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How To Deal With Gaza After Hamas

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Jeb Bush Is Probably Toast

...Bush’s “fundamentals” aren’t all that strong. He entered the debate with middling favorability ratings and polling at about 7 percent nationally. His endorsements have all but dried up: just two since Labor Day and none in the past three weeks, according to ourendorsement tracker. His third-quarter fundraising totals were mediocre. This wasn’t a case like that of Hillary Clinton, who even at her worst moments was polling at 45 percent and had the overwhelming support of the Democratic establishment. Bush had a lot of work to do to gain the lead in the first place.

The other reason the conventional wisdom matters for Bush is because Bush is running a conventional campaign. It’s not as though he has all that much grassroots support: Only 3 percent of his fundraising has come from small donors. Instead, Bush needs the support of Republican elites — and favorable media coverage — to signify to reluctant Republican voters that he’s a viable nominee. And he needs their financial backing to win a potential war of attrition.

Instead, before the debate, major Bush donors were fretting openly to reporters (not just swiping at Bush anonymously) that his campaign was in a potential “death spiral.” Those concerns may grow larger and louder now...

‘Worst deal in the province’s history’: Opposition slam Ontario’s ‘ludicrous’ Hydro One sell-off

The Ontario Liberals are steamrolling ahead with a plan to sell off 60 per cent of Hydro One in the wake of a damning report that said the sale could cost the province up to $500 million a year in the long run.

“This is the worst deal in the province’s history,” PC Hydro One critic Todd Smith said in question period following the release of the financial accountability officer’s report.

NDP leader Andrea Horwath said it’s “ludicrous” that Premier Kathleen Wynne has said she’ll continue with the sale after the watchdog found it could net as little as $1.4 billion for infrastructure. That’s just one per cent of the $130 billion the province plans to spend on infrastructure over 10 years, which the sell-off is supposed to fund...

Also: Sign the petition calling for a referendum on the sale of Hydro One 

Plus, the latest in Ontario Liberal Party corruption, police say

Ontario Liberals paid $10,000 to have gas plant data erased

Friday, October 30, 2015

Nick Cohen in The Spectator: How does Labour solve a problem like Jeremy Corbyn?

If Labour is ever to clamber out of its cage on the fringe of politics, it will have to convince the 250,000 supporters who voted for Jeremy Corbyn to turn from far-leftists into social democrats. The necessity of persuading them that they made a terrible mistake is so obvious to Labour MPs that they barely need to talk about it.

In case it is not obvious to you, let me spell it out. Corbyn exacerbates every fault that kept Labour from power in 2015, and then adds some new ones, just for fun. To the failure to convince the voters that Labour can be trusted with control of the borders and the management of public money and the economy, Corbyn and his comrades bring their support for the nationalist and imperialist Putin regime, the theocratic Iranian regime, and the women-, Jew- and gay- haters of radical Islam. Corbyn’s Labour will ask a Britain it seems to despise to give it power. Britain will never do so, and every Labour politician I have spoken to accepts that the Labour party will have to destroy Corbyn before Corbyn destroys the Labour party...

Whole Foods' John Mackey: Why Intellectuals Hate Capitalism

"...intellectuals have usually disdained commerce. They haven't seen it [as a] dynamic, creative force, because they measure themselves against these people, and they think they're superior, and yet in the social hierarchy they're not seen as more important. I think that drives them crazy..."

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Chewbacca arrested in Ukraine

The Wookiee was stopped by police on Sunday while driving Darth Vader to a polling station in Odessa where the pair were campaigning for Vader in the mayoral elections.
Ukraine's local election law forbids candidates from canvassing on the day of voting and Chewbacca was taken into custody after failing to show police his ID.
It took four officers to restrain and handcuff the space pilot after he resisted arrest and he was later fined 170 hryvnia (£4.87) despite protests from Lord Vader.

University of Toronto conditions students to think "right" means being racist and anti-women's rights

Among the many concerns about the deterioration of western post-secondary education is that these places, which used to be hubs of critical, logical examination, have become indoctrination centers.

In the last few years, we've heard plenty of students being coddled with infantalizing "safe spaces" where they can retreat to the comfort of play-dough and plush toys if they encounter an idea that upsets them. Once universities provided a foundation upon which students learned to understand the way their society was constructed. Now they force students into "critical studies" which conditions them to reject the progression of rational discourse from Aristotle to Wittgenstein, and ignores the philosophical bases of western civilization by framing it as the bigotry of dead white European males.

This description of the state of academia may sound alarmist, but there's an overwhelming amount of evidence to support it.

One of the goals of the new academia is to get students to adhere to particular political ideologies, while at the same time convincing them that by conforming, they are "critical thinkers." We saw that in Canada's most recent federal election where the Conservative Party which, by international standards supported large social spending, supported the largest influx of immigrants of any Canadian government, and domestically supported legal abortion and gay rights both at home and abroad was somehow successfully characterized as being "far right" in local academic circles.

