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Angry Old White Dude Travels Light, Runs Out of Steam

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 03/17/2017 - 17:56

American secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, cut short his visit to South Korea, reportedly citing "fatigue." Tillerson is on a 3-nation Asia tour that started in Japan and is supposed to finish in China.

Unlike previous state secretaries, Tillerson is traveling light - packing along a press pool of just one, reporter Erik McPike of the far right Independent Journal Review.

Tillerson lasted long enough in South Korea to threaten North Korea with war.

“I think it’s important to recognize that the political and diplomatic efforts of the past 20 years to bring North Korea to the point of denuclearization have failed,” Tillerson said.

“Certainly we do not want for things to get to a military conflict. But obviously if North Korea takes actions that threaten the South Korean forces or our own forces then that would be met with an appropriate response,” adding, “If they elevate the threat of their weapons program to a level that we believe that requires action, that option is on the table.”

With that, Tillerson adjourned for a badly needed nap.

Did German Reporters School Their Cowed American Counterparts?

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 03/17/2017 - 17:54

Trump probably won't be entertaining questions from the German press again anytime soon. Those attending the Merkel-Trump meeting didn't mince words when they got a chance to question the Cheeto Benito - and he didn't like it.

American journos later praised the German press for asking blunt questions they wouldn't dare raise.

It's too bad the American press is so gutless, especially when they've got this lunatic on a platter.

Musical interlude

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 03/17/2017 - 17:22
Omnia feat. Melissa Loretta - Halo

Like Shooting Fish In a Barrel - Apache Helicopter Gunship Attacks Refugee Boat

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 03/17/2017 - 16:33

An Apache helicopter gunship has reportedly laid waste to a small boat packed with Somali refugees off the coast of Yemen. The U.N. Refugee Agency, UNHCR, reports that 42 of the 140 Somali migrants aboard the boat were killed.

The boat, filled with refugees attempting to flee war-torn Yemen including women and children, had made it about 30 miles offshore when a helicopter swooped in and opened fire. A local coast guard official from the Houthi-rebel controlled coast of Yemen told Reuters an Apache helicopter attacked the boat, though it remains unclear who is responsible for the attack.

Saudi Arabia, which leads an Arab air campaign against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, owns U.S.-made Apache helicopters. A spokesperson for the Saudi-led coalition said the coalition didn’t operate in the region of the attack Thursday.

All of the dead were reportedly carrying U.N. refugee identity papers.

What a Churlish Prick

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 03/17/2017 - 12:59

The handshake photo-op is an obligatory part of a foreign leader's visit to the White House. The Cheeto Benito already has a well-earned reputation for the vigor of his hand clasp.

Which is why it was so awkward today when German chancellor Angela Merkel sat down with Trump for the standard photo-op. As photographers repeatedly called "handshake", the Great Orange Bloat ignored them - and the chancellor.

What a churlish prick although it was good to see how uncomfortable Donald Trump can plainly look in the presence of a powerful woman unwilling to put up with his bullshit.

"We're a Very Powerful Company"

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 03/17/2017 - 11:35

That little Freudian slip from the lips of the Cheeto Benito at the Merkel-Trump press conference just minutes ago. Trump was responding to a German reporter's question - to Merkel - about American isolationist leanings. Instead, Trump replied and, of course, ensured he got out the "fake news" response.

A weird press conference. Trump opened by praising Germany's job training programmes without connecting them in any way to German-American relations. He then launched into the standard "countries must pay the U.S. what they owe" as he portrayed America as a land much abused by the rest of the world. From there he moved on to radical Islam, ISIS and linked both to immigration security.

Merkel's remarks were challenging. The White House feed left her mic on full which meant that Merkel's remarks, in German, and the translator's delivery were canceled each other out.

In one clear moment, the German chancellor seemed to take a dig at Trump when she said, "It's much better to take to one another and not about one another," which seemed a response to repeated disparaging remarks about Merkel from the Great Orange Bloat.

