Saturday, October 31, 2015

Forcillo, Might Be a Good Time to Review Your Options.

This don't seem to be going swimmingly for Const. James Forcillo in his trial for the the July, 2013 shooting death of Sammy Yatim.  When Forcillo opened fire, Yatim was standing still near the driver's seat of an empty TTC streetcar.  The officer was standing at the curb a good ten feet away.

At no point did Yatim even move into the streetcar stairwell. There was no indication he was going to attack Forcillo or any of the other police officers present. Forcillo pulls his gun and a good 35-seconds elapse before the constable empties his 9-round service automatic, instantly downing Yatim who collapsed into the aisle of the streetcar.

You or I or anybody can do a lot of things in 35-seconds. We can puzzle things through, evaluate situations, come to reasoned conclusions.

Forcillo's defence counsel, Peter Brauti, sought to gloss over the epic 35-second interval thusly:

“We’ve got to consider the individual that we’re dealing with, we’ve got to consider the environment we’re in, we’ve got to consider the nature of the call, we’ve got to consider the use of force options that we have, we have to consider which ones are the most appropriate to use at the time . . .

“I can keep going, but the problem is that sometimes we only have 30 seconds, 50 seconds to think about all of those different things,” Brauti said.

The big problem with the 'heat of the moment' argument is that there was no imminent threat from Yatim. He never left the aisle of the streetcar. He was just standing there - until Forcillo opened up. Yatim went down with the first shot. The onboard bus video shows that. Forcillo just kept on firing, emptying his sidearm into the unmoving body.

It's hard to see this "only 30 seconds" defence holding up. The reason it was only 30 seconds is because that's how long Forcillo and Yatim stood still before Forcillo chose to open fire. 

My guess is that Brauti wants to plea this thing down but the Crown won't accept anything less than 2nd degree murder. It's hard to see the prosecution losing this one.

If We Are Known by the Company We Keep, Why Are We Keeping Company with Thugs and Butchers?

By "thugs and butchers" I'm referring to the House of Saud and the detritus of princes and sheikhs of the other Gulf States at whose behest we in the West keep getting mired in ground and air wars against the little Sunni hellions they keep spawning.

These jackasses are depraved thugs and butchers. Take the Saudis who practice a form of radical Sunni Islamism that's shared with outfits like al Qaeda and the even bloodier Islamic State.  We know from Hillary Clinton's state department cables, duly leaked and published by WikiLeaks, that the US was well aware that ISIS was a Saudi initiative.  Which goes a long way to explaining why, while we're over there playing aerial "whack-a-mole" with ISIS, Saudi jets are screaming over Yemen bombing Houthi rebels who are actually fiercely fighting both ISIS and al Qaeda forces.

Then there's the beheading business that really offended Western sensibilities when conducted by ISIS insurgents but not so much when directed by our Saudi allies. The Saudis like to execute their condemned in public and they're doing it roughly every other day. Half of those are executed for drug offences which, by simple math, means the Saudis execute someone for drug offences about every four days.

One thing about those Saudis is they're unbelievably tough on drugs. Zero tolerance. Capital punishment - by scimitar blows to the neck in the public square. Unless...

Unless you're a member in good standing of the House of Saud. Then, to borrow a Jim Jeffries line, you can "take drugs like a champion" and it's all okay, even if you're caught.

Saudi prince Abdel Mohsen bin Walid bin Abdulaziz was caught in an airport in Lebanon on Monday with over two tons of drugs.

Lebanese security found 40 suitcases full of more than 4,000 pounds of amphetamine pills and cocaine on the prince’s private plane, which was on its way to Saudi capital city Riyadh. A security source told AFP that this was the largest smuggling operation ever foiled by Beirut International Airport security.

And prince Abdel Abdulaziz? He caught the next flight back to the sanctuary of Riyadh. Word is he might have gotten a scolding - nah!

Mere days before he was caught in Lebanon, female staffers at a Beverly Hills mansion filed a lawsuit against another Saudi prince, Majid bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, accusing him of sexually abusing them and using illegal drugs. Staffers say the prince, who was doing cocaine and heavily drinking — another illegal activity in Saudi Arabia — ordered them all to strip naked, while uttering “I am a prince and I do what I want.” They also say the prince engaged in homosexual sex, which is punishable by death in the Saudi regime.

The Saudi royal family is infamous for its decadence. These two recent cases are not isolated. WikiLeaks cables show that Saudi princes regularly throw opulent parties inundated with alcohol, drugs, and sex, while the totalitarian religious police turn a blind eye to their felonious activities.

It's funny how we like to cast a stinkeye at Shiite Iran and yet the Shia had nothing to do with the embassy bombings, the attack on the USS Cole, the first World Trade Center bombing, the 9/11 bombings of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, al Qaeda, al Nusra and ISIS. Those are all on the Sunni side of the ledger and they all link back to the Saudis, the Kuwaitis and the other Gulf States. This is all the handiwork of our allies

Christ, no wonder we're furious with Iran. Those underhanded, deceptive buggers didn't do any of this - but I'll bet you they would have if they could have only wanted to but I suppose they couldn't be bothered. Oh well. We've stopped the Shiites from getting nuclear weapons, what a relief! That reminds me, there is a Muslim country with nukes, scads of them. It's the Sunni Muslim nation of Pakistan.

Monbiot Proclaims the Arrival of Eco-Apocalypse

That's Indonesia - Under the Smoke

Who knew it would begin in Indonesia? Who knew the world's mainstream media would simply ignore it?  Guardian enviro-scribe George Monbiot is gobsmacked at the wildfire devastation that has swept Indonesia along its entire 5000 km. length and how almost no one is noticing.

I’ve often wondered how the media would respond when eco-apocalypse struck. I pictured the news programmes producing brief, sensational reports, while failing to explain why it was happening or how it might be stopped. Then they would ask their financial correspondents how the disaster affected share prices, before turning to the sport. As you can probably tell, I don’t have an ocean of faith in the industry for which I work. What I did not expect was that they would ignore it.

A great tract of Earth is on fire. It looks as you might imagine hell to be. The air has turned ochre: visibility in some cities has been reduced to 30 metres. Children are being prepared for evacuation in warships; already some have choked to death. Species are going up in smoke at an untold rate. It is almost certainly the greatest environmental disaster of the 21st century – so far.

And the media? It’s talking about the dress the Duchess of Cambridge wore to the James Bond premiere, Donald Trump’s idiocy du jour and who got eliminated from the Halloween episode of Dancing with the Stars. The great debate of the week, dominating the news across much of the world? Sausages: are they really so bad for your health?

What I’m discussing is a barbecue on a different scale. Fire is raging across the 5,000km length of Indonesia. It is surely, on any objective assessment, more important than anything else taking place today. And it shouldn’t require a columnist, writing in the middle of a newspaper, to say so. It should be on everyone’s front page. It is hard to convey the scale of this inferno, but here’s a comparison that might help: it is currently producing more carbon dioxide than the US economy. And in three weeks the fires have released more CO2 than the annual emissions of Germany.

Monbiot points out that the devastation is the handiwork of man and nature in combination.

