Dec 182017
 

It has been sometime since I last posted an Open Thread.  I have wanted to but just could not wrangle enough time to get it done before the issues became old news.  I have been working at this and a second piece all day, kept company by my 3 cats.  I did not even do my feature, “My Universe”, in the interests of my time.  Now I will post this to Care2 and start on TomCat’s offerings.

Short Takes

Washington Post — Shortly after Democrat Doug Jones wrested back one of ­Alabama’s solidly Republican U.S. Senate seats for the first time in more than two decades, President Trump offered an optimistic and forward-looking assessment on Twitter, congratulating Jones on his “hard fought victory.”

But by Wednesday morning, as Trump watched the unflattering portrait of the loss unfold on television, the president grew piqued at the notion that he, somehow, was responsible.

“I won Alabama, and I would have won Alabama again,” Trump said, according to a senior administration official. …

The president himself spread the blame. He faulted his former chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, for selling him what one outside adviser described as “a bill of goods” in urging him to support Roy Moore, and he faulted Moore himself for being an abysmal candidate.

In the lead-up to Tuesday night, he had also groused about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), saying he had been too aggressive in trying to push out Moore.  …

A senior administration official, however, argued that Trump often acts as his own senior strategist and the White House doesn’t necessarily need an official political cranium.

There is the biggest problem — Trump does not listen to advice and consider it thoughtfully — Trump only listens to himself.  The next big problem, he gets lousy advice, whether he takes it from himself or from an adviser.

Open Media — Bell is desperate to censor Canada’s Internet. First they tried through NAFTA.1 Now they’re at it again through the CRTC.

Their radical proposal for website blocking with no court oversight would result in sweeping Internet censorship and put Canada’s robust Net Neutrality rules at risk.2

Shaw has come out in support of the proposal.3 But Telus and Rogers are still on the fence.4 If we can get them to come out against this proposal we can split Big Telecom on the issue, and significantly weaken Bell’s position.

Tell Telus and Rogers to oppose Bell’s censorship plan and stand up for Net Neutrality.

Canada, like the US, is fighting against telecoms which are threatening net neutrality.  Click HERE to bring up the letter to Telus and Rogers, 2 of the big 4 telecoms in Canada who have not yet expressed support for Bell’s position.  If you can help us with your signature, that is great!  Thanks

Newsweek  — The 25th Amendment to the Constitution may define the conditions for suspending a president’s authority, but it does not constrain the reasoning behind it.

As written, the amendment states that if a president “is unable to discharge the powers and duties of the office,” the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet can suspend him. Historically, such an inability was attributable to illness or medical problems, but, in light of President Donald Trump, I offer we expand our interpretation: Medicine aside, it is clear Trump is unfit to serve, and lawmakers must invoke the 25th Amendment against him.

Fears of physical disability were certainly foremost in bringing about the amendment. Going back to at least the 1890s, when President Grover Cleveland had surgery to remove a cancerous growth on his jaw, the country had been in jeopardy of being governed by a chief executive who had lost his physical capacity to lead the nation. In 1919-1920, when a stroke immobilized Woodrow Wilson, and his wife largely ran the executive branch, Americans worried about finding a way to overcome temporary or permanent presidential incapacity.

Franklin Roosevelt’s tenure in the White House added to the sense of urgency about replacing a disabled president. By 1944, it was clear to people around Roosevelt that his health was in decline and that he might not live out a fourth term, which proved to be the case.

Ten years later, in the midst of the Cold War, when Dwight Eisenhower served in the Oval Office and suffered a heart attack that temporarily sidelined him, the need to do something about presidential health became more compelling, or so it seemed to the country’s governing authorities. With Lyndon Johnson in the White House, and questions swirling about his rationality in response to the stalemated war in Vietnam, political leaders from both parties saw the wisdom of passing the 25th Amendment.

Years later, in 1981, after Ronald Reagan had been shot and temporarily incapacitated, and then in 1998, when I revealed John F. Kennedy’s hidden medical problems that surely would have barred him from the presidency in 1961, people were all the more convinced that we could no longer turn a blind eye to a presidential candidate’s or a sitting president’s ability to conduct the affairs of state.

In all this, however, nothing was explicitly said about questions of personal temperament to acquit one’s presidential duties. There were glimmerings of this concern not only with LBJ but even more so with Richard Nixon during the Watergate crisis in 1973-74. Rumors about Nixon’s excessive drinking, as the crisis engulfed him, raised fears that the country was in jeopardy of dangerous presidential actions. The country had to wait until Nixon’s taped conversations reached the public 30 years later before it understood the extent to which Nixon’s irrationality had put the nation in peril. In a drunken stupor, he had slept through an unauthorized decision by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and White House chief of staff Al Haig to raise the country’s defense condition (or DEFCON) in response to a Soviet threat to interfere in the Yom Kippur War between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

The rise of Trump to the presidency now brings the question of presidential competence back into focus. Trump’s stumbling performance in his first 11 months represents a new low in the history of the modern presidency. It cannot be chalked up to medical disability, at least not at this juncture, but Trump is vulnerable under the amendment anyway.

We have all said it here at Politics Plus — Trump is unfit to be POTUS.  In my opinion, mental illness is a medical disability, and clearly, Trump has mental health issues that should lead to his ousting under the 25th amendment.  I am not a psychiatrist nor a psychologist, so my opinion does not count. 

