Agrégateur de flux

America's Deep State - More and Less Than Meets the Eye

The Disaffected Lib - il y a 46 min 6 sec

There's a lot of talk about America's "deep state." This supposed hidden government is the stuff of many conspiracy theories. Donald Trump is obsessed with the idea, wants them exposed. Foreign Policy's Steven Cook says the leakers are a last resort response to a rogue government gone amok.

American bureaucrats are doing something similar to what the Egyptian and Turkish deep states have done — protect a system. That is as far as it goes, however. In the American case, the bureaucrats themselves don’t control, or want to control, the system they are trying to protect. People in the White House, the Pentagon, the State and Justice departments, Congress, and the intelligence community are leaking to the press because they have no choice in an administration where officials have unexplained links with Russia, an array of conflicts of interest, and have promoted soft forms of white nationalism and fascism that threaten basic ideals of American democracy. On top of all of this, those same officials have openly expressed disdain for the professional bureaucracy. This is more than the mundane leaking of everyday Washington but only because the stakes are so high.

Nothing in any of what has transpired in the United States since Trump’s inauguration indicates the existence of an American deep state. The idea has emerged because, like Egyptians and Turks who live in societies where government is opaque, Americans, who are bereft of good explanations for the often bewildering turn of events in a highly polarized and charged political environment, have sought an easy interpretation: conspiracy.

Trump's Bitter Harvest

Politics and its Discontents - il y a 5 heures 2 min
This may not surprise us, but it should still horrify us.
In the middle of a crowded bar, Adam Purinton yelled at two Indian men to "get out of my country," witnesses said, then opened fire in an attack that killed one of the men and wounded the other, as well as a third man who tried to help.
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Musical interlude

accidentaldeliberations - il y a 7 heures 41 min
Hooverphonic - You Love Me To Death

Friday Afternoon Links

accidentaldeliberations - il y a 7 heures 46 min
Assorted content to end your week.

- Paul Wells discusses how the Justin Trudeau Libs have been reduced to bluster and reannouncements as a substitute for their promise of improved equality. And Michael Harris notes that some of the people who were crucial to Trudeau's election in B.C. are seeing through his dishonesty.

- Meanwhile, John Paul Tasker reports that a year has passed since the federal government was ordered to stop discriminating against children on reserve. And APTN highlights the fact that the federal government has absolutely no idea when it might deign to comply with its obligations.

- Steven Chase points out that the Libs' approval of the takeover of a large B.C. retirement home chain by Anbang Insurance includes no assurances about jobs. And the Globe and Mail's editorial board is skeptical of putting a public service in the hands of a shadowy organization which has been rejected by potential business partners and regulators due to its lack of transparency.

- Patti Tamara Lenard discusses the need for progressives to push Canada to live up to its self-proclaimed reputation for openness and tolerance. And Carmen Cheung and Samer Muscati expose one example of our falling far short, as a Syrian 16-year-old was condemned to solitary confinement after seeking out a better life as a refugee. 

- Finally, Danyaal Raza and Joel Lexchin write about the need to ensure that the public interest in a sustainable health care system doesn't get lost in disputes as to physicians' compensation. And Raquel Figueroa and Nadia Pabani offer some policy suggestions to ensuring that people facing diabetes and other health conditions can afford to treat them:
What we now need is all levels of government (municipal, provincial and federal) to take concrete actions to improve our collective health. This means taking action in four areas:
  • income equity with policies, such as a basic income guarantee, that ensure everyone can afford their most basic needs;
  • decent employment with policies that ensure people are not discriminated based on their chronic conditions and can take paid leave when they are sick;
  • affordable housing, which includes a housing first policy, to ensure everyone’s right to shelter and eliminate the need to sacrifice other basic needs for rent;
  • affordable medications and supplies with better policies, like pharmacare, that ensure people can afford necessary medications and supplies to better manage and prevent diabetes complications.
Almost one in three Canadians has diabetes or pre-diabetes, and a significant number of them cannot afford to manage their condition. This is unacceptable. To really take action on diabetes, we must acknowledge the significant role that poverty plays, create space in our own practices to mitigate its effects and then demand our government take responsibility to break that link.

aswan to amman

we move to canada - il y a 9 heures 26 min
I’m writing this in a run-down hotel room in downtown Amman, the capital of Jordan. It’s been a long day, but we are finally showered, fed, and in bed, and looking forward to going to Petra tomorrow -- the reason we are in Jordan.

* * * *

Something I forgot to mention about Abu Simbel: there is a lot of graffiti chiseled into the rock, on the monument itself, especially on the standing figures in the first chamber. There are names and dates from 1812, 1847, and other 19th Century years. In case you imagine that people “these days” are less respectful than they were in ye olden times, it ain’t so. The graffiti really bothers me -- the disrespect for the creators, and the distraction to us.

I loved seeing Abu Simbel, but I would have liked to stay at the site longer.

* * * *

This morning Allan set out to hike up the sand mountain visible from our Aswan hotel. I unpacked and re-packed all our stuff. Our hosts did our laundry -- and by hosts, I mean her, because he doesn’t do anything but smoke cigarettes, ask guests how everything is -- in a manner that implies you must say things are great -- and order his staff around. Anyway, the laundry was great, but I had to repack everything. Our luggage is very full!

I was having breakfast on the roof patio when Allan showed up, sweating, panting, and asking for the room key. Apparently hiking up a sand mountain before breakfast is not a fun thing to do.

The patio was full of guests, so in order to be in shade, two people sat with us -- a good-looking young man traveling with his mother. They are Korean, and he has been living and studying in Egypt and Jordan for six months; mom is visiting. I said Allan had been hiking earlier, pointing to the mountain. They said, “How was it?” A pause, then Allan said: “Steep.” It was very funny.