It’s not just the trees that are burning. It is the land itself. Much of the forest sits on great domes of peat. When the fires penetrate the earth, they smoulder for weeks, sometimes months, releasing clouds of methane, carbon monoxide, ozone and exotic gases such as ammonium cyanide. The plumes extend for hundreds of miles, causing diplomatic conflicts with neighbouring countries.

Why is this happening? Indonesia’s forests have been fragmented for decades by timber and farming companies. Canals have been cut through the peat to drain and dry it. Plantation companies move in to destroy what remains of the forest to plant monocultures of pulpwood, timber and palm oil. The easiest way to clear the land is to torch it. Every year, this causes disasters. But in an extreme El Niño year like this one, we have a perfect formula for environmental catastrophe.

Monbiot concludes with a dark outlook for the upcoming Paris climate summit.

Governments ignore issues when the media ignores them. And the media ignores them because … well, there’s a question with a thousand answers, many of which involve power. But one reason is the complete failure of perspective in a de-skilled industry dominated by corporate press releases, photo ops and fashion shoots, where everyone seems to be waiting for everyone else to take a lead. The media makes a collective non-decision to treat this catastrophe as a non-issue, and we all carry on as if it’s not happening.

At the climate summit in Paris in December the media, trapped within the intergovernmental bubble of abstract diplomacy and manufactured drama, will cover the negotiations almost without reference to what is happening elsewhere. The talks will be removed to a realm with which we have no moral contact. And, when the circus moves on, the silence will resume. Is there any other industry that serves its customers so badly?

Promises, Promises

They've run the numbers and it's not enough; not nearly enough. In advance of the Paris climate summit, officials of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change have worked out that if the 146 nations' promised emissions reductions are met, we'll have locked in 2.7 degrees Celsius of warming.

Here's the thing. The long stated target is to hold global warming to no more than 2C above pre-industrial temperatures. The idea is to avoid triggering 'natural feedback loops' or what is known as runaway global warming.

Think of it this way. We're holding a gun to our heads. Man has his finger on the trigger but nature is the bullet in the chamber. And, sticking with this metaphor, think of it as a hair trigger. We're just guessing at how far we can pull it before the firing pin trips.

In other words, 2C is a guess and it's a mortal guess. Yet we've tagged 2C as the point at which we might have a 50% chance, an even chance but no more, of not triggering runaway global warming. That means we'll also have a 50% chance that we will activate these natural feedback loops.

Now that 2C target was a quasi-scientific/quasi-political number - a ginned-up best guess if you will - that was conjured up years ago based on old data and a relatively optimistic outlook. We've got mountains of new data now, including observed natural feedback loops already underway, that suggest 2C isn't an even bet after all.

Some of these feedback loops include the drying and burning of the tundra across the high north exposing the methane-rich permafrost beneath to melting and gaseous release; the loss of glaciers and polar ice caps that means the atmosphere now absorbs heat that was once reflected back into space; temperate and tropical forests that are drying out, turning to tinder and fueling massive, carbon-belching wildfires; and the release of once safely frozen but now thawing seabed and lakebed methane hydrates across the far north. Guy McPherson over at Nature Bats Last calculates we've triggered some 60 feedback loops in all but don't go to his site, not today. You don't want to do that when, tonight, you'll have to look into all those faces of young trick-or-treaters. Don't.

So here's the thing. If you suspect that McPherson and many other newly added voices might possibly be onto something, then the natural feedback loop horse might have already slipped out of the runaway global warming barn.

Now the UN is trying to put the best face on these disappointing pledges. Executive director Christina Figures basically says they're better than nothing. Only that's not true. Think of it as a 5-lb. trigger. 5 pounds of force and - bang. Now we used to be looking at 9 pounds of force and it seems that if we keep our promises (for the first time ever) we'll get that down to 7 pounds of force on that 5-lb. trigger. Better than nothing? Not really. Anything past 5 pounds is irrelevant.

But what if McPherson and others are right and we're actually squeezing a 3-lb. trigger? We just think it's a 5-lb. trigger because that's something we made up a long time ago and, despite all the science since then, we're sticking to it. You can think that one through.

So, as Ms. Figueres puts it, 2.7 C is our best, worst-case scenario.

It sounds pretty grim, doesn't it? Well, it is. And that's taking climate change - anthropogenic global warming - in isolation, free of its companion scourges such as the fresh water crisis, overpopulation, over-consumption of resources and the collapse of biodiversity as well as ocean acidification.

The thing is that we don't have much chance, perhaps no chance, of actually fixing climate change or any of these other existential challenges without fixing them all. That can't be done if we keep growing our numbers; expanding our overall and per capita consumption levels that already far outstrip our planet's carrying capacity; and fouling our oceans, rivers and lakes.

Ultimately the biggest threat, bar none, is us - mankind. We're writing cheques the planet cannot possibly cash. We need to collectively, as a community of nations, cut our numbers by about half while, at the same time, slashing our out of control consumption/waste levels. This requires recognizing that we have to shrink economic activity to the point that it exists within environmental capacity because, when you stray outside, collapse is inevitable.

We tell addicts that the road to recovery begins when they recognize they have a problem that they can't live with and so too for all of humanity. Cutting carbon emissions is like a drunk promising that he won't touch a drop - on Wednesdays. Promises, promises.

Friday, October 30, 2015

I Just Can't Win

I've had beagles since around 1976. Ever since the first I've pledged, "never again." 39-years later you can figure out how well that has worked.

The new guy, Buddy. If you could boil down the essence of all hounds, it'd be him. Everything great, everything mortally infuriating. It's hyper-concentrated inside Buddy.

There's a powerful psychological game in play between any dog and its owner. They (the dogs) worked out the rules (theirs) over the thousands of years we have allowed them to sleep safely beside our hearths. They read us as we could never read ourselves.

Buddy, not yet 2-years old, has a new way of controlling his owner, master, slave. As I'm just getting comfy in my recliner, planning to doze my way through some late evening TV, he does this:

He sits there, unmoving, staring straight at me. He doesn't move, even when I peer over and his gaze catches mine. He just sits there and stares at me until one of us gives in.

He never gives in.

Justin's Dream Girl Steps Up to the Plate

Canada's answer to Michelle Bachmann will be seeking to become interim leader of the Conservative party.

Rona "Big Hair" Ambrose says she's just the gal to take Justin Trudeau to the mat and wrassle him into submission.

"We must focus on challenging the Trudeau government by defending and promoting the conservative values and policies that so many Canadians embraced and voted in favour of," she said in a memo to her caucus colleagues.

"Our party needs to stand united and strong in the fight to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and that government programs are managed effectively. The Liberals must be held accountable for their actions at every step."

It's too good to be true. The chance of the social conservative vixen scoring interim leader is a real long shot. That said, it would be hilarious, and it's been a long time since we had much of that in the House of Commons.

Photo - the late health minister decked out in scrubs, stethoscope and pager making her rounds. Maybe no one pointed out that her degree is in political science.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

They Knew There Would Be No Nuremberg for Them

How do the directing minds of a company persist through 40-years in growing an industry they knew could endanger all of mankind?

The obvious answer is that they also knew they could get away with it.  They knew they could pocket enormous profits earned from the eventual misery, suffering and even deaths of millions of others and they could do it with impunity. All they had to do was buy off the political caste and keep the public confused and off balance.