NBC News — Matthew Petersen, the judicial nominee who was widely ridiculed last week after a video went viral of him struggling to answer basic legal questions at his Senate confirmation hearing, withdrew from consideration on Monday.

Petersen, a member of the Federal Election Commission, said in his resignation letter to President Donald Trump that it “become clear to me over the last few days that my nomination has become a distraction — and that is not fair to you or your Administration.”

Trump nominated Petersen or a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, which carries a lifetime tenure.

The brightest thing this oaf has done is to withdraw his name from consideration.  One thing that annoys me however is that his announcement is made as a “so I am not a distraction to the work of the administration” rather than the truth . . . “I am not qualified to hold such a position.”  He really looked like an incompetent fool in the interview.

Common Dreams — A United Nations independent expert presented a searing indictment of the wealth gap in the United States, saying that “contrasts between private wealth and public squalor abound” and that the Republican tax plan “is essentially a bid to make the U.S. the world champion of extreme inequality.”

The recent statement by Philip Alston, U.N. Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, follows his two-week visit to Alabama, California, Georgia, Puerto Rico, West Virginia, and Washington D.C.. Based on the fact-finding mission, he said, “The American Dream is rapidly becoming the American Illusion as the U.S. … now has the lowest rate of social mobility of any of the rich countries.”  …

He added: “at the end of the day, particularly in a rich country like the USA, the persistence of extreme poverty is a political choice made by those in power. With political will, it could readily be eliminated.”

Doing so requires “democratic decision-making, full employment policies, social protection for the vulnerable, a fair and effective justice system, gender and racial equality, and respect for human dignity, responsible fiscal policies, and environmental justice.” “Currently,” Alston said, “the United States falls far short on each of these issues.”

So much for American exceptionalism.  Trump campaigned on “Make America Great Again”, but what he and Republicans are doing is stealing the country’s future and its hard fought for reputation built over the decades.  For many of us on the outside looking in, it has been apparent what is happening, and I dare say, we all have our thoughts on this.  For myself, it all comes down to power and greed, power and greed that is systemic in many institutions.

 

Posted to Care2 http://www.care2.com/news/member/775377582/4080848  (open in new window)

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Dec 182017
 

Voting Rights in the US are a patchwork of federal and state laws, and nothing more clearly demonstrates this than the laws surrounding the voting rights of felons and ex-felons.  Unfortunately, people of colour are disproportionately affected.

Alabama Democrat Doug Jones was elected to the U.S. Senate on Tuesday by a mere 21,000 votes. That margin would have been much larger if Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, a strident partisan Republican, would have taken steps to inform his state’s voters than thousands of ex-felons were eligible to vote under a 2017 state law. But Merrill didn’t do that,

6. I’m here to talk about Alabama’s outrageous locking out of people with convictions (disproportionately people of color) from the electoral franchise.

7. Hundreds of thousands of people in Alabama either couldn’t vote yesterday in the #ALSEN election or thought they couldn’t vote bc of AL SOS’s failure to communicate the law.

8. Here’s a long but important timeline. In 1901, #alabama created a criminal disenfranchisement law designed to disenfranchise blacks. They said as much right in the record.

9. They chose to disenfranchise ppl with crimes “involving moral turpitude” b/c that standard was mushy enough to let their friends vote while disenfranchising blacks for violations of the “black code” crimes they made up.

10. In 1985, the Supreme Court struck down the moral turpitude phrase as racially discriminatory because duh. But in 1996, the #AL legislature put the “moral turpitude” standard BACK INTO THE LAW.

11. From 1996 to 2017, there was absolutely NO standard for what convictions were disqualifying. There was no set list of crimes that “involved moral turpitude” and individual registrars county to county decided who got to vote. Many treated ALL felonies as disqualifying.

12. Remember how the standard was chosen in the first place because it could be applied to hurt minorities? (And by the way, Alabama is one of only 12 states that still permanently disenfranchises anyone after their convictions are complete and their time is served.)

13. Americans of all political stripes overwhelmingly support letting people vote after they have completed their sentences (although apparently #RoyMoore does not.)

I encourage everyone to read the article which is a series of tweets by Danielle Lang, an attorney with the Campaign Legal Centre in Washington DC and longer than the 8 points I have highlighted.
This from a Mother Jones article in May 2017:
Fifteen percent of black residents in the state have been kept away from the polls because of their criminal records, according to the Campaign Legal Center, which filed a lawsuit last year arguing the state’s moral turpitude rule was discriminatory. “Felony disenfranchisement laws have the undeniable effect of diminishing the political power of minority communities,said Danielle Lang, an attorney for the center. Indeed, at the time of the state’s constitutional convention, the president of the convention said the rule was intended to “establish white supremacy” in the state. (emphasis added) …

More than 7 percent of the adult African American population couldn’t vote, compared with 1.8 percent of other Americans.

Alabama is one of 12 states that permanently disenfranchises some or all people who have ever been convicted of felonies.

From Wikipedia:

Other than Maine and Vermont, all U.S. states prohibit felons from voting while they are in prison.[41] In Puerto Rico, felons in prison are allowed to vote in elections.