We were figuring out our tips for the staff -- an extremely important thing here -- and I didn’t know whether or not to tip the owner’s sister, who does all the cooking. I’ve learned her name is not Shyela -- it’s Nusa. I think we were having a bad language-barrier moment. I thought she was telling me her name, but she was saying something else! I finally against giving Nusa money, but I gave her a gift -- one of the pashima shawls I bought in Luxor. Hopefully she is able to wear a colour other than black.

A short time later, she gave me a beaded necklace -- a distinct Nubian design with three colours in a spiral pattern. I was really touched.

Allan took more pictures of the house, and we took a cab to the airport. Very low marks for the town of Aswan -- but it was absolutely worth it to see Abu Simbel.

Our flight from Aswan to Cairo was delayed, which left negative time to reach our connecting flight from Cairo to Amman. They were both Egyptair, so they held the flight for us (and one other couple) and someone from the airline helped us get through quickly. Security is tough in the Cairo airport! Even though you have been screened before a flight, you are screened again after. And even though we had just been screened after a flight, we had to be screened yet again before the next one! This includes shoes, and of course we’re wearing our boots because sneakers take up less room in the suitcase. By the end I just stopped tying the laces. Note to self: put nail file in checked luggage. We were held up twice by a little metal nail file.

Once on the plane -- out of breath, sweating, disheveled -- Allan wondered if our luggage would be as lucky as us. Would they be waiting for us in Amman? We were thrilled to find them right away. Thank you, Egyptair!!

Just a walk through the Amman airport and getting processed through customs, and we knew this was a more modern and functioning city than Cairo. I had arranged pickup through the hotel, and we had a long ride into the city centre.

On the flight, I realized there was a problem with our plans. Tomorrow we are supposed to get up very early to go to Petra. Why don’t we stay in Amman one additional night, and push everything back by one day? This was the general plan... until we saw the hotel room.

It’s very small and run-down -- dingy. It didn’t help that the heater was on full blast, and the air-conditioner didn’t seem to work. We asked at the desk about the A/C. The clerk was quite surprised. It is winter here! (Something like a warm summer day in Ontario.) After we determined that we could, in fact, get the room cool, and there was hot water, and the sheets and bed are clean, we decided we could stay here for one night.

To simplify things, we are still going to Petra tomorrow, and staying in Petra one night, as planned. But when we return to Amman, we’re staying in a nicer place. Tonight I cancelled our return nights at the current hotel, and booked the Amman Marriott for the last few days of the trip.

We needed a few things, so we went out to forage near the hotel. It’s a bustling downtown area, crammed with shops of all kinds. The streets are clean, and no one harassed us. At a pharmacy, a nice pharmacist recommended guava syrup for the cough I’ve developed (allergy-related, I believe). We bought some fruit, yogurts, and water -- the bus to Petra leaves too early to have breakfast at the hotel -- and no one overcharged us. We went into a store selling candy, dried fruits, and nuts. The gentleman there invited us to try pistachios, cashews, and almonds. When we were finished, he came around from behind the counter, chose two fancy foil-wrapped chocolates and gave us each one.

Egypt was an experience I won’t soon forget. It was thrilling to see so much of the ancient world, and it was amazing to do that with Allan. But contemporary Egypt... not a happy place.

Tomorrow, Petra!

Ah, Jeebus.

The Disaffected Lib - il y a 11 heures 14 min

CNN is reporting that the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Politico and, of course, CNN have been denied access to the White House briefing room.

The Smoke and Mirrors of the Right. . . .

kirbycairo - il y a 14 heures 24 min
If you view this video of Michael Moore appearing on CNN, you can see some of the confusion concerning what the Trump phenomenon really means. In this video Moore refers to Trump and his cadre as "economic nationalists." But then moments later he insists that they are trying to "deconstruct" or dismantle the government, and then he says that they are "anarchists." Now, it doesn't take a degree in political science to understand that these two positions are mutually exclusive, and I am sure that if Mr. Moore stopped and thought about it for a moment, he would realize the absurdity of the statement. However, it is easy to get caught up in the polemics of anti-Trump, and I thoroughly understand where Moore is coming from

However, what Moore's statement demonstrates is a general confusion concerning contemporary rightwing politics. It is confusing because the rightwing, as many commentators are beginning to observe (even many who are traditionally on the right), seem not to be a coherent ideology anymore, if it ever was. In Canada we saw this confusion begin to make its very public debut during the Harper years. The Harper government was continually flying off in every direction. One day they were using a pseudo-libertarian narrative and the next they were consolidating their power in secretive and nefarious ways. They continually talked about fiscal conservatism and ran deficit after deficit. They told voters that they were going to bring more prosperity to the nation but they made no serious investments in infrastructure, alternative energy, or the growth of new economic opportunities. They pretended to be interested in Canadian economic interests but they were eager to sell the whole country to foreign interests.

The confusion of rightwing ideology is not really that complicated. It derives in large part from the abject failure of the Neo-Liberal economic model that they have been pursuing for the last forty years or so. As it becomes clear that it is no longer credible to suggest that giving everything to the rich and corporations is somehow magically going to result in generalized prosperity, the right doesn't know where to turn. They need a diversion, a smokescreen that will allow them to continue to pursue their goals of wealth for wealthy. Thus the right begins to attempt to portray themselves as economic nationalists on the one had, and they begin to use traditional fear of immigrants and racialized groups on the other.

But of course, this veneer is far to thin to fool anyone who is paying attention. There is nothing "economically nationalistic" about Trump. Economic nationalists don't create lines of clothing that are all made overseas. Trump and his associates have always been devoted followers of Neo-Liberal economics. The entire narrative of "make America great again" is nothing but a political lie intended to garner the support of those who have suffered from 40 years of policies that they have, in fact, been supporting. Trump will, of course, make various gestures that suggest that he is standing up for American workers, but it will all be a smokescreen for the further sell-off of the US economy to big banks and foreign interests. In the meantime they will follow their real interests of weakening the government and selling off the economy to the highest bidder. And the way that they will attempt to maintain their populist following will be to continually whip up fear and anxiety concerning immigrants, refugees, racialized people, and foreign groups and nations.

