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"There is no greatness where simplicity, goodness and truth are absent." Leo Tolstoy
Updated: 13 min 25 sec ago

Therein Lies The Road To Perdition

4 hours 30 min ago

There is more than poisoned water, Chris Hedges writes, at the core of the debacle in Flint Michigan:

The crisis in Flint is far more ominous than lead-contaminated water. It is symptomatic of the collapse of our democracy. Corporate power is not held accountable for its crimes. Everything is up for sale, including children. Our regulatory agencies—including the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality—have been defunded, emasculated and handed over to corporate-friendly stooges. Our corrupt courts are part of a mirage of justice. The role of these government agencies and courts, and of the legislatures, is to sanction abuse rather than halt it.

The primacy of profit throughout the society takes precedence over life itself, including the life of the most vulnerable. This corporate system of power knows no limits. It has no internal restraints. It will sacrifice all of us, including our children, on the altar of corporate greed. In a functioning judicial system, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Flint’s former emergency manager, Darnell Earley, along with all the regulatory officials who lied as a city was being sickened, would be in jail facing trial.
When we place our government in the hands of technocrats, the kinds of things that happened in Flint become common place. And it's not as if we haven't been warned:

Hannah Arendt in “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” Gitta Sereny in “Into That Darkness,” Omer Bartov in “Murder in Our Midst,” Alexander Solzhenitsyn in “The Gulag Archipelago,” Primo Levi in “The Drowned and the Saved” and Ella Lingens-Reiner in “Prisoners of Fear” argue that the modern instrument of evil is the technocrat, the man or woman whose sole concern is technological and financial efficiency, whose primary measurement of success is self-advancement, even if it means piling up corpses or destroying the lives of children.

“Monsters exist,” Levi noted, “but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men.” These technocrats have no real ideology, other than the ideology that is in vogue. They want to get ahead, to rise in the structures of power. They know how to make the collective, or the bureaucracy, work on behalf of power. Nothing else is of importance. “The new state did not require holy apostles, fanatic, inspired builders, faithful devout disciples,” Vasily Grossman, in his book “Forever Flowing, wrote of Stalin’s Soviet Union. “The new state did not even require servants—just clerks.” 

These technocrats are numb to the most basic of human emotions and devoid of empathy beyond their own tiny inner circle. Michigan state officials, for example, provided bottled water to their employees in Flint for nearly a year while city residents drank the contaminated water, and authorities spent $440,000 to pipe clean water to the local GM plant after factory officials complained that the Flint water was corroding their car parts. That mediocre human beings make such systems function is what makes them dangerous. 

The long refusal to make public the poisoning of the children of Flint, who face the prospect of stunted growth, neurological, speech and hearing impairment, reproductive problems and kidney damage, mirrors the slow-motion poisoning and exploitation of the planet by other corporate technocrats. These are not people we want to entrust with our future.
Yet we continue to put our futures in their hands. Therein lies the road to perdition.

That Word He Used To Trumpet

Fri, 02/12/2016 - 06:25


Stephen Harper has disappeared. He has not been showing up for work in the House of Commons. Perhaps, Michael Harris suggests, he believes he is the member for Las Vegas/Fort Myers. His party doesn't seem to mind. But they still have not come to terms with their defeat. And their cheerleaders, people like the peanut gallery at the National Post, keep shilling for more of the same. But Harris reviews the record:

Under Harper the economist, 400,000 manufacturing jobs were lost. Worse than that, he presided over a one-third drop in Canada’s value-added exports — the better to concentrate on rapid, unsustainable and environmentally harmful resource development.

While the rest of the industrialized world was investing in alternative energy sources to save the planet, Harper’s master plan was to subsidize pipelines and pollution and damn the torpedoes. That’s why he dropkicked Kyoto into oblivion and replaced it with the environment-killing omnibus bill C-38. And Rona now talks about how much the Cons love nature.

Harper spent tens of millions of taxpayers’ dollars promoting so-called government programs. Much of this material amounted to thinly-disguised promotional bumf for the Conservative Party of Canada.

So great was this prime minister’s disrespect for Parliament that he shuttered the seat of government for an incredible 181 days for purely political reasons. He unleashed the Canada Revenue Agency on NGOs and environmental groups, using audits as a weapon against his perceived political enemies.

