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Ship Adrift Off Haida Gwai

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 13:24


A Russian container ship, said to be laden with oil, is adrift in gale force winds approximately 15 kms. off  Haida Gwai in the vicinity of where Harper wants to ply the waters with supertankers full of bitumen.

A Coast Guard ship is enroute and expected to arrive by 9 p.m. by which time the Russian ship's fate could well be sealed. The vessel is expected to be on the rocks at around that time.  A tug has also been dispatched but most ocean-going tugs of large capacity have to come from Washington state.  In stormy conditions the trip can take two to three days.

The vessel Simushir is reported to be laden with 500 tonnes of bunker oil and 60 tonnes of diesel.



One of You is Unhinged. Is It You or Is It Your Prime Minister?

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 12:05
How do you source your reality?  Do you discern it out of the best facts available or do you divine it out of your beliefs?

A sane person finds reality anchored in facts.  A lunatic cares little for facts and anchors his notion of reality in the beliefs embedded in his psyche.  That pretty much sums up the cognitive path of our prime minister, Stephen Harper.

You can see our prime minister's dysfunction in both what seizes his attention and what, curiously, does not.

After 8+ years at the helm, Stephen Harper's agenda seems astonishingly truncated.  His focus appears narrowed to doing everything conceivable to promote Canada's fossil fuel resources, particularly bitumen; defunding the federal government; and exploiting the powers of office in the most unconscionable way to stifle dissent and punish opponents.

All in all, Stephen Harper is a nasty piece of work.  He's a true shitheel and very little else.  He's far from a leader of a nation.  He governs, not by anything resembling leadership, but through secrecy, falsehood, manipulation (especially of his supporters), coercion and intimidation.  He sees base instinct as opportunity.

Coming to power on promises of transparency and accountability, Harper immediately threw a blanket over government beneath which he wasted no time transforming the national police force, the public service and the armed forces, into his partisan political agencies.  For eight years we have seen how, as his personal property, these branches of government have been sequestered, marooned, isolated from the public, even from the press.  I do not know what sort of offices Joseph Stalin must have maintained but I suspect they bore at least a passing resemblance to today's PMO, Harper's den of skullduggery.

Even as grave problems loom and evolve that threaten the country and future generations, this empty vessel of manhood simply ignores them.  Climate change, inequality, the faltering of our economic, industrial, social and geo-political apparatus are simply irrelevant to a Canada as it exists in Harper's reality.

It would be one thing if this character's authoritarian instincts were benevolent but they're not.  He has not secured the future of our country and our people.  He has repeatedly advanced narrow interests over the public good.  We know from confidantes that Harper has a decidedly Jekyll and Hyde persona.  He cloaks himself in Jekyll for public consumption but those on the inside must stand dutifully as Hyde emerges when Harper is free from prying eyes.

It is difficult to understand why the opposition fail to attack Harper in the Commons, calling him out, denouncing him for his tyranny and despotism.  A dictionary definition of "tyrant" or "despot" fits Harper perfectly.  He's nothing if not authoritarian, autocratic, arbitrary, cruel and oppressive.

The opposition lacks the numbers to have any meaningful impact on Harper's authoritarian legislative initiatives.  Why not, then, organize a resistance?  Call him out on the floor of the House.  Denounce him as a despot, a chiseler, a liar. Accept banishment from the Commons and establish a resistance movement, akin to a government (in waiting) in exile at the periphery of Parliament.

Harper is unhinged but the Canadian people are not.  Create an example.  Show disaffected, disengaged Canadians that they too can rise up and resist this farce of a government.  I think they would find a welcoming audience from one end of this country to the other.


The Dangers Are Only Too Apparent And Predictable

Politics and its Discontents - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 11:51


I was taking a bit of a break from blogging today when this came up, a sobering object lesson in the environmental disasters that we flirt with on the West Coast:
A 135-metre container ship laden with bunker and diesel fuel is adrift off the west coast of Haida Gwaii, the Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Victoria is reporting.