Earlier today, Germany's economy minister took a more direct swipe at Trump over his threat to impose a 35% tariff on German cars.

"There are procedures laid out there because in the WTO agreements it is clearly laid out that you're not allowed to take more than 2.5% taxes on imports of cars," Ms Zypries told Deutschlandfunk radio - Mr Trump has suggested a 35% levy.

"It wouldn't be the first time that Mr Trump has lost in the courts," she added.

Merkel was also quick to point out that BMW's plant in the U.S. exported more cars to world markets than Ford and GM combined. Ouch, feel the burn Trumpy.

America's Islamophobia Industry

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 03/17/2017 - 10:11

Hmm, why does the name Kellie Leitch come to mind?

Islamophobia has become a hallmark of Amerika's ascendant radical right. 90 years ago in Europe, it was the Jews. In 21st century Amerika, it's Muslims that are the firewood to fuel the very worst varieties of nationalist populism. Foreign Policy calls it "Islamophobia Inc."

The subject of the article is Jonathon Brown, a convert to Islam and professor of Islamic studies at Georgetown.

Brown’s attempts to explain the faith have made him a hate figure for the American right. A flood of articles accuse him of being an apologist for slavery and rape. His family has received death and rape threats.

It all started with good intentions. Brown is one of the majority of Muslims around the world who believes the Islamic State practices a warped interpretation of Islamic thought that blesses slavery, rape, and other crimes. But Brown also knows that not all Muslims are so quick to dismiss the jihadi group’s theology. Certainly the hundreds of foreign fighters who have trickled into Syria and Iraq to join its ranks find its ideas seductive.


But Brown felt that he was called to try, hence his public lecture at the International Institute of Islamic Thought in Herndon, Virginia, on Feb. 7. In the first of what he intended as a three-part series, Brown addressed slavery in Islam, hoping to combat the idea that Islam could ever condone the subjugation and exploitation of human beings.

That was when he encountered a cacophony of a different sort — America’s far-right, anti-Muslim ecosystem that has adopted the same twisted interpretations of Islam that the Islamic State promotes. After the lecture, Brown endured a cascade of online attacks from conservative and alternative-right heavyweights such as Ann Coulter, Robert Spencer, and Milo Yiannopoulos, who claimed that he had actually condoned the acts he had set about to condemn. His university department was flooded with demands that he be fired.

Brown is the victim of an increasingly empowered industry of Islamophobia that constricts the space for balanced and open dialogue, sidelining the very Muslims who are doing the most to promote peaceful, orthodox interpretations of Islam. The United States has powerful protections for speech and religious liberty that have allowed faith traditions to hammer out their theological debates in a free and protected environment. But a targeted network now seeks to deny Muslims that freedom and to treat Islam as a dangerous political ideology rather than a religion — and, like the McCarthyites of the 1950s, to silence and discredit any Muslims who disagree.
The United States once battled its own militant pseudo-state that invoked religion to justify institutionalized slavery. “[Slavery] was established by decree of Almighty God,” said Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States of America. “It is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to Revelation … it has existed in all ages, has been found among the people of the highest civilization, and in nations of the highest proficiency in the arts.”

The Gettysburg Museum of History in Pennsylvania describes the Civil War as a “theological crisis” in American Christianity. One exhibit features an 1857 pamphlet called “Slavery: Ordained of God,” written by the Rev. Fred A. Ross of Huntsville, Alabama. Nearby is a painting of John Brown, the famed Christian abolitionist, holding a Bible in one hand and a gun in the other.
What Brown was attempting to do was build a bridge for American Muslims between their sacred scripture and their human rights sensibilities, as many Christian thinkers before him have done. For his efforts, he attracted the attention of an Islamophobic ecosystem designed to marginalize any Muslim who speaks out. Brown’s straightforward academic lecture was quickly transformed into fodder for a flood of unscrupulous articles painting him as someone who “justifies slavery and the rape of female slaves,” leaving him with a horrific online footprint that is likely to trail him for decades.