Harper’s attack on civil liberties was deep and disturbing. Bill C-51 gave police-state powers to agencies like the RCMP, CSIS and SEC. Some of you may remember that these same agencies were already spying on environmental groups and then meeting every year with representatives of the oil industry to brief them on the alleged threats facing their projects.

Harper the diplomat turned Canada into what former Conservative PM Joe Clark called a “denier and an outlier”. For the first time in fifty years, Canada couldn’t get elected to a seat on the Security Council at the UN, losing the spot to Portugal. He turned the world into a comic book narrative of good and evil, preferring bombing to talking whenever he had the choice.The NDP has reviewed the reasons for their loss -- even though the review was painful. Tom Mulcair has acknowledge the campaign shortcomings and has taken responsibility for them. We'll see if he survives.

Perhaps Steve believes that, as long as he hides, he can escape that word that he used to trumpet -- accountability.

Only In America

Thu, 02/11/2016 - 06:04

New York Times columnist Tom Friedman calls Bernie Sanders a socialist "whose ideas died in 1989." That's a strange conclusion, Gerry Caplan writes. In Canada, Sanders would be a member of the New Democratic Party:

If he calls himself a democratic socialist rather than a social democrat, it’s probably because not a dozen Americans have a clue what social democracy might mean. In the U.K., he’d likely be in the moderate anti-Jeremy Corbyn wing of the Labour party. In Germany, France, Italy, Holland, Spain, all the Nordic countries, he’d be a middle-of-the-road member of existing social democratic parties. He’d be enthusiastically embraced by tens of millions of people.

Across the rich world, only in the United States is Bernie Sanders seen as some kind of extremist of the left. It shows just how dangerously far to the radical right America’s political culture has moved.
Eighty-five years ago, Sanders would have been one of Roosevelt's New Dealers. But the crackpots in the Republican Party have managed -- since Ronald Reagan -- to move the political conversation increasingly to the right. Now they are on the verge of tipping over into lunacy:
After all, the remaining GOP candidates, most of them crackpots, are now considered mainstream, even moderates.
And, when they engage in dirty tricks, as Ted Cruz did in Iowa -- by suggesting that Ben Carson was dropping out of the race -- Donald Trump claimed to know the source of Cruz' malady: "Because he was born in Canada," shouted Trump. 
The source of evil for Republicans these days seems to be Canada:
“I don’t believe government should take over the grocery store down the street or own the means of production,” he told students at Georgetown University. “But I do believe that the middle class and the working families who produce the wealth of America deserve a decent standard of living and that their incomes should go up, not down.” Throw in a couple of “hard-workings” here and there, and Comrade Bernie could jump right into the middle of Justin Trudeau’s Liberal party.
Nowhere are the absurd limits of American politics better exposed than when Sanders is bitterly pummelled for supporting something really far-out, even near-Bolshevik – a Canadian-style public health system.
God help Canada and Canadians if Donald Trump becomes president.

Neither Stephen Nor Pierre

Wed, 02/10/2016 - 06:48


Carol Goar has an interesting column this morning on Justin Trudeau's leadership style -- which is nothing like his father's:

A pattern is developing in Canadian politics.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will meet a group expected to be unfriendly or censorious. He will listen carefully to its position but make no firm commitment. To the surprise of his critics, he will emerge unscathed.
Consider where's he's been and what he's done in his first one hundred days:

  • It happened last week in Calgary when he met oil company executives. He couldn’t promise relief from plummeting crude prices or guarantee that a pipeline to either coast would be built on his watch. What he undertook to do was build a national consensus that getting Alberta’s landlocked oil to a sea port is in the interest of all Canadians.

  • It happened the week before in Montreal, where he met the city’s combative mayor. Denis Coderre had publicly declared his opposition to the Energy East pipeline. The pundits were primed for an embarrassing clash between the two Liberals. But after his audience with Trudeau, Coderre indicated that he could change his mind.

  • It happened in November when he attended his first G20 summit meeting in Turkey. Critics of the fledgling prime minister warned he was in for a dressing down by world leaders over his decision to withdraw Canada’s fighter jets from the U.S.-led coalition combat mission in Iraq and Syria. The timing could scarcely have been worse for Trudeau. The night he left for the summit, terrorists attacked Paris and killed 129 people. ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) claimed responsibility. Stemming a tide of retaliatory rhetoric, Trudeau stood his ground, saying Canada would bring home its CF-18s in March but contribute to the mission in other ways. If he faced reproach or pressure to reverse his stand, there was no report of it. 

