Agrégateur de flux

Friday Afternoon Links

accidentaldeliberations - ven, 08/22/2014 - 16:08
This and that to start your weekend.

- Robert Reich discusses how the increasing concentration of corporate wealth and power is undermining the U.S.' democracy, while noting that there's only one effective response:
We entered a vicious cycle in which political power became more concentrated in monied interests that used the power to their advantage – getting tax cuts, expanding tax loopholes, benefiting from corporate welfare and free-trade agreements, slicing safety nets, enacting anti-union legislation, and reducing public investments.

These moves further concentrated economic gains at the top, while leaving out most of the rest of America.

No wonder Americans feel powerless. No surprise we’re sick of politics, and many of us aren’t even voting.

But if we give up on politics, we’re done for. Powerlessness is a self-fulfilling prophesy.

The only way back toward a democracy and economy that work for the majority is for most of us to get politically active once again, becoming organized and mobilized.

We have to establish a new countervailing power.

The monied interests are doing what they do best – making money. The rest of us need to do what we can do best – use our voices, our vigor, and our votes.- Bryce Covert notes that service-sector jobs in particular have seen wages decline even since the 2008 crash, while Matthew Yglesias makes the case as to why there's plenty of room for employers to pay more than they've thus far bothered to do. And Freddie deBoer highlights the patent absurdity of blaming workers for acting on the promise that higher education would lead to economy opportunity:
So all the kids who heard the clarion call and rushed out to get CS degrees, or to drop out under the advice of Peter Thiel, and start coding in their basements– are they all chumps? Do they deserve scorn? Do they deserve to be unable to scratch out a living? Of course not. Like so many others, most of them did what their society told them to do to pursue the good life: work hard, go to school, and try to provide value for people so that you can earn a living. They were sold on a social contract that is failing them. No one can be reasonably expected to predict what skills the economy will value five, ten, twenty years in advance. The urge to call out others for what you perceive as their bad choices is destructive in a labor economy where, despite gains in overall unemployment rate, workers still have remarkably little bargaining power, thanks to underemployment, lack of benefits, low pay, and poor hours. Rather than succumbing to our petty insecurities by blaming others for their economic conditions, we need to look at the macroeconomic factors that are hurting our labor markets. We need to recognize that automation and artificial intelligence are pushing us towards a new era of work– one with tremendous potential productivity gains, but also tremendous uncertainty for labor, even educated labor. It’s time to stop calling people chumps and start building the kind of social system that can guarantee basic material security for all of our people, so that we can all share in the staggering gains of efficiency and productivity that technology is bringing about.- Mariana Mazzucato observes that the answer to Europe's failed austerity drive should be greater movement toward long-term public investments - not more of the same cuts-at-all-costs attitude that's obviously done nothing but harm.

- And Andre Picard reports that the Canadian Medical Association isn't accepting the Cons' excuses for abandoning public health care.

- Finally, David Climenhaga rightly questions the theory that we should answer threat to political leaders by silencing voices online, rather than actually protecting the politicians affected. And Marva Burnett writes that in fact, there's still a significant digital divide facing lower-income Canadians which demands a strong policy response to encourage greater access to a world of information.

Ferguson, Missouri Reveals How Much America Has Lost.

The Disaffected Lib - ven, 08/22/2014 - 10:30

British historian/journalist, Dr. Tim Stanley, weighs in on the militarization of American society.  He writes, "America is entering an arms race with its citizens."