In the years after 9/11, a small but powerful network of funders and ideological activists has waged a major misinformation campaign, seeking to cast Islam as a diabolical threat that must be eradicated. Their concerted efforts have resulted in an influential infrastructure of websites, activists, lawmakers, and grassroots organizations that hold sway in municipal councils and state legislatures — and now have the ear of the president of the United States.

Between 2001 and 2009, seven charitable foundations donated $42.6 million to think tanks that promoted anti-Muslim rhetoric, as a 2011 report by the Center for American Progress revealed. These organizations include Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy; Stop Islamization of America, founded by Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer; the website Jihad Watch, directed by Spencer; and the David Horowitz Freedom Center, which hosts Jihad Watch. These organizations came up with several talking points about Islam that they promoted among lawmakers, grassroots networks, and the Christian right. Chiefly among these ideas was the belief that sharia, or Islamic law, is a totalitarian political ideology that presents the greatest domestic threat facing the United States today; that the Muslim Brotherhood, a loosely organized international Islamist movement, has infiltrated the U.S. government; and that Islam commands believers to lie about their motives. In other words, no Muslim can be trusted; you must infiltrate their private spaces to learn what they think.

This campaign has been wildly successful. Gaffney is now a senior advisor to the Donald Trump White House. Gaffney’s influence extends throughout the administration. Kellyanne Conway, who ran Trump’s campaign and now serves as counselor to the president, managed polling for the Center for Security Policy. Stephen Bannon, former head of the alt-right website Breitbart and now White House chief strategist, frequently invited Gaffney to appear on Breitbart’s radio show.

American Muslims are reacting to forces far beyond their control — a feverish paranoia that echoes the anti-Communist Red Scare in the decade after World War II. Virtually any Muslim who has chosen to speak out or to become active in politics has faced a torrent of similarly unscrupulous smearing.

Ideologues are seeking to marginalize Muslims by making their speech and their activism relating to their religion come at a very high price. They believe that Muslims are malevolent, duplicitous, and dangerous, and these Islamophobes will bend the truth to fit their claims. In the process, they are denying Islam the same functional rights that Christianity enjoys and silencing the very people best poised to reconcile Islam with modern American life.
Which may be the very point.

To the left™

Dawg's Blawg - Fri, 03/17/2017 - 09:22
The political fashion trend of the times: if someone—anyone—from an oppressed group criticizes a cis-white progressive activist, we need to apologize and move on. Because of colonialism, patriarchy, sexism and racism, we white folks on the Left have it coming.... Dr.Dawg http://drdawgsblawg.ca/

A Moral Coward

Politics and its Discontents - Fri, 03/17/2017 - 06:45

Every so often, I happen upon a news item that, for want of a better word, inflames me; it is usually something so patently outrageous that my capacity for calm desserts me, and I launch into a semi-tirade. This morning was one of those moments.

Now some may say that because I am not black, I have no right to pass judgement on Senator Don Meredith, the reprobate who used his positions of power (as pastor of his church and as a Harper-appointed senator) to 'groom' an underage member of his congregation for a totally inappropriate and morally reprehensible sexual relationship. Anyone who reads my blog knows that injustice, especially the abuse of power, is something that offends me to the core, and a person's race or colour can never exempt him or her from condemnation.

Yet Don Meredith begs to differ. First of all, the coward is thus far refusing to resign, despite pressure from his senate colleagues to do so, instead opting to take a leave of absence "on the advice of his doctor".

Perhaps he is hoping for the storm to blow over? Meredith seems perplexed as to the calls for his resignation. In his mind, he has owned up to his 'mistake.'
"This is a moral failing on my part," a grim-faced Meredith said in a wide-ranging interview, with his wife Michelle quietly at his side. "As a human being, I made a grave error in judgment, in my interactions. For that I am deeply sorry."

