

Every time.

Yet they keep it up. We know they are desperate for any shred of credibility, so why would they keep thumping this absolutely worthless piece of BAD (biased, agenda-driven) science? It can do nothing but further marginalize their stable of paid pet pseudo-scientists.

So, I wondered, does it work? What does it do for them?

Well, if it is intended to dissuade women from abortion, it's not doing much. In fact, according to anti-choice's own stats, very little is helping on that front.

Amanda Marcotte quotes researcher Nicole Knight Shine:
“Of the 2.6 million clients who visited crisis pregnancy centers since 2004, 3.52 percent, or 92,679 people, decided against having an abortion,” Shine writes. Yep, out of all the women that CPCs themselves describe as “clients who came to the center with initial intentions of Abortion or Undecided and then changed their mind to carry baby to term,” fewer than 4% were deterred by anti-choice propaganda.
Fewer than 4%.

Not even the Magical Ultrasound helps. The freaks have a mystical reverence for ultrasound. They've convinced legislatures in the US to force women to view these murky images, usually with narration of a bullshit script on fetal development written by politicians.

But a recent study investigated whether such viewing changes minds. Surprise, it does not. Under conditions where women were given the choice to view the images or not, of those who chose to see them, 98% went ahead with termination.

Groups such as the Fetal Gore Porn Gang (aka CCBR) insist that graphic anti-abortion images "work", but offer no evidence, just assertion.

I kept looking.

I found tons of studies on the reasons given by people for their abortions. But no studies on reasons given for rejecting abortion.

Lots of anecdotal stories from the freak media. "I just couldn't," "Jeezus spoke to me," etc. but no studies.

(Yes, yes, I know. A negative can't be proven.)

When I finally hit on the search term "abortion-minded women," I thought I might be getting somewhere. ("Abortion-minded" is an anti-choice classification for people stumbling into fake clinics. The others are "abortion-vulnerable" and "likely to carry.")

This search turned up a bunch of pages of advice for sidewalk harassers and fake-clinic bullies. Some of them are hilarious. Like this one,
"Reaching the Post-Modern Abortion-Minded Client". Note use (bolded by me) of "girls."
In the 1950s, if you were counseling an abortion-minded woman, you would probably appeal to her sense of morality. Abortion is illegal. Abortion kills your baby. Simply put, abortion is wrong.

Much has changed in five decades. Now, abortion is not only legal, but also staunchly protected by the nation's highest courts. Whether or not abortion is wrong simply depends on your religious preference or political leanings.

A new wave of abortion-minded clients is appearing at pregnancy care centers across the country. These girls have been taught to reject any form of universal morality. These girls grew up believing that having an abortion is as easy as taking a pill. Therefore, pregnancy care centers will have to dramatically change their methods in order to reach these post-modern young women.It goes on in similarly patronizing and totally out-of-touch style for ten more paragraphs. It concludes:
If current trends continue, public schools will become even greater bastions of post-modern, anti-biblical thought. Abortion, as well as many other sinful choices, will become even more acceptable. Children will be raised with even less biblical and moral upbringing. Pregnancy care centers need to prepare their staff for this shift in American culture, and come up with new ways to reach the post-modern (and very needy) client.It was published in 2009 and the author promised a follow-up, "The Secret to Counseling the Abortion-Minded Client," but I couldn't find it. I guess the secret proved a little more elusive than she thought -- as evidenced by the dismal 3.52% success rate cited above.

None of the similar helpful advice pages I found included any reference to breast cancer. So, it seems they're not using the ABC lie on the front-lines.

And really, when women are prepared to put their lives at risk to escape forced reproduction, what's a little future breast cancer possible increase?

Back in 2002, Joyce Arthur crunched what we know to be the totally made-up numbers, specifically the 30% increase that Joel Brind, the granddaddy of this scam, still clings to.

For the sake of argument, let's suppose that Brind's ABC link is real. What would it really mean? He claims that abortion may boost the risk of breast cancer by 30%, but this increase is not really that significant anyway. For example, the risk is two to three times higher (200 to 300%) for a woman whose mother or sister had breast cancer after age 50. Even this well-established risk factor is considered moderate by scientists. In comparison, the alleged ABC link barely qualifies—even if it's real, the risk is close to negligible. To put it another way, the National Cancer Institute estimates the current risk of breast cancer to be 1 in 2,525 for a woman in her 30's—if that risk was increased by 30%, it means 1 in 1,942 women would get breast cancer.
But they do not. Because abortion does NOT cause breast cancer.

Still this canard keeps coming around.

The only possible conclusion is that its impact is mostly on legislators and conspiracy nuts. ("What the abortion industry doesn't want you to know."*) For individuals, it's just more of the usual stigmatizing and fear-mongering. But without any resulting dissuasion. Just, you know, torture.

It's not only not my job but counter-productive to advise the freaks on tactics. But in the wake of the US Supreme Court's Hellerstedt decision, in which the notion that making abortion more difficult to access somehow "protects" women was decisively smacked around and kicked down the stairs, they might want to consider abandoning the ABC lie.