In other words, when commentators like Andrew Coyne (a long supporter of the right in Canada) say that they right has lost it coherent ideological stance, at one level he is simply wrong. The right is after the same things it has always been after: more wealth for the rich, less wealth for the rest, and keeping average people ignorant, poor, and precarious so that they can't fight back. The only thing that is confused or confusing about the new-right is that they are scrambling for a way to reframe their same old goals, and while they are doing that it can seem contradictory and disorganized.

The irony in all of this is, of course, that Liberals in Canada, and the Democrats in the US, have been doing fine for a long time pursuing the exact same economic agenda as the right, but doing it while pretending to be concerned with the average people. The problem for the right is that the Liberals and the Democrats (and this goes for many other centrist parties in Europe) have paid at least a minimal lip-service to the interests of the working-class and so have not (up until now) suffered from the same apparent public contradiction. In other words, what has made the right so ferociously anti-centrist in the past couple of decades is not that the centrists aren't pursuing a Neo-Liberal agenda, rather its because the centrists have not destroyed the prosperity and power of the working and middles classes fast enough! In other words, in most Western democracies for the past forty years we have had a main rightwing party and a main ultra-rightwing party.

All you need in Countries like the US, Canada, Britain, and France, is enough people who are fooled by the smokescreens of a fake economic nationalism and a very real racist agenda, and the new-right will take us where they have always wanted; a place where a small group of rich people have almost all the wealth, the rest have nothing, and they blame racialized people for all their problems.

Michael Moore would do well to stop buying the fake economic nationalism of the Trump Administration and start talking about the real agenda.

Kevin O'Leary Laid Bare

Politics and its Discontents - il y a 15 heures 49 min
I have never cared for that blowhard known as Kevin O'Leary. A shallow man intellectually, he appears to have only two reasons for seeking the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada: ego and a thirst for power, likely the same imperatives that impelled Trump to run for the U.S. presidency.

As Mark Cuban observes in the following, it is the latter motive that seems to most drive the failed Canadian/American businessman:

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They're Coming

Northern Reflections - il y a 16 heures 30 min

The world is awash in refugees. And the world is closing its eyes and its doors. Crawford Killian writes:

According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, over 65 million people worldwide have been forcibly displaced — the equivalent of almost two Canadas. More than 21 million are refugees, half of them from just three countries: Somalia, Afghanistan, and Syria. And more than half of those 21 million are under the age of 18.

Whether we like it or not, we’re in the midst of the greatest displacement of people in human history, and it will only get worse. Climate change is making vast stretches of Africa and the Middle East uninhabitable, fit only for warlords to fight over. Climate-driven wars, droughts, and floods will force still more from the tropics to the temperate zones.

Not all will die on Libyan beaches. Some will make it to Mexico, or the U.S., and then to the Canadian border. Millions, already living in the U.S., will head north — spurred by new deportation rules now being developed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

We can also expect plenty of native-born Americans following the Vietnam war resisters of the 1960s, not to mention expatriate Canadians running for home while the running is good.
The question isn't  should we accept them. After all, we are a nation of refugees:

The United Empire Loyalists were refugees. So were the Irish fleeing the potato famine of the 1840s and the Black people escaping slavery in the American South. The Doukhobors were Russian refugees, their escape paid for by Leo Tolstoy’s book royalties.  
The question is how do we accept them. Killian suggests that we:

Pour money into provincial school systems and post-secondaries, especially for English and French language training. Most refugees are young, and half are children. Move them through the system toward jobs and careers we’ll need, and then deliver the jobs.

Find or build housing in smaller towns and cities to shelter refugees while they learn the language and the country. The money will boost local economies and create a climate of opportunity for refugee entrepreneurs to open their own businesses. Canadians have acquired a taste for global cuisine in the past half-century, and I can’t wait to try Syrian and Somali cuisine.

Pour more money into healthcare, especially mental health. No one is displaced without suffering severe stress, and refugees will need strong support to get through a very bad time. Once through it, they’ll give back far more than they received.

Fast-track the professionals among the refugees. The doctors, teachers, and engineers should resume their careers as soon as possible. Many will have U.S. experience, and will settle in quickly. But all should find meaningful work.

Use the refugees to create the infrastructure for future waves. Because they will assuredly come, like the multiple waves of a tsunami.
That means spending money. But that's how we have built this country. If done right, refugees become an asset, not a burden.


Preston Manning and the Sad State of the Trump Cons

Montreal Simon - il y a 16 heures 54 min

For years, during the dark days of the Harper regime, the Manning Centre Conference was an event where the Cons went to brag about how they were changing Canada beyond recognition.

And building a New Conservative Movement that would rule this country for a generation.

But not any longer. 

Now that the Cons have hit rock bottom, so has the Manning Conference.
Read more »

Donald Trump and the Real Steve Bannon

Montreal Simon - il y a 16 heures 56 min

Saturday Night Live likes to portray Steve Bannon, Donald Trump's chief strategist, as the Grim Reaper.

And the real president of the United States.

But now that Bannon has emerged from the shadows, and outlined his master plan for total Trump domination, I think SNL's portrayal is far too generous.
Read more »

"Trudeau Gave Us Hope."

The Disaffected Lib - jeu, 02/23/2017 - 23:34

The rest of Canada doesn't "get" British Columbia. I understand that. We're those odd people past the mountains, just beyond Alberta where Canada, in so many ways, ends.

Eastern prime ministers have been coming out here for ages but primarily for photo ops against majestic mountain\ocean backdrops and to sell us "rest of Canada" bullshit.