Meredith, 52, repeatedly apologized to his wife, children, his fellow senators and "all Canadians" for the relationship that took place with the woman known only as Ms. M.

His wife and children have forgiven him, he said, and he asked for the same forgiveness from his Senate colleagues and Ms. M herself.

"I believe in the power of forgiveness and reconciliation," he said as his Toronto lawyer looked on. "We're humans, and humans make mistakes."But neither his public mea culpa nor his refusal to resign are what set me off. It was this:
The senator said Wednesday he believes he has been the victim of racism since the allegations about his affair first surfaced in the summer of 2015. Where individuals of colour rise, he said, somehow they're taken down — whether it's "self-inflicted or orchestrated."

"Absolutely, racism has played a role in this," Meredith said. "This is nothing new to me. There is always a double standard that exists in this country."

Pieters said his client was being portrayed as a "sexual predator" because he is an imposing black man — but that clearly was not the case.For Meredith to 'play the race card' not only compounds his moral cowardice, but also indirectly impugns all those who have been actual victims of racism. His claim, in my view, demonstrates not only his unfitness to hold public office, but also his ongoing position as executive director of the GTA Faith Alliance.

And I am hardly alone in my umbrage:

There is no question in my mind that if we are to have even a modicum of respect for the failing Senate, Don Meredith must go.

Recommend this Post

Not Exactly As They Appear

Northern Reflections - Fri, 03/17/2017 - 05:18

There was a collective sigh of relief when Geert Wilders did not come out on top in the Netherlands election. But Tom Walkom warns that all is not sweetness and light:

But Wilder’s Freedom Party still did well. It came a strong second, winning five additional seats in the 150-person legislature, for a total of 20.
More important, other parties felt compelled to ape Wilders, at least in part.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy ran on a platform of economic liberalism and cultural nationalism, warning immigrants to adopt Dutch values or leave.
If there was any saving grace, it was the pledges of the other parties that they would not work with Wilders. But the way seats are spread among the other parties is a bit troubling: 
Rutte’s party lost eight seats but still managed to come first with 33.
The Christian Democratic Appeal, another conservative party, campaigned on a nationalist platform that included banning dual citizenship and requiring schoolchildren to sing the national anthem.
That, too, worked. The Christian Democrats saw their seat total rise from 13 to 19, virtually guaranteeing them a central role in whatever coalition government emerges.
Much has been made of Jesse Klaver’s Green Left party, which saw its seat share rise from four to 14.The 30-year-old Klaver is of Moroccan and Indonesian heritage. He supports immigration, the EU and efforts to combat climate change. With his movie-star looks and dark, wavy hair he has been called Holland’s Justin Trudeau.
His success, as well as that of the pro-Europe D66 party, which went from 12 to 19 seats, underlines just how complicated the new populism is.
And, as is the case with any coalition government, everything depends on how well Rutte can get a team of rivals to work together. If he fails, the number two man may step in.
Things are not exactly as they might first appear.
Image: Metopolis

The Con Leadership Race Is Now a Stinky Scandal

Montreal Simon - Fri, 03/17/2017 - 03:55

It's a horrible sight, it sounds bestial. Oinky, oinky, honky honk!!!!

And it smells even worse. 

But who can be surprised?

As the never ending Con leadership race heads towards the final stretch, the stench of porky is in the air.

And the most disgusting leadership campaign in modern Canadian history is in danger of gassing itself.
Read more »

A Crime Against Humanity

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 03/17/2017 - 00:24

Trump budget director, Mick Mulvaney, announces that the Trump regime will no longer fund action to thwart climate change. It's a "waste of money."

With Trump already having relieved the auto industry of Obama's targets for emissions reductions and his actions to accelerate the production of all fossil fuels, including coal, America has officially turned on humanity.