  • He's still on his honeymoon and the really tough stuff lies ahead:

    The most likely explanation is that Trudeau hasn’t yet given his foes a substantive target. His government hasn’t enacted any legislation, tabled its first budget, produced its climate change strategy, approved any pipelines or pulled a single warplane out of the Middle East (although it soon will). 
    But one thing is certain. When it comes to dealing with people, Trudeau is neither Stephen Harper nor his father.

    Only Time Will Tell

    Tue, 02/09/2016 - 06:15

    The Right is up in arms. Rona Ambrose calls the changes Justin Trudeau has made in the battle with ISIL "shameful." John Ivison claims that, "Canada is not playing its full part in the battle against ISIL," and Andrew Coyne writes that "what Canada is about is standing by while others engage in combat on our behalf."

    They are aboard the bandwagon -- the same bandwagon that claimed its mission was to destroy Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction -- and which gave rise to ISIL. Shock and Awe didn't work then. And it hasn't worked this time around, either. In its second life, it has brought in Russian bombers on the other side.

    And tripling the number of trainers puts more Canadian boots on the ground. Trudeau's strategy is high risk. Jeff Sallot writes:

    Trudeau’s strategy also runs a big risk. Canadians will be training ethnic Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq who have a political agenda all their own. Yes, they want to rub out ISIS — but they also want to establish an independent Kurdish state. The Iraqi government in Baghdad — a government that Ottawa says it supports — doesn’t like the idea of partitioning its territory.

    Our NATO allies in Turkey also have concerns about the Kurds. Turkey has a substantial Kurdish population of its own along the border with Iraq. A Kurdish separatist revolt against Baghdad in Iraq could quickly explode into a Kurdish rebellion against Ankara.

    Not to mention the sight of returning body bags. We are not out. We are in. And only time will tell how it all works out.

    Strangling Our Future

    Mon, 02/08/2016 - 05:48

    Youth unemployment is a problem world wide. Carol Goar reports that:

    Our youth unemployment rate is 13 per cent. In Sweden, 19.4 per cent of young people are looking for work. In France, the youth jobless rate is 25.9 per cent. In Spain, it is 46 per cent. In Greece it is a staggering 48.6 per cent. (It is hard to get comparable statistics from Africa, where youth can mean anything from 12 to 30 years of age.)
    The International Labour Organization -- which is sponsored by the UN -- is raising the profile of the problem:

    Determined to provide impetus, the ILO launched a Global Initiative for Decent Jobs for Youth in New York this month. The UN’s 28 other agencies joined the campaign. “Today two out of every five young persons of working age are either unemployed or working in jobs that don’t pay enough to escape poverty,” said ILO director-general Guy Ryder. “Our challenge is to continuously find new and innovative solutions as we look into the future of work.”
    During the Harper Era,  youth unemployment mushroomed:

    Former prime minister Stephen Harper did more to undermine than assist young job seekers. Between 2006 and 2014 his government opened the floodgates to low-skilled temporary foreign workers, who took the entry-level jobs normally sought by young people.
    In 2013, he claimed there was a severe skill shortage in the land. There were plenty of jobs but employers couldn’t find workers with the skills they needed. This misalignment, Harper said, was “the biggest challenge our country faces.” No one could figure out where these job vacancies were. Reporters, economists, the parliamentary budget office and the Conference Board of Canada did some digging and discovered they didn’t exist. Federal officials were relying on data from Kijiji, a classified ad service operated by eBay. It allowed employers to post the same job in various categories, which led Ottawa to double and triple count. 
    Justin Trudeau vows that his government will reverse that course:
    Justin Trudeau has pledged to spend $455 million a year helping young Canadians find work. His intent is to create 40,000 jobs annually by expanding Ottawa’s summer jobs program; increasing the number of co-op positions available for business and engineering students; giving a one-year payroll tax break to employers who hire young Canadians for permanent positions; and relaunching a youth service program like Katimavik, started by his father in 1977 and eliminated by the Harper government in 2012. 
    But, Goar writes, most of Trudeau's efforts are focused on the public sector. More needs to be done in the private sector. Will the Captains of Industry step up? We'll see. Any society which cannot make a future for its youth is strangling its own future.