The unsubtle politicizing of students' minds occurs every day on university campuses. Students are taught that good people are "left" and bad people are "right."  If you doubt that, then consider this question from a student survey currently being distributed by two professors at the University of Toronto's Department of Sociology. The study about student life and student protest,  of which the survey is a key component, has, it should be noted, been approved by U of T’s Office of Research Ethics and Office of the Vice-Provost, Students:

In politics, people sometimes talk about “left” and “right” in social terms. From this 
point of view, the left supports equal rights for women and racial and sexual minorities 
and environmental protection by government regulation,while the right supports 
traditional social and moral values and a free-market approach to the environment. 
Where would you place yourself on the following left-right scale?

Students are then directed to identify themselves as being either "left" or "right." However, the clear implication in the language of that question is that the "left" supports women's rights and racial equality and the "right" does not. By that measure, who but a hateful bigot would not consider him or herself to be on the left?

From the letter accompanying the U of Toronto survey
Except that the implication is patently false. The contemporary right's most prominent thinkers, like Thomas Sowell and Niall Ferguson and a list that could go on for pages, explicitly support equality and equal rights. Not only would you not know that from the premise of the University of Toronto's survey, but you would get the impression of the exact opposite.

Coming with the imprimatur of two professors at a major university, the survey is peppered with questions that are slanted in such a way as to not determine students attitudes, but to shape them.

A critical thinker would not accept something simply because it was presented to them by one of their university professors. But unfortunately, it appears that genuinely critical thinkers at our universities are in short supply.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Iran's former president indirectly admits his country sought nuclear weapons

Former Iranian President Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani indirectly admitted that his country started a nuclear weapons program during the Iran-Iraq war.

According to interviews Rafsanjani gave to Iranian media in recent days, he and supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei personally wanted to meet the man behind Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, Abdul Qadeer Khan. The Iranians held talks with the scientist.

“The regime was looking to acquire [a] nuclear bomb when it initiated its nuclear program and has never abandoned the idea,” said the Iranian opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in an article posted late Tuesday on its website. It included key points from the interview Rafsanjani gave state news agency IRNA on Monday...

In other Iran news, two Iranian poets were sentenced to long prison terms and 99 lashes for "insulting the sacred" in their poems.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Ralph Bakshi's Wizards

After years away from creating animation, Bakshi has a new short film, The Last Days of Coney Island,  premiering on Vimeo on the 29th of October.

Bacon Causes Cancer? Sort of. Not Really. Ish.

PERHAPS NO TWO words together are more likely to set the internet aflame than BACON and CANCER. So when the World Health Organization classified processed meat as a group 1 carcinogen, the same category as tobacco—

Hold on. Let me stop right here. Eating bacon is not as bad as smoking when it comes to cancer. Just no.

The way WHO classifies cancer-causing substances, on the other hand? Maybe a little dangerous to your mental health. Because it is really confusing.

Here’s the deal: The WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer weighs the strength of the scientific evidence that some food, drink, pesticide, smokable plant, whatever is a carcinogen. What it does not do is consider how much that substance actually increases your risk for actually getting cancer—even if it differs by magnitudes of 100.

The scientific evidence linking both processed meat and tobacco to certain types of cancer is strong. In that sense, both are carcinogens. But smoking increases your relative risk of lung cancer by 2,500 percent; eating two slices of bacon a day increases your relative risk for colorectal cancer by 18 percent. Given the frequency of colorectal cancer, that means your risk of getting colorectal cancer over your life goes from about 5 percent to 6 percent and, well, YBMMV. (Your bacon mileage may vary.) “If this is the level of risk you’re running your life on, then you don’t really have much to worry about,” says Alfred Neugut, an oncologist and cancer epidemiologist at Columbia...

Julia Hartley-Brewer: Tony Blair must not apologise — invading Iraq was the right thing to do

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, isn’t it?

If, way back in March 2003, someone had told Tony Blair that his decision to join the US military invasion of Iraq would result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people, leaving an entire region in chaos and despair, and ultimately create the power vacuum that would enable the rise of the murderous Isil fundamentalists, he may well have had a last minute change of heart.

That chain of events, after all, is a pretty big burden for anyone’s shoulders to bear.

Our politicians sadly don’t get the benefit of hindsight when they are making life or death decisions.

And neither do the people who criticise them and brand them as “war criminals”. After twelve years of being called just that, we learned this weekend that Tony Blair has, at long last, said sorry for the Iraq war.

Except, of course, he hasn’t done any such thing.
The former Prime Minister is categorically not sorry for the Iraq war. And he has stated that at every opportunity since 2003.

During an interview for American television over the weekend, in what has been widely seen as a damage limitation exercise ahead of the long-awaited Chilcot report, Mr Blair “apologised” for “the fact that the intelligence received was wrong”, and for poor planning for the aftermath. He admitted that “there are elements of truth” to the idea the invasion of Iraq may have helped lead to the rise of Isil. 
But the S-word was distinctly absent from the conversation, and quite rightly so...

