Friday, September 19, 2014 

The New Democrats Get It Right On Iraq - Walkom

By backing Barack Obama’s ill-considered war, Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau have signed onto a fool’s errand.

America’s latest Middle East war is a fool’s errand.
U.S. President Barack Obama’s campaign against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria is hastily conceived, relies on uncertain allies and risks further inflaming an already volatile region.
In Canada, the only major political party with anything resembling a sensible position on this war is Tom Mulcair’s NDP.
After days of dithering, the New Democrats have decided to oppose Canadian involvement. Mulcair made that clear Tuesday night in a Commons debate.
Few noticed, so he announced it again Wednesday.
He said, correctly, that the Conservative government is committing Canadian commandos to the conflict without being clear as to what they can plausibly accomplish once they get there.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper initially said Canada would send “several dozen” special forces as “advisers” to Kurdish irregulars fighting the militants. On Tuesday, he said the number of Canadian soldiers in Iraq will be 69.
While the prime minister has said he will review the deployment in 30 days, his government’s commitment to Obama’s war is, to all intents and purposes, open-ended.
If Obama had a coherent strategy, this might not matter. But the U.S. president does not.
He promises to miraculously “destroy and degrade” the militants without sending U.S. troops into combat.
Yet even his top military chief, Gen. Martin Dempsey, has said that American ground forces may be needed.
The U.S. president has gathered what, on paper, appears to be an impressive coalition.
But when it comes to specifics, few members of that coalition — including Muslim states — are willing to commit themselves to much.
Their reluctance is understandable. The region in which the U.S. wants to operate is a quagmire characterized by shifting alliances among actors with dubious aims.
Turkey, for instance, has no love for the Islamic State. But it also opposes the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad (which the Islamic State is fighting).
As well, Turkey is deeply suspicious of Western efforts to arm and train Kurdish militias, some of which it views as terrorist.
The U.S. is pinning its hopes on the training and arming of so-called Syrian moderates. But it is not clear that there are any moderates left in the bloody, sectarian Syrian civil war.
Indeed, Washington’s approach to Syria is reminiscent of its strategy in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
American support of allegedly pro-Western militias there helped to tip the country into anarchy and, ultimately, paved the way for the Taliban to take power.
Meanwhile, Obama’s Western allies are careful to play to their home audiences.
French President François Hollande, deeply unpopular at home for his handling of the economy, is trying to burnish his image by authorizing air strikes against militants in Iraq. But he has ruled out taking this air war to Islamic State bases in Syria.
Australia, like Canada, is sending commandos to Iraq. Like Harper, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott claims that these 600 battle-tested soldiers will act as advisers only.
In Canada, the Afghan experience has made the politics of war particularly difficult.
Harper can gain advantage with some voters by portraying himself as a serious international player willing to wage war.
Yet it is best for him if the details and contradictions of this particular war — including any casualties — are obscured.
Justin Trudeau’s Liberals take pride in the fact that it was their party’s government that, officially at least, refused to take part in the last Iraq war.
But the Liberals are also reluctant to be seen as soft on jihadists who cut off heads.
From this comes Trudeau’s somewhat confused position. He says he will support the current mission “as designed,” as long as “we continue to have parliamentary oversight.”
Yet no one outside government knows the exact design of the current mission. And there is no parliamentary oversight.
Harper has made it clear that as far as this war is concerned, the government will do as it wishes, regardless of what MPs think. Parliament be damned.
Thomas Walkom The Star

Wednesday, September 17, 2014 

Scotland Aye!!


Tuesday, September 16, 2014 

Saskatchewan Taxpayers Cough Up Millions To Open Doors For Premier Brad Wall With American Republican Lawmakers

OTTAWA—When it comes to rubbing shoulders with movers and shakers in the halls of power in the United States, few governments are better represented than that of a place many Americans have never heard of — Saskatchewan.

Since 2009, Premier Brad Wall’s government and Saskatchewan agencies have paid more than $3 million to a U.S. law firm to fund an ambitious lobbying onslaught in Washington, D.C., on the long-stalled Keystone pipeline proposal and other energy and trade issues.