    Upstream, Downstream

    Sun, 02/07/2016 - 03:30

    At the end of January, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna and Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr announced new guidelines to evaluate the impact of new pipelines. Jason Maclean writes:

    The new regulations stipulate that oil pipeline decisions will be based on science and traditional indigenous knowledge; the views of the public, including affected communities and indigenous peoples; and the direct and upstream greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that can be linked to pipelines.
    During their press conference announcing the new regulations, McKenna and Carr repeatedly intoned that “Canada needs to get its natural resources to market in a sustainable way.”
    When pressed about greenhouse gas emissions, McKenna told reporters that the guidelines included projections about both upstream and downstream emissions. And there is the rub:
    While this is a notable improvement on the NEB’s steadfast refusal to consider either the upstream or downstream emissions of oil pipelines, the problem remains that most of the GHG emissions arising from a pipeline are downstream emissions. An environmental assessment that arbitrarily excludes downstream emissions effectively exports not only Alberta’s bitumen crude oil but also its ultimate emissions.
    In terms of science, peer-reviewed analyses demonstrate that in order to have a better-than-even chance of keeping global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average, at least 85 per cent of Alberta’s remaining ultimately recoverable bitumen must remain in the ground. In one model, the percentage rises to 99 per cent.
    No oil pipeline that will expand the extraction of Alberta’s unconventional oilsands can pass a scientifically valid climate test because any increase in unconventional oil production is incommensurate with efforts to limit average global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. This is the scientific standard that must be applied to the Energy East project proposal if the government’s assessment is to be trusted by Canadians.
    Justin Trudeau has vowed to assist Alberta's ailing economy and to fight climate change. If those commitments mean seeing the Energy East Pipeline construction through to New Brunswick, it appears that Trudeau has vowed to square the circle.
    It will be interesting to see if he can do that. That feat has been tried before -- but without much success.

    Let The Debate Begin

    Sat, 02/06/2016 - 06:53


    Last week, Chrystia Freeland signed the Trans Pacific Partnership. While doing so, she maintained that her signature was in no way her government's ratification of the accord. There would be, she said, extensive public consultation and debate before the Liberals made that decision.

    Murray Dobbin writes that, if history is any guide, the consultation will be shallow and the debate short lived:

    For many of us who have dealt in the past with the trade bureaucrats promoting these investment protection agreements, it is easy enough to suspect that Freeland is being deliberately misinformed by her own staff. There is no doubt that the Trudeau government is eager to portray itself as open to persuasion on the TPP. To bolster the position that they still might say no, the government has engaged in a flurry of consultations across the country and has made a point of inviting ordinary concerned citizens to send in questions and criticisms to Global Affairs Canada. Sounds good so far. But it is the execution that raises serious questions about how genuine the consultation will be.

    First, the consultations reveal that the vast majority have been with groups supportive of these agreements: provincial government ministers, business groups, industry reps, universities, etc. Of 74 such meetings (as of Jan. 31) there have been just a handful with "students" (but no student council representatives who have actually studied the TPP) and a couple with labour -- the CLC and Unifor. There have been literally no meetings with NGOs that have actually taken the time to closely examine the TPP -- not the Council of Canadians, not the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, not any First Nations (whose solemn agreements with governments can be trumped by ISDS), nor any environmental groups.

    The real bone of contention has always been the Investor Dispute Settlement Mechanism. And, again, if history is any guide, things do not look good:

    Since NAFTA came into effect on January 1, 1994 it has been subjected to over 35 NAFTA investor-state claims. Nearly two-thirds of these have involved challenges to environmental protection or resource management. Canada has already paid out over $170 million in damages in six cases (lost or settled) and abandoned most of the "offending" legislation and regulations. We currently face additional corporate challenges totalling over $6 billion in potential penalties for NAFTA "violations" such as the Quebec government's decision to ban fracking under the St. Lawrence River.
    It's pretty clear that these trade agreements are written to favour large countries with large economies -- specifically, the United States. It appears that the bureaucrats in Global Affairs Canada do not recognize that fact. But, if there is a clear rejection of the TPP among Canadians citizens then, perhaps, Canada will not ratify the agreement. Perhaps.