Who Killed the Liberal Arts?

Monday, October 26, 2015

South Park Says Celebrities Need To Get Over Body-Shaming

...The Comedy Central show took aim at celebrities like Demi Lovato, Gigi Hadid, Lena Dunham, and Vin Diesel who have called out body-shamers online. In "Safe Space," Eric Cartman enlists Butters to censor negative comments from his shirtless photos online, leading to a plot in which a lingerie-clad Hadid hosts a benefit for an anti-shaming charity.

Unfortunately for Hadid, a villain called "Reality" crashes the party and interrupts her speech.

"What a lovely charity event," Reality tells the crowd. "I suppose you're all feeling pretty good about yourselves. What have you done? You've raised $300 by spending half a million on fillet mignon and crystal glasses. Look at you, Vin Dipshit! You say fat-shaming is wrong so in response you show off your abs. You're the one fat-shaming, you idiot! What's the matter with you people? You're sad that people are mean? Well I'm sorry. The world isn't one big liberal arts college campus. We eat too much. We take our spoiled lives for granted. Feel a little bad about it sometimes. No. You want to put all your shit up on the internet and have every single person say 'hooray' for you. Fuck you! You're all pricks!" 

So, yeah, that's pretty harsh...

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Werner Cohn: The Conceits of “Social Justice”

The year was 1940, and I began, a boy of fourteen summers, my career as a voyeur of fringe groups.
Sundays were a particular treat. In the afternoon the old Socialist Labor Party hosted lectures in an Eight Avenue hotel. There was much talk of industrial unionism and other forms of very democratic arrangement, even though the Party itself (now all but defunct) was ruled with an iron hand, for fifty-five years, by the apparatchik Arnold Petersen (1885-1976).
That meeting ended early in the afternoon, to the sound of the SLP’s own version of the Internationale. But no sooner was the Final Conflict concluded than I headed one block east, to Broadway in the fifties, where the Christian Front of Father Charles Coughlin (1891-1979) was picketing radio station WMCA. The station styled itself “at the top of the dial,” but to Fr Coughlin’s folks it was “at the bottom of the pile.” It seems that the station had incurred the Father’s displeasure by banishing his anti-Semitic rants from its airways. I must say that I did enjoy this picketing show, more so than the staid SLP lectures to the west.
And I learned, for the first time, about Social Justice. This was Fr. Coughlin’s pro-Nazi and anti-Semitic magazine until the Roosevelt administration, with the help of a friendly bishop, found ways of silencing the “radio priest.” Looking back now, I must say that I was never struck by the enormity of the conceit — the enormity of the falsehood — of presenting the Christian Front ideology as a call for justice, social or otherwise.
Now here we are, some seventy-five years later, and “social justice” (SJ) is once again what zealots say they are after. With the demise of the Soviet Union, Marxist slogans like “class struggle,” “socialist revolution,” “anti-Fascism,” etc., are much less frequent in the self-styled Left than the shrill self-righteous clamor for “social justice.”...

From Emo Philips: "The best God joke ever - and it's mine!" and the return of Britain's imbecilic, evil descent into censorious authoritarianism

Britain's selective nostalgia for the worst parts of its past involves a plan to outlaw "offensive" religious comments and jokes, just like they did in the 1400's. I wonder how long before they'll burn people at the stake for politically incorrect heresies?

From Emo:
This morning I received thrilling news: a joke I wrote more than 20 years ago has been voted the funniest religious joke of all time! In case you've missed it, here it is:

Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, "Don't do it!" He said, "Nobody loves me." I said, "God loves you. Do you believe in God?"

He said, "Yes." I said, "Are you a Christian or a Jew?" He said, "A Christian." I said, "Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?" He said, "Protestant." I said, "Me, too! What franchise?" He said, "Baptist." I said, "Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?" He said, "Northern Baptist." I said, "Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?"

He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist." I said, "Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?" He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region." I said, "Me, too!"

Northern Conservative†Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?" He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912." I said, "Die, heretic!" And I pushed him over.

Two things, however, have slightly tarnished my thrill...

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Star Wars: The Binks Awakens

This hilarious bit of brilliance reminds us that maybe it's a good thing George Lucas isn't the one making new Star Wars movies:

Too many classic films remain buried in studios' vaults

A Touch of Larceny - From the Paramount Vault:

Will McKinley, a New York film writer, is dying to get his hands on a copy of"Alias Nick Beal," a 1949 film noir starring Ray Milland as a satanic gangster. For classic film blogger Nora Fiore, the Grail might be "The Wild Party" (1929), the first talkie to star 1920's "It" girl Clara Bow, directed by the pioneering female director Dorothy Arzner. Film critic Leonard Maltin says he'd like to score a viewing of "Hotel Haywire," a 1937 screwball comedy written by the great comic director Preston Sturges.