We pretty much had our fill of it with Stephen "Oil Patch" Harper but then along came this young guy with a legendary name and he brought a bag full of empty promises.

I'll let Michael Harris pick it up from here with his latest, "He's a liar: why the Left Coast may be writing off Justin Trudeau."

He starts with Grand Chief Stewart Phillip:

I am in the downtown Vancouver boardroom of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs and the gentle voice is saying some very tough things.

“My wife and I were scheduled to march in the Chinese New Year’s parade in Vancouver, until we found out that Trudeau was going to be there,” he says. “No way was I going to meet him unless I was on one side of the barrier, and he was on the other.”

“Trudeau made serious and solid commitments. He said no relationship was more important to him than the nation-to-nation relationship with First Nations. He was so convincing that our people went out to vote for him in unprecedented numbers,” Grand Chief Phillip says.

It sounded a lot better than the previous decade under PM Stephen Harper, a time of slashed funding and open insults.

“We were virtually at war with the Harper government for ten years,” Phillip says. “Harper inflicted great hardship on our people, openly attacking our communities and leadership. I woke up to that ongoing battle every single day.

“Trudeau gave us hope.”


All that changed when the Trudeau government gave the green light to British Columbia’s massive hydro development on the Peace River, the Site C Dam.

“It was late Friday afternoon when Ottawa made the announcement. This did surprise us. This was the acid test, that they would provide these approvals. Treaty Eight people had travelled to Ottawa and laid out the facts. We told them that this would have adverse affects on native people and the environment.

“The truth is, Trudeau lied to us. He is very close to violating the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I describe him now as a serial liar.”

His point-blank verbal blast at Trudeau is echoed by an iconic figure in Canadian public life and letters — author, scientist and broadcaster David Suzuki.

“I’m going to be much more outspoken in the coming election cycle. Trudeau is a liar,” Suzuki says. “For me, that’s the charge. He’s an out-and-out liar. I don’t think he deserves a second chance.”

Like Grand Chief Phillip, Suzuki didn’t always see it that way. In fact, he voted strategically for Trudeau in order get rid of the only politician he says he has ever “hated” — Stephen Harper. At first, it seemed like a sound strategy.

“Justin came in and it was such a huge relief after Harper. As a father of four girls, I loved his initial actions — gender equity, then Paris, and of course a big, big commitment to First Nations.

“What the hell is going on now? Site C, Kinder Morgan, he even snuck in the southern line! My daughter and both her two kids were arrested protesting this stuff. His grade today? F. He has lost all credibility with me.”

To me,  Justin Trudeau represents the very best British Columbians can expect from our federal government. They need us. They need our taxes. They need our harbours. They need our coast. What do we get back? You heard it from Chief Phillip and David Suzuki - we are repaid in lies, in broken promises.
Against our clear will, Ottawa, Alberta, the rest of Canada, force us to submit, against our will, to more bitumen trafficking, an armada of supertankers plying our coastal waters, an oil spill hazard that you have no idea how to clean up.
Look, this is our coast. It's our history, our heritage, our legacy and you want to put it at mortal risk so that you can blindly ramp up the extraction and export of the world's highest cost/highest carbon ersatz petroleum, in quantities sufficient to subvert the Copenhagen and Paris climate agreements.
Read my previous post, "Stranger Things Have Happened." If America's Pacific coast states peeled away from the U.S.A., there's a good chance we'd be there - in a heartbeat.
I think we've had it.

Stranger Things Have Happened.

The Disaffected Lib - jeu, 02/23/2017 - 18:40

Could Donald Trump be the straw that broke the Union's back?  Could he cause the "left coast" of America (perhaps Canada too) to secede?

Across the Pacific Northwest there's been a movement to create a new country, Cascadia, out of a union of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. The idea has been around quite a while going back to Thomas Jefferson who, in 1813, wrote of "a great, free and independent empire on that side of our continent."

While the idea isn't widely discussed among British Columbians, a poll in 2005 found that support for secession in B.C. approached 40 per cent. After being pushed around by the federal and Alberta governments on bitumen pipelines and an armada of supertankers, I expect that number would be a good deal higher today.

What unites these jurisdictions? Just about everything. We're all a bit left of centre. We share common industries - fishing, forestry, mining, and a lot of high tech. We're also rich in clean alternative energy resources including wind, tidal, hydro-electric and thermal-electricity. And, best of all, we also seem genuinely fond of each other, more so perhaps than our fondness for other parts of our respective countries.

Bit by bit it seems that Trump is driving a wedge between the Left Coast and the rest of America. Bear in mind that most of what Trump has up his sleeve hasn't even started yet.

However secession may not spring from Cascadia. It could be sparked by California moving to take its leave.

Drawing inspiration from breakaway groups in Europe, organizations like the “Yes California” movement and the California National Party want to peaceably, legally transform the West Coast of the United States into a “pragmatic progressive” paradise. From one angle, California nationalism, and this particular expression of it, makes perfect sense. Despite marked divides between its northern and southern halves, the Golden State has always nourished its own identity. That stamp was apparent even when Californians played a leading role in fueling all-American patriotism, from the early days of the space program to the closing days of the Ronald Reagan administration.

But now California’s cultural and political leanings have begun to shift away from most of the rest of the country. At a time when only five states in the union boast both Democratic governors and majorities in the state legislature, California is the last place in America where the political left rules unimpeded over a society and an economy large enough to prosper as a nation.

From climate law to immigration law (or the lack thereof), California’s elected Democrats see themselves rightly as the strongest center of opposition to American conservatives and to Trump alike, and the one with the deepest popular legitimacy.