Practices in the United States are in contrast to some European nations, such as Norway. Some nations[42] allow prisoners to vote. Prisoners have been allowed to vote in Canada since 2002.[43]

The United States has a higher proportion of its population in prison than any other Western nation,[44] and more than Russia or China.[45] The dramatic rise in the rate of incarceration in the United States, a 500% increase from the 1970s to the 1990s,[46] has vastly increased the number of people disenfranchised because of the felon provisions. (emphasis added)

According to the Sentencing Project, as of 2010 an estimated 5.9 million Americans are denied the right to vote because of a felony conviction, a number equivalent to 2.5% of the U.S. voting-age population and a sharp increase from the 1.2 million people affected by felony disenfranchisement in 1976.[46] Given the prison populations, the effects have been most disadvantageous for minority and poor communities.[47]

Since Wikipedia mentions Canada, and I am Canadian, I wanted to see just where Canada stands, although I do know that Canadian felons have the right to vote, even when they are incarcerated.  This from The Canadian Encyclopedia:

In challenges to the Canada Elections Act between 1986 and 2002, prison inmates in Manitoba and Ontario met with mixed success in their various Charter challenges to the statutory denial of their right to vote. The question was eventually resolved in the prisoners’ favour in a 5 to 4 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada (Sauvé v. Canada, 2002). As a consequence, all restrictions on prisoners’ voting rights at both the federal and provincial levels were struck down.

Sauvé v Canada refers to the case of Richard Sauvé, a former member of the Satan’s Choice Motorcycle Club incarcerated for life for 1st degree murder.  For those who argue that felons and ex-felons should not be able to vote, some felons get involved in trying to help others in many ways.  Sauvé is one such case in Canada.  Certainly TomCat can shed light on this aspect with his prison volunteer work in Oregon which he has done for years.  He personally knows some felons that are making a difference.  Why should they be denied the right to vote?

This from the Canadian Human Rights Council on the Sauvé challenge:

Some argued that taking away a prisoner’s right to vote was a reasonable violation of the charter given that they were irresponsible, uninformed, and simply undeserving.

Both the Ontario Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada disagreed.

First, they found that the right to vote can’t be limited to just a “decent and responsible citizenry.” Governments had used this restriction to discriminate against citizens on the basis of colour, race, and gender in the past.

Second, the courts ruled that prisoners could not be banned from voting under the pretext that they were isolated from society. With access to cable television and newspapers, prisoners could still stay on top of developments and make informed decisions.

Third, denying the right to vote is a blanket punishment. As such, s.51(e) of the Canada Elections Act was not a “proportional response”; therefore, section 1 of the charter would not allow it to discriminate against prisoners.

Do those arguments sound familiar?  They do to me and I agree with the Ontario Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada.

What’s more, in Canada, the reconviction rate for all the releases in the first year was 44% with the reconviction rate for violence considerably lower (14%). The non-violent reconviction rate was 30% accounting for the majority of reconvictions.  In the UK, the recidivism rate is 50% while it is over 60% in the US.  Investing in rehabilitation including voting rights could help reduce recidivism which can only be good.

Canada does not have a spotless record on voting rights historically, but it has made great strides and continues to look at the impact of all decisions on charter rights closely. 

The US needs to address the inequity in voting rights, not just for felons but for all people that are disenfranchised, nationally.  When Trump  goes to prison for his nefarious actions, do you think he will lose his voting rights?  If others do, then he should also given that his crimes are analogous to treason.

For two countries so close, we are definitely two very different nations.

Posted to Care2 at http://www.care2.com/news/member/775377582/4080845

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Aug 252017
 

Another day, another dollar . . . or in the case of Canada, another 80 cents!  We were to have rain yesterday and last night but it passed over my area.  The US gulf coast won’t be so lucky as hurricane Harvey looks like it will bring storm surges and flooding to parts of Texas and other gulf states.  Please be safe all of you in those areas!  And tomorrow, my little girl will turn 9 years old so we will be having a celebration of fresh roasted chicken breast which is a real favourite with the furbabes!

Short Takes

CBC — It’s taken more than 150 years to erect a monument honouring the 40,000 Canadians who fought in the American Civil War, and Rob McLachlan is hoping next month’s unveiling near Cornwall, Ont., won’t be delayed by the controversies swirling around memorials to the Confederacy south of the border.

The founder of the Grays and Blues of Montreal, a Civil War re-enactment group, doesn’t think the Sept. 16 unveiling will be controversial. After all, some 90 per cent of Canadians who fought in the Civil War served with Abraham Lincoln’s Union forces.

“It’s not propagating Robert E. Lee or the Confederacy or what have you,” McLachlan told CBC News.

“It’s propagating the fact Canadians were involved, and the majority were in the North. It just recognizes that historical fact.”

Of those estimated 40,000 Canadians who fought south of the border, around 4,000 Canadians fought for the Southern Confederacy.

Prior to the recent deadly clash between far right protesters and anti-racist activists in Charlottesville, Va., over a   Canada has a statue dedicated to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, the only media paying attention to their monument on the grounds of the Lost Villages Museum in Long Sault, Ont., was the Cornwall newspaper.

I had no idea that Canadians had fought in the American Civil War, mostly for the Union side.  The terminus of the underground railway, spiriting slaves and others from the South, also was in eastern Canada.  During the American Revolution, the United Empire Loyalists fled the US and headed up to Canada.  Canada has a very long association with the US, including the War of 1812 when the British (Canada) beat the Americans.

Huffington Post — A science envoy for the Department of State sent a resignation letter to President Donald Trump on Wednesday with a not-so-subtle secret message: “IMPEACH.”