Produced by Paramount Studios, these are all among 700 titles assumed to be nestled in the vaults of Universal Pictures, which inherited Paramount's 1930s and 1940s film archive from its forebear MCA, which acquired the collection in 1958. They're frustratingly near at hand but out of reach of film fans and cinephiles.

Like most of the other major studios, Universal is grappling with the challenging economics of making more of this hoard accessible to the public on DVD, video on demand or streaming video. Studios have come to realize that there's not only marketable value in the films, but publicity value in performing as responsible stewards of cultural assets...

Friday, October 23, 2015

The sun came up this morning and just as predictably, Kathleen Wynne lied to Ontario voters

Palestinians are upset they aren't as good at killing Jews as they'd like to be

In other news from Obama and John Kerry's "partners for peace," Gaza University Dean of Quranic Studies Approves Killing Jewish Women and Children

...The more you learn about the Palestinians, the more poisoned their society appears. One way or another, by public rhetoric and politicized schooling, the PA has created a community that encourages its young men to kill. Someday this phase will give way and the PA will try to impose a more ordered, less violent and less martyr-obsessed way of life. It’s hard to imagine how that will be managed.

Hillary Clinton Knew All Along Benghazi Attack Had "Nothing To Do With The Film," Documents Reveal

According to documents revealed as part of the ongoing Congressional hearings on Benghazi, then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told then-Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil in a phone call the day after the attack on the U.S. consulate, "We know that the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack—not a protest."

The film Clinton refers to is the 10 minute Youtube trailer for the ultra-low budget anti-Islam movie "Innocence of Muslims," which she and other senior Obama administration officialsincluding President Obama himself, almost immediately began casting as a scapegoat for the attacks. Those attacks, however, were already understood by senior administration officials to be a planned and coordinated attack, and very much not what then-ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice called a "a spontaneous reaction to a video."...

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Perils to the US because of Obama's policy failures

GLOBAL CHALLENGES, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGY, AND DEFENSE ORGANIZATION - Testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee from Kathleen Hicks,  Senior Vice President, Henry A. Kissinger Chair, and Director of the International Security Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)

...The March 2014 events in Ukraine were a stark reminder that state-based opportunism is alive and well. If the United States ignores the challenges posed by major powers such as Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran, it does so at its own peril. Although we have an excellent record of deterring existential threats to the United States, we face a deterrence challenge for so-called “grey area” threats. The United States must better shape the calculus of those states that wish to test our response to ambiguous challenges. This will mean clearly communicating those interests and our willingness and capability to act in defense of them. It also means carrying out threats when deterrence fails. Without that commitment, the value of deterrence will continue to erode,and the risk of great power conflict will rise...

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Finally — we got our country back

Thank goodness we got our country back. Because apparently, Prime Minister Stephen Harper stole it from us and he was refusing to give it back.

I'm not sure how he managed to swipe it exactly, whether it was through lowering the tax burden on Canadians or transferring record levels of funding to the provinces for health care and social services.

Maybe he stole it when he created tax-free savings accounts for Canadians who wanted something other than restrictive RRSPs to save for the future. Perhaps it was when he allowed families and seniors to split their incomes for tax purposes to save money.

It could be that Stephen Harper stole Canada from us when he brought in tougher penalties for criminals who commit serious offences like child sexual abuse or who use firearms when committing a crime. That could be it.

Or maybe it happened when he issued a formal apology to victims of residential schools, brought in new programs to address violence against aboriginal women and ensured First Nations people have the same legal right to review their local government's finances that other levels of government do.

I never really thought that when Stephen Harper reduced the GST to 5% from 7% -- which has saved me hundreds of dollars over the years -- that he was actually stealing my country by allowing me to keep more of my own money. But his political opponents insist he was. So it must be true...

Ontario gov't pays off teachers' union by diverting money from a program that helps struggling kids graduate

Ontario’s Liberal government paid $1-million directly to the province’s high school teachers’ union as part of a deal to defuse one of its most explosive labour disputes, a document obtained by The Globe and Mail reveals.

In addition, the government financed raises for teachers by diverting money from a fund for special programs that help struggling students graduate.

These details are included in the confidential 42-page document that spells out the terms of a three-year labour agreement the province and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation reached in August. The government and the union have kept the document secret, but The Globe and Mail obtained a copy...

Star Wars: The Force Awakens New Trailer

Prediction: This becomes the highest grossing movie of all time to date within 6 months of its release

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Thoughts on the day after Canada's election

Yesterday started out sunny, with a crisp chill in the air. By nightfall, a drizzly mist descended that didn't fulfill the debacle implied by the distant thunder, that didn't soak anyone, but left people coated with an uncomfortable film of damp.

That was Monday's actual weather in Toronto, but it might as well have been designed by The Almighty as pathetic fallacy to reflect the change in leadership that Canada's electorate chose.