California secessionists also understand that there are fewer practical hurdles, compared with other parts of the country, to parting ways with the USA. A smaller or more parochial corner of America would never contemplate secession, if only because the achievement of such willful idiosyncrasy would come at the cost of isolation and obscurity.
For California, however — approximately the sixth-largest economy in the world — independence wouldn’t necessarily bring economic hardship. Perennial worries about entertainment and tech flight to states dangling incentives might spike in the early days of a new California Republic. But citizens won’t blink at the inevitable higher subsidies lawmakers and a Democratic governor will be quick to offer those anchor industries. And the other pillars of California’s economy — tourism and agriculture — can’t be relocated by skittish investors....
It’s easy to let your imagination run away with itself. But one thing does seem clear: California secession wouldn’t be a one-way ticket to the one-party progressive utopia some frustrated Democrats seem to dream it could be. On the other hand, in an ever-more-hopelessly polarized America, it could encourage a nationwide embrace of those two quintessentially West Coast ideals — wishful thinking and conscious uncoupling. California Über Alles indeed?
Trump has become a burr under the Left Coast's saddle. He recently vowed to retaliate against US municipalities that chose to become "sanctuary cities" threatening to withhold federal funds. That has caused cities in California as well as Oregon and Washington to defy the Giant Orange Bloat. Imagine Trump penalizing California, the state that literally pours tax dollars into Washington's treasury. What could possibly go wrong?
Today, Trump's press secretary, Spicer, warned that Trump intends to use federal criminal powers to crack down on recreational marijuana use even in states such as (coincidentally of course) Washington, Oregon and California that have legalized weed. Already Washington's governor, Jay Inslee, and the state attorney general have vowed to resist any efforts by Trump to "undermine the will of the voters in Washington state."
A lot of British Columbians have about had their fill of being pushed around by the rest of Canada and it seems that West Coast America is coming to the same point with Washington.
It's still a very long shot but there's no sign that the discontent will do anything but worsen with Trump's rampages and Trudeau's indifference. Stranger things have happened.
BTW - for a humourous discussion of an American secession check out Chuck Thompson's "Better Off Without' Em."

Rasputin Speaks

The Disaffected Lib - jeu, 02/23/2017 - 14:18

To Steve Bannon, Trump, on the campaign trail proved to be the greatest public speaker since William Jennings Bryan. To anyone who sat through some of Trump's campaign speeches, that should tell you a very great deal about Bannon's sensibilities. Anyway, here he is in the flesh at the CPAC conference.

The Tyranny of the Minority

The Disaffected Lib - jeu, 02/23/2017 - 13:09

America didn't get where it is today overnight. It took the better part of 60-years. Writing in Harper's, Rebecca Solnit traces how the "Tyranny of the Minority" came to be.

The dismantling started in the 1960s, when the two main parties reversed positions on civil rights. Lyndon Johnson led the Democrats toward stronger alliances with people of color and with women. The Republicans, meanwhile, won the South with the Southern Strategy, that euphemistically named program to gain the support of white Southerners by stoking their racial fears. Justification for the approach had been offered years earlier by William F. Buckley Jr. “The White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically,” Buckley wrote in 1957. “For the time being, it is the advanced race.” On the basis of that “advanced” status, Buckley decided, a decision to wrest control from the majority “may be, though undemocratic, enlightened.” At its most ideological, the withdrawal from the democratic experiment has served white supremacy; at its least, it has been a scramble for power by any means necessary. Even as the civil-rights movement and the Voting Rights Act sought to undo Jim Crow, a new, stealthier Jim Crow arose in its place.

Writing in The New Republic, the journalist Jeet Heer explains that Buckley’s fledgling conservative movement recognized that by persuading disgruntled whites across the country to vote according to their racial and ideological rather than economic interests, it could gain “reliable foot soldiers” in its larger project of undermining the left. In wooing white voters, Republicans rejected — indeed, ejected — non-white constituencies, who found their only and imperfect home with the Democrats. And where Democrats have been wavering and inconsistent in their desire to expand democratic participation, Republicans have been firmly committed to limiting it: rather than attempting to win the votes of people of color, they attempt to prevent people of color from voting.

They have not been particularly secretive about their goals. Peter Thiel, the Silicon Valley billionaire who was an early supporter of Donald Trump, has deplored the effects of the Nineteenth Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, because women tend to vote in favor of social programs. Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s chief strategist and adviser, once “mused about the desirability of limiting the vote to property owners,” according to the New York Times. His interlocutor noted that such a move would exclude a lot of African Americans. “Maybe that’s not such a bad thing,” Bannon replied. Trump, meanwhile, has openly gloated over the number of black people who didn’t vote in 2016.

Republicans’ furious and nasty war against full participation has taken many forms: gerrymandering, limiting early voting, reducing the number of polling places, restricting third-party voter registration, and otherwise disenfranchising significant portions of the electorate. Subtler yet no less effective have been their efforts to attack democracy at the root. They have advanced policies to weaken the electorate economically, to undermine a free and fair news media, and to withhold the education and informed discussion that would equip citizens for active engagement. In 1987, for example, Republican appointees eliminated the rule that required radio and TV stations to air a range of political views. The move helped make possible the rise of right-wing talk radio and of Fox News, which for twenty years has effectively served the Republican Party as a powerful propaganda arm.


Some Republicans have argued for a more inclusive approach, but they are not leading the way. The party isn’t changing its strategy in order to win a majority; it is intensifying its efforts to suppress that majority. It has committed itself to minority rule. As the non-white population swells, Republican scenarios for holding power will look more and more like those of apartheid-era South Africa — or even the antebellum South. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, Trump’s nominee for attorney general, is infamous for his efforts in the 1980s to persecute black voting-rights activists and intimidate hundreds of black voters. In the next decade, either the Party of Lincoln will force us to backtrack for decades, perhaps a century, or we will overcome its obstructionism and walk forward. If anything redeems this nation, it’s the idealism that has for centuries moved abolitionists, suffragists, Freedom Riders, and their like to stand up for the country’s principles — to risk, sometimes, their lives. Hundreds of activist groups have formed in the wake of the election, beginning projects to register voters, renew voting-rights campaigns, and organize local power to influence national policy. The NAACP’s Barber calls this era the Third Reconstruction.