The Russian container ship Simushir is about 25 kilometres off Tasu Sound, according to the centre.The Council of Haida Nations has issued an emergency alert in case the ship makes landfall, in part because the ship is reportedly carrying 500 tonnes of bunker fuel and 60 tonnes of diesel.Recommend this Post

This Should Give You Something to Chew On

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 09:24
Remember that global warming target of keeping temperature increases within 2 degrees Celsius by 2100?  2C, you may recall, is supposed to be the point within which we might - just might - avoid catastrophic, i.e. runaway, global warming.  2C, it's thought (perhaps wishfully) will give us a better than even chance of keeping this party going.

Did I mention Barrow, Alaska?  Barrow is here, in the red circle:


You probably noticed that Barrow is near the northernmost point in Alaska, well within the Arctic Circle. It's actually because of how far north Barrow is situated that it has already logged 7 degrees Celsius (not Fahrenheit, real degrees - Celsius) of warming.

In the last 34 years, the average October temperature in Barrow has risen by more than 7°C − an increase that, on its own, makes a mockery of international efforts to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 2°C above their pre-industrial levels.

A study by scientists at the University of Alaska Fairbanks analysed several decades of weather information. These show that temperature trends are closely linked to sea ice concentrations, which have been recorded since 1979, when accurate satellite measurements began.

The study, published in the Open Atmospheric Science Journal, traces what has happened to average annual and monthly temperatures in Barrow from 1979 to 2012.

In that period, the average annual temperature rose by 2.7C. But the November increase was far higher − more than six degrees. And October was the most striking of all, with the month’s average temperature 7.2C higher in 2012 than in 1979.

That's 7 degrees Celsius, 12.6 degrees Fahrenheit, of warming over the incredibly brief span of just 34-years. 

The sad thing is this is going to be music to the ears of the "Drill Baby, Drill" crowd.  Sarah Palin & Co., indeed our own Beelzebub, are going to see this as God's delivery to man of all that bountiful Arctic oil and gas wealth.  And what the Lord has given, they will not let languish untouched.

The Madness of King Stephen

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 08:44

As excuses for war go, claiming a conflict to be "noble" is really scraping the bottom of the barrel.  It's something you resort to when there's simply nothing left to pull out of your ass.  "Squires, attend your Lords.  Summon the Heralds. To the jousts! Ah, there's a noble scent to the air."

Perhaps Harper had to call our adventure in Iraq noble because the default option would have been "insane."  Insane in the popular sense of doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.  It's that sort of insane.

Over at Foreign Policy, Harvard international relations prof, Stephen Walt, serves up an op-ed, "Uncle Sucker to the Rescue," in which he explains that Obama is repeating the same mistakes that have plagued American excursions in the Middle East for decades.  While Walt focuses on Obama, his views do help make some sense of Harper and his Quixotic quest for a noble war.

Ever since the first Gulf War, U.S. leaders have routinely exaggerated the threat that the United States faced in Iraq and/or Syria. ...Why is threat inflation a problem? When we exaggerate dangers in order to sell a military, we are more likely to do the wrong thing instead of taking the time to figure out if a) action is really necessary and b) what the best course of action might be. When a great power gets spooked by some grisly beheadings and decides it just has to "do something," the danger is that it will decide to do something unwise.

A recurring problem in the conduct of U.S. foreign policy has been the insistence that no problem can be solved if Uncle Sam isn't leading the charge. By portraying IS as a direct threat to America and by rushing to attack it, however, we are telling the Iraqis, Kurds, Turks, Saudis, and everybody else that the cavalry is on the way and that they don't need to do much themselves. No wonder we can't get the Shiite-led government in Baghdad to be less corrupt, more inclusive, and more effective; no wonder we can't get Turkey to focus on IS instead of the Kurds; and no wonder we can't get the Saudis to do more to stop the flow of money and poisonous ideas to extremist groups. Simple equation: The more Washington promises to do for them, the less our local partners will do for themselves.