Justin Trudeau will soon be sworn in as Canada's new Prime Minister at the head of a majority government. Whether he rises to the task or becomes the least competent head of state in the G7 remains to be seen. There are reasons for both optimism and pessimism with Trudeau.

On the upside, historically, the Liberals have done a good job overall in government. Though they had been out of power for the last 9 years, since Confederation, the Liberal Party of Canada has been the New York Yankees of politics; they are the most successful political franchise in any western democracy. A few glitches notwithstanding, you don't reach that level of accomplishment without being good at what you do.

Reservations about Justin Trudeau's competence aside, the Liberals had an excellent slate of riding candidates across the country. Whether or not voters chose to vote for Trudeau or against Stephen Harper, on a local level, the Liberals generally selected candidates who provided an easy segue to the decision of giving de facto support to the national party.

Another reason for optimism is that, in a way, yesterday's election restored Canada to its natural political order, with the Conservatives and Liberals alternating in power and the NDP pushed back to third party status. That shift backwards for the NDP is most definitely in Canada's best interest. While NDP leader Mulcair is a moderate, his caucus was filled with radicals, fanatics, and hopeless incompetents. Had the NDP fulfilled the potential of its first place polling position at the start of the election campaign, some of those dreadful legislators would be heading up Ministries and imposing devastatingly bad policies on the country.  The Liberals at least have slain that dragon. Trudeau has a caucus, with people like Marc Garneau and Scott Brison, who are intelligent, principled, and very capable of running major Ministries.

If the Conservatives are looking to point fingers about last night's loss, they really need to look no further than whomever it was that headed the party's election marketing. The Liberals ran a decent campaign, but it was made all the stronger by the fact that the Conservatives ran a terrible one.  The "Just not ready" ads about Trudeau was lame criticism against a candidate who was both highly vulnerable and underestimated. Fear of being perceived as mean-spirited prevented the Tories from the type of knockout blow campaigns they very effectively ran against Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff. That they thought Trudeau was such a lightweight that such a heavy-handed approach wasn't necessary was obviously a very bad assessment of the situation, which became more apparent in the last two weeks of the campaign.

Yet the Conservatives' response was to put out ads that were defeatist in tone. It's hardly inspiring to watch a governing party put out political ads where they say their leader, the Prime Minister, is flawed, but at least he's better than the other guys.

The Conservatives could have won with a campaign going after Trudeau hard and heavy, while highlighting how successful Canada's economy has been compared to the rest of the world under Harper. But for whatever reasons they have, which do not reflect well on the Conservatives' campaign management, they chose not to do that.

The Canadian dollar is up slightly this morning, in the aftermath of the election, and the earth has not opened up and swallowed anyone north of the 49th parallel. Things in Canada under Trudeau may turn out to be okay after all.

There are some potentially bad developments that can happen under Trudeau, such as if he keeps his promise of imposing the idiotic proportional representation system which would condemn Canada to successions of coalition governments and a fractured legislature replete with fringe parties. But considering his majority is based on the old first-past-the-post rules, he may get some wise counsel to reconsider that promise. And it's not like breaking election promises isn't a time-honored feature of the history of the Liberal Party of Canada either.

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Paranoid, Supremacist Roots of the Stabbing Intifada

...Convincing Palestinians that the Israeli government is not trying to alter the status quo on the Mount has been difficult because many of  today’s Palestinian leaders, in the manner of the Palestinian leadership of the 1920s, actively market rumors that the Israeli government is seeking to establish atop the Mount a permanent Jewish presence.

The comments of the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas—by general consensus the most moderate leader in the brief history of the Palestinian national movement—have been particularly harsh. Though Abbas has authorized Palestinian security services to work with their Israeli counterparts to combat extremist violence, his rhetoric has inflamed tensions. “Every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem is pure, every martyr will reach paradise, and every injured person will be rewarded by God,” he said last month, as rumors about the Temple Mount swirled. He went on to say that Jews “have no right to desecrate the mosque with their dirty feet.” Taleb Abu Arrar, an Israeli Arab member of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, argued publicly that Jews “desecrate” the Temple Mount by their presence. (Fourteen years ago, Yasser Arafat, then the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization, told me that “Jewish authorities are forging history by saying the Temple stood on the Haram al-Sharif. Their temple was somewhere else.”)

These sorts of comments, combined with the violence of the past two weeks—including the sacking and burning of a Jewish shrine outside Nablus—suggest a tragic continuity between the 1920s and today. For those who believe not only in the necessity, but in the practical possibility, of an equitable two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—and in particular, for those who believe that the post-1967 settlement project is the root cause of the conflict—recent events have been sobering.