The law firm Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough has helped the premier work the halls of Congress, hobnob with the cream of U.S. policy-makers and introduce himself to the American media-government establishment. In some cases, members of the U.S. Congress who met with Wall received political contributions from Nelson Mullins before or after their contact with the premier, according to U.S. government documents.

Public records filed under the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act sketch the lobbying campaign. In April 2009, the law firm reported: “Outreach to CNN producer Michelle Jaconi suggesting she keep on file the biography of Premier Brad Wall and consider him for guest booking for CNN shows” on climate change and trade issues.

A key member of the Nelson Mullins team is David Wilkins, the former U.S. ambassador to Canada.

In May 2009, staffers at Nelson Mullins were busy with “outreach to (U.S.) Western Governors’ Association to promote Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall for speaking opportunity at Western Governors’ Association meeting in Utah.”

A month later, the law firm reported it had contacted several major U.S. newspapers to disseminate an opinion piece co-written by Wall and Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer on a joint carbon-capture-and-storage project.

Since then, Nelson Mullins’ efforts to advance Saskatchewan’s interests have covered a wide range of activities: Obtaining media coverage for Wall on his visits to China and India as well as the U.S., arranging speaking engagements in the U.S. for the premier and helping him pressure U.S. President Barack Obama to approve Keystone. The latter strategy included a letter signed by Wall and the governors of 10 U.S. states urging Obama to give Keystone the go-ahead.

While the Keystone pipeline would carry oilsands-derived crude to the U.S. from Alberta, Saskatchewan also stands to benefit if the project goes ahead. Petroleum producers in Saskatchewan are losing $2.5 billion annually because of depressed prices resulting from a North American oil surplus, Wall’s office says. This costs the provincial government $300 million a year in lost revenues. Opening a new export pipeline would push up prices for oil producers in Saskatchewan and other provinces.

Wall has always been open about his province’s lobbying contract with Nelson Mullins and believes Wilkins and others there have performed well on Saskatchewan’s behalf, a government spokesperson said.

In the past five years, the law firm has used its connections to throw open the doors of some of Washington’s most sought-after lawmakers and White House officials for Wall and other Saskatchewan cabinet ministers.

And U.S. Department of Justice documents show lawmakers who met with Wall were in some cases the beneficiaries of political contributions by Nelson Mullins.

There is no indication any of the money donated to members of Congress lobbied by Nelson Mullins came from the Saskatchewan government. The law firm was working for other clients while it worked for Wall. Nelson Mullins regularly makes political contributions to dozens of lawmakers in the U.S. and such political contributions are legal under U.S. election financing rules.

Wilkins declined repeated requests for interviews about his relationship with the premier and the Saskatchewan government. However, he has said in the past, in relation to political contributions to a member of Congress, that he has never expected any recipient of a political contribution to take any particular action in response. U.S. lawmakers contacted by the Star also did not return the Star’s requests for comments.

Nelson Mullins was particularly active on behalf of Wall when he visited Washington in the first week of March. At that time, there was a peak in the high-stakes struggle in Washington over Keystone. With Obama’s long-awaited yes-or-no decision on the $7-billion pipeline thought to be imminent, Wall made another of his regular visits to the U.S. capital and as usual turned to Wilkins to set up his lobbying contacts.

Nelson Mullins arranged for Wall to meet 10 members of Congress to discuss Keystone, according to records collected under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Among those with whom Wall met to talk about the controversial pipeline project was John Boehner, the powerful Republican speaker of the House of Representatives. A smiling Wall posed for a photograph with Boehner and Wilkins that subsequently ran in a Nelson Mullins newsletter. The following Monday after the Wall-Boehner meeting, Wilkins’ law firm provided Boehner with a $2,000 political donation, according to the U.S. records.

Boehner, a longtime supporter of Keystone, had presided over several House votes meant to pressure Obama to approve the pipeline’s construction. And in April when Obama again postponed a final yes-or-no ruling on Keystone, Boehner labelled the move “shameful” and vowed to keep pressing the administration to “move forward” on a decision.
...Star article continues ....


Can We TRUST The RCMP's Warning On Threats To The Oil Industry?