The schools of Compton, Los Angeles, appear to have embraced the nuclear war principle of Mutually Assured Destruction. After a national wave of school shootings, local police are arming themselves with semi-automatic AR-15 assault weapons – on the grounds that if some nut opens fire in the classroom, they will be able to take them down with greater accuracy and punch. All of which has shades of Nato’s old assertion that if the USSR ever tried to seize Berlin, they’d level Moscow with ICBMs. It’s depressing to think that this time around the MAD principle is not being applied to the Cold War battlefield but a geography class full of eight-year-olds.
The subject du jour in the US right now is the militarisation of the state – not only because it is obviously unhealthy to have public servants armed to the teeth, but because it also represents an inversion of the American ideal of a light-touch government staying out of the affairs of an self-sufficient citizenry. Some liberals will doubtless say that arming school police in this way is a sign that America’s gun laws are “crazy”, but that’s to miss the real issue at hand. There’s something amiss in the traditionally distant relationship between citizen and the state....the idea of schools patrolled by people with assault weapons turns the stomach. It suggests a society where trust has evaporated, where peace can’t be guaranteed anywhere and where social dislocation has driven everyone to the brink of internecine war. Moreover, it suggests that the state has given up trying to find serious solutions to social problems. Easier to just embrace the coming anarchy and fight back with bullets.Not only is that nihilistic, but since when did the agents of a state supposedly governed by a constitution think they gained the right to treat the citizens like savages?...More faith, more personal activism, more compassion, more care for the mentally ill will not turn the situation around overnight. But it’s surely a saner long-term solution than sending the police equivalent of Curtis LeMay into the playground.

Taking America Back to a Darker Time

The Disaffected Lib - ven, 08/22/2014 - 09:48

The aftermath of the police execution of a black teenager, Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri continues.  The Policy.mic web site has a report on public generosity that has raised $200,000 for - wait for it - the shooter, officer Darren Wilson.

Follow the link to read the remarks left by some of officer Wilson's supporters.


Russian Army Now Fighting in Ukraine

The Disaffected Lib - ven, 08/22/2014 - 09:18

NATO claims that Russian army artillery units manned by Russian soldiers have entered Ukraine and are firing on Ukrainian forces.

The Russian move represents a significant escalation of the Kremlin’s involvement in the fighting there and comes as a convoy of Russian trucks with humanitarian provisions has crossed into Ukrainian territory without Kiev’s permission.
Since mid-August NATO has received multiple reports of the direct involvement of Russian forces, “including Russian airborne, air defense and special operations forces in Eastern Ukraine,” said Oana Lungescu, a spokeswoman for NATO.

About that Urban Warfare Business

The Disaffected Lib - ven, 08/22/2014 - 08:38
There's been a lot of focus recently on militarized police and on the use of regular army forces to quell civilian unrest in the United States, the European Union and, potentially, even in Canada.

Which leads to this video from our Department of National Defence.  It depicts Canadian soldiers using iPhones and Google Glass networks called "mobile ad hoc networks" or MANETs with the aid of quad-copters to target individuals in urban settings.

I don't know.  There's something about this that leaves me a bit queasy especially now that they've got CUEPAT, a camouflage pattern that is described as "uniquely suited to the Canadian urban environment" as studied in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.

Vancouver Marches National Energy Board into Court

The Disaffected Lib - ven, 08/22/2014 - 08:08
The City of Vancouver is going to court.  It's goal is to get an order requiring that climate change impacts be considered by the ersatz-National Energy Board hearings on Kinder-Morgan's pipeline expansion application.

The city will ask the Federal Court of Appeal on Friday for a judicial review of the National Energy Board process for the project.Vancouver officials already asked the board to take climate change into account, but the regulator decided in July it would not.

On political evolution

accidentaldeliberations - ven, 08/22/2014 - 08:04
Both Chantal Hebert and the combination of Bruce Anderson and David Coletto have written recently about the state of federal politics in Quebec, with particular emphasis on what we can expect as the Bloc Quebecois appears to crumble. With that in mind, I'll offer a quick reminder as to one of the more subtle factors behind the 2011 Orange Wave - and how things have changed less than we might think at first glance.

As I've mentioned before, the NDP's relatively strong push into Quebec happened to coincide with an election where both the Cons and Libs had obvious reasons not to put much effort into the province - based in large part on the Bloc's success in campaigning against their preferred themes.

Which isn't to say that the NDP was obviously ahead of its competitors at the start of the campaign (see: polling prior to April 2011 passim). Instead, its increased strategic focus figures mostly to have counterbalanced the Libs' and Cons' historic advantages. And with no national party going into 2011 with much expectation of winning over a substantial amount of Bloc support, the outcome might be seen as reflecting two factors: not only the popularity of Jack Layton, but also the growth of natural voter preferences in a rare case where political targeting played a relatively small role.