One of the tragedies of the settlement movement is that it obscures what might be the actual root cause of the Middle East conflict: the unwillingness of many Muslim Palestinians to accept the notion that Jews are a people who are indigenous to the land Palestinians believe to be exclusively their own, and that the third-holiest site in Islam is also the holiest site of another religion, one whose adherents reject the notion of Muslim supersessionism. The status quo on the Temple Mount is prudent and must remain in place. It saves lives, lives fundamentalist Jewish radicals would risk in order to advance their millennial dreams. But it is the byproduct of the intolerance of Jerusalem’s Muslim leadership...

Trying to bite off more than he can chew - hippos repel shark attack

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Margaret Wente: Despite the rap sheet, Harper isn’t the worst

His economic management has been generally fine. Canada did the right things during the economic crisis and weathered it remarkably well. Job creation is respectable, household incomes have gone up, and federal public-sector debt has gone down. Mr. Harper has greatly expanded our trade links and capped it off with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a far-reaching and enormously important deal.
He hasn’t exactly gutted the welfare state, either. The Conservative government has spent billions on infrastructure investments, aboriginal programs and ambitious new initiatives in the North. It has dropped bags of money on the middle class. It has steadily lowered taxes. (Note that the other parties strenuously deny that they will raise them, except for taxing that odious 1 per cent.)
My colleague John Ibbitson’s new book, Stephen Harper, is a balanced and masterly account of the Harper years. As he points out, Mr. Harper’s most important goal has been to shrink the size of the federal state, and he has succeeded. He did this in large part by handing a lot of money, authority and taxing power back to the provinces, no strings attached. This had the salutary effect of ending the federal-provincial wrangling that used to suck up so much time and energy. It also helped to dampen the sovereigntist movement in Quebec. On the constitutional and federal-provincial front, Mr. Harper has given us a decade of merciful peace.
He has been sound on national security, in a way that is occasionally excessive but also resoundingly supported by most Canadians. His immigration policy is generous and smart. His government has been a staunch defender of gay rights in bad parts of the world, and his global championship of maternal health has truly made a difference. There’s no sign that most Canadians want major changes to any of this...

Bernie Sanders with Bill Maher

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Money in film: Businessmen are always the villains

SOME of the most memorable scenes in films have revolved around money. Think of Michael Douglas declaring “Greed is good” in “Wall Street”, Leonardo DiCaprio’s share scams in “The Wolf of Wall Street” and, most memorably, Jimmy Stewart’s desperate attempts to save his local bank in “It’s A Wonderful Life” (pictured).

That Hollywood’s portrayal of finance tends towards the caricature is hardly surprising; its portrayal of most things tends towards the caricature. A realistic depiction of a day on a bank-trading desk, or the life of the typical fund manager, would not make for gripping viewing.

A more pertinent criticism is that Hollywood’s approach towards finance, indeed towards capitalism in general, is almost relentlessly negative...

How proportional representation brought Adolf Hitler to power

...Within Germany at the time, in 1929, with proportional representation, you had five political parties in government, plus one independent minister. Now, with five political parties, when such an event occurred, that is, unemployment suddenly came up to a level of millions of people, the government collapsed. So Germany, when it really needed a strong government, had no government, and there was no alternative.

What were the alternatives? There was this very small Nazi party, which only got 2.6% of the votes. There was the Communist party, that got a little more votes, but Germans were a little afraid of communism, the Bolsheviks. So, to everyone's surprise, in the 1930 elections, which were held to find some kind of government, you saw the Nazi party suddenly reach 18% of the votes.

Nobody accepted it. Nobody thought it could be such a level. And remember, in 1928, 2.6% of the votes had been what they obtained. So we can say that in Germany there were 2.6% of the population which was extreme right. The 18% which came up suddenly in 1930, to everyone's surprise, was not ideological, but the Nazis were saying "we are in a mess, we will get rid of the problems, and Germany will be strong again"...

Kelly McParland: The case for re-electing Stephen Harper

A week or so before the start of the federal election campaign, an item was carried in The Daily Mail, a British newspaper that has built an immense circulation on a diet of celebrities, scoundrels and adorable animals.
Occasionally it throws in a bit of news for fun. This item said: “Canada named world’s most well-respected country.” It cited a study by an international research organization that polled 48,000 people on a range of measures including technology, social and economic policies and international perception. Canada came first, for the fourth time in five years.
It didn’t get much attention here, perhaps because it didn’t fit the narrative of a country in crisis, with a desperate need for a change in leadership and direction.  Just this week a second report of similar ilk was released – this time by the banking group, Credit Suisse – indicating Canada “has a disproportionate number of millionaires,” and that much of Canada’s middle class is so well off it qualifies among the world’s richest 10%. Anyone who owns a home anywhere in the country almost certainly falls in that group.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Google book-scanning project legal, says U.S. appeals court

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court ruled on Friday that Google's massive effort to scan millions of books for an online library does not violate copyright law, rejecting claims from a group of authors that the project illegally deprives them of revenue.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York rejected infringement claims from the Authors Guild and several individual writers, and found that the project provides a public service without violating intellectual property law.