Environmental extremism a rising threat to energy sector, RCMP warns!

September 14, 2014

RCMP bombed oil site in 'dirty tricks' campaign

Jan 30, 1999



Monday, September 15, 2014 

I Agree With Willie On The Issue Of Scottish Independence !!

Free Scotland

Sunday, September 14, 2014 

World Shocked At ISIS Beheadings ... while our ally Saudi Arabia continues to whack heads off routinely as part of their justice system!

"In the space of two weeks last month, according to the rights group Amnesty International, Saudi Arabia executed as many as 22 people. At least eight of those executed were beheaded, U.N. observers say. It appears that the majority of those executed in August were guilty of nonlethal crimes, including drug trafficking, adultery, apostasy and "sorcery." Four members of one family, Amnesty reports, were beheaded for "receiving drugs." [...] last year, a reported shortage of trained swordsmen led to some hope that the practice could wane, but recent evidence suggests otherwise. It's an uncomfortable irony given that the United States' current military mobilization was triggered after the Islamic State beheaded two American journalists."Beheading as a form of execution is cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and prohibited under international law under all circumstances," said Juan Méndez, a U.N. special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, at a news conference in Geneva on Tuesday. "
Washington Post

Editorial note: This post in no way is intended to be defensive of ISIS and its abhorrent practices. It is intended to show that we traveled 'down the rabbit hole' a long time ago in our dealings with the oil rich Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as our 'ally'. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), at least 69 people were executed by beheading in 2012

Friday, August 29, 2014 

Canada Slips From Most Developed Nation In The World To 11th Place Because Of Stephen Harper And The Conservatives .. Shame!!

Canada has slipped out of the top 10 countries listed in the annual United Nation's human development index — a far cry from the 1990s when it held the first place for most of the decade.
The 2013 report, which reviews a country's performance in health, education and income, places Canada in 11th place versus 10th last year.
A closer look at the trends shows Canada actually did better than last year, but other countries such as Japan and Australia improved at a greater rate.
When the numbers are adjusted for gender inequality, Canada slumps to 18th place. The United States fares even worse -- sinking from third to 42nd place.
"I think it's really sad to see that we've dropped so far under the Conservatives," said deputy NDP leader Megan Leslie.
"And I think it reinforces what the NDP has been saying, but also what organizations like the Conference Board of Canada have been saying, about the fact that there's a growing income inequality gap in Canada.
"That gap creates serious problems, and I don't think the Conservatives have been taking it seriously."
The Prime Minister's Office did not respond to a request for comment on the rankings.

Southern nations on the rise

The main finding of the report, entitled "The Rise of the South," is a positive one on a global scale. It says that countries that had previously struggled with poverty and inequality are now on a steady developmental climb.
It says Brazil, China and India's combined gross domestic product is now about equal to the combined GDP of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States.
"When dozens of countries and billions of people move up the development ladder, as they are doing today, it has a direct impact on wealth creation and broader human progress in all countries and regions of the world," says the report.
Even the countries at the bottom of the development list, Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo, are among those who showed the greatest improvement.

 The UN Development Program credits three factors for the developmental gains. It says southern nations are being proactive and pragmatic in developing policies for their private and public sectors. The countries are also tapping into global markets, and investing in social programs.
Maurice Kugler, head of research and analysis for the UN Development Program's report, said the gains in human development do not signify an end to inequalities in these countries. The gap between the rich and poor is stubbornly resilient — Kugler says only in Latin America has it shrunk.
"If inequality persists, that engenders social and political instability, and it's very important to address this issue of inequality to be able to have sustainable human development in the future," said Kugler.
The report goes on to suggest that multilateral, international organizations should be reformed to include better representation from the southern hemisphere.
"If they are to survive, international institutions need to be more representative, transparent and accountable," said the report.
"Indeed, some intergovernmental processes would be invigorated by greater participation from the South, which can bring substantial financial, technological and human resources."