    In any case, let the debate begin.

    Beginning To Sink In

    Fri, 02/05/2016 - 05:53


    The Conservatives are blaming Justin Trudeau for the mess in the oilpatch -- which is, Michael Harris writes exceedingly curious:

    The latest nonsense out of the National Post (which is a business partner of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and acts the part on its news and opinion pages) is that Trudeau has somehow failed Alberta. That’s right — you’re meant to believe that the whole thing has unravelled (in three months) because Oprah is now in the driver’s seat. Forty years of provincial Tories and a decade of federal Conservatives had nothing to do with it.
    You have to remember that the Conservatives aren't speaking for all Albertans:

    That longstanding delusion was smashed by Albertans themselves when they elected an NDP majority government in the last provincial election. Alberta is much, much more than any single industry. More importantly, no single industry can or should dictate its own rules to government, at least not in a democracy.

    It’s the oil industry itself that has a lot to account for, not Trudeau. It was the industry’s so-called “hardball” approach to resource extraction and pipeline development that turned off environmentalists, First Nations, unions, other provinces and, finally, an entire country.
    Everything Harper did was focused on the oil industry:

    Point one: Stephen Harper never did regulate the energy sector, despite his serial broken promises to do so from the day he won government. He carried a brief for the industry from day one. Ironically, his actions turned out to be detrimental to the very people he was trying to help. Harper got a hernia pushing their interests in the wrong direction.

    Point two: Harper deconstructed what environmental protections Canada had in place for air, water and land, creating what he must have thought was an obstacle-free path to rapid extraction and marketing of non-renewable resources for his cosseted pet industry. In the process, he drew the ire of President Barack Obama by calling approval of the Keystone XL pipeline a “no-brainer.” Maybe Harper didn’t care about the environment; other people clearly did.

    Point three: Harper expanded the powers of the National Energy Board and made a public agency the captive of the oil industry, stocking it with industry players.
    And, despite all his help, the oil business is in the dumpster. Harper may have sought to control a lot of things. But he couldn't control the price of oil. And, because the break even point for a barrel of bitumen is $80, nobody is making any money at $30 a barrel. At those prices, all that goo will stay in the ground.

    The future is now in wind, solar and green energy in general. The business plan for Alberta, for Albertans and for the rest of the country has changed. That reality is just beginning to sink in.

    Another Vessel

    Thu, 02/04/2016 - 05:27

    This week, in answer to a Conservative question about why the Liberal government was taking its time to examine its role in the war against ISIS, Defence Minister Harjit Sajan told the House of Commons, “I want to make sure we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past. Because every single time we make these mistakes as political leaders, we send our men and women into harm’s way for no reason.”

    That brought a request from Canada's pudgy former defence minister, Jason Kenny, to have an English to English translation of what Sajan said. It was a typically nasty response from Kenny. But, Tom Walkom points out, things have gotten worse in the Middle East:

    Slowly, inexorably, the war against the Islamic State is widening.It has moved into Afghanistan, where both the U.S. and the Taliban are taking on ISIS militants.
    It is moving into Libya. There, the U.S. is reportedly contemplating airstrikes. Italy is said to be looking at the eventual dispatch of ground troops.
    In Iraq, the U.S. has already found itself enmeshed in ground combat — in spite of President Barack Obama’s stated aversion to the notion.
    American special forces have also been sent into Syria
    Mr. Sajan was a soldier Afghanistan. Mr. Kenny and his equally pudgy former boss have only played soldier.

    Ten years have proven that the Harper government was a ship of fools. We would be wise to book passage on another vessel.

    Back To Citizens

    Wed, 02/03/2016 - 05:14

    Susan Delacourt writes that, when Parliamentary reporters used to converge on Bob Rae to ask him how the issues of the day affected taxpayers, he used to correct them: “You mean citizens,” Rae would say.

     It's interesting to track the use of the word taxpayer:

    Google has a little gadget called ‘Ngram Viewer’ (it really needs a better name) which allows you to track the popularity of words over the past couple of centuries. You put selected words into the search engine and it tracks how often they’ve been used in books written since 1800 (all the books Google has archived online, at least).