The authors sued Google, whose parent company is now named Alphabet Inc GOOGL.O, in 2005, a year after the project was launched. They claimed that the scanning illegally deprived them of revenue.

But Google argued that the effort would actually boost book sales by making it easier for readers to find works, while introducing them to books they might not otherwise have seen...

Some extra incentive for NDP MPs to try to hold on to their seats

OTTAWA -- If some New Democrat incumbents go down to defeat Monday, they stand to lose more than their seats. 
They could also lose some or all of the generous severance payments to which defeated MPs are normally entitled.
That's because more than five dozen New Democrats have been ordered to repay the House of Commons a total of $2.75 million for improperly using their parliamentary office budgets to pay the salaries of staff in satellite party offices in Montreal, Quebec City and Toronto.
On average, the incumbents owe about $30,000 each but four of them are on the hook for more than $100,000.
The New Democrats have so far refused to pay...

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

New York Magazine's post-mortem on the Democratic debate

Hillary Clinton’s campaign spent most of the last year descending inexorably into depression and even panic. But the first Democratic presidential debate may have finally turned the tide, or at least stopped her fall. Clinton demonstrated that she was, by far, the best presidential candidate onstage. Indeed, she may have been the only person onstage actually running for president. Lincoln Chafee touted his lack of scandals as an oblique contrast to the front-runner. Martin O’Malley tried to play up his more left-wing position on the Glass-Steagall financial regulations. But none of them waged the kind of frontal assault that would be required to dislodge a front-runner who commands Clinton’s breadth of institutional support. Indeed, in what may be the most important moment of the debate, Bernie Sanders declared, to her insufficiently suppressed delight, “The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails.

A second, and related, source of Clinton’s triumph is that she alone displayed the performative talent necessary to win a major party nomination. As a sheer communicator, she may ever-so-slightly outclass a Scott Walker, but she pales in comparison to at least a half-dozen Republicans: Figures like Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Carly Fiorina, Rand Paul, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, perhaps even Jeb Bush, can put together more memorable sound bites. But whereas Walker’s performance came off as so pathetic that he had to abandon his campaign in disgrace, Clinton easily lapped the field. None of her opponents can plausibly imitate the public’s conception of a presidential nominee. Lincoln Chafee looked like he wandered into the building after his yacht had been lost at sea for weeks. Jim Webb snarled angrily about obscure obsessions. Martin O’Malley seemed to crave consideration as her vice-presidential nominee. Bernie Sanders is running for co-op president...

Related:  Hillary donors worry: 'All the energy is with Bernie'

A Poem - by me

Squiggly Eye Wigglies

Squiggly eye wigglies glide aimlessly
Anonymously intruding painlessly
Subtly creating a transparent distraction
Causing a barely discernible reaction
Suddenly they come and go
Reminding us we see it all through a window

by Richard Klagsbrun

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Democratic Debate Cocktails

Benjamin Netanyahu's Interview with Charlie Rose

Related: Elliott Abrams' review of Dennis Ross' Doomed to Succeed - The US-Israel relationship from Truman to Obama

What part of “No” to Proportional Representation don’t they understand?

From Brian Henry at Quick Brown Fox:

In recent years, three provinces in Canada rejected proposals to change their voting systems. In referendums in Ontario, Prince Edward Island, and British Columbia, the people all said, No thanks. We like our current first-past-the-post system just fine.

These repeated defeats should surprise no one. Has there been any groundswell of support for such changes? Is this what people are talking about at Tim Hortons? Not at all. The campaign to throw out our voting system is embraced largely by amateur policy wonks who have never graduated from the debates of their political science classes.

The NDP has also long-endorsed proportional representation. But the NDP has never won an election, which perhaps explains why they imagine the current system must be unfair.

After falling to third party status, the Liberals also came out in support of adopting a voting system that favours losers, though surely, that must be a coincidence.

Previous attempts to change voting systems in Canada were all – quite properly – put to a referendum. When other democracies have considered retiring the first-past-the-post system, they’ve done the same. In 2011, the United Kingdom rejected a change in voting...

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Tom Mulcair says he saw niqab issue coming. He still bungled it

Hang on a second. NDP Leader Tom Mulcair claims he knew the niqab issue was coming. Despite this supposed foreknowledge, he still managed to misplay it and lose massive support in his party's stronghold of Quebec.

Justin Trudeau's position on the niqab is essentially the same as Mulcair's but he must have better advisers, who told him to downplay it.  Trudeau has been mostly unscathed over his support for the niqab, which approximately 80 percent of Canadians oppose according to recent polls.

If Mulcair knew that he had a major issue coming, that he would have to confront, and still managed to bungle it when it came up, that doesn't suggest much positive for his capability as a national leader, does it?