If Y(emelin) Should Fall From Grace with Claude (apologies to the Pogues)

Tattered Sleeve - Thu, 03/16/2017 - 18:22
If Y Should Fall from Grace with Claude
After being cleanly beaten
If Y’s muscled off the puck
And his passes fail completely

Let him sit Claude, let him sit Claude
Let Y sit up with the press where the hotdogs come with fries

This Cup was always ours 
Was the pride of Montrealers
It belongs to the Habs
Not to any of Buttman’s fuckers
It’s coming back here boys, coming back here boys!
Dump the Buttman in the south where the hockey fans run dry

Keep GCHuck at C
Let those Forum ghosts direct him
If he shoots from open ice
KidA or LB will deflect them
Into the goal boys, into the goal boys!
Win this town a twenty-fifth Cup
Where the Frenchmen used to fly

If Y Should Fall from Grace with Claude
After being cleanly beaten
Harley’s raring to go
And he passes pretty cleanly

Let him sit Claude, let him sit Claude
Let Y sit up with the press where the hotdogs come with fries



New column day

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 03/16/2017 - 17:13
Here, on the Saskatchewan Party's determination to make work more precarious - and pay and benefits harder to come by - in the public and private sectors alike.

For further reading...
- The history of the Skip the Dishes saga includes the government's plan for millions of dollars in handouts; the decision of the company not to bother following through on the deal, resulting in the cancellation of a cheque already sent out; the sale of the business to a British buyer; and most recently the uproar over an applicant being told that her questions about pay and benefits made her unfit for Skip the Dishes' "corporate culture".
- Among the other "sharing economy" actors facing needed regulatory scrutiny, see CBC's report on tax enforcement over eBay, Jeff Gray and Ross Marowits on the effort to bring Airbnb in line with housing and accommodation policy, and Mike Isaac's revelations about Uber's attempts to evade regulation.
- Again, Nick Purdon and Leonardo Palleja discussed the lack of stable work for new university graduates. And Sara Mojtehedzadeh reports on the continued abuses by Ontario employers who have already been caught violating employment standards.
- Meanwhile, the Wall government's plan to lay off building cleaners started in January - with observers noting that it wouldn't be expected to save money. And this week, word came out as to the 230 workers affected by having their jobs outsourced.
- Finally, in case anybody in government was actually interested in ameliorating the provincial deficit rather than attacking workers, Jason Warick has pointed out that areas including unnecessary health care usage and agricultural subsidies offer far more opportunities for savings. 

Trump's Lethal Budget

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 03/16/2017 - 10:49

Anyone who has worked for a large organization has seen them. They're the old hands, the keepers of the keys, and you're likely to find them neither at the very top nor at the very bottom but dispersed throughout all the strata in between. They are the "institutional memory." Collectively they're the irreplaceable repository of  the facts, concepts, experiences and knowledge essential to the proper functioning of the organization. If all goes well they groom their successors, pass along their knowledge, so that there's a continuum. Yet, if they're taken down suddenly, it can create disorder, even chaos.

Donald Trump may be about to inflict chaos on the U.S. federal government. Today he'll send a "slash and burn" budget proposal to Congress that may inflict lasting damage on the functioning of the bureaucracy.

The budget would cut the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by 31 per cent, the State Department by 28 per cent and Health and Human Services by 17.9 per cent. Funding to several smaller government agencies that have long been targets of conservatives - like the Legal Services Corporation, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts - would be axed entirely.

The most significant cuts would be at the EPA, which the Trump administration has accused of overreach. The president wants to trim $US2.6 billion from the agency's budget, in part by cutting about 3,200 positions, about a fifth of the department's work force.

If enacted, the proposal would cut the agency's budget to its lowest level in 40 years, adjusted for inflation. That would mean eliminating funding for climate change research, closing state environmental programs and ending regional projects like the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which has bipartisan support.

Mr Trump would also cut funding to the United Nations for its climate change efforts, and curb contributions to its peacekeeping efforts. Contributions to the World Bank would be cut by $US650 million, and economic and development assistance would be "refocused" to countries of greatest strategic interest to the United States.

