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.

Friday, August 22, 2014 

Remembering Jack ....

No One Had More Fun Doing Segments On 'This Hour Has 22 Minutes' Than Jack Layton

Thursday, August 21, 2014 

Federal documents show Harper's Conservatives are thwarting scientists' efforts to keep Canadians informed on Arctic ice levels

Federal scientists who keep a close eye on the Arctic ice would like to routinely brief Canadians about extraordinary events unfolding in the North.
But newly released federal documents show the Harper government has been thwarting their efforts.
In 2012, as the Arctic ice hit the lowest point ever recorded, scientists at the Canadian Ice Service were keen to tell Canadians about the stunning ice loss.
“Less ice doesn’t mean less danger. In fact the opposite is true and there is greater need for ice information,” Leah Braithwaite, the service’s chief of applied science said in an August 2012 memo to Norman Naylor, a strategic communications adviser at Environment Canada.
Braithwaite and her colleagues — aware of the national and international interest in the shrinking polar ice — wanted to hold a “strictly factual” technical briefing for the media to inform Canadians how the ice had disappeared from not only the Northwest Passage but many normally ice-choked parts of the Arctic.
The briefing never happened. Nine levels of approval — from the director of the ice service up to the environment minister’s office — were needed for the “communication plan,” according to the documents released to Postmedia News under the Access to Information Act.
“Ministerial services” — the sixth layer — cancelled the briefing, the documents say. And the ice service scientists ended up watching as the Canadian media and public got most of their information from the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), where scientists were quick to give interviews, hold briefings and issue press releases as the ice shattered records as it melted from Baffin Island to the Beaufort Sea.
Environment Canada did not immediately respond to written questions sent on Monday about the cancelled briefing. The Privy Council Office (PCO) said any response would come from Environment Canada.
Observers say the case is further evidence of the way the Conservative government is silencing scientists.
“It’s suppression through bureaucracy,” said Katie Gibbs, executive director of Evidence for Democracy (E4D), an Ottawa-based non-profit pushing for open communication of government science.
“Why is it that we need nine levels of approval for this sort of thing, what’s the justification,” said biologist Scott Findlay, a co-founder of E4D and member of the Institute for Science, Society and Policy at the University of Ottawa.
He said the government’s “Byzantine message control” is not only wasting time, money and resources, but having a “corrosive” effect on the public service.
He said federal scientists are professionals and the government should trust them to interact with the media and release information that is in the public interest, such as conditions and changes in the Arctic ice.