With one week to go before the election, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said "nothing" about his first national campaign has surprised him — even the contentious issue of the niqab.
"I knew that Stephen Harper had been planning to play identity politics … so I decoded right away that this was going to be an ugly campaign. I saw that coming," Mulcair told CBC News Network's Power & Politics host Rosemary Barton in an interview airing Sunday.

"[Harper] has been putting the race card on the table in this campaign," he added.

The niqab has dominated political debate in the last few weeks of the campaign. The Federal Court of Appeal last month struck down a 2011 Conservative ban on wearing the Muslim veil while taking the citizenship oath...

Color My World

Saturday, October 10, 2015

George Will: Ted Cruz’s audacious plan to win the GOP nomination

In essence, George Will is arguing something I've been saying for a while: that Cruz will be going after Trump voters after the inevitable collapse of The Donald's campaign.

If America’s 58th presidential election validates Ted Cruz’s audacious “base plus” strategy, he will have refuted assumptions about the importance of independent “swing” voters and the inertia of many missing voters. Critics say his plan for pursuing the Republican nomination precludes winning the presidency. Jason Johnson, Cruz’s chief strategist, responds: “I’m working backward from Election Day,” because Cruz’s plan for winning the necessary 1,236 convention delegates is an extrapolation from his strategy for winning 270 electoral votes.

All presidential campaigns aspire to favorably change the composition of the electorate. Cruz aims to substantially reconfigure the electorate as it has recently been...

This part is particularly noteworthy:

...Cruz has county chairs organizing in all 172 counties in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. National Review’s Eliana Johnson reports that through the second quarter, Cruz had raised more “hard” dollars than any of his rivals, and super PACs supporting him have raised more than all but those supporting Jeb Bush...

Many Canadians are at risk of bankruptcy with a raise in interest rates that would come with a Liberal or NDP government

People vote with their pocketbooks.

With nine days to go until Canada's election, feelings about Bill C-51, whether women can wear niqabs while swearing the citizenship oath, and the war against ISIS will not steer the compass to which candidate gets an "X" from the average voter.

Which leader is most likely to keep my job sector be secure, can I make my mortgage payments, and will I be able to put food on the table will be the questions that decide the election.

To that end, interest rates will be a big factor, and it strongly favors the Conservatives.

The current Prime Interest Rate is 2.7%. Lots of people have below-prime mortgages and are able to live in their own homes because those rates are so low. Canadian banks have kept those rates low, thanks in large measure, to the economic policies put in place by Stephen Harper's government.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau is promising federal deficits and more government spending at a massive scale.  To get an idea of what a Trudeau government's economy would look like, you only have to look at his mentor, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.

Under Wynne's government, Ontario has become the largest non-sovereign debtor in the western world. There have been large tax increases, which she sometimes euphemistically calls "revenue tools," and her province is losing jobs to nearby US jurisdictions because of the high energy costs needed to run large-scale businesses in Ontario. Ontario's provincial debt rating has gone down under Wynne, and Trudeau's spending promises would do that to Canada as a whole.

The NDP's Tom Mulcair is promising balanced budgets, more government spending, and no significant tax increases. The NDP's recent plunge in the polls are for a variety of reasons, but almost certainly, one of them is that Canadians have concluded that Mulcair's promises on the economy are worthless. It doesn't help him that his candidate list is filled with people like Niki Ashton and Linda McQuaig who express admiration for policies that ruined the Greek and Venezuelan economies.

Consider what would happen to the average mortgage upon refinancing if the interest rate went up by only one percent. A $250,000 mortgage would meant extra payments of more than $200 a month for those households. Combine that with the inevitable tax increases that the Liberals and NDP would bring in, and a vote for those parties translates into a vote to take more than $300 per month away from your ability to make necessary purchases.

Harper will do what he can to keep interest rates low and Canadian household debt manageable. The increase in interest rates that would follow Liberal and NDP governments would result in many Canadians losing their ability to pay mortgages and the loss of their homes.

We pay for our governments, in one way or another. In essence, by voting, we're making a purchase of services. With that in mind, we always want the best service at the best price from a vendor upon whom we know we can rely. Given the available options, the Conservatives are, by a substantial amount, offering Canadians the best deal.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Justin Trudeau wants to force uninformed people to vote among his not-so-bright ideas to alter democracy

Proportional Representation is a system where political parties decide who sits in the legislature. With it, candidates who can't even win a plurality in their own areas, and were rejected by the voters most familiar with them, can still sit in the legislature when their parties place them there.

And get ready for a Parliament filled with fringe groups who squeak past the minimum threshold for representation.

Every time Canadians have had a chance to vote in a referendum about whether they wanted Proportional Representation, they rejected it. But that's what Justin Trudeau wants to impose on Canada if he gets to head a government.

And he wants to force you to go to the polls, just like Stalin and Saddam Hussein did for their "elections."  How forcing someone to vote who has no interest to do so and hasn't paid any attention to national issues makes democracy better isn't something Trudeau can explain.

This guy is not up to leading a school council, let alone a country.