The brunt of the cuts at the Department of Health and Human Services would be at the National Institutes of Health, the country's medical research hub. The $US403 million currently used for training nurses and other medical professionals would also be eliminated.

Mr Trump's team also proposed a wide array of cuts to public education, Amtrak and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, including eliminating the $US3 billion Community Development Block Grant program, which funds popular programs like Meals on Wheels, housing assistance and other community assistance efforts.

Guns, Not Butter.
Much of the money saved by these cuts would go to national security programs.

Besides the military, the Department of Homeland Security would also receive an infusion of cash. An additional $US2.8 billion would go largely to pay for a wall along the border with Mexico and the hiring of 500 Border Patrol Agents and 1,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers next year. The budget also calls for the hiring of 20 lawyers in the Justice Department who would work to obtain land along the border for the wall.

The Exodus is Already Well Underway
In several federal departments, the Old Hands have been taking their leave since Trump was inaugurated. The Washington Post reported on an exodus from the State Department just a week after Trump was sworn in.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s job running the State Department just got considerably more difficult. The entire senior level of management officials resigned Wednesday, part of an ongoing mass exodus of senior Foreign Service officers who don’t want to stick around for the Trump era.
A demoralized public service is not going to attract A-List talent. There's too much uncertainty, too much of a learning curve in a chaotic administration. When you see that the best and the brightest have bailed out en masse that's a pretty big disincentive. 

Donald Trump and the Disciples of a False Prophet

Montreal Simon - Thu, 03/16/2017 - 10:09

Well there he was in Nashville yesterday, surrounded by his faithful supporters, and bellowing like a beast.

Giving them what they wanted. 

Another chance to chant "lock her up" four months after the election.

For they are beasts like him.
Read more »

Wilders Fended Off (for now) But the Real Winner Is

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 03/16/2017 - 09:30

Radical right wing populist Geert Wilder's PVV party failed to achieve the breakthrough win that many had feared. Yet, as he says, the genie is out of the bottle and he hopes they'll fare better in future elections.

Mark Rutte's liberal VVD party held on and now proceeds with the usual Dutch grind of forming a coalition.

While Dutch voters plugging the dyke to hold back radical, anti-Muslim populism is the big story, the big winner in yesterday's elections was the GreenLeft party that went from just 4 seats to 14. It's believed the GreenLeft, led by second runner-up in the Justin Trudeau lookalike contest, Jesse Klaver,  may now hold the balance of power in Rutte's coalition government.

Thursday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 03/16/2017 - 08:18
This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Erica Johnson reports that the problem of bank employees being pushed to fleece customers (legality be damned) is common to all of Canada's major banks. And Lisa Wright reports that the result will be a national investigation. But it's appalling that it took anonymous reports to the media for systemic abuses to be noticed and addressed - particularly when an obvious alternative to leaving personal finances in the hands of a privileged few has been summarily dismissed without explanation.

- James Tapper discusses how the privatization of the UK's power market resulted in soaring rates for the public, and massive profits for the lucky (and well-connected) corporations involved.

- Meanwhile, Martyn Brown offers a detailed set of ideas to clean up British Columbia's pay-to-play political scene. And Matt Robinson reports on Christy Clark's refusal to protect renters from being gouged by her wealthy donors.

- Jacob Swenson-Lengyel argues that progressives shouldn't limit our scope to building a response to right-wing fringe movements when the general public is broadly in agreement with our values. And the Broadbent Institute introduces its Change the Game project to chart a course for social democracy in Canada.

- Finally, Chantal Hebert compares the Cons' leadership race built on anger and chaos to the NDP's developing on a foundation of shared values and policy choices. Jordan Foisy also reviews the NDP's first debate. And Peter Julian's contribution to the Ottawa Citizen focuses on the need to make Canada work for everybody, not only for elites.


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