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    “Taylor Swift’s firm testimony in a civil trial this week involving a former radio host who allegedly groped her is sending a strong message to women who might experience similar forms of sexual harassment and assault: Don’t diminish the act.

“It provides a useful template for her fans, for younger girls who might experience these forms of harassment and be intimidated out of saying anything because their voice is consistently discredited,” said Karen Tongson, a professor who specializes in gender studies and pop culture at the University of Southern California.”

Constantly being discredited.  Welcome to the world of being female in society.  It’s the little details like the aforementioned that they don’t list in the Growing Up Female set of instructions.

Will Ms.Swift’s actions make a difference?  There is certainly a large mountain to climb in Canada on the issue of sexual harassment.

    “According to 2014 Statistics Canada data, 83 per cent of incidents involving sexual assault — including unwanted touching — were not reported to police. The most common reason provided by victims for not reporting the crime was that it was considered minor and not worth the bother to come forward.”

Yeah.  The violation of women’s boundaries in 2017, in Canada is still a thing.  I think perhaps our PM, before making any more “year” plus declaration statements – ala balanced cabinet – we should tackle the systematic lack of respect for the boundaries and bodies of women first.

     “The Canadian Women’s Foundation told CBC in a statement that Swift’s refusal to accept blame is “particularly important, as that often happens when seeking justice through the court system.”

Why is this important?  Because we still blame the victim for getting assaulted and harassed in our society and our institutions still reflect this patriarchal value.

Good on ya Ms.Swift for fighting the good fight and showing us what we’re up against in the battle for a female liberation in our society.

 

[Source:cbc.ca]

 

  Another hurdle for those who wish to change society.

“Social scientists spend a lot of time and effort criticizing, deconstructing and otherwise problematizing various systems, institutions, ideologies and policies. However, it is much less common for researchers to develop alternative social arrangements that could be plausibly implemented in the “real world.” And it is exceedingly rare for social scientists to meaningfully engage with the public and policymakers in order to help translate those possibilities into realities. However, these latter steps are arguably the most important for actually mitigating the social problems researchers identify and analyze.

Again, people tend to stand behind established orders, even ones that are highly dysfunctional, even ones they don’t particularly like or believe in, unless and until there is a viable and attractive alternative they can rally behind instead.  Absent options, critique approaches futility.

Social science could be much more impactful, therefore, if researchers utilized their expertise to not merely articulate what doesn’t work (and why)—but to really push themselves to think through what could work better. And not, could work in an ideal world, or what would’ve worked in a counterfactual past, or what will work in an envisioned future (assuming x, y and z). The focus should be on what practical steps can be plausibly taken, by actual agents, here and now, to make headway on social problems.”

 

Full Article by available on Counterpunch.

 

The conclusion of an essay written by William Astore featured on Tom’s Dispatch.  As a member of the minority left, one of the questions frequently asked of us is well then what is your solution to the problems – criticizing is one thing actually putting forward a plan is quite another.  What now you pinko-commie-leftard?   Well, Mr.Astore has the blueprints right here, let’s get to work.

 

What Is to Be Done?

Slowly, seemingly inexorably, the U.S. is becoming more like the former Soviet Union.  Just to begin the list of similarities: too many resources are being devoted to the military and the national security state; too many over-decorated generals are being given too much authority in government; bleeding-ulcer wars continue unstanched in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere; infrastructure (roads, bridges, pipelines, dams, and so on) continues to crumble; restless “republics” grumble about separating from the union (Calexit!); rampant drug abuse and declining life expectancy are now American facts of life. Meanwhile, the latest U.S. president is, in temperament, authoritarian, even as government “services” take on an increasingly nepotistic flavor at the top.

I’m worried, comrade!  Echoing the cry of the great Lenin, what is to be done?  Given the list of symptoms, here’s one obvious 10-step approach to the de-sovietization of America:

1. Decrease “defense” spending by 10% annually for the next five years.  In the Soviet spirit, think of it as a five-year plan to restore our revolution (as in the American Revolution), which was, after all, directed against imperial policies exercised by a “bigly” king.

2. Cut the number of generals and admirals in the military by half, and get rid of all the meaningless ribbons, badges, and medals they wear.  In other words, don’t just cut down on the high command but on their tendency to look (and increasingly to act) like Soviet generals of old.  And don’t allow them to serve in high governmental positions until they’ve been retired for at least 10 years.

3. Get our military out of Afghanistan, Iraq, and other war-torn countries in the Greater Middle East and Africa.  Reduce that imperial footprint overseas by closing costly military bases. 

4. Work to eliminate nuclear weapons globally by, as a first step, cutting the vast U.S. arsenal in half and forgetting about that trillion-dollar “modernization” program.  Eliminate land-based ICBMs first; they are no longer needed for any meaningful deterrent purposes.

5. Take the money saved on “modernizing” nukes and invest it in updating America’s infrastructure.

6. Curtail state surveillance.  Freedom needs privacy to flourish.  As a nation, we need to remember that security is not the bedrock of democracy — the U.S. Constitution is.    

7. Work to curb drug abuse by cutting back on criminalization.  Leave the war mentality behind, including the “war on drugs,” and focus instead on providing better treatment programs for addicts.  Set a goal of cutting America’s prison population in half over the next decade. 