CBC News

Thursday, August 28, 2014 

Stephen Harper's Deranged Thought Process Is Based On Highly Flawed Right Wing Ideology

Stephen Harper really seems to have it out for sociology. In 2013, in response to an alleged plot against a VIA train, Harper remarked that we should not “commit sociology,” but pursue an anti-crime approach. And last week, in response to the death of Tina Fontaine, Harper argued that an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women is not needed, because this is not a “ sociological phenomenon ” but simply a series of individual crimes.
Of course, not only is all crime a sociological phenomenon , but also without a broader sociological analysis we can’t begin to understand why the rates of missing and murdered indigenous women are tragically high compared to non-indigenous women. Furthermore, it’s clear that if rates of violence against non-indigenous women climbed as high as those of indigenous women, this government (even with its woeful record on women’s issues) would be more likely to announce not only a public inquiry but a full-scale national strategy. (This double-standard in how we value human lives is what sociologists call “racism.”)
Harper’s two disparaging comments about sociology, however, also need to be understood alongside his gutting of the long-form census in 2010. It is widely accepted that this action fundamentally undermined Canada’s ability to understand its own demographics, long-term social trends, and inequalities — in short, its sociology.
So what does Harper have against sociology? First, Harper is clearly trumpeting a standard component of neo-liberal ideology: that there are no social phenomena, only individual incidents. (This ideology traces back to Margaret Thatcher’s famous claim that “there is no such thing as society.”) Neo-liberalism paints all social problems as individual problems. The benefit of this for those who share Harper’s agenda, of course, is that if there are no social problems or solutions, then there is little need for government. Individuals are solely responsible for the problems they face.
This ideology is so seductive not only because it radically simplifies our world, but also because it mirrors the two social institutions neo-liberals actually believe in — the “free” market and law and order. Everything is reduced to either a simplistic market transaction or a criminal case. In the former, you either have the money to buy stuff, or you don’t and it’s up to you to get more. In the latter, a lone individual is personally responsible for a crime and is punished for it. Easy peasy. No sociology needed.
But there’s yet another reason this ideology is so hostile toward the kind of sociological analysis done by Statistics Canada, public inquiries and the like. And that has to do with the type of injustices we can even conceive of, or consider tackling, as a society.
You see, sociologists often differentiate between “personal injustices” and “systemic” or “structural injustices.” Personal injustices can be traced back to concrete actions of particular individuals (perpetrators). These actions are often wilful, and have a relatively isolated victim.
Structural injustices, on the other hand, are produced by a social structure or system. They are often hard to trace back to the actions of specific individuals, are usually not explicitly intended by anyone, and have collective, rather than isolated, victims. Structural injustices are a result of the unintended actions of many individuals participating in a social system together, usually without knowing what each other is doing. Whereas personal injustices are traced back to the harmful actions (or inactions) of individuals, structural injustices are identified by differential societal outcomes among groups. Sociologists call these “social inequalities.”
And therein lies the rub. Perhaps the key difference between personal and structural injustices is that the latter are only clearly identifiable through macro-level societal analysis — that is, sociology. This is because a) there are no clear perpetrators with whom to identify the injustice and assign responsibility; and b) while structural injustices do generate concrete harms and victims, we often only learn about the collective nature of the injustice through statistical inquiry, or by identifying social/demographic patterns over time.
What should be clear, then, is that Harper’s seemingly bizarre vendetta against sociology is actually an ideological attempt to prevent Canadian society from being able to identify, and tackle, its structural injustices. Without large-scale sociological analyses, we can’t recognize the pervasive, entrenched social inequalities that these analyses reveal. And because structural injustices are actually generated by our social systems, both their causes and solutions are social.
Thus, when we paint all social problems as individual problems with individual solutions, we also lose any sense of the social responsibility, rather than personal responsibility, that we need to address them.
The payoff in all this for Harper and other neo-liberals is that the kinds of injustices this ideology is particularly good at creating are precisely structural injustices. Indeed, one of neo-liberalism’s greatest capacities is to generate systemic inequalities that are not easily identifiable, in fact are rather difficult to discern, on the level of personal interactions and isolated cases. Harper’s attack on sociology, then, should be viewed not only as an attempt to further his ideology, but to cover the social damage that is left in its wake.

Jakeet Singh is an assistant professor in the Department of Politics & Government at Illinois State University.

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