Of course, that's all changed going into the next federal campaign. Now that the obvious obstacle to growth in Quebec for all of the federal parties is seemingly disintegrating, every party has an incentive to test its prospects within a much larger pool of available voters and seats. And there's reason to think the NDP, Libs and Cons have all done just that.

In turn, that makes the lack of change in voter support just as noteworthy as any further shift would have been. The NDP's change in leadership from Jack Layton to Thomas Mulcair hasn't affected its massive advantage on that question. And renewed pushes from both the Libs and Cons haven't significantly altered the party standings aside from the Bloc's further decline - which, as noted by Anderson and Coletto, may actually bolster the NDP's position compared to its competitors.

Not that any party can rest on its laurels now: after all, it's the illusion of stability over an even longer period that caught nearly everybody off guard in the last election. But if 2011 showed us what the Quebec electorate looks like following relatively little work to cultivate party interests, the last few years seem to indicate that voters are comfortable with the landscape.

In Today's Flash Flooding News

The Disaffected Lib - ven, 08/22/2014 - 08:01
Our cousins in Winnipeg are dealing with the celestial overflow that triggered flash flooding.  The Weather Network attributed it to the, by now standard, slow-moving rainstorm that hit the city and lingered long enough to deliver more than 75 mm. or 3" of rain in about 90-minutes.

View "undefined" on Storify 

It's been a common story this summer.   Heavy rainstorms that used to move steadily eastward, spreading rainfall across wide areas, now loiter.  When these storms park over one area they deliver amounts of rainfall that quickly overwhelm first storm sewers and then other infrastructure such as roads.

In the States, flash flooding has hit Chicago and parts of Arizona.

The Mystery of California's Vanishing Groundwater

The Disaffected Lib - ven, 08/22/2014 - 07:26

You may have already heard about it.  California, the Golden State, is reeling from three years of continuous, severe drought.

Of course you've heard about it.  The California drought is in the news almost daily.  The problem with an event like this is putting it in perspective.

Here's a new way of looking at it.  The drought is now estimated to have claimed 63-trillion gallons of groundwater across the Western United States.  That water loss is said to have caused the surface levels in the region to rise 0.16 of an inch over the past 18-months.

The estimates come via the Scrips Institute of Oceanography and the U.S. Geological Survey.

In California's Sierra mountains, the loss of annual snowpack has caused a surface rise of 0.6 of an inch.

But something doesn't add up.

The report doesn't appear to mention where, exactly, that missing groundwater is to be found.  Some of it has been added to the warming atmosphere but evaporation and transpiration are components of the hydrological cycle that carries water vapour into the atmosphere where it is transformed into clouds and returns to the surface as rain.

So, yes, it's believable that the Western U.S. has suffered a massive loss of groundwater but that moisture has to be somewhere, in some form, adding its weight to someplace else.  That could be in the form of flash floods sweeping so many places east of California.

Another impact of the drought is power generation.  California's hydro-electric capacity has been hard hit causing the state to fall back on natural gas for generating electricity.  That could be a blow to California's carbon emissions reduction targets.

The Randian

Northern Reflections - ven, 08/22/2014 - 06:01


The death of Tina Fontaine has once again sparked demands for a public enquiry into the epidemic of murdered and missing aboriginal women. But, yesterday, Stephen Harper again rejected those demands:

"We should not view this as sociological phenomenon," the prime minister told a news conference Thursday. "We should view it as crime. It is crime against innocent people, and it needs to be addressed as such."
Mr. Harper has never been interested in the causes of crime. He cares only about punishment, thinking -- with his usual tunnel vision -- that  stiffer punishment will put an end to it.

But there's more to it than that. He is adamantly opposed to any and all public enquiries -- because he knows that the opposition can use an enquiry to ride to power. Just as he did. A public enquiry would inevitably find fault with public policy -- his public policy -- starting with his ditching of the Kelowna Accord.