Daniel Kammen, a professor of energy at the University of California, Berkeley, told Trump in a letter dated Wednesday that his decision to quit his State Department post is “in response to your attacks on core values of the United States.” As one example, he cited Trump’s reaction to the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, calling the response “consistent with a broader pattern of behavior that enables sexism and racism.”

But it’s Kammen’s acrostic — the first letter of each paragraph spelling out a word — that sends a blunter message to Trump: IMPEACH.

A number of higher profile people have or are in the process of leaving various positions in the US federal government in protest over Trump policies.  This letter is from Prof Daniel Kammen and the first letter of each paragraph spells out “IMPEACH”.  There is a similar acrostic in a resignation letter from the Arts and Humanities Advisory Council which spells out “Resist”.  You can see that letter at the link.  And in true Drumpf style, after the entire committee resigned, Drumpf dissolved the committee which had already ceased to exist.  Drumpf always seems to want the last word.  The last word I want Drumpf to utter is “I quit!”

Robert Reich — If you voted for Donald Trump, I get it. Maybe you feel you’ve been so badly shafted by the system that you didn’t want to go back to politics as usual, and Trump seemed like he’d topple that corrupt system.

You voted to change our country’s power base – to get rid of crony capitalism and give our government back to the people who are working, paying taxes, and spending more just to survive. Lots of Americans agree with you.

But now, the president is turning his back on that idea and the many changes he promised.

He did not drain the swamp. After telling voters how he would take control away from special interests, he has surrounded himself with the very Wall Street players he decried. Now, those who gamed politicians for tax loopholes and laws that reward the rich don’t even have to sneak around with backroom deals.

An excellent piece that even a Drumpf supporter should be able to understand.

CBC — Rain lashed down at a solemn ceremony in Ottawa today to mark the 75th anniversary of one of Canada’s bloodiest battles of the Second World War.

Shielding himself with an umbrella, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau paid tribute to those who fought and died with “grit and valour” in the Dieppe raid and to the parents, siblings, spouses and children who were left heartbroken.

Of the 5,000 Canadians who landed at Dieppe on Aug. 19, 1942, 907 were killed, 586 wounded and almost 2,000 were taken prisoner.

Trudeau said at that time, boys were forced to quickly become men — men of “tremendous bravery and fortitude, dedicated to country.”

“We often learn more about ourselves in our losses than our victories. We grow, we persevere, we learn hard truths,” Trudeau said. “The Dieppe raid was a devastating engagement for Canadian troops, and their loved ones back home. But, ultimately, our soldiers learned lessons that would help secure their victory two years later on the beaches of Normandy.

“For those lessons, we look back on the Dieppe raid with unshakable pride.”  …

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If you click on the “full screen” icon in the lower right corner of the video after you have started it, you will get the full picture.  CBC videos seem to split when they are embedded. 

“As we stand here 75 years later with this duty and this act of remembrance, it is all too fitting. Today and every day, we recommit ourselves to the pursuit of peace and justice for all. Today and all days, we remember.”

The battle at Dieppe is often overlooked, being outshone by D Day in June 1944.  In truth, Dieppe was a precursor to D Day, a failed attempt to free Europe from Nazi control, and from which much was learned.  Thank you for your service hardly seems adequate for those who were killed, wounded or captured.

My Universe —  I know, I know!  It’s a dawg!  The dawg’s name is Rudy and he just loves going to school!

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And now for cat lovers . . . my kind of people!

 

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Aug 152017
 

Well finally we have some tolerable weather here in Metro Vancouver.  It is currently 22 C (72 F) with 53% humidity, bright sunshine and winds at 9 km/hour.  This is good and the furbabes are loving it too!  This is a busy week for me with lots of paperwork and appointments.  At the end of next week, my little girl will have her 9th birthday.  I plan for a fresh roasted chick breast for the 3 of them to share.  I will be more popular than ever!

CBC — U.S. President Donald Trump is lashing out at the growing number of corporate executives who are distancing themselves from his administration after his response to a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., that led to the death of one counter-protester last weekend.

A day after a number of high-profile CEOs started to resign from his business advisory council, the U.S. president lashed out.

“For every CEO that drops out of the manufacturing council, I have many to take their place. Grandstanders should not have gone on. JOBS!”

 

Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier’s

Brian Krzanich, Intel CEO,  Kenneth Frazier, Merck CEO, Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, and Kevin Plank, CEO Under Armour

Tesla CEO Elon Musk resigned from the manufacturing council in June, and two other advisory groups to the president, after the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement. And in February, Uber’s then-CEO Travis Kalanick left the president’s side over his executive order curtailing immigration. Kalanick said the order was “hurting people in communities all across America.”

Walt Disney Co. Chairman and CEO Bob Iger resigned for the same reason from the President’s Strategic and Policy Forum, which Trump established to advise him on how government policy impacts economic growth and job creation.

Click through and listen to the video with Ed Rensi, the former CEO of McDonald’s USA.  He has some direct and sound advice for Trump and it is well worth the eight minutes.  We may not all agree with everything these executives do in their businesses, but they all are taking principled stands and no doubt there will be more.  As for Trump, Rensi said “It was childish, unprofessional and below the dignity of the guy holding that office. … shame on him …”  And on politics, he went on to say “In my opinion today, there is a ruling, imperial elite.  They make rules to keep themselves entrenched in government and now they’re going to pay the price because they have a president who is a wild card now.”  