As Scientific American reports, the masterminds at Exxon knew all about climate change and the greenhouse gas effects 40-years ago, well before it entered the public consciousness.

Exxon was aware of climate change, as early as 1977, 11 years before it became a public issue, according to a recent investigation from InsideClimate News. This knowledge did not prevent the company (now ExxonMobil and the world’s largest oil and gas company) from spending decades refusing to publicly acknowledge climate change and even promoting climate misinformation—an approach many have likened to the lies spread by the tobacco industry regarding the health risks of smoking. Both industries were conscious that their products wouldn’t stay profitable once the world understood the risks, so much so that they used the same consultants to develop strategies on how to communicate with the public.

In their eight-month-long investigation, reporters at InsideClimate News interviewed former Exxon employees, scientists and federal officials and analyzed hundreds of pages of internal documents. They found that the company’s knowledge of climate change dates back to July 1977, when its senior scientist James Black delivered a sobering message on the topic. “In the first place, there is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels," Black told Exxon’s management committee. A year later he warned Exxon that doubling CO2 gases in the atmosphere would increase average global temperatures by two or three degrees—a number that is consistent with the scientific consensus today. He continued to warn that “present thinking holds that man has a time window of five to 10 years before the need for hard decisions regarding changes in energy strategies might become critical." In other words, Exxon needed to act.

...Last summer the Union of Concerned Scientists released a complementary investigation to the one by InsideClimate News, known as the Climate Deception Dossiers (pdf). “We included a memo of a coalition of fossil-fuel companies where they pledge basically to launch a big communications effort to sow doubt,” says union president Kenneth Kimmel. “There’s even a quote in it that says something like ‘Victory will be achieved when the average person is uncertain about climate science.’ So it’s pretty stark.”

...Since then, Exxon has spent more than $30 million on think tanks that promote climate denial, according to Greenpeace. Although experts will never be able to quantify the damage Exxon’s misinformation has caused, “one thing for certain is we’ve lost a lot of ground,” Kimmell says. Half of the greenhouse gas emissions in our atmosphere were released after 1988. “I have to think if the fossil-fuel companies had been upfront about this and had been part of the solution instead of the problem, we would have made a lot of progress [today] instead of doubling our greenhouse gas emissions.”

Experts agree that the damage is huge, which is why they are likening Exxon’s deception to the lies spread by the tobacco industry. “I think there are a lot of parallels,” Kimmell says. Both sowed doubt about the science for their own means, and both worked with the same consultants to help develop a communications strategy. He notes, however, that the two diverge in the type of harm done. Tobacco companies threatened human health, but the oil companies threatened the planet’s health. “It’s a harm that is global in its reach,” Kimmel says.

Ah, Bugger the Bible, Mate. Don't Let That Jesus Stuff Mess With Your Mind!

If Steve Harper is looking for a new career he should consider teaming up with his fellow ousted prime minister, Australia's Tony Abbott in the lucrative field of political vaudeville.

Abbott hit the dinner circuit last night, with a rib-tickling Margaret Thatcher Lecture at the meeting of the Margaret Thatcher Centre in London.

The former seminarian from Down Under who doesn't seem to like too much Catholic or even Christian these days urged the black tie crowd to take a less than Biblical approach to Europe's immigration crisis. Abbott's advice was to push'em back out to sea and let them take their chances.

Mr Abbott, a former trainee priest and devout Catholic, urged Tory ministers to ignore their consciences and the "wholesome instinct" to love thy neighbour, as is preached to Catholics in the Bible.

"It will gnaw at our consciences, yet it is the only way to prevent a tide of humanity surging through Europe and quite possibly changing it forever."

"This wholesome instinct [to love thy neighbour] is leading Europe to catastrophic error," he declared.


The Hershey Highway - It's Real !!

And what's more, despite gravity it sometimes runs uphill.

When you sat down with your morning coffee today you probably didn't spare a thought for how much your very existence depends on poop or the perils of existing in a poop deficient ecosystem.

The Hershey Highway - it begins at the bottom of the ocean and follows a meandering path that brings it ashore and then up almost to the peak of our mountains and far inland. That's right, uphill. Here's what that looks like:

Whales hunt along the sea bed. They surface and poop. Whale poop gets eaten by surface algae that feed plankton that feed what we consider bait fish that are eaten by marine mammals and sea birds that bring all that nutrition ashore where it fertilizes the soil, growing delicious plants for herbivores. Meanwhile eagles, bears and such gorge on spawning fish as they head upstream. The herbivores and carnivores carry their phosphorous rich blessings uphill, doing their bit for growing our meadows and forests. It's the gift that keeps on giving. Stop snickering, I mean it!

A report from the US National Academy of Sciences entitled "Global Nutrient Transport in a World of Giants" explores the damage we're causing by wiping out the world's truly great poopers. Let's put it this way, it's not a pretty picture.

The capacity to move nutrients away from hotspots decreased to 6% of past values across land and ocean. The vertical movement of phosphorus (P) by marine mammals was reduced by 77% and movement of P from sea to land by seabirds and anadromous fish was reduced by 96%, effectively disrupting an efficient nutrient distribution pump that once existed from the deep sea to the continental interiors.

The paper explores how little time we have to restart the "nutrient distribution pump" and we do need to get our minds around this. One suggestion is to restore the traditional bison herds and every other link in the nutrient pathway beginning with our whale populations. Time's a wastin'.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

It'll Never Fly

A glance at the morning headlines found several items asking if Canada should have a "Stephen J. Harper International Airport."  Sure, why not.

A short runway, maybe 1,800 feet all in, made up of broken concrete and asphalt to resemble the decay in our other national infrastructure. For overshoot protection, an emergency bitumen tailing pond shall be constructed at either end. Completely deregulated. No approach aids, no ILS, nothing. You're on your own at Harper International. There will be a tower. It will be unstaffed in the style of west coast Coast Guard facilities.

No terminal, no skyways. Arriving passengers will use emergency evacuation chutes and proceed to stand beneath the hold to catch their luggage. Those wishing to avoid full cavity search security will have twelve minutes to exit the airport perimeter fence.

In keeping with the theme of Harper International, there will be no access roads to the airport. That would be too much of a concession to vision. Access to the nearest town will be by foot along a pipeline trail.

As you can tell, I haven't fully thought this through. Your turn. What do you think would be fitting for Harper International?

Executive Position Available. Serious Enquiries Only.

Applicants sought for position of leader of national political party.

Applicants must be white, very white, preferably of fundamentalist Christian faith. No "immigrant religions" will be considered. Females may apply - again and again - until they collapse in tears.

The successful applicant must be able to demonstrate a variety of skills. He shall be entirely proficient in the use of the cudgel as an instrument of caucus solidarity. He must have a full range of vulgarian vocabulary and a demonstrated ability to kick articles of furniture across rooms.

Experience in the Stalinist arts of political management is an asset. Applicants lacking such skills must demonstrate an eagerness to learn. An ability to reduce clerical staffers to tears is essential.

Candidates must demonstrate an understanding of the role of relentless fear-mongering in motivating this party's base.

In the final selection stage, short-listed candidates must submit to urine and blood testing to establish they are completely vision-free and incapable of either mid- or long-term thinking.