So it in Mr. Harper's self interest to refuse to hold a public enquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women. For, despite his claim that he is a Conservative, the truth is that Mr. Harper is a Randian. Both he and the dour Russian emigré stand four square for the notion that selfishness is a virtue.

From Ferguson and Gaza to the Toronto G-20

Creekside - ven, 08/22/2014 - 06:00

Combined Tactical Systems, Inc. (CSI), according to its website, manufactures tactical munitions and crowd control devices to armed forces, law enforcement, corrections and homeland security agencies around the world.

This photo of its Jamestown, Pennsylvania headquarters raised a few eyebrows this week because :
1) as you can see in the photo, CSI was flying an Israeli flag alongside the US one up until January 2012 and, according to a former CSI plant employee in the first comment here, it is flown whenever the Israeli owner/founder is in town, and 
2) CTS tear gas shell cartridges manufactured there were found a week apart in Gaza and Ferguson, Missouri - where protests and excessive police reaction fuelled by the half a billion dollars in military weapons given to local police forces erupted in response to the August 9 shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a local police officer. Comparisons of the highly militarized assault on their respective populationssupportive tweets from citizens in Gaza to citizens in Ferguson about dealing with the effects of teargas, and a look at the fact Ferguson and St. Louis County police forces were trained in Israel in recent years followed.
Along with 9,500 other law enforcement officials who have attended Israeli-led LEEP training sessions in the US and Israel. 
The Law Enforcement Exchange Program (LEEP) - created "in cooperation with the Israel National Police, the Israel Ministry of Internal Security, and the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) to support and strengthen American law enforcement counter terrorism practices" - was the brainchild of former FBI Assistant Director and Chief of Counter-Terrorism Steve Pomerantz, in his capacity as Director for Counter-Terrorism Programs for The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA). JINSA was founded to "advocate on behalf of a strong U.S. military, a robust national security policy, and a strong U.S. security relationship with Israel" with a mandate to "provide leadership and affect policy on crucial issues of national security and foreign policy." 
Yeah, they pretty much have that part nailed down.Former JINSA advisory board members include perennial neocon warmongers Dick Cheney, Richard Perle, John Bolton, Douglas Feith, James Woolsey, and Michael Ledeen.
Meanwhile, according to the U.S.-Israel Strategic Cooperation Cooperation : Joint Police & Law Enforcement Training page at the Jewish Virtual Library detailing their joint history :"In early September 2012, the New Police Department (NYPD) opened an Israeli branch at the Sharon District Police Headquarters" in Israel because "the Israeli police is one of the major police forces with which it must maintain close work relations and daily contact."Really? The NYPD requires daily contact with Israeli police from a location inside Israel?
Naturally, there have also been Canadian security junkets to Israel. In 2005, on his first day as Ontario emergency management commissioner, Julian Fantino, Toronto Police Staff Supt. Bill Blair, and 30 more Ontario police officials left for Israel to "study security and anti-terrorism measures", courtesy of the Canadian Jewish Congress, the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, airline El Al and the Israeli government.
But back to Combined Tactical Systems (CSI). In addition to making the teargas cannisters used against populations in Gaza, Ferguson, Tahrir Square in Egypt, Bahrain, Occupy Wall Street, and Toronto's G-20 in 2010, they also run their own training sessions "combining product tools with knowledge and techniques."
In February 2010 - four months before the Toronto G20 - this highly respected and decorated officer was a Training Sergeant with the Toronto Police Public Order Unit working on :
  • Development & delivery of crowd management training to Toronto Police Service and police agencies across Canada.
  • ORT (Obstacle Removal Team) trained - Responsible for training Toronto Police members in extrication and removal of protestors from fixed objectives using various tools and equipment.
when he took the four-day CSI course on chemical munitions (hand-held and fired), distraction devices (flash bangs), and fired munitions, bean bags, wood batons, rubber batons, sting calls :CHEMICAL MUNITIONS/ LESS LETHAL WEAPONS - INSTRUCTOR  Combined Tactical Systems, San Bernadino, CA / February 2010Then read this account of Why there wasn't accountability for the police in Ferguson and see if it doesn't remind you of the same police set up used to defy accountability at G-20.