A Wetter Wet Coast

The Disaffected Lib - jeu, 02/23/2017 - 12:43

Floods we get. Drought, we're not so sure.

A new study published in Geophysical Research Letters finds that the entire west coast of North America is in for a lot more rain - and flooding - caused by atmospheric rivers of the sort that's been hammering California.

It's a matter of physics.  Warmer temperatures increase evaporation. A warmer atmosphere holds more water vapour. A warmer, wetter atmosphere is more energized, powerful, and leads to the creation of atmospheric rivers.

From Climate Central:

Days on which atmospheric rivers reach the West Coast each year could increase by a third this century, if greenhouse gas pollution continues to rise sharply, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory researchers concluded after running model simulations.

Currently, the West Coast is likely to receive rain or snow from atmospheric rivers between 25 and 40 days each year, the analysis concluded. By century’s end, that’s expected to rise to between 35 and 55 days annually.

Meanwhile, the number of days each year on which the atmospheric rivers bring “extreme” amounts of rain and snow to the region could increase by more than a quarter.

The good news is that there's not a lot of level land along the coast. Unfortunately the exceptions include estuaries such as the Fraser Valley, including the densely populated Lower Mainland. Already susceptible to sea level rise and storm surge, heavy mountain runoff overwhelming the banks of the Fraser present another major flooding risk.
Does this mean that west coast droughts are solved? Not so much. Today we're seeing a new phenomenon sometimes called "flash droughts" or "hot droughts." These are destructive, seasonal droughts marked by an interruption of precipitation coupled with intense heat waves, conditions that can impair crop growth.
Recent research has suggested that higher temperatures linked to global warming exacerbated the intensity of California’s ongoing drought, by drying out the state. It’s far less clear what effect climate change had on the likelihood that such a drought would occur.

“The role of anthropogenic influences on the lack of precipitation is still an open question,” said Kevin Anchukaitis, a paleoclimatologist and earth systems geographer at the University of Arizona. “Different research groups have come to different conclusions.”

Rising temperatures are expected to accelerate evaporation and lead to drier conditions across the West — producing what scientists call hot droughts.

Anchukaitis said atmospheric rivers don’t necessarily affect the conditions that produce hot droughts.

But the “severity and duration” of droughts, Anchukaitis said, “will depend on a complex interplay between temperature increases, uncertain long-term precipitation trends and the punctuated role of drought-busting atmospheric rivers.”

Climate Change Displacing Canada's Bison

The Disaffected Lib - jeu, 02/23/2017 - 11:38
It's a clear cut problem. Since 1986 lakes in Canada's north have doubled in area. That additional water has encroached on natural habitats including the Mackenzie bison preserve. This is being blamed for the migration of wood bison out of the Mackenzie preserve.

Lakes in the Mackenzie Bison Sanctuary off the northwest shore of Great Slave Lake are now bigger than any time in at least the last 200 years, said Josh Thienpont, a University of Ottawa scientist and a lead author on the paper, published Thursday in the journal Nature.

“The whole landscape does appear to be getting wetter,” he said.

Thienpont and his colleagues grew intrigued with the 10,000-square-kilometre sanctuary after people from Fort Providence, N.W.T., pointed out things were changing.

“Some of the local community had noticed that it was more difficult to travel on the landscape because it was wetter,” Thienpont said.

Thienpont and his colleagues examined satellite imagery of the area between 1986 and 2011. They found the proportion of the land covered by water had almost doubled, from 5.7 per cent of the total area to as high as 11 per cent.
What’s happening in the sanctuary is unusual. Many northern areas are responding the climate change by getting drier, with lakes draining away as permafrost melts beneath them.

The sanctuary is a reminder that climate change impacts vary, said Thienpont.

“It shows that the same stressor can have varying impacts in different landscapes. It shows the responses of ecosystems are complex and the consequences of climate warming can impact every component of an ecosystem – not just the terrestrial, but also the animals living in an area.”

There Is No Escaping Donald Trump But We Have to Try

The Disaffected Lib - jeu, 02/23/2017 - 11:07

Well that's not quite true. If you've got some floating fishing cabin in a sheltered remote cove somewhere up the coast you might be able to escape the constant presence of the Great Orange Bloat. For the rest of us, it's game over.

An op-ed from the New York Times reveals the futility of hoping for Trump-free serenity. Farhad Manjoo tried it for a week. What he discovered is unsettling.

I spent last week ignoring President Donald Trump. Although I am ordinarily a politics junkie, I didn't read, watch or listen to a single story about anything having to do with America's 45th president.

It wasn't my aim to stick my head in the sand. I did not quit the news. Instead, I spent as much time as I normally do online (all my waking hours), but shifted most of my energy to looking for Trump-free zones.

My point: I wanted to see what I could learn about the modern news media by looking at how thoroughly Trump had subsumed it. In one way, my experiment failed: I could find almost no Trump-free part of the press.

But as the week wore on, I discovered several truths about our digital media ecosystem. Coverage of Trump may eclipse that of any single human being ever. The reasons have as much to do with him as the way social media amplifies every big story until it swallows the world. And as important as covering the president may be, I began to wonder if we were overdosing on Trump news, to the exclusion of everything else.
The new president doesn't simply dominate national and political news. During my week of attempted Trump abstinence, I noticed something deeper: He has taken up semipermanent residence on every outlet of any kind, political or not. He is no longer just the message. In many cases, he has become the medium, the ether through which all other stories flow.