AlterNet — Go home; leave the state; you’re not welcome.

That was Virginia Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s message to white supremacists who came to Charlottesville to show America that white rage is real and is coming out of the shadows.

But wait a second. Where are these domestic terrorists supposed to go back to? One of the first four people arrested was from Virginia. The others were from Ohio, Florida and Tennessee. Each of these states has been dominated by white Republicans this decade, who have methodically implemented racist election laws that gave them majority rule in state legislatures and their U.S. House delegations.

Election data geeks have looked at the results of 2016 and found it was one of the most anti-democratic elections in a century. As David Wasserman, U.S. House editor for the Cook Political Report, recently wrote, “In 2016, Trump lost the national popular vote by 2.1 percentage points, but Republicans won the median House seat by 3.4 points and median Senate seat by 3.6 points—that’s the widest Senate gap in at least a century.”  …

The white mobs rampaging in Charlottesville may want more privilege, segregation and wealth, but whether they know it or not—most probably they don’t—their Republican allies have been rewriting the rules of politics and elections to favor them for years.

Really, I don’t think that this will surprise anyone here.  Progressives need to get in at the ground floor and sweep it clean.  That means progressives from dog catcher on up; repealing discriminatory voting regulations, and redrawing voting districts so that they are fair.  No gerrymandered districts that slant the vote.  If the US wants to continue to be “the land of the free” then it must ensure that all its citizens can vote without undue restrictions like onerous voter ID.

YouTube — Stephen Colbert’s Monologue — Trump denounces white supremacists

I don’t think I have ever seen Colbert quite so serious.  Although there are a few lighter moments, clearly Trump has angered many, many people.  It is always a clear sign of anger when even comedians and political comics can’t make light.  Please do not misunderstand me, Trump’s behaviour over the past week is deplorable and well beneath the dignity of the office he inhabits.

 John Oliver — Charlottesville

I won’t repeat myself.  What I said about Colbert’s monologue applies to John Oliver’s piece.

Maclean’s — The escalation of tensions between the United States and North Korea over the past two weeks have left many quite anxious, including those of us in Canada. President Donald Trump’s “fire and fury” warning to Pyongyang, in particular, epitomized how quickly tensions could escalate in a matter of hours. It had an eerie doomsday-like tone commonly found in the propaganda materials of Pyongyang, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defence Secretary James Mattis rushed to downplay the severity of Trump’s message. Some began to wonder: Will Canada be within the target range of the ICBMs? If the United States was attacked, would Canada be called upon to help as a NATO member?

And of course, there has been an exchange of hostile rhetoric between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, sparked by North Korea’s second test launch of Hwasong-14 on Jul. 28, its most potent Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) developed to date. In a rare moment of unity, the UN Security Council unanimously passed a resolution on Aug. 5 to impose toughest-ever sanctions on North Korea. In return, Pyongyang promised to retaliate by a “thousand fold.” Trump and Kim then traded threats over nuclear warheads, a potential attack in Guam, and even a pre-emptive strike by the United States. Just earlier on Monday, South Korea’s recently installed president Moon Jae-In told Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the U.S. joint chiefs of staff, that “our top priority is the national interest … and our national interest lies in peace.”

As a Pacific nation, Canada also has an interest in peace on the Korean peninsula. Canada’s free trade agreement with South Korea, which came into force in 2015, is our first in the Asia-Pacific region. South Korea is Canada’s seventh-largest trading partner, and the two-way trade is valued at more than $12 billion. More than a million people travel between Canada and South Korea every year. We have an active and thriving community of Korean-Canadians across Canada. What happens on the Korean peninsula matters to Canadians, and there is a role that Canada can play to alleviate tensions: Canadian diplomatic work in Seoul, Pyongyang, Washington, Moscow, and Tokyo would give genuine substance to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s proclamation in 2015 that “Canada is back.”

It’s clear that other voices beyond America are needed. Part of what has made the latest crisis so confusing was the lack of any coherent American policy on North Korea, aside from Trump’s tweets. Those mixed signals from Washington, however, reflect a broader underlying problem which began long before the Trump era: the United States has failed in devising a consistent policy for dealing with North Korea, a failure that only gave the Kim regime more time to improve its military capabilities.  …

Having a constructive and independent Canadian foreign policy means standing up for our values and using our resources to fight for what’s right. Louis St. Laurent did it with NATO and Canada in Europe; Lester B. Pearson did it on Suez; John Diefenbaker did it on South Africa; Brian Mulroney did it on free trade and the “Open Skies” initiative; Paul Martin did it on the establishment of the G20.

Click through for the rest of the article.  One of the things that I am very proud of as a Canadian is Canada’s oft repeated role of peacekeeper.  We would rather use diplomatic channels first.  When the US invaded Iraq, PM Jean Chrétien declined to join the fight because the evidence of WMD just wasn’t there.  The UK joined the fight however.  In Afghanistan, Canada sent troops in but certainly towards the end of our involvement, Canadians were building roads, schools and helping with local housing.  Having spoken with Afghani acquaintances that now live in Canada, they confirmed that they very much appreciated what the Canadians did for and in partnership with them.  But while that is our preferred method of contribution, we can fight as well.  During WWI, Canadian troops proved their mettle at the second Battle of Ypres and then again at Passchendaele (third Battle of Ypres) but at a high cost.  During WWII, we were at Dunkirk among other places.  We served in Korea 1950-53, but we refused to go to war in Vietnam.  We were in Cyprus as peacekeepers and again in Rwanda as part of the UN peacekeeping mission.  While Australian PM Turnbull has said that Australia will go to war against North Korea if the US declares war,  I hope Canada will take up her traditional diplomatic role before that happens.  However, with a loose cannon like Trump in the US and Kim Jong-un in the Hermit Kingdom, who knows.