Final note from Jewish Virtual Library :

In January 2011, Canada and Israel signed an umbrella pact for defense and military cooperation and bolstered that agreement in November 2011 amid the turmoil that had been set upon the Middle East and around the Arab World during the Arab Spring. Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak settled a number of memoranda of understanding to facilitate information and intelligence sharing as well as cooperative arrangements for the development and sale of military technologies.

From Ferguson and the occupation of Gaza to the Toronto G-20, war is a racket that always comes home .

Wouldn't A Taser Have Been More Appropriate?

Politics and its Discontents - ven, 08/22/2014 - 05:26
I have often thought that had the video evidence not been so strong and graphic in the shooting of Sammy Yatim, the 'official' police story would have been that the disturbed 18-year-old had lunged at officers and thus had to be killed. What the video apparently showed, however, was what many would describe as the execution of a kid who posed no threat to anyone.

Similar video has arisen in the recent shooting of St Louis resident Kajieme Powell, an obviously disturbed man carrying a knife by his side. According to St. Louis Metro Police Chief Sam Dotson, the officers used deadly force due to the suspect with a knife coming within three of four feet of the officers, which would be considered within lethal range.

While perhaps not as definitive as the Yatim video, the following does cast doubt on the official story. Have a look and make up your own mind:

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Stephen Harper and the Myths that Will Destroy Him

Montreal Simon - ven, 08/22/2014 - 03:56

As I said in my last post, I don't think Stephen Harper is going to get very far accusing Justin Trudeau  of being an elitist. When he is the worst kind of anti-democratic elitist himself.

But he will continue to claim that he is a Great Economist Leader who saved us from the depth of the last recession.

And that he is a Great Crime Busting Leader who will save us from the criminals, who are EVERYWHERE.

But sadly for Harper none of those claims will help him either.
Read more »

Stephen Harper and the Real Elitist Menace

Montreal Simon - ven, 08/22/2014 - 02:59

As I pointed out yesterday, Stephen Harper has a new weapon in his arsenal to try to destroy Justin Trudeau.

He will not only claim that Justin wants to sell pot to kiddies.

And that he is a terrorist sympathizer, who is soft on criminals, including those who terrorized his own family.

He will also claim that he's a real HE-MAN and that Justin is a LIBERAL ELITIST !!!!

Read more »

Mining, Mount Polley and Ministerial Responsibility

Sister Sages Musings - jeu, 08/21/2014 - 10:24

Two days ago I sent this email to Christy Clark, cc’ed John Horgan, Mary Polak, Gail Shea and Leona Aglukkaq. I have had no reply.

Dear Premier Clark.

You have been absent lately, and the people of BC need leadership right now.

We have a still unfolding huge scale environmental disaster at Mount Polley. . . . → Read More: Mining, Mount Polley and Ministerial Responsibility

In Which Pat Robertson Makes Even Less Sense Than Usual

Politics and its Discontents - jeu, 08/21/2014 - 09:22
I'm completely stumped by this one from my favorite crazed evangelical:

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Cowardly Leadership: We All Pay A Price

Politics and its Discontents - jeu, 08/21/2014 - 08:35

As I have written in the past, poor leadership costs all of us dearly. Whether looking at local provincial, federal or international politics, the price we pay for leadership that has too high a regard for itself and too little for the people is moral, social, economic and military disarray. Whether we are talking about rampant cynicism with regard to the political process, the demonization of groups within society, the dodging of taxes or the kind of demagoguery that leads to war, all, at least in part, can be tied to defects in leadership. It seems that so many want power, but so few are willing to accept the real burden of responsibility that comes with that power.

Recently, at Northern Reflections, Owen wrote a post on Gerald Caplan's assessment that the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians will likely never be resolved. I wrote the following comment:

I fear that Caplan's assessment is depressingly accurate, Owen. While some good but unlikely things have happened in the world, such as the ending of apartheid in South Africa, that achievement palls when compared to the deep-seated and abiding hatreds that seem to prevail in the Middle East and consume so many.