But that's just wishful thinking, I guess. I'm so sick of this.

What would be very useful to know is what convinces pregnant people who are considering termination not to. Someone should get at that very little">3.52% and find out what changed their minds.




*The conspiracy nuts have a new vehicle. It's a film called "Hush" made by a Canadian filmmaker, featuring Kay Mère on her ABC soap-box, and funded by the Alberta government. Or so the filmmakers claim and the Alberta government denies. I'll get to that in a future post.

We Should All Be Very Concerned

Politics and its Discontents - Wed, 08/17/2016 - 08:03


Given the authorities' recent success in thwarting Aaron Driver's plans for a terrorist attack, I suspect that most Canadians are not too concerned about protecting their privacy rights. The fact that existing laws, legal surveillance and a timely tip from the FBI were responsible for stopping him should, however, be uppermost in our minds as a recent resolution by Canada's police chiefs and technology that allows for indiscriminate eavesdropping are now in the news.
Canada’s police chiefs want a new law that would force people to hand over their electronic passwords with a judge’s consent.

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has passed a resolution calling for the legal measure to unlock digital evidence, saying criminals increasingly use encryption to hide illicit activities.This law, by the way, would involve unfettered access to all electronic devices that are password-protected, including computers, tablets and cellphones, something that many would argue the state has absolutely no right to.

Thanks to some sleuthing done by my son, who sent me a series of links, you might also be shocked to know that our privacy rights are already being regularly violated by police in what would, in the old days, be called 'fishing expeditions.'

Motherboard reports the following:
The Edmonton Police Service owns a controversial surveillance device called a “Stingray” that indiscriminately surveils any cellphone within its multi-kilometre range, a police spokesperson confirmed on Thursday to Motherboard.Previously the exclusive domain of the RCMP, these devices
force any phones within a target radius [usually several kilometers] to connect to the device and transmit identifying information. When a phone is caught by a Stingray, the police obtain the phone and SIM card IDs, as well as its location and service carrier. More recent Stingray devices are capable of intercepting voice and text communications. Stingrays surveil phones indiscriminately, leading some commentators to label them as “mass surveillance” devices.Queries to a several other major police services were met with refusals to acknowledge their use, and now the Edmonton police are trying to backtrack. Police spokeswoman Anna Batchelor has issued a'retraction,' saying that
“there was some miscommunication/misunderstanding internally surrounding the information obtained on whether the EPS owns a StingRay, and in fact, the EPS does not own a StingRay device.”

She said it was police policy not to comment on “equipment used in electronic surveillance or on investigative techniques, therefore EPS cannot provide any further information on this topic.”This feeble attempt at damage control should fool no one, nor should it lull us into a false sense of our privacy security. The problem is that we are currently dependent only on the honesty and goodwill of police departments to use such devices properly. For example, the Vancouver Police admit to using it only once, and records indicate that use was legitimate and authorized. But there are almost no legal safeguards to its legitimate deployment, as
we have absolutely no policy or regulatory response to police and intelligence agencies’ use of Stingrays despite the RCMP having had Stingrays for over a decade.Contrast this lackadaisical approach with Germany, which has had federal regulation over such devices since 2002, stipulating the following:-a warrant is required;

-Stingrays can only be used for investigation of serious crimes;

-Stingrays can only be used to determine suspects’ geo-location (not interception of communication’s content);

-the process must limit the collection of non-suspects’ data;

-non-suspects’ data cannot be used for any purpose other than confirming that it is non-suspects’ data and that this incidentally captured data must be deleted without delay;

-police use of Stingray is subject to reporting requirements for oversight and review.Canadians, meanwhile, are being kept in the dark:
WE DO NOT KNOW whether warrants are always being sought or the nature of the warrants being applied for;

-WE DO NOT KNOW what judges are being told about the capacities of Stingrays with respect to the warrants being applied for;

-WE DO NOT KNOW if any minimization techniques are used to limit the collection of data of people who are not the targets of surveillance;

-WE DO NOT KNOW what is being done with the personal information of the thousands of people who are not the targets of legitimate police investigation.Over the years I have tried to chronicle the myriad abuses of authority the police regularly engage in. In these fraught times, the temptation to take shortcuts, violate charter rights and generally abuse the citizenry is high. Now is not the time to give police even greater opportunity for intrusion into and violation of our lives. They need to work within tight and responsible constraints. To do otherwise should be unacceptable to all Canadians.Recommend this Post

Trump to Receive First Intelligence Briefing Today

LeDaro - Wed, 08/17/2016 - 07:47
Normally a presidential candidate receiving a classified intelligence briefing is not big news, it has been done for decades. However with Donald Trump... can he be trusted? Will he blurt out information at a rally when he goes "off script"? How soon will Putin get his intelligence briefing given Trump's comfortable relationship with Russia"?

You can read more on this story here.

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