The government has repeatedly said it is “not muzzling” or silencing scientists, but the federal information commissioner’s office is investigating a complaint filed by Democracy Watch and the Environmental Law Centre at the University of Victoria that the government has been obstructing “the right of the media — and through them, the Canadian public — to timely access to government scientists.” The commissioner’s findings are expected later this year.
The Canadian Ice Service uses satellites, aircraft and ships to monitor the vast expanse of northern ice and water. It warns of icebergs and navigation hazards and collects data on ice conditions that can have a big impact on the weather.
“What goes on in the Arctic has implications for all Canadians,” says one document explaining the rationale for the proposed 2012 briefing.
“(The) goal of the media tech briefing is to accurately report what occurred this past summer in the Canadian Arctic and not just report on the American National Science and Ice Data Center information, “ says another email, noting that the media coverage had been “missing the Canadian details.”
Braithwaite recommended that “we seek approval to provide Media Tech briefings” on the Arctic ice every spring and fall on a “routine basis similar to the Hurricane Centre,” which regularly holds briefings.
“We are ‘weather’ too!,” Braithwaite said, a sentiment echoed by Sheena Carrigan, a communication manager at the Meteorological Service of Canada.
“If the Hurricane Centre can do media tech briefings, then so should (the) Ice Service,” Carrigan said.
Such briefings do not take place and the documents show the one planned to mark the record ice melt in 2012 was cancelled after weeks of preparation.
The 449 pages of documents are heavily redacted and don’t say why the briefing was cancelled. But they do show the scientists trying to open the lines of communication.
In mid-August of 2012, a month before the ice hit its low, David Jackson, ice service’s director, sent a “heads up” to the Environment Canada’s communications branch alerting them that it “seems to be shaping up for a potential record low this year.”
Environment Canada’s communication branch began working with the ice service to plan the media briefing and prepare “media lines.”
The “media lines” needed approval from not only the department’s communication branch, but also the office of then-environment minister Peter Kent as well as the PCO, an arm of the prime minster’s office, the documents show.
As the scientists waited for approvals, the polar ice continued to melt away and their colleagues at the U.S. NSIDC sprang into action. They held a briefing on Aug. 27 to announce the Arctic ice had shrunk to the smallest size since tracking of the polar cap began 30 years ago.
The Canadian Ice Service scientists had plenty to add, but the documents show they could not even issue a statement without clearance from PCO communications.
“We won’t get a statement approved by PCO Comms today,” Carrigan informed the ice service after the Americans had briefed the media. The polar ice had passed previous melt records in August, the NSIDC said, and would shrink even more before it hit the low for the year.
Then, on Sept. 19, as the Canadians continued to plan and seek approvals for their briefing, the Americans announced the ice had hit the 2012 minimum, shattering previous records.
“This story is breaking news today based on the NSIDC’s news release,” Canadian ice forecaster Trudy Wohlleben said in an Sept. 19 email, pointing to 420 news articles that had popped on Google News and Canadian media outlets, including the National Post and Montreal Gazette.
“Next week’s tech briefing will be too late, I think,” said Wohlleben said of the Canadian briefing.
Her colleague Claude Dicaire was asked by the CBC to do an on-camera interview, but approval didn’t come through in time. Instead, as he noted a Sept. 21 email, the U.S. NSIDC and its “big logo” made a big splash on the national TV news.
Braithwaite also lamented the “missed” interview opportunity. “Sometimes the best laid plans just don’t pan out the way we hope,” she said.
Even though the news had already made headlines around the world, Environment Canada’s communication branch continued to work on plans and approvals for the Canadian briefing, before it was cancelled on Sept. 25 by ministerial services.
A week later, on Oct. 3, Kristina Fickes, a senior communication adviser at Environment Canada, was looking for approval to tweet that the “Canadian Arctic ice reached record low in summer 2012.” By then, the ice was already freezing up again for the winter season.

Monday, August 04, 2014 

World War One ... historical stupidity that seemed like a good idea at the time

I see that the Canadians are being brainwashed into thinking that World War One was a great and glorious moment in Canadian history. You are being told that Canadian soldiers died for Canada's 'freedom' during the First World War ... to 'protect and preserve our nation'. Nonsense!!!

Any one with even a fleeting knowledge of history will struggle with this interpretation of the pointless, meaningless conflict known as 'the First World War'.

Stop any citizen on the street and ask them what the reason for the First World War was ... and see if they know. Essentially, three Royal 'cousins' ... England's King George V - Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm II - Russia's Czar Nicholas II (all three were grandsons of Queen Victoria) ... had a royal 'family feud'.

Here is what triggered World War One:
-In June, 1914 Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne was assassinated by a Serb.
-The Austria-Hungarian Empire retaliated against the Kingdom of Serbia.
-The Russian Empire told Austria-Hungary to keep hands off Serbia.
-Austrian-Hungarian Empire said 'screw you' ... declared war on Russia.
-The German Empire joined with Austia-Hungary.
-England joined with Russia and France... Canada was automatically at war because Britain was in a state of war.
-All hell breaks loose ... 20 million people DIE.

In all of this, I am not sure how Canada was threatened as a nation. I am not sure why 67,000 Canadians died (4000 from Saskatchewan) in mud filled trenches in Europe. It seemed like a good idea at the time. In reality, it was an idiotic bloodbath.

Canada's victory in taking Vimy Ridge from the Germans was a moment of great pride for a young nation that found itself at war automatically because of it's almost colonial ties to Britain. Thirty-six hundred Canadians died at Vimy Ridge and almost 10,000 were wounded. Courage? Absolutely! Worth the sacrifice? In a conflict involving European royal families, corporate interests and imperial spoils ... I'd say no. Again, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

A century later, our government has been struggling to bring meaning and reason to the death of Canadian soldiers in the pointless war in Afghanistan. Our Conservative government  has a record of praising our troops while they are in uniform but promptly ditching responsibility for them when they arrive back in Canada as 'veterans'.

I do NOT doubt the courage of Canada's armed forces. I doubt only those who continue to propagandize the 'need' for armed conflict and the death of young men and women who get caught up in feelings of patriotism.

War is primitive. It is neanderthal. Shame on those, in the modern era, who jump to war as a first option, without any attempts at alternate resolution.

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