    It’s most useful for noting big trends in word usage. When you feed the word “taxpayer” into the Ngram gadget, it shows some fascinating peaks and valleys over the past 100 years. The graph moves steadily upward all through the first half of the 20th century, dips significantly in 1929 (the Great Depression), and then climbs again up to the 1960s. From then until the 1980s, the word seems to decline in common usage before taking another upward swing from the mid-1980s to the present.

    Here’s an intriguing coincidence: The decline in the usage of “taxpayer” roughly matches the era when Trudeau’s father was in politics here in Canada, a time when politics worldwide was more preoccupied with social or identity issues. As politics turned more to economic questions in the 1980s, “taxpayer” started climbing back into fashion.
    The website lists the ten MP's who  have used the word taxpayers most since 1994:

    • Former Conservative minister James Moore: 313 uses of the word
    • Treasury Board president Scott Brison: 312
    • NDP MP Charlie Angus: 305
    • Former Conservative MP Paul Calandra: 289
    • Former Conservative MP Ken Epp: 266
    • Former Reform/Canadian Alliance MP John Williams: 265
    • Former Conservative minister/MP Monte Solberg: 245
    • Conservative MP/former immigration and defence minister Jason Kenney: 242
    • Conservative MP and former minister Pierre Poilievre: 236
    • Former Liberal MP Keith Martin: 235

    Remember Scott Brison and Keith Martin used to be Conservatives. How Charlie Angus wound up on the list is a bit of a mystery.

    However, things seem to be shifting. Delacourt writes that, in a recent interview, Justin Trudeau told her,“The idea of ‘citizen’ involves both benefits and responsibilities, and I like that a bit better.”

    Citizenship is a two way street. Not only do citizens receive, they give. It's a dynamic process that has more than one dimension.

    Something Conservatives seem to have forgotten.

    A Lot Of Spitballs

    Tue, 02/02/2016 - 05:56

    There is a difference, Gerry Caplan writes, between a mere Member of Parliament and a Great Parliamentarian. Great Parliamentarians respect the institution. Members of Parliament are like the kid who hides a straw in his desk and uses it to shoot spitballs at his classmates.

    In the last parliament, the two biggest spitballers were Pierre Poilievre and Paul Calandra,

    who made a mockery of the House of Commons and their jobs on a daily basis. The first never compromised an inch, however extensive the oppositon. The other invaraibaly failed to answer the question he was asked. Yes, they had been MPs, elected as such. But they chose not to be parliamentarians. In the end, almost the entire Conservative caucus were afflicted by those two hazardous superviruses – Calandrism and Poilievritis – fatal for the spirit of parliamentary democracy, and eventually for the entire Harper government.
    Caplan says it's easy to spot a great parliamentarian. If you wish to become one, there are certain things you must do and not do. First there's the matter of heckling:

    There’s nothing the matter with heckling, as long as it’s relevant, witty, pointed and occasional. Dogs bark. Owls hoot. Two-year olds scream. Parliamentarians are none of the above, though too many MPs make you wonder. Remember Bambi’s wise father in the classic Disney cartoon? Say nothing if you have nothing to say. After last week’s session of Parliament, I guess the Conservative opposition has still not seen the film.
    There are two other fore tokens of a great  parliamentarian:

    1. Do not give your leader an enthusiastic, smirky standing ovation every time she or he puts three sentences together. You look dishonest, sucky and dumb. It just shows you have another agenda. Standing Os are for special performances, which do not come along very often. Don’t debase the currency.

    2. Never read your question; it makes you look like an amateur. If you can’t ask a 60-second question without looking at notes you should become a dentist.
    Ask a serious question every time; there will never be a shortage of them. Don’t ever ask a minister to “do the right thing;” that’s just sophomoric. Don’t ever ask a minister to resign; they won’t, showing you are not serious about the question. Curb your feigned indignation. Ask a real question that demands a serious, substantive answer, one that embarrasses the minister if she fails to provide one.
    Treat the minister you’re addressing as a serious person who wants to do his job properly and is open to constructive questioning. If it proves otherwise, the minister looks bad, not the questioner.
    And, finally, if a parliamentarian finds him or herself on a three person panel for television:
    Try to have a serious debate with your fellow panelists on a serious issue.
    Merely repeating talking points is not debating. The image of Paul Dewar trying to have a serious debate with Calandra -- and giving up in despair -- should be etched in the mind of every Canadian.
    Parliament is supposed to be a place where serious issues are debated. We have seen little debate over the last ten years. But we've seen a lot of spitballs.