Finalists will participate in a talent competition in which they will demonstrate their ability to entertain, placate and enrich a full range of foreign energy company titans. The "friends with benefits" rule will be in force.

For the purposes of this competition, the Nigel Wright protocols apply. Nothing in writing, no paper trail. Eye contact is frowned upon. Candidates must apply in person and, remember, the secret handshake is required for admission.

Do not forget the non-refundable envelopes stuffed with cash. No cheques, no electronic transfers will be accepted. For particulars, including a list of approved coffee shops where payments will be accepted, consult Mr. B. Mulroney.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Let Her Rip

Brian Mulroney as the opening salvo of a battle for the hearts and minds of the future Conservative Party? Will it be "Return of the Jedi" or "Revenge of the Nerds?" Either way it could be entertaining, just don't count on it.

Lyin' Brian will be the keynote speaker at Toronto's Albany Club as the PC contingent launch their campaign to keep their party from collapsing back into the old Reform pit of darkness.

“Before they choose a leader, they need to have a conversation about the soul of the party, and he’s the one to do that,” said a source close to the former prime minister. “How does the party make its way back to the centre?”

Or, as one Red Tory sage said of the speech, “It’ll be a great moment in sports.”

Former aide to Mulroney and, more recently, Conservative MP for Calgary Centre Lee Richardson confirmed that the Liberal Party’s stunning election results Oct. 19 after a remarkably tactical and miscalculated Conservative campaign included the votes of many senior pre-Harperite Tories who’ve voted reliably blue all their adult lives.

“The Liberals were the preferred alternative of Progressive Conservatives,” said Richardson.

...“We need to show a difference in tone and style,” says Harper 2006 campaign co-director and Progressive Conservative alumnus Philippe Gervais. “On policy, we need to renew ourselves.”

In a conservative political culture that lived through the Diefenbaker-Stanfield wars of the 60s and the Clark-Mulroney wars of the late 70s and early 80s, Gervais says he isn’t worried that soul searching will degenerate into knife-throwing.

“If we weren’t fighting, I’d be worried,” he quipped, adding seriously that the process of often fractious post-loss stock-taking is a healthy one for any party.

...“I was livid,” said Gervais, of watching the 2015 campaign unfold. He blames the acute need for re-branding, as many have, on Harper’s post-2011 political advisers.

“They had almost a Stalinistic way of looking at things,” Gervais, now vice president of The Capital Hill Group, marvelled. “You were either on-side, or you were dead.”

...In a piece for Policy Magazine being published Nov. 7, Geoff Norquay, who served as an advisor to Mulroney, then as communications director for Harper in 2003-04 and spent years defending his government on CBC panels and elsewhere, delivers a scathing indictment of Harper’s campaign organization, reserving particularly pointed criticism for campaign manager, Jenni Byrne and her “acolytes.”

“Theirs was a suspicious Canada and a Canada without dreams; they always preferred short-term tactics over a long-term vision,” Norquay writes. “They never understood governing, so they saw no use for government. They ran a closed circle, they humiliated staff, they berated candidates, they pushed every reasonable argument far beyond its logical limit, they shut out others with a different view, and they crafted a campaign based much more on anger and fear than hope. And they weren’t even competent enough to prevent guys peeing in cups from becoming candidates.

“Within the Conservative Party, great will be the celebration at their well-deserved and permanent riddance.”

Let the games begin.

Has the NDP Sown the Seeds of Its Own Destruction?

An interesting analysis from the American publication, The New Republic, questions whether the New Democratic Party, already facing a difficult future, can avoid self-destruction.

Senior editor Jeet Heer writes what NDP faithful refuse to hear - that they spent the last decade colluding with Harper to destroy the Liberal Party of Canada.

Harper’s deepest political goal was not just to defeat the Liberals politically but to eliminate them as a party. Gerry Nicholls, who worked with Harper in the 1990s in the right-wing lobby group the National Citizens Coalition, wrote in a 2011Globe and Mail column that Harper’s “desire to eliminate the Liberals is something he and I discussed way back in the days when we worked together at the National Citizens Coalition. His theory, as explained to me, was that conservatism would be better served in this country if Canada had a two-party system, one that pitted right against left, free enterprise against socialism, Conservatives against New Democrats. He believed that, in such a polarized political environment, a conservative-oriented party would have a huge advantage over its left-wing rival.”

Over the last ten years, until this recent election, Harper has been remarkably successful in trying to build up the NDP as the main rival and tear the Liberals apart. He’s done this partially by aiming his most destructive fire on the Liberals and also by occasionally working with the NDP, building them up as credible opposition. Harper’s polarization strategy reached it’s peak in the 2011 election when the Liberals under the hapless Michael Ignatieff received less than 19 percent of the vote and only 34 seats. The New Democrats became the official opposition for the first time, with nearly 31 percent of the popular vote and 103 seats, while the Conservatives won a majority with their 40 percent of the popular vote giving them 166 seats.

Heer writes that both Harper and the Layton/Mulcair NDP were adhering to Duvanger's Law which “states that a plurality electoral system with single-member districts (like Canada’s first-past-the-post system) will tend towards a two-party system (split along left/right political lines).

The NDP under Thomas Mulcair made a fatal mistake in hugging too close to the center. This allowed Trudeau’s Liberals to carve out a political space on the left by promising Keynesian deficits and infrastructure spending to jumpstart the economy. The Liberals found a sweet spot of winning over both disaffected progressives and also centrists who distrusted the NDP’s socialist past and lack of governing experience.

...In the desperate last days of the elections, Harper started making some strange moves, even going to an event hosted by the disgraced former mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford. This embrace of Ford marked the end not just of a squalid, racist campaign but also Harper’s dream to live in a Canada where the Liberal Party was extinct. Although the Liberal Party remains an affront to both Harper and political theory, it regained its role as the voice of the Canadian center-left, which is where most voters are.

In fact, the party that is facing the existential question posed by Duverger’s law is not the Liberals but the NDP. While the NDP can and does win in provinces like Manitoba and Alberta, it is facing a bleak national future. With the Liberals once again presenting themselves as a progressive alternative to the Conservatives, does Canada need two left of center parties? If Duverger’s law ever does hit Canada, it could be the NDP that gets kicked to the curb.

At this point it's up to the NDP rank and file to decide whether they'll survive or, instead, simply double down on the bad bets they made under Layton and Mulcair. If they insist on going that route their disappearance will be no great loss and may even clear the way for a new, genuine party of the Left.

Something to Mull Over

We can't rely entirely on our government to restore social cohesion to the Canadian people. That chore falls to all of us. It is our responsibility, a duty we owe the country and each other. It's how we build on what we share in common and, in that way, overcome what divides us.

Our outgoing prime minister was a calculating, shrewd, manipulative bugger who excelled in wedge politics, dividing society, playing the margins.

I thought of how much we have to do when I came across this. Mull it over.

Damn Those Damned Immigrants!!

Who Opposes Trudeau's Move to Legalize Marijuana? Julian Fantino and the Hells' Angels.

Birds of a feather or just two sides of the same coin. Just sayin'. During the election campaign, now safely defeated Harper Con Julian Fantino said Trudeau's promise to legalize marijuana would play straight into the hands of organized crime and had to be stopped. Now the Hells Angels warn that Trudeau's promise to legalize marijuana would devastate organized crime and must be stopped.