My Universe — Every time I sneeze or blow my nose, my three furbabes run away fast and furiously!  Seems the sound is distressing to them but it usually helps me!

 

 

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Aug 112017
 

Whoever says that there is no such thing as climate change is out of their gourd!  We here in Metro Vancouver have had higher temperatures than usual this summer.  This follows a snowy winter that left substantial snow packs to feed the reservoirs.  This has meant basic water restrictions, but nothing like last year’s stage 3 restrictions.  The winter was severe for Vancouver, and a lot longer.  That really gets Metro Vancouverites testy.  Of course then there are the wildfires in BC’s interior which are even worse than the 2015 fires, which is saying something.  There has been so much smoke that the mid afternoon sun is literally blood red.  Hopefully some of the smoke will clear out this weekend.  My eyes and throat sure would appreciate that.  I can’t even conceive of what the 47,000 evacuees must be feeling, although that number is down to about 7,000 for now.  Storms elsewhere are bigger and nastier.  As a planet, we owe it to each other to get our shit together.  Totally unrelated, today is my 46th anniversary of when I started in the banking industry.  Thank God I am now retired!

CBC — In a federal courthouse in Washington, D.C., between 16 and 23 citizens have reportedly been meeting in secret for weeks, tasked with deciding whether to bring charges in a probe of alleged collusion between U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia.

Collectively, they’re known as a federal grand jury. And on Thursday, reporters learned they were “impanelled” — or brought together — by the all-star team of lawyers led by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Activating the grand jury is a sign Mueller’s Trump-Russia investigation is heating up. Equipped with this tool, Mueller can request the issuing of subpoenas for documents and testimonies.

It marks the next phase in his investigation — “the most critical phase,” according to attorney Seth Abramson, an assistant professor at the University of New Hampshire.

“That’s because it’s the phase in which he doesn’t have to rely on voluntary production of documents or voluntary testimony from important witnesses.”

Any requested documents — which could include phone records, text messages, hotel and restaurant receipts and emails — get shared with the grand jury for consideration as evidence against a target of the investigation.
Subpoenaed witnesses must appear in front of the grand jury to be questioned by first Mueller’s team then the jurors themselves. Witnesses can plead the Fifth Amendment to invoke their right against self-incrimination.

Click through for the rest of this interesting, albeit long, article about this part of the US judicial system.  It may be that some know of the workings, but my guess is that many Americans do not fully understand it if knowledge of political issues are any indication.  Personally, being a Canuck, I found it very interesting and it is from a trusted source, not that the CBC does not make mistakes, but Matt Kwong is thorough.

Canadian Press — Six Americans have been charged with bringing handguns across the New Brunswick border so far this summer, as a Canadian prosecutor says it’s proving difficult to let otherwise law-abiding people know they can’t bring firearms on vacation.

“The offences continue to occur with alarming frequency during the summer months,” federal prosecutor Peter Thorn said from Hampton, N.B.

Five men — three from Florida, two from New England — pleaded guilty and were fined between $1,500 and $2,000, he said.

Thorn, who has prosecuted these cases for years, said most of the people caught are “respectful and law abiding citizens of the U.S.A.” who are unaware handguns are prohibited in Canada. [emphasis mine] …

That same day, a handgun was seized from a 64-year-old Jacksonville, Fla., couple at St. Stephen. It was found, undeclared, in the woman’s suitcase, where her husband had hid it without telling her, Thorn said.

“(The woman) stated that she specifically told her husband not to bring his handgun into Canada,” said Thorn.

I bring this to you because bringing hand guns across the US northern border into Canada is a no-no!  Canada is a sovereign nation and all must respect her laws.  Unfortunately, this happens all across Canada.  Many times, Americans driving to Alaska will bring their guns, sometimes declaring them, other times not.  With heightened surveillance, Canada Border Services are catching more people.  If you are caught, the weapon is confiscated and your entry into Canada is usually denied.  Leave your weapons at home!  It is cheaper.  And husbands, always listen to your wives!

Vancouver Sun — For the first of his 111 random acts of kindness, David McCann donated three works of art worth $1,400 to a Vancouver school for them to auction, with the proceeds going toward school supplies for the students.

For his 71st such act, McCann on Friday delivered 2,000 Roger’s chocolates to the main station of the Vancouver Police Department, enough for all the officers and staff, his way of saying cheers.

“It’s a thank you for the VPD’s willingness to change over the past 50 years in how they view and deal with the Vancouver gay community,” McCann said. “In particular, how they have and continue to provide security so we can enjoy a safe and wonderful Pride celebration and parade.”

McCann pledged to carry out 111 random acts of kindness in honour and memory of his 111-year-old friend, Mary, his partner’s grandmother who died recently.

This is one of those “feel good” pieces — how one man performed 111 random acts of kindness and why.