...Frankly, after all the resources we've poured into Iraq and Afghanistan, and the meager cooperation we got from our putative allies there, I would think America's "staying power" wouldn't really be an issue. Instead of pouring good money (and possibly U.S. lives) down that particular rat hole, I'd like to see the people who are most directly affected start fighting this one for themselves. Unless the Turks, Jordanians, Kurds, and other Iraqis are willing to get their acts together to contain these vicious extremists, even a protracted and costly U.S. effort will amount to little.

Sorting Out Conflicting Priorities

...the neoconservatives in the Bush administration hoped that toppling Saddam would be the first step in a campaign to transform most of the region into a sea of pro-American democracies. Once it became clear that Iraq had no WMD program, the goal of spreading "liberty" throughout the region took on greater salience. This objective led U.S. officials to focus more attention on holding elections than on achieving genuine reconciliation or creating political institutions that actually worked. Plus, we had no idea what we were doing.
A similar problem afflicts our efforts in the region now. Is it more important to defeat IS, remove Bashar al-Assad from power in Syria, or keep Iran isolated and halt its nuclear program forever? Because these goals are inherently contradictory -- weakening IS helps Assad, cooperating with Iran against IS might require compromising more on the nuclear issue, etc. -- it is almost impossible to pursue all three simultaneously. But I can't tell which of these (and other) goals the Obama administration regards as most important. And if we keep trying to pursue all three, we probably won't achieve any of them.
Today, the Obama administration seems surprised that the Turkish government is more worried by Kurdish nationalism than by IS, and that many Sunnis in Anbar think Baghdad and various Shiite militias are a greater threat than IS is. The reality is that other states, tribes, sects, and groups have their own interests, and those interests don't conveniently coincide with the prevailing orthodoxy in Washington, D.C. That doesn't mean their view is right and that U.S. politicians are wrong, but successful diplomacy has to start by recognizing that no two states see things exactly the same way and others sometimes understand their own interests better than we do. Then, you have to work to find whatever common ground might exist. And if there isn't enough common ground to make the strategy work, be ready to walk away.

The final error -- sadly, one all too typical of recent U.S. foreign policy -- is that we are promising the moon and delivering moon pies. The Bush administration promised that the invasion of Iraq would be short, easy, and would pay for itself. Bush also told us the United States would eliminate all "terrorists of global reach." Trying to eliminate a particular tactic used by many diverse groups was a fool's errand, especially when U.S. military intervention tends to reinforce the extremists' narrative and helps them replenish their ranks with new recruits. The United States is still in Afghanistan today -- and so are the Taliban -- and it is congratulating itself on convincing the Afghan government to let us stay for a few more years. And now we are headed back into Iraq. Osama bin Laden may be dead and gone, but the endless war that he foresaw would sap U.S. strength and weaken existing Arab governments is still underway.
...Obama now promises to "degrade and destroy" IS. He is succumbing to the same tendency to overstate what U.S. military power can accomplish in this context. Air power alone cannot "destroy" IS, because it is too imprecise an instrument and because the extremists can blunt its effectiveness by dispersing its own forces and mingling with the local population, thereby producing an unacceptable risk of civilian casualties. We can try training the Iraqi army again and we can back various Iraqi tribes and militias, but our earlier training efforts clearly failed and our experience in Afghanistan suggests that this is more likely to lead to warlordism and renewed sectarian fighting than it is to produce a stable political order

The bottom line.  It's a regional war being waged, to the suiting of both sides, by Western infidels.  The people who could put a lasting end to it aren't there - the Saudis, Egypt, the Gulf States.  They've got soldiers and tanks right up the yin-yang sitting back in their barracks watching endless reruns of old Eurovision contests.   

The oil sheikhs and princes are quite content to see the West dragged into an indefinite skirmish in Shiite-leaning Iraq and Syria even if we may leave their latest Frankenmonster, ISIS, a bit bruised and battered.  We have demonstrated that our "All the King's horses and all the King's men" style of war-waging, the "noble" kind is never decisive, never yields a worthwhile outcome.