As Canada’s newly elected Liberal government is on the verge of legalizing marijuana, thousands of Hells Angels members have taken the Parliament by storm yesterday to protest the new proposition.

The legalization of marijuana could cost the organized crime hundreds of thousands of jobs, believes the spokesman for the Canadian chapter of the Hells Angels, Jean-Roch Fournier.

“We estimate that Prime minister Justin Trudeau’s radical proposition to legalize marijuana could cost us over a hundred thousand jobs” says the former lawyer. “From growing operations, to trimming, packaging, transportation and selling, this new legislature will threaten the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of Canadian workers” he warns.

Somehow I don't think so unless Justin introduces a new strain of week that is self-growing, self-trimming, self-packaging, self-transporting and self-marketing. On the bright side, if Justin can do that, solving all of our other pressing problems should be a snap.

Back to Reality, People, and Put Your Shoulder Into It.

It's magical thinking, belief-based opinion making that can be completely detached from fact, reality.

It was the thought process that guided our outgoing prime minister. The world and everyone and thing in it were what he believed them to be. His was a mind not heavily burdened with the pursuit of fact. The fight against climate change was a socialist plot, that sort of thing. That's not to say he wasn't also a duplicitous, secretive, manipulative swine. He was all that and more.

I regularly indulge in belief-based constructs. It happens throughout the night as I sleep. We call it dreaming. Sometimes I imagine I can do the most amazing things as though I had never endured the toll exacted by six decades of life. Then I wake up and the switch is flipped back to consciousness and reality.

My point is that nap time is over. Back to reality. Facts in, fantasy out. Evidence in, belief out. Rationality in, ideology out. There'll still be plenty of speculation, opinion but it has to be informed opinion - expert opinion - and measured speculation, not gut instinct faith.

The embrace of magical thinking by our former prime minister and his dutiful minions has left us in a bad place - economically, politically, environmentally and even socially. This has given rise to any number of failures - on climate change; inequality in all its guises (wealth, income, opportunity); the rise of corporatism, neoliberalism and illiberal democracy; futile militarism in lieu of peacekeeping; unsustainable exponential growth; energy policy; Canada's now sullied international reputation - on and on and on.

We have to begin to halt the slide on all of these issues/threats.  That's a truly Herculean chore beyond any prime minister. Trudeau cannot set all these things right. He has neither the resources nor the time. What he can do, however, is struggle to slow them down as much as possible. He can buy us time so that perhaps we can find solutions, new approaches to some, perhaps even most of them.

When you explore these looming threats it's amazing how you'll find most of them are rooted in ideology. Not only are they conceived out of ideology but that same ideology nurtures and defends them by encouraging denialism. As a nation, a people, we can't live like this any more.

Justin's father had a motto: Reason over Passion. We could use a return to that now.

Drop Duffy - Not So Fast.

Veteran Canadian journalist, Geoffrey Stevens, argues that it's time to shut down the trials (and tribulations) of senator Michael Dennis Duffy.

As Stevens sees it there are two trials underway - one for public consumption, the other for the now redundant betterment of Shifty Steve Harper. A criminal trial and a political trial. Of the two, he contends, the criminal trial has already collapsed and the defence hasn't even gotten its chance at bat yet.

"To put it charitably, the Crown's case has been less than overwhelming. It has done more to help the defence than the prosecution. We have learned that Harper appointed Duffy in late 2008 as a senator from Prince Edward Island knowing full well that he had been resident in Ontario for years. We learned that the Senate expense rules were flexible enough that no one blew the whistle when Duffy declared his cottage in P.E.I. to be his principal residence and claimed accommodation expenses for his home in suburban Ottawa.

"We learned that the Conservatives valued "Old Duff" for his status as a media celebrity and his efforts as a cheerleader and fundraiser at party events; he regarded that as part of his job as a Tory senator, and some of his travel costs were charged to the upper house. Although Duffy certainly pushed the envelope, he was not the only senator whose expense claims, while accepted by the Senate, did not pass muster with the auditors.

"Of the 31 charges Duffy faces, the key one is bribery — the $90,000 personal cheque Nigel Wright wrote to enable Duffy to repay expenses that auditors had determined he should not have claimed. Yet the central question remains: how can Duffy be convicted of accepting a bribe when no one is charged with offering the bribe?

"From the outset, the Duffy trial has been two prosecutions in one — a political trial inside a criminal trial, or vice versa. The criminal prosecution is weak. The chances of a conviction appear remote. Under other circumstances, charges would never have been laid. Under other circumstances, they would have been withdrawn by now.

"The "other circumstances" were the political considerations. Bent on pursuing his "tough-on-crime," Stephen Harper could not afford to allow presumed fraud to go unprosecuted when it appeared just down the hallway in the Senate chamber. Mike Duffy being the most egregious offender identified by the auditors, he became the target in a show trial that, as it transpired, would reveal more about the PMO's frantic efforts (hundreds upon hundreds of emails) to cover up its involvement than it would about the ethical sins of senators."

"To put it charitably" Justin Trudeau cannot halt the prosecution as Stevens urges. This matter is before the courts. It is, in a nation of laws, now beyond the control of any premier. It must run its course.  As the political persecution aspect becomes more obvious, Duffy's very capable counsel can - and will - deal with that.

If, however, there is substance to Stevens' claim that this is, at its core, a political prosecution - effectively a state persecution - that is something that Parliament needs to expose and see that the miscreants behind it are held to account. It's hard to imagine there could be a political trial without an equally political investigation, one in which the supposed recipient of a bribe stands trial exposed to imprisonment while the person who furnished the bribe is declared blameless. That raises the spectre of a state police force corrupted. On that score we need some straight answers to some tough questions from Stephen Harper and his handpicked RCMP commissioner, Bob Paulson.

In fact it might be Paulson and Harper who deserve to have their day in court.

Update:  I discussed this with Geoff Stevens via email this morning. While he agrees that some sort of enquiry might be warranted, he's of the view that "Parliament won't go there."

Friday, October 23, 2015

Krugman - Canada, the Place Where the Future Happens First.

Paul Krugman has looked at Monday's federal election, and he likes what he sees.

...when it comes to economic policy ...Canada has surprisingly often been the place where the future happens first.

And it’s happening again. On Monday, Canadian voters swept the ruling Conservatives out of power, delivering a stunning victory to the center-left Liberals. And while there are many interesting things about the Liberal platform, what strikes me most is its clear rejection of the deficit-obsessed austerity orthodoxy that has dominated political discourse across the Western world. The Liberals ran on a frankly, openly Keynesian vision, and won big.

...Which brings us to the issue of deficits and public investment. Here’s what the Liberal Party of Canada platform had to say on the subject: “Interest rates are at historic lows, our current infrastructure is aging rapidly, and our economy is stuck in neutral. Now is the time to invest.”

Does that sound reasonable? It should, because it is. We’re living in a world awash with savings that the private sector doesn’t want to invest, and is eager to lend to governments at very low interest rates. It’s obviously a good idea to borrow at those low, low rates, putting those excess savings, not to mention the workers unemployed due to weak demand, to use building things that will improve our future.