It wasn't just news. Trump's presence looms over much more. There he is off in the wings of The Bachelor and even The Big Bang Theory, whose creator, Chuck Lorre, has taken to inserting anti-Trump messages in the closing credits. Want to watch an awards show? Say the Grammys or the Golden Globes? Trump Trump Trump. How about sports? Yeah, no. The president's policies are an animating force in the NBA. He was the subtext of the Super Bowl: both the game and the commercials, and maybe even the halftime show.

Where else could I go? Snapchat and Instagram were relatively safe, but the president still popped up. Even suggested I consider Trump toilet paper for my wife's Valentine's Day present. (I bought her jewellery.)
On most days, Trump is 90 per cent of the news on my Twitter and Facebook feeds, and probably yours, too. But he's not 90 per cent of what's important in the world. During my break from Trump news, I found rich coverage veins that aren't getting social play. ISIS is retreating across Iraq and Syria. Brazil seems on the verge of chaos. A large ice shelf in Antarctica is close to full break. Scientists may have discovered a new continent submerged under the ocean near Australia.

Unlike old-school media, today's media works according to social feedback loops. Every story that shows any signs of life on Facebook or Twitter is copied endlessly by every outlet, becoming unavoidable.

Every new story prompts outrage, which puts the stories higher in your feed, which prompts more coverage, which encourages more talk, and on and on. We saw this effect before Trump came on the scene - it's why you know about Cecil the lion and Harambe the gorilla - but he has accelerated the trend. He is the Harambe of politics, the undisputed king of all media.

In previous media eras, the news was able to find a sensible balance even when huge events were preoccupying the world. Newspapers from World War I and World War II were filled with stories far afield from the war. Today's newspapers are also full of non-Trump articles, but many of us aren't reading newspapers anymore. We're reading Facebook and watching cable, and there, Trump is all anyone talks about, to the exclusion of almost all else.

There's no easy way out of this fix. But as big as Trump is, he's not everything - and it'd be nice to find a way for the media ecosystem to recognise that.

aswan:abu simbel

we move to canada - jeu, 02/23/2017 - 10:48
Our last full day in Egypt was a study in extremes, both good and bad. Abu Simbel has been on my wish-list to see since learning about it in university art history class. It did not disappoint. I loved it. We also had a heaping dose of everything we don’t like about the culture here.

First the good. We left early with a box breakfast from our hotel. The early ferries were crowded with teens going to school. The ferry carried at least twice as many people as usual.

The tour guy was waiting for us on the east bank ferry slip. We settled up with him and settled into a nice car, with our breakfast. The drive to Abu Simbel is a bit less than three hours. It’s one highway the whole way, and once you leave Aswan, there is nothing but desert on both sides. There are no cacti or scrub grass like you see in the southwest US. Just flat sand to the horizon. When we got to Abu Simbel, and saw Lake Nasser on both sides of the monument -- the same lake we saw three hours ago in Aswan -- we really got a sense of how huge the lake is.

At Abu Simbel, there was a display of photos documenting the process of moving the monuments from their original location, to save them from being permanently submerged under Lake Nasser. A video (in English) was running, a documentary about the move. It’s an incredible engineering and archaeological feat. It seems almost impossible that it happened and was successful.

If that seems impossible, the fact of the monument and temples themselves seems truly otherworldly. The four seated colossi carved out of a mountain are so outsized, it’s overwhelming. The pedestal on which their feet rests is six feet tall.

Inside, in the temple of Ramses II, more colossi serve as columns. With these, a tall person comes up to their shins, no taller than their knees. The temple is much larger than I realized, with many chambers and little rooms. The reliefs are beautiful. There’s a series depicting Ramses conquering his enemies, with great detail of chariots, horses, people begging for mercy, bows and arrows, and so on.

The smaller temple of Nephertiti is also impressive and beautiful. Only in terms of ancient Egypt could this temple be considered small. The statues outside it are about 10 metres (30 feet) tall. The colossi of the Ramses temple are twice that.

I was thrilled to see this monument, and sad to leave it. I know I’ll never see it again. I feel so fortunate to have seen it, but that is also a little sad, because now it’s over. It’s strange. You want to see something your whole life, and then you see it for a couple of hours, and then you’ve seen it.

* * * *

Now the bad.

Allan is totally sick of the harassment by souvenir sellers and the tourist prices. Today it got really bad, prompting us to have a long discussion about why this happens at all.

Why can’t we walk past a row of stalls or stores without being called to, men blocking my way, putting things in front of my face? Why can’t I look at one piece of jewelry without hearing a sales pitch for seven more pieces? Why do so many people have to call attention to every tourist that walks by? Why can’t local and tourist treat each other with mutual respect?

Coming to a country so different than my own, I took care to learn the appropriate shows of respect -- how to address people, how to dress in public. I was very focused on, as a tourist, showing proper respect to our host country. But the constant hawking, the endless comments, and the crazy prices feel very disrespectful.

At Abu Simbel, we tried to buy two postcards (which we need for two specific people). The seller tried to charge 20 LEs for them. First, “Smile, smile, why do you look so angry? Smile, you are welcome here,” then 20 LEs for a postcard that likely costs five for 1 LE. Then the price immediately drops to 10. It’s not the money. It’s the fact of this happening.

Two minutes later, we try to buy a water and a seller (not the same person) asks for 25 LEs. Water costs 5 LEs. We were so annoyed, we didn’t discuss it with him, we just put it back.

Why is it like this? Tourist and host could be, should be, a mutually beneficial relationship, but the harassment and the hugely inflated prices make it feel completely adversarial.

I fell asleep on the ride back, so I felt kind of gross from that. Then we went to the souq, partly to look for the bookstore again, but mostly to pick up something to eat, preferably something we could bring back to the hotel to eat later.