I wonder if they think we're mad?  I wonder if they're counting on it?



Friday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 08:26
Assorted content to end your week.

- Paul Kershaw examines political parties' child care plans past and present, and finds the NDP's new proposal to achieve better results at a lower cost. The Star's editorial board weighs in on the desperate need for an improved child care system, while PressProgress focuses on the economic benefits. Nora Loreto notes that we should ultimately push for the "universal" aspect of the proposal to mean "free". And Trish Hennessy observes that there's reason to think a universally-available system will resonate with the Canadian public:
We wondered how parents in Canada would “sell” a universal national child care plan to fellow Canadians. The words came flying fast and loose:

“Free.”
“Affordable.”
“Accessible to everyone.”
“Good for families.”
“Everyone seems equal.”
“Quebec has it. How come we don’t?”

That was their sales pitch.
...
Everywhere in Canada, parents engage in a social and financial calculus to determine whether one of them stays home instead of working ‘to pay for daycare’, whether they work opposite shifts so that one parent is always home and to yield cost efficiencies, or whether they wade through a range of possibilities – from having grandma look after the children to placing the child on a child care waiting list immediately upon conception.

Parents displayed a tenacious resourcefulness, often patching together services and supports with limited means to pay for them. It’s like they perform quiet acts of heroism, day in and day out.

In the end, it was the economic argument that proved to be a potent force. They understood affordable child care as a service that would enable parents to work and contribute to the local economy and, in turn, contribute to the tax base – which they understood is how a country pays for a universal program that benefits everyone.- Jim Stanford writes that a free trade agreement with South Korea deserves to be subject to some serious questioning. And Philip Dorling discusses a few of the nastiest surprises in the Trans-Pacific Partnership - including the U.S.' demand that all participating countries agree to make reporting on damaging commercial secrets a criminal offence.

- Which is to say that anybody looking to expose, say, the role of corporate greed and neglect in creating gross risks to the public will have reason to think twice if the business lobby gets its way. 

- Of course, the Cons are well ahead of the game on the "stifling speech" aspect of the TPP - as evidenced by the latest CRA crackdown against Kitchener-Waterloo birdwatchers for daring to write to a public official about the impact of chemicals on bee colonies. 

- Meanwhile, Nicholas Hildyard offers up a presentation on how P3s extract wealth from the public on behalf of elites around the world.

- Finally, Citizens for Public Justice has released its latest report on poverty in Canada - with a particular focus on groups including recent immigrants, First Nations persons and lone female parents who bear particularly heavy burdens of poverty.

Irresponsible Government

Northern Reflections - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 07:27

                                             http://thechronicleherald.ca/

Brent Rathgeber's book, The Decline of Parliamentary Democracy in Canada is seminal. Frances Russell writes:

Canada’s parliament is now a damp squib, a meek handmaid to power. Parliament is ruled by the prime minister and the cabinet , not the other way around. Conservative MPs see themselves as obedient servants of the party, cabinet and prime minister, not representatives of their constituents.
You could call it “executive or presidential democracy.” It certainly is the polar opposite of parliamentary democracy.
Certainly, Rathgeber has witnessed that decline -- particularly in the last eight years. He writes:

“The current government prefers to govern by order-in-council and executive edict as opposed to having to answer to an occasionally meddlesome Parliament,” Rathgeber writes. “As a result, the executive has so neutered the institutions of Parliament as to render them nearly impotent, practically unable to fulfill their constitutional duty to hold the executive to account…(T)o the greatest extent possible, it prefers to run all aspects of Parliament rather than be accountable to it.”
Living next door to the United States, we have adopted a presidential model of leadership:

The most corrosive and dangerous development in Canada’s fully Americanized parliamentary system is the highly centralized power of the PMO and cabinet with a majority government. Add the now-complete stifling of the rights of ordinary MPs to say or do anything on their own, and Canada has degenerated into a virtual dictatorship.