...So will the Liberals put their platform into practice? They should. Interest rates remain incredibly low: Canada can borrow for 10 years at only 1½ percent, and its 30-year inflation-protected bonds yield less than 1 percent. Furthermore, Canada is probably facing an extended period of weak private demand, thanks to low oil prices and the likely deflation of a housing bubble.

Let’s hope, then, that Mr. Trudeau stays with the program. He has an opportunity to show the world what truly responsible fiscal policy looks like.

This will probably send Dipper brains into centrifugal collapse but that's on them. They chose opportunism instead of principle and found the very leader who would give them exactly what they wanted. It's great to be rid of Harper but dodging a Mulcair government is just the icing on the cake.

Take Heart. David Frum Declares Trudeau a Real Radical Liberal !!

David Frum has an interesting take on our neo-Trudeau Liberalism and it's immensely comforting that he so dislikes what he sees.  From The Atlantic:

Trudeau bears the most famous name in Canadian politics, but a name loaded with multiple meanings for his party and his country. His father, Pierre Trudeau, dominated Canadian politics from 1968 to 1984. Cerebral, tough, and openly contemptuous of his intellectual inferiors—who numbered more or less the entire human race—Pierre Trudeau plunged Canada into ultra-statist experiments and massive debts from which his successors struggled for more than a decade to rescue her.

...But scripted and unscripted, Justin Trudeau has conveyed a consistent message: The government he leads will repudiate the legacy not only of the incumbent Conservative prime minister, Stephen Harper, but the neoliberal Liberals of the 1990s.

Chretien-Martin balanced budgets. Trudeau has committed himself to a policy of deliberate deficits in an attempt to stimulate growth. Chretien-Martin eschewed redistributive taxes. Trudeau campaigned on a promise to increase taxes on wealthier Canadians to a new combined federal-provincial top rate above 50 percent. Chretien-Martin signed the North American Free Trade Agreement. Trudeau has squirmed to avoid committing to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Even before 2014-15, however, the populist anger expressed by Sanders and Corbyn could be heard in Canada, too. Canada has done a better job than the United States of sharing the proceeds of economic growth. Yet even in comparatively egalitarian Canada, rewards have tended to concentrate at the top of the income distribution. Earlier in the decade, resentment among middle-income Canadians toward the more affluent was offset by relief when Canadians compared themselves to Americans. As time has passed, however, the relief has waned and the resentment has intensified. It was those feelings that Trudeau harnessed, by condemning many small-business owners as tax cheats and telling Canadian business leaders that if they didn’t accept higher taxation now, they’d face even more radical claims in the future.

Trudeau’s strategy succeeded brilliantly, at least in electoral terms. His Liberals have won at least 40 percent of the popular vote, in their best performance since 1997. Leaders of other center-left parties around the world will note the success. Imitation and emulation will follow—across the Atlantic and across the 49th parallel.

You know something? I hope Frum is completely right. I hope he sees the real face of Canada's neo-Trudeau. Christ knows we could use a guy like that!

The Guardian's Drive-By Smear Job on Justin Trudeau

Jesus Christ on a crutch! The guy hasn't even been sworn into office and yet The Guardian's Canada correspondent, Martin Lukacs, is already declaring Trudeau's progressive credentials "a ruse."

The ousting of the Conservatives was a victory, a rejection of Stephen Harper’s politics of fear and outright hatred. But Canadians now confront a Prime Minister gifted in the art of warm, fuzzy claptrap. They won’t be offered what they dreamed of: that was never an option in this election.

In fairness, Lukacs also calls for his fellow New Dems to demand that Mulcair quit and, if he won't, boot him out.

Even as an opinion piece, Lukacs' article is drivel and he's rightly called out on it in readers' comments. One thing is for sure, if he's supposed to be Canada's answer to Monbiot, we have failed miserably.

A Lesson from Down Under

A couple of retired Aussie commanders, including a former chief of defence staff, are warning that their military has neglected to plan and prepare for the challenges of climate change. Hmm, does that sound familiar?

Australia's former prime minister, Cap'n Coal, Tony Abbott, didn't have much time for climate change issues and apparently his top military staff didn't either.

"I don't think it's any secret that we've spent three years in the wilderness" on these issues, Chris Barrie, a former admiral who served as ADF chief from 1998 to 2002, told Fairfax Media.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott's aversion to making global warming a priority meant the issue was downplayed. "When the Abbott government said you will not use the words 'climate change', the senior leadership had to do as it was directed, but at the same time they know this is important work," Admiral Barrie said.

The challenges may be illustrated within weeks if - as expected by aid groups and others - Papua New Guinea seeks help from Australia to deliver urgently needed food to remote highland villages hard-hit by the unfolding El Nino-linked drought.

"If the situation gets out of hand, and by that I mean people are starving, they will act unlawfully and then it turns out in a monster security situation," he said.

Michael Thomas, an army major who retired in June after 22 years of service, said the politicisation of climate change had been "a huge distraction to defence". 

Real militaries, such as America's and Britain's, are, by contrast, fully engaged on this issue seeing it as an immediate and growing threat to international and domestic security. 

Which begs the question, what of Canada, where Tony Abbott's alter-ego ran the shop for nearly a decade? How has our military leadership assessed the climate change business, what is their level of readiness, what have they got in the works?


Climate Change Update - Mexico Hunkers Down

Southern Mexico is bracing for what could be the strongest ever hurricane in that nation's history.

Hurricane Patricia is bearing down on the Mexican coast, having reached a maxed out Category 5 over the past 12-hours. Maximum sustained winds have reached 200 mph/320 km/h. That's more than enough to rip the place apart.

The interior minister, Miguel Ángel Osorio, told Mexico’s Radio Formula on Friday morning that officials are especially worried about the safety of people in the Puerto Vallarta, in Jalisco state, and in the nearby community of Bahía de Banderas, in Nayarit state.

“We need people to understand the magnitude of the hurricane, it is a devastating hurricane, the biggest one ever registered.”

The Great One Says He's At the Call of Any Prime Minister

Wayne Gretzky has set the record straight. He really didn't mean anything by his blowjob endorsement of Stephen Harper in which he praised Shifty as an "unreal prime minister" who had been "wonderful for the whole country."

He wasn't really being partisan. It's just that, for Wayne, prime ministers are 'friends with benefits.'

“In 1981, I did a luncheon for prime minister (Pierre) Trudeau at the time. In 1986, Mr. (Brian) Mulroney and (his wife) Mila asked me to host an event for a charity of their choice, which I did,” he said in an interview about his No. 99 Wayne Gretzky Collection fashion line.

The 54-year-old Gretzky also recalled joining Jean Chrétien in the Czech Republic in 2003 to help promote Canada’s bid for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

“When Mr. Harper reached out to me and asked me to do a Q&A with him, it’s simple: I can’t vote in this country. But . . . when the prime minister of Canada calls you, you say: ‘OK, I’ll do the favour for you.’ So whoever is going to be the next prime minister, if they call me for the favour I’d reach out again.”

Keep an eye on Justin, Sophie. Wayne's ready to "reach out again."

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Re-visiting the Execution of Sammy Yatim

Jurors in a Toronto courtroom had to watch video of the July, 2013 killing of Sammy Yatim by constable James Forcillo who now stands charged with 2nd degree murder.