The Intercept — If you ask Steve Bannon how he got the idea that Muslims in the Middle East are a civilizational threat to America, he will say that his eyes were first opened when he served on a Navy destroyer in the Arabian Sea. At least that’s what he told the journalist Joshua Green, whose new book about President Donald Trump’s senior counselor is a best-seller.

“It was not hard to see, as a junior officer, sitting there, that [the threat] was just going to be huge,” Bannon said. He went on:

“We’d pull into a place like Karachi, Pakistan – this is 1979, and I’ll never forget it – the British guys came on board, because they still ran the port. The city had 10 million people at the time. We’d get out there, and 8 million of them had to be below the age of fifteen. It was an eye-opener. We’d been other places like the Philippines where there was mass poverty. But it was nothing like the Middle East. It was just a complete eye-opener. It was the other end of the earth.”

That’s Bannon’s version. There are a few problems with it, however.

Read on for some of the problems that were unearthed.  And this is a trusted White House senior adviser?  He does not know the truth nor where he was at! I do not buy the idea that Bannon was a confused young naval officer.  Tell me again why Drumpf would have him as an adviser.  Oh, right — two racist peas in a pod.

Bloomberg — Mueller’s team of investigators has sent subpoenas in recent weeks from a Washington grand jury to global banks for account information and records of transactions involving Manafort and some of his companies, as well as those of a long-time business partner, Rick Gates, according to people familiar with the matter.  …

As prosecutors gather many years of information about his financial affairs, Manafort could be dragged deeper into any number of legal disputes. He has a history of doing business with oligarchs and politicians in Ukraine and Russia that predates his political work for President Donald Trump, with payments routed through foreign banks and investments in U.S. real estate.  …

As a practical matter, the blitz of recent subpoenas to global banks poses a challenge to Manafort’s ability to continue his day-to-day business activities as a consultant and investor, said one of the people familiar with the matter.  …

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan were investigating Manafort earlier this year, examining allegations that he laundered money from eastern Europe into New York properties, according to two people familiar with the earlier inquiry. The Southern District of New York handed off their work to the special counsel’s team once Mueller was appointed, the people said.

This is a follow-up to the piece that TC wrote about on 09 August 2017 Open Thread – 8/9/2017.

If I were Manafort, I’d watch my back because the Russian oligarchs are known to not play well with others when the game gets derailed.  Mueller’s investigation is broadening and the cast of characters seems to be growing.  When Drumpf was asked about the raid, he said “I was surprised to see it.  I’ve always found Paul Manafort to be a very decent man.”  I only have one question though, or more correctly, one statement . . . I’d like to know Drumpf’s definition of “decent”.  I doubt it is the same as mine.

Daily Kos — Popular vote loser Donald Trump’s sabotage of the Affordable Care Act isn’t limited to making threats and causing uncertainty for health insurers. He and his administration are taking active, destructive measures to wreck the law they were elected, and in the case of HHS Secretary Tom Price confirmed by the Senate, to uphold. The latest action by the administration is to halt federal outreach to Latinos, one of the communities that has the highest rate of uninsurance.  …

That labor of love included sending cabinet members to Latino communities, translating all the materials for enrollment into Spanish, working with Latino civil rights groups like LULAC and National Council of La Raza (now called Unidos), having townhall televised on Spanish-language channels, as well as an extensive advertising campaign in all forms of Spanish-language media. As a result of all the Obama administration’s efforts, the Latino population saw the largest decline in its uninsured rate of any ethnic community.  …

None of these groups has heard a peep out of the Trump administration about efforts to promote enrollments in the new plan year.

How many times have we heard Drumpf say that Obamacare was “bad” and it was “imploding”.  Drumpf said that he would replace it with something better and cheaper.  “You’re going to love it,” he said.  The numerous attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare fell flat, and rightfully so.  Imploding?  This is not the case.  Sure it has its faults, what plan doesn’t?  But when you look at the numbers of citizens covered by medical insurance now that previously had none, I call that success.  Well it looks like the Drumpf administration is going to assist in the decline of Obamacare — sabotage it — which is what I figured he’d do, one way or another.  It is time to show Drumpf and the Republicans the door out!

My Universe

You know that fishing trip you went on with your dad, way back when?  The cat went on his own fishing trip!

 

 

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Everyday Erinyes #82

 Posted by at 9:03 am  Politics
Jul 082017
 

Experts in autocracies have pointed out that it is, unfortunately, easy to slip into normalizing the tyrant, hence it is important to hang on to outrage.  These incidents which seem to call for the efforts of the Greek Furies (Erinyes) to come and deal with them will, I hope, help with that.  Even though there are many more which I can’t include.  As a reminder, though no one really knows how many there were supposed to be, the three names we have are Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone. These roughly translate as “unceasing,” “grudging,” and “vengeful destruction.”

Now, I don’t want to be picking on Canada to start here.  In fact, I have to doubt whether, if this had happened in the US, the family could have gotten anywhere near as quick action as this gentleman’s family did.  But it is horrifying nonetheless.

Georges Karam, 89, a resident in the Garry A. Armstrong long term care home for the last two years or so, kept suffering unexplained injuries, which concerned the family.  So his grandson, an attorney, obtained permission to install a video monitor camera in his room.  it was not a secret; besides being perfectly obvious and installed openly, the staff of the home was notified of it.  And then the video in this story was captured.