And that’s without including the ability of the prime minister to prorogue, recess and dissolve parliament at whim.

And no one can claim that the trend is present in all parliamentary democracies:

Compare this sorry state of affairs to the parliamentary system in place in Britain and Australia, Canada’s sister parliamentary democracies. “(British Prime Minister) Margaret Thatcher was deposed by her own caucus, and twice in the last four years the Australia Labour Party has rejected a leader (and prime minister) and then rejected the replacement on the will of the caucus,” Rathgeber writes. “This is normal; this is parliamentary democracy as it should be, where the leader leads the caucus but does not dominate it. The aforementioned Westminster democracies, which have not fallen prey to creeping presidentialism , are thought to be much more functional by academics…”
It's quite clear that Stephen Harper would be quite comfortable with the monikers "Mr. President" and "Commander-in-Chief." And that's precisely why he needs to be thrown out of office in the next election.


We'll be in Montreal for the next couple of days. My plan is to resume blogging on Monday.



Big Brother Harper and the Gentle Birdwatchers

Montreal Simon - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 05:08


First he came for the environmentalists and the activists. Then he came for the scientists.

Then he came for those who fight poverty, and help the poor.

Now he's come for the birdwatchers. 
Read more »

a war resister connects the dots: canada, is this the war you want to fight?

we move to canada - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 03:30
A U.S. war resister in Canada writes in this NOW Magazine.
Very soon you will begin to hear about Canadian planes sending “humanitarian aid” of food and medical supplies to those affected by the fighting. . . .

And now ISIL is touted as the new enemy from the darkness as if their emergence was not foreseeable. In reality, ISIL is just the latest incarnation of a very old xenophobic sect of Islam, the Wahhabi movement, finding new breath in the aftermath of yet another war. Our bombs have only made them stronger, just as they always have.

The Harper Conservatives are hoping you are not engaged enough to notice its hopes of attaining a new casus belli for Canada. But if Harper gets his way, you’ll soon be spending money you don’t have on a war that’s making you less safe, not more.

And what about the long-term costs for the soldiers who do come home? How will Canada be able to take care of them? Large numbers of Canadian veterans from the war in Afghanistan have already become homeless, jobless or committed suicide. They have yet to receive care from a resource-strapped Veterans Affairs Canada. How will VAC be able to meet the needs of even more veterans?

Please understand that I don’t mean to forgive the barbarity that ISIL has clearly committed. As an American soldier, I witnessed first-hand how war makes monsters of us all. Everyone with a gun in a war zone thinks themselves “one of the good guys,” but the idea that anyone in a war acts in accordance with international law is a myth.

Once I realized this, I decided I could not participate in a war of aggression (the Iraq war of 2003) launched against people who had not committed any crime. I found taking part in this war a violation of both international law and basic moral behaviour, to such a degree that I could not have any further part in it.

Many others made the same choice I did, and a good number of us came to Canada seeking refuge. We have experienced first-hand the lasting effects of a war in Iraq started under false pretenses. We would implore you to be thoroughly informed, Canada. If you decide to go forward into this war, you should at least do so with all the facts.

Almost all who desert the U.S. military are simply administratively discharged without jail time. But without exception, every American war resister in Canada deported into U.S. military custody has faced significant jail time when evidence was presented of how we spoke out to people like you. The American government wants to jail me not just for leaving the military, but for having the audacity to shed light on war crimes we were asked to commit.

Is this the kind of war you truly want for Canadians? If you do, I will leave quietly.
A number of resisters living in Canada have seen recent movement in their cases after years of silence from the government. The immigration minister’s personal attention to our cases is made clear by Operational Bulletin 202, directing all our files to his desk for review instead of using normal procedures.

I will go to the cell that awaits me in the U.S. for having spoken loudly about the injustices I was asked to abide. I do not believe I deserve to be punished for speaking out, but perhaps I do for not having spoken out loudly enough. Read the essay here. Then sign a letter to help stop the deportations.

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