Forcillo emptied his nine-round revolver, eight of his bullets striking Yatim. What I believe is particularly telling is the five second pause.

Forcillo fired three rounds, dropping Yatim to the floor of the TTC streetcar. Then five seconds elapsed before Forcillo resumed firing. Three more rounds, pause, the eighth shot, pause, the ninth and final shot.

Forcillo fired from the curb, several feet from the door of the bus, further still from his victim. The shooter was surrounded by fellow cops not one of whom intervened to prevent Forcillo from unloading the rest of his clip into the already downed Yatim.

Not seen until today was the onboard video which, at the 4:20 mark shows Forcillo begin to fire. The video leaves no doubt that a) Yatim never even set foot in the bus stairwell and b) that he went down with the first shots. After that Forcillo was simply emptying his gun into a dying body.  It's also telling that, prior to the arrival of police, the bus driver casually exits the bus. He doesn't flee to safety but remains at the bottom of the stairwell and then, just as casually, returns to his driver's station. Eventually he does leave the bus only this time he's running.

Let My Lab Coats Go!

Monday was a great day for science in Canada. The siege was lifted. Evidence-based thought was freed of its shackles. The Guardian celebrates Canada's return to rational thought.

Harper’s assault on science was extensive: with government scientists censored, budgets chopped, data monitoring programs eliminated, scientific libraries shuttered and the contents thrown into dumpsters. The long form census was axed, depriving decision makers of vital information about their citizens.

The cumulative consequences for government scientists were profound. “You don’t become a biologist to get rich or powerful,” says Jay Fitzsimmons, a biologist with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. “You become a biologist because you love nature and science. To work under a government that tries to silence scientists is pretty demoralizing.”

The issue that received the most attention was the so-called “muzzling” of government scientists. This week, Liberal MP Marc Garneau said that these restrictions would be eliminated “right away.”

...“We’ll reverse the $40 million cut that Harper made to our federal ocean science and monitoring programs,” said Liberal leader Justin Trudeau at a September campaign stop. “The war on science ends with the liberal government.” In tweet after tweet aftertweet, opposition candidates argued that they were best positioned to defend scientific integrity.

Now that it’s been elected with a healthy majority, the Liberal Party says it will make data openly available, unmuzzle scientists, bring back the long form census, appoint a chief science officer, and make the agency Statistics Canada fully independent.

Of course, more is required to make this agenda complete. Fortunately, Canada now has a Scientific Integrity Project, which has put a lot of thought into these issues, and the new government would be wise to consult them.

Appointing a science adviser and removing speech restrictions should be pretty straightforward. Cultural change will come more slowly. And there’s not a moment to lose. “To maintain the status quo would be to leave the festering wound to rot, leaving no option but to cut off the limb,” says freshwater ecologistMichael Rennie of Ontario’s Lakehead University. He calls for immediate reinvestment in government-based research, as well as the scrapping of bureaucratic rules that make it difficult for departments to hire scientists and for scientists to travel to scientific conferences.

In the context of science, evidence-based decision making, even rational thought, Harper was Canada's Khmer Rouge. It was this, more than anything else, that fueled a fierce public opposition that the rightwing media and even some fair weather Liberals derided as "Harper Derangement Syndrome." Yes, we were deranged, not Shifty Steve and the denizens of his 'faith based' edifice.

Do You See Where This Might Be Going?

September was the fifth consecutive month this year to set an all-time high temperature record.  May was hotter than any May on record. June, July, and August - ditto. September was the hottest September since reliable global records were kept back in 1880.

So, just as 2014 was the hottest year on record, 2015 - barring some freak winter conditions - is almost certain to knock last year off its record perch.  When the "hottest year" is a record that lasts just one year, it gives you something to chew on.

But there's a little more magic in September's figures. September, 2015 also logged the "greatest rise above average" for any month in the 136-year historical record. That suggests that not only is the heating continuing but it's not linear and may be accelerating. We seem to be getting hotter faster.

Part of this could be attributed to the Pacific (multi-) Decadal Oscillation. The Trade Winds for the past 15-years have been dumping atmospheric heat into the ocean depths. When the PDO switches, as some think it's beginning to do, that heat energy (that cannot be created or destroyed - the thermodynamics thing) will be returned to the atmosphere, compounding anthropogenic global warming. It's sort of like putting global warming on anabolic steroids.

People in their mid-30s today have never experienced a month, not one, of below average temperatures. Their status quo has been steady increases and a train of record temperatures - monthly, annually and decadally.

Meanwhile, our here on the Left Coast or, as we like to call it, our Harper-Free Zone, we're being told to expect our warmest winter ever. That means I probably won't have to get the snow shovel out of the garden shed again this year. But winter anxiety here is focused on our snowpack. Last year was disastrous - there was almost none. This year, even if warmer than last winter, may be better. AccuWeather says we'll have more snow on the mountains but Environment Canada disagrees. For once I hope the government types are wrong - but they rarely are.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Considered Wisdom of Gerald Caplan

As one who yearns for a NDP reformation yet supports a different party, I've looked for helpful insights from prominent, 'old school' New Democrats on how the legendary party of Douglas, Lewis and Broadbent was transformed into the party of Layton and Mulcair.

One of these New Democrat rabbis is Gerald Caplan. Presented here are a few of his thoughts from two weeks before the election and in the immediate aftermath. On October 6th, Caplan wrote this in the Globe and Mail:

Where has the NDP’s neoliberal economic platform come from? Certainly not from the NDP policy book or the party’s members who overwhelmingly disagree with the promises about no deficits and balanced budgets.

Besides, can this possibly be the real change the NDP promises?

...Given that Mr. Harper has run one of the most destructive governments in modern Canadian history, why is Mr. Mulcair giving him almost a free ride while attacking Justin Trudeau at every turn? After all, when Mr. Trudeau talks about deficits, inequality, taxing the very rich, he’s talking NDP. And aren’t we going to have to work closely with him after October 19, to keep Mr. Harper out?

...And yet the NDP seems to have decided to go after Mr. Trudeau even harder in a new series of ads. Isn’t it considered madness when you double down on a failed strategy and expect different results. As one of my many correspondents on this matter typically wrote: “I have to say that if the ‘He’s Not Ready’ stuff didn’t work, the ‘He Just Lost My Vote’ stuff certainly won’t. Besides it sounds surly and curmudgeonly. And don’t they understand that it helps Mr. Trudeau? Why are we obsessively targeting the wrong person?” Another good question. The new ads merely draw attention to Mr. Trudeau, reminding Canadians that he’s still flying high. And as usual, they ignore Mr. Harper instead of lambasting his record and demonstrating who the real anti-Harper leader is.

In today's Globe, Caplan laments the loss of so many fine NDP stalwarts - Megan Leslie, Peter Stoffer, Paul Dewar and Peggy Nash among others - and they will be missed.

The Trudeau government has its clear priorities, many of them embarrassingly more progressive than the NDP’s platform. The NDP caucus can hardly oppose any of them, but nor can it expect the Government to pay attention to NDP overtures. Why should they? To fight the dreaded Harperman, the Liberals, and specifically their leader, received nothing but abuse during the campaign, often gratuitously personal and always strategically dubious. The Liberals will hardly be grateful for NDP advice about the right way to run Canada.