    Misplaced Admiration

    Mon, 02/01/2016 - 05:44

    Those who pay most dearly for the neo-liberal binge we have been on are children. Chris Hedges writes that, in the United States

    Violent criminals are socialized into violence. And a society that permits this to take place is culpable. Over 15 million of our children go to bed hungry. Every fifth child (16.1 million) in America is poor. Every 10th child (7.1 million) is extremely poor. We have 25 percent of the world’s prison population. We have scaled back or cut social services, including welfare. Our infrastructures—including our inner-city schools, little more than warehouses—are crumbling. Police regularly gun down unarmed people in the streets. The poor spend years, sometimes lifetimes, without meaningful work or nurturing environments. And these forms of state violence fuel acts of personal violence.  
    Consider the rising murder statistics in the neighbourhoods that Neo-liberalism has left behind:

    The United States has a homicide rate of 4.5 per 100,000. But when you look at impoverished inner cities you find homicide rates that are astronomical. St. Louis has a homicide rate of 59.23 per 100,000, Baltimore 54.98 per 100,000, and Detroit 43.89 per 100,000. Some impoverished neighborhoods within American cities have even higher homicide rates. West Garfield Park in Chicago, for example, with 18,000 people, had 21 murders last year. This gives the neighborhood a homicide rate of 116 per 100,000 people.

    The country’s 10 largest cities have seen murder rates climb by 11.3 percent in the last year.  
    Criminologist Larry Athens writes that this phenomenon is preventable:

    The slashing of state and federal programs for children and the failure to address the poverty that now grips half the country are creating a vast underclass of the young who often live in constant insecurity and fear, at times terror, and are schooled daily in the language of violence. As Athens has pointed out, “[T]he creation of dangerous violent criminals is largely preventable, as is much of the human carnage which follows in the wake of their birth. Therefore, if society fails to take any significant steps to stop the process behind the creation of dangerous criminals, it tacitly becomes an accomplice in creating them.”
    Until recently, we had a government which emulated the American model.  Most assuredly, its admiration was misplaced.

    In The Absence Of Hope

    Sun, 01/31/2016 - 03:13

    Canadians were shocked by what happened at La Loche a little over a week ago. Jeff Sallot writes that the kid with the gun had been picked on:

    We’re not surprised to read that the 17-year-old boy accused of rampaging through the small town of La Loche last Friday — shooting 11 people, four of them fatally — had been bullied in school.
    The bullies teased the boy relentlessly about his big ears, Jason Warick of Postmedia News tells us in a heartbreaking report from La Loche.

    Three people who were inside the school when the teenager arrived with a gun claim the youth dared people to tease him about his ears. Witnesses report the youth passed by some people and fired at others — as if he knew his quarry, who he wanted dead.
    Those of us who have spent their teaching careers in high schools have taught maybe a thousand kids like this kid. For him high school was hell. The truth is that, for most kids, high school is hell. Only a chosen few become president of the student's council. Most students dream of escaping -- and eventually they do.

    But, what if you live in a community from which there is no escape?

    People in La Loche have known for a long time that their children are at risk of falling into despair. Many are suicidal. Residents have been trying for years to establish a youth centre where young people might hang out doing kid stuff, under adult supervision. In such settings — a YMCA, an ice rink, a youth centre — a caring adult just might notice the quiet kid in the corner, take him aside and get him to open up.

    Social workers, school nurses and psychologists know that merely having a sympathetic adult to listen can change the life of a troubled kid. But social workers, school nurses and psychologists are too scarce in remote First Nations’ communities. They’re found down south, in larger and more prosperous parts of the country.This was the point Perry Bellegarde, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, tried to make when talking to reporters in La Loche on Sunday.
    Justin Trudeau says his government will set course for a new relationship with Canada's First Nations. If he is to do that, he must give native communities real hope that their citizens can lead productive lives.

    Because, in the absence of hope, those with nothing to lose turn to violence.