I admit I haven’t watched it.  The screen captures were more than enough for me.  And I won’t embed it, for that reason, and for copyright reasons (it is the property of DNG Nassrallah Law Offices.)  And I haven’t used a screen capture here, but instead, a picture from a happier occasion.  But those who have seen the video say that it shows the support worker, Jie Xiao, yanking Mr. Karam back and forth while removing his diaper.  Mr. Karam, apparently agitated, is seen taking “a couple of swipes” at Xiao while the diaper is being changed.

A third swipe, which came near Xiao’s face, apparently moved Xiao to grab one of Mr. Karam’s arm with his right hand, while, with his gloved left hand, he began to punch Mr. Karam’s face.  The sound of the fist making contact with the face is clearly audible.  “Gloved,” of course, refers to a disposable medical glove, not a padded glove which might protect a patient’s face.

Eleven punches were recorded in a period of 28 seconds.

Karam’s grandson, Daniel Nassrallah, an Ottawa lawyer who set up the camera, said he couldn’t believe what he was seeing when he first viewed the video just after 10 p.m. on the day of the assault. Nassrallah had set up the camera — which is about the size of a baseball, lights up in the dark and had wires running from it — on the wall so he could watch the video remotely over the internet.

“I literally stood up and fell down, my legs gave way because I didn’t know how to respond to this,” he said.

“We have a camera on him, and even that doesn’t deter him. To me, that’s mind blowing.”

Incidentally, Xiao has been arraigned and entered a guilty plea.

(In the States, our battle over healthcare in general has screened the fact that a rule change adopted in October 2016 designed to prevent Medicare and Medicaid residence providers from requiring agreement to arbitration as a condition of admission, which was being contested in court, has now been dropped by the current regime and will not go into effect.)

Megaera, I’m sure that the families of long-term-care residents in city-run homes (of whom there are about 700 in Ottowa) would appreciate any help you can give them.  Not to mention the roughly 6,800 who are in homes not run by the city, and the 3,500 more on waiting lists.

Meanwhile, in Florida, someone (probably several someones, and I’d go out on a limb and guess they wear a lot of sheets) is out to get the president of the Alachua County chapter of the NAACP.

The head of a Florida chapter of the NAACP found a Confederate flag on her lawn after receiving a series of late-night death threats from callers claiming ties to the Ku Klux Klan.

Evelyn Foxx woke up Monday morning to go for a walk with her friend, and found the flag lying outside in front of her home, reported The Gainesville Sun.

The 66-year-old Foxx, chapter president of the Alachua County NAACP, and her friend at first thought it was an American flag and walked over to pick it up — but they called police after realizing it was a Confederate battle flag.

While a piece of cloth may seem tame next to guns and bombs and even ropes, we should consider this in the context of the phone calls she has been receiving since November  – in fact, since the election.  They usually come around one or two in the morning, and the callers say they are members of the KKK – and the calls are death threats.

I’d call the police too.  And the FBI, which she also did.  But I’m not sure I’d have much faith in them, in Florida, even if my BFF was married to a County Commissioner, as is the case with Ms. Foxx.  Commissioner Robert Hutchinson ised his Facebook page to call attention to the incident and to state, “There should be no doubt about the Confederate battle flag’s usage as a symbol of divisiveness, bigotry, and hatred, or that racists live among us who still cling nostalgically to their culture of tyranny and intimidation.”

Tisiphone, Please help.  Let us know what you need from us.

Living as we are under a regime such that many of us say at least daily, “How the he** did we get HERE?”, it may help to pay a bit of attention to others who are asking more specific questions designed to elicit essentially the same information.  Such a one is Ernest A. Canning, who writes for The BRAD BLOG, and one of whose articles has been picked up by truthout.  The title of the article is “What Will It Take for Americans to Understand the Basics of Election Integrity?”  Seems to me a darned good question.

Here’s a brief list:

1.  ALL electronically stored and/or processed data are vulnerable to malicious cyber intrusions.

2.  Vulnerability is not confined to external hackers.  Election insider manipulation is a separate vulnerability.

3.  Paper registration forms, poll books, and hand marked paper ballots are not vulnerable to electronic manipulation.

4.  The only way to ensure a transparent and verifiable count is to deploy hand-marked paper ballots, publicly hand counted.

5.  The core issue of election integrity is not fraud, but whether election officials have complied with procedures designed to ensure integrity.

He goes on to discuss some court cases in disputed elections, and how, in his opinion, the court have not just been looking at the evidence wrongly, but have been looking at the wrong kind of evidence.  I won’t go into detail on this, except to say in passing that it helps no one to discuss what went wrong with a candidate’s platform or personability and how a different plank, or a different candidate, might have changed the result, when the fact is we really don’t even know the result.

As a former election judge (poll worker) who has actually counted paper ballots (including once a judge of absentee votes – that was interesting), and a resident of a state which now has all mail balloting, I would point out that all-mail balloting IS done with paper ballots which are hand marked.  They present custody issues, but so do ballots which are voted at a polling place, and all mail ballots are IMO superior from a privacy standpoint.

Alecto, you have been familiar with elections since the ballots were ὄστρακα.  Please hang around to be helping those who want elections fair and with large participation, and hauling off to Hades those who want the opposite.

The Furies and I will be back.

Cross posted to Care2 at http://www.care2.com/news/member/101612212/4060701

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