Every food stall looked dirty and disgusting. You know I am not germ-phobic, nor particularly hung up about cleanliness. I often think people make too big a deal about these things. If you have a healthy immune system, you don’t have to worry about shaking hands, or using a phone that someone else has used. So in that context, I tell you that the thought of eating food from any of these places nauseated me. Literally.

We saw a man making falafel sandwiches for some girls (tourists). One girl refused to take the wrapped-up sandwiches. The man started pulling out the sandwich fillings -- with his hands -- and throwing them back into the containers on his cart.

Everything is filthy. There is so much garbage everywhere. There was no stand or stall or fast-food joint that looked remotely like something we would eat in or from.

To top it all off, Allan tried to buy some bread and pastries at a bakery stall, and the owner tried to charge him 30 LEs for something we know costs less than 10. Allan handed him back the bag, and we walked away. The man yelled after us, again and again and again, as if we were haggling.

I also want to add to what I wrote in a previous post about street harassment, that I’m too old, and traveling with a man protects me from that. Well, not quite. Young guys, walking in groups, say things to any female tourist, or perhaps any tourist with her head uncovered. They act as if they’re supposed to do this -- making a comment, then snickering together like they’re indulging in some naughty fun. It doesn’t happen very often, and it’s usually one comment, no more. But today it added to the general disgust factor.

Remember, This Didn't Start in Washington

The Disaffected Lib - jeu, 02/23/2017 - 08:54

Modern radical right populism predates Donald Trump by a good few years. Turkey, Poland, Hungary all came first and rightwing populism has been alive and well in France, the Netherlands and Britain among others long before Trump entered the Republican nomination race.

You could say this contagion is in its infancy in America although there's no way of knowing how rapidly that could change. For example, it's changing fairly quickly in Turkey and now Poland.

The defence ministry in Warsaw announced that 90 per cent of Poland's top military brass have been removed, replaced. A purge of the general staff, however, is not the creepiest part. year ago, ...Poland’s minister of defense, Antoni Macierewicz, was quoted as saying he wanted to grow Poland’s army from 100,000 to 150,000. He called it “the minimum which is necessary to respond to military threats.”

Macierewicz did add 50,000 troops. But they did not join the military, per se. Rather, they were considered a separate entity — volunteer troops to trained and ready in three years and equipped with Polish-made materials; who focus not on operational maneuvers, but on local tasks; and who are not in the military structure, but are answerable to the Ministry of Defense

It sounds a bit like a pretty hefty Praetorian Guard or, as Saddam called his, the Republican Guard. A large contingent of troops that answer to political masters, not the military brass. And the move to politicize Poland's military has extended to weapons production and acquisition.

...the current government “almost turned upside down what is being procured,” [defence analyst Marek] Swierczynski said in an interview with Foreign Policy. It postponed and reduced, for example, the purchase of search and rescue helicopters for the Navy (and will now likely not meet NATO and the EU’s search and rescue requirements), and will instead focus on the purchase of small drones.

This is in part because of the extensive social programs promised by the Law and Justice party, which probably cannot be enacted if the government is also spending 8 to 10 billion zloty annually on new military equipment. Moreover, the military equipment being bought can be made in Poland — specifically, in eastern and central Poland, home to the Polish defense industry, and also to many Law and Justice voters.

It’s “very much like Donald Trump, actually,” Swierczynski explained — Law and Justice is making Poland great again, one small Polish drone at a time. But they are doing so for political reasons, and not, necessarily, because that is will best serve the army or, by extension, the safety and security of Poland....
Macierewicz and the Defense Ministry spent the past year making changes to the army without consulting its most senior personnel. The chief of defense was not consulted when the ministry replaced his deputies. People are appointed to positions without the necessary ranking required. The NATO-Corps deputy commander is supposed to be a two-star general, but a colonel was given the post instead. The Washington military attache — also at least a one-star position — has been empty since April.

But Macierewicz has the mentality that professionalism is not of the utmost importance. His belief is that “You can gain professionalism in due time,” Swierczynski said. “First, you have to be loyal.”

That’s what was seen in 2016. Whether the Polish military will be better served by loyalty than it was by professionalism in the age of a potential alliance between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin will be seen in the year, and years, to come.

It's worth remembering what else has transpired in Poland since the Law & Justice party took over. It echoes today in Washington.
First came an attack on Poland's judiciary, notably the troublesome Constitutional Court. But wait, there's more. How about press freedom? Sound familiar? In December, Polish pro-democracy protesters swarmed the legislature for three days.

Protests in the Polish capital Warsaw against government plans to restrict journalists' access to parliament have continued for a third day.

Protesters gathered outside parliament, where opposition MPs have been holding a sit-in since Friday.

Press freedom and judicial independence are also being suppressed in Hungary where strongman, Viktor Orban, has vowed to pursue illiberal democracy.
Then there's Turkey where, under Erdogan, press freedom and judicial independence seem closer to South Vietnam under Diem.
The thing is, much as critics like to cast Trump's senior advisor, Steve Bannon, as some latter day Machiavelli of the Dark Side, he is actually following the playbook written elsewhere. We have the benefit of plenty of recent history to see how this can play out. We can see how the radical right goes about dismembering the democratic state, particularly by attacking judicial independence and press freedom, both of which are well underway in America today.

And, in case you're breathing a smug sigh of relief that we're in Canada, not the United States, you might want to read the National Observer's interview with Chris Hedges. Here's a bit of the Q & A:

What are your thoughts on Canada’s role in this and how Canada could be affected?

Canada’s always a few years behind. Trudeau functions much like Obama. That kind of liberal veneer, while pushing through corporate interests and power at the expense of the citizenry. He’s done nothing to disrupt the surveillance apparatus.

Wouldn't you rather have Trudeau than Trump?

Eventually you end up with a Trump. These are liberal democracies that cease to function. The institutions that address the most basic rights and grievances of the citizens don’t work. They serve corporate power.

Feel better now? I hope not.


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