Owen replied: South Africa had Mandela, Lorne. There appears to be no Mandela in the Middle East.

Neither does it have someone like Bishop Desomond Tutu, long a brave warrior in the long march against apartheid, and a man never afraid to enter the lions den, as he did recently in Fort McMurray, where he called the oilsands products “filth” created by greed.

Tutu is showing a similar fearlessness in offering his strong views on Israel's behaviour vis–à–vis the Palestinians in Gaza. Writing in Israel's oldest daily newspaper, Haaretz, the social activist, Nobel Peace Prize winner and retired bishop is unsparing in his assessment of the situation, and is calling for a boycott of any company profiting from the occupation of Gaza:

Over the past few weeks, more than 1.6 million people across the world [have joined] an Avaaz campaign calling on corporations profiting from the Israeli occupation and/or implicated in the abuse and repression of Palestinians to pull out. The campaign specifically targets Dutch pension fund ABP; Barclays Bank; security systems supplier G4S; French transport company Veolia; computer company Hewlett-Packard; and bulldozer supplier Caterpillar.

But the heart of what Tutu writes about is hope, not punishment. Drawing upon the Sourth African experience, he says:

We know that when our leaders began to speak to each other, the rationale for the violence that had wracked our society dissipated and disappeared. Acts of terrorism perpetrated after the talks began – such as attacks on a church and a pub – were almost universally condemned, and the party held responsible snubbed at the ballot box.

The real triumph of our peaceful settlement was that all felt included. And later, when we unveiled a constitution so tolerant, compassionate and inclusive that it would make God proud, we all felt liberated.

Of course, it helped that we had a cadre of extraordinary leaders.

The role the boycotts and divestments played in the ending of apartheid, says Tutu, could have the same benefit for Israel and Gaza:

The reason these tools – boycott, sanctions and divestment – ultimately proved effective was because they had a critical mass of support, both inside and outside the country. The kind of support we have witnessed across the world in recent weeks, in respect of Palestine.

My plea to the people of Israel is to see beyond the moment, to see beyond the anger at feeling perpetually under siege, to see a world in which Israel and Palestine can coexist – a world in which mutual dignity and respect reign.

No one can be truly free until everyone is free. The people themselves need to look beyond their leaders and make their voices heard loud and clear. That seems to be the message Desmond Tutu is trying to deliver to this very troubled region of the world.
Recommend this Post

Famine In the Americas

The Disaffected Lib - jeu, 08/21/2014 - 08:01
Red Cross food relief for central Mexico
When we think of famine, we tend to think of Africa.  Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan seem to come to mind.

FEWS Net, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, has identified Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and central Nicaragua as countries most at risk of severe food insecurity in 2015.  Coffee rust has disrupted incomes for many farm workers even as food prices rise due to sustained drought.

Income is also expected to be below-average over the coming year. For the third consecutive year, demand for coffee labor and wages received by coffee day laborers are expected to be lower than normal, due to the persistent effects of coffee rust. Other livelihoods in the region, including fishing and livestock breeding, have also been negatively affected by the recent drought and the transition toward an El Niño.Compounding this situation are above-average and increasing prices of regionally-produced staple foods (maize and beans) in some areas.  The countries most affected in this regard are Nicaragua and Honduras, where red bean prices rose by up to 129 percent between January and June 2014. Prices are expected to continue to trend upward through the end of the first harvest, in September, then level off for a brief period, and then increase again until December, primarily as a result of current crop losses and the potential losses to Postrera crops projected for late 2014. 

Could famine hit the Americas?  That appears to be a possibility although it's hard to imagine that Canada, the U.S. and the major countries of South America would be slow to respond with relief.   

Meanwhile, the government of Nicaragua has advised its people how to fend of hunger - eat iguanas.

"Breeding iguanas brings two benefits," said Guillermo Membreno, a land management expert.  "Not only does it supply dietary protein, it also offers a commercial use for the animals."

Iguanas, he added, contained 24% protein compared with 18% in chicken.


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