Now that it can’t seriously pretend to be the government-in-waiting, the NDP must rethink its role in parliament and indeed in the country. For decades the NDP were policy pioneers, promoting social policies especially until the governing party was forced to accept them – old-age pensions, medicare, unemployment insurance, and much more. Where are the equivalent NDP policies of today? Where are the tough but realistic policies that would address Canada’s scandalous inequality?

...And where does it leave the party now? That’s the question that New Democrats must start debating, the sooner the better. The answer is by no means preordained. For me, keeping the new government honest remains a pretty good cause.

Keeping the new government honest, indeed. For decades the NDP paid Canadians invaluable service by working to keep governments honest, by standing as the 'conscience of Parliament.'  Just as Conservatives disdained peacekeeping for warfighting (albeit in vain) during the Harper era, so too did New Democrats jettison their traditional role - and progressivism - for a shot at power during the Layton/Mulcair era.

Why did the NDP squander its credibility "obsessively targeting the wrong person," Justin Trudeau? Because that was what was ordained in the Layton/Mulcair playbook. They were always out to take down the Liberals even at the cost of advancing Harper. Layton helped Harper ascend to power. Layton was instrumental in Harper achieving his disastrous (for Canada) majority. Mulcair sought to play the same game.

It's encouraging that the Caplans and Laxers and others are now speaking out and pointing the way for the New Democrats to rehabilitate their party. I can't see how they'll do that with Mulcair at the helm.

The Lies That Bind

There's a powerful but perverse psychology that keeps nations stuck in quagmire conflicts. Foreign Policy offers an analysis by USMC aviator Michael van Wyk that is a "must read" for Canadians as Justin Trudeau prepares to withdraw Canada's contribution to the pointless air war on ISIS.

In a recent article, Gen. David Petraeus and Michael O’Hanlon voiced their support forPresident Obama’s announcement to maintain an increased U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan through 2017. A lot of the familiar rhetoric abounds  — statements that Afghanistan “needs help” and that the situation is “not hopeless, but it is serious” combine to produce a non-specific threat narrative. But the authors offer only one real argument for staying: “the right approach is for Obama to protect our investment in Afghanistan.”

In other words, we should stay because of sunk costs. In 1985, Arkes and Blumer published a study titled The Psychology of Sunk Cost that addressed the idea of the sunk cost effect. It had roots in several other theories to include Kahneman and Taversky’s 1979 Prospect Theory, of which there are two applicable parts  —  prospect theory’s value function, and thecertainty effect. The value function presents the idea of an investor deep in loss perceiving the prospect of relative gain (even if still achieving a net loss in the end) as far outweighing the risk of increased cost (and further loss). An example is given of the increased popularity of long shots at the race track during the final race of the day. The second part is thecertainty effect, noting that a choice between a certain loss (completely pulling out of Afghanistan leading to its presumptive total collapse) and a long shot (the Afghan government becoming self-sustaining sometime in the very, very distant future) favors the latter.

...The hardest aspect in shedding the sunk cost fallacy is the seeming irreverence of not “honoring” the sacrifices of our dead and wounded. We need to tread lightly on the ground of our fallen comrades. But I believe the “sunk cost” view actually dishonors their sacrifice, because it converts them into a kind of political-emotional “currency” that is used to gain argumentative advantage. This often comes in the form of declaring whether their sacrifice was or will be “in vain” or not based on a subjective determination of outcome. Matt Cavanaugh, Jim Gourley, and Dan Berschinski all have recently wrestled with addressing this complex and sensitive topic. For now, suffice it to say that the consideration of hazarding further American lives deserves the utmost gravity, but the hard truth that manyhave died does not and cannot justify whether more should die.

In Afghanistan, the money and effort spent up until this point have gotten us to exactly where we are and no further. To see the situation clearly, we need to rid ourselves of the sunk cost fallacy and view the option of our enduring role in Afghanistan in the light ofopportunity costs. That is, we should try to assess all the costs, both explicit and inherent, of one alternative versus the other going forward. Even if the desired outcome of staying in Afghanistan is sufficiently viable, reasonably achievable, and rationally probable, our continued involvement will certainly result in the loss of American lives.

My assessment is that such an outcome is not achievable without the loss of more of our people than is worth it. Hence, I believe it is time for us to leave Afghanistan, undeluded by the hope that we can somehow recover the unrecoverable.

Van Wyk argues for the complete withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan. To him the future costs of staying aren't worth the prize. Squandering lives and treasure on lost causes is for the French Foreign Legion. Without that, the Legion might not have any songs.

Canada needs to stop serving as America's Foreign Legion. No more wars unless we know, going in, that we have the ability and the will to win them. No more wars without end. No more doubling down on bad bets. Enough.

Hey, Justin. Looking for an Environment Minister? Look No More.

Elizabeth May. has put up a petition urging prime minister Trudeau to invite Green Party leader, Elizabeth May, to serve as his environment minister. You can add your name here.

When I signed there were nearly 41,000 supporters. is looking for 50,000 before submitting it to the prime minister elect.

BTW, I first heard this suggestion from friend, Lorne, of Politics and Its Discontents.

13C, It's Where You Need to Be.

It's considered the perfect temperature for economic success. 13 degrees Celsius it is. Nations with an average, annual temperature of 13C simply perform better, they always have and they always will. Which, with temperatures on the rise, is about to throw a wrench into a lot of places.

Underlying the link is the impact that rising temperatures have on people’s ability to work, their health and even their ability to think, as well as harm to crops and machinery. Today, the US, Japan and China have average annual temperatures close to the sweet spot of 13C, meaning that further warming will begin to harm their economies.

But Brazil, India, Indonesia and Nigeria are already much warmer, meaning the impact of climate change on their economic growth will be even greater. The UK and Germany are currently cooler than 13C, meaning their economies may improve a little as temperatures rise, before starting to decline.

...The new analysis, published in the journal Nature on Wednesday, began by examining the economic performance of countries between 1960 and 2010. When a country’s average temperature was above 13C, they found that national economies performed worse in warmer years than in cooler years. Below 13C, the reverse was the case.

“This relationship we have uncovered is almost like a law,” said Solomon Hsiang, at the University of California, Berkeley, a member of the research team. “Over the last 50 years, this relationship between how temperature fluctuates and how economies perform hasn’t changed a bit.”

...“When we hear of a few degrees of temperature change, it doesn’t sounds like a lot, but when you look in detail at what will happen on the ground, you are looking at a completely different planet,” said Hsiang.

“So it shouldn’t be too surprising that it is going to reshape the global economy in ways that are going to be quite traumatic. We can then ask whether or not we want to subject future generations to that turmoil and change, or if we want to invest what seems like a relatively small amount of today to avoid that scenario.”

Climate economist Lord Nicholas Stern, at the London School of Economics, said: “This paper recognises that climate change could have impacts that increase very steeply with rising global average temperature. This is an advance on other previous studies [which have] made severe underestimates of the economic effects of unmanaged climate change.”

But he said even the new estimate could be unduly lower, because many possible and severe disruptions suggested by scientific evidence had not been included.