8. Life expectancy will increase with better health care.  Provide health care coverage for all using a single-payer system.  Every American should have the same coverage as a member of Congress.  People shouldn’t be suffering and dying because they can’t afford to see a doctor or pay for their prescriptions.

9. Nothing is more fundamental to “national security” than clean air and water.  It’s folly to risk poisoning the environment in the name of either economic productivity or building up the military.  If you doubt this, ask citizens of Russia and the former Soviet Republics, who still struggle with the fallout from the poisonous environmental policies of Soviet days.

10. Congress needs to assert its constitutional authority over war and the budget, and begin to act like the “check and balance” it’s supposed to be when it comes to executive power.

There you have it.  These 10 steps should go some way toward solving America’s real Russian problem — the Soviet one.  Won’t you join me, comrade?

  There is a frighteningly large segment of the population of Alberta that thinks that what the Republican Administration down south is gang-busterly-amazing-awesome-fantastic (full disclosure – by exhibiting knowledge of uncommon adjectives I disqualify myself from said group).

The Republicans, led by Trump, are merrily deconstructing American civil society; whether through willful action or diligent buffoonery, it matters not, as the end result is the same.  The glimpses I’ve seen of the full throtle shit show going on in the USA should be serving as a cautionary tale writ large for the gentle-folk of Alberta.

The Republicans and Trump’s toxic corporatism burnished with a faux veneer of populism is poison toward the idea that society should be a place for everyone and that caring for your fellow human being is a good thing.

2020 isn’t coming fast enough for America and the rest of the world.

Apparently though, here in my home province of Alberta, Jason Kenny and the possibly united right wing parties have seen the dumpster fire that is the Republican administration and have decided – “Wow, we should do that in Canada! Stat!”

*blinks*

Finding words to describe the incredulity I’m experiencing is difficult.  Here in Alberta, we’ve just come out from some 40 years of right/centre right governance.  The people of Alberta decided to vote in a centre-left party (led by a woman, no less) and have given Rachel Notley and the New Democratic Party a five year term to run the province not explicitly beholden to business and the corporate class.

It’s been a bit of a bumpy ride, but things are going fairly well.  Rather than imposing austerity on the people of Alberta, the NDP government is running deficits to keep education and healthcare funded and spur employment in the public sector by encouraging civic projects and the like.  The last government of Alberta talked a mean game about diversifying Alberta’s economy, the NDP is making a bit of headway in that area introducing a carbon tax and providing incentives for businesses to get into the renewable resource sectors and technology.  The price of oil has for much too long dictated the overall welfare of the province.

A return to right-wing policies would be detrimental to the welfare of the policies.  The same could be said and more for the antediluvian, obtuse, and generally batshite-crazy that is currently passing for policy in the US.  We need less of this, not more.

I can only hope that the people of Alberta are more astute than our southern brethren.

  The situation in Venezuela is grim.  When conditions take a turn for the worse those on the bottom of the social hierarchy feel it the worse, and of course those are almost always females.  I read in the Globe and Mail about Carmen Tovar and her now deceased daughter Nakarid.

“Carmen Tovar remembers the apologies. The doctors who stood around the body of her 17-year-old daughter Nakarid told her they were so very sorry, but the girl had died, and so had the baby she was trying to deliver. We did all we could, the doctors told Ms. Tovar – we’re terribly sorry.

Nakarid had high blood pressure all through her pregnancy, but the free clinic in their hillside slum on the edge of Caracas had no drugs to treat it, and her mother could not afford the wildly inflated prices in the private pharmacies. When Nakarid’s contractions started, on the night of Dec. 7, Ms. Tovar took her to a nearby maternity clinic, but they were turned away: no beds available there. Same thing at the next clinic. By the time they reached the third, Ms. Tovar, 49, was out of money to pay another taxi, and her daughter was disoriented, dizzy with a shattering headache. Ms. Tovar demanded a bed, and that clinic reluctantly took Nakarid. But she died a few hours after they reached the hospital. The doctors said she had pre-eclampsia; they lacked even a basic intravenous line to treat her.”

Most people in the wealthy parts of North America would have difficulty connecting the idea that becoming pregnant would be death sentence for (some) women.  Maternal mortality rates in Venezuela have significantly increased due to the lack of basic medical services and supplies.

“When Mr. Chavez was first elected, nearly two decades ago, Venezuela had some of the best public health indicators in Latin America. That reflected decades of steady progress: In 1958, at the start of the democratic era, 140 of every 100,000 women died giving birth, but the figure had fallen to 68 women by 1990. When the government finally released 2016 data a few weeks ago, the figure was back up to 112 per 100,000 women. “The health system is so deteriorated that we’re going back in time,” said Rayfael Orihuela, who was the minister responsible for public health in the last government before Mr. Chavez swept to power.

“What do I have when I go to deliver a baby? Only a pair of gloves and maybe a clamp for the cord,” said David Flora, who recently completed a two-year stint as the sole doctor in a referral hospital in Rio Chico, a town three hours’ drive west of Caracas. “If the placenta doesn’t descend, if I need to stop bleeding, if the baby has respiratory distress – I have no way to attend that. I have one bed and a pair of gloves and a line of women waiting at the door to deliver. Women arrive at 40 weeks pregnant with no file, they have had no prenatal care, and I know nothing about them. I don’t even know how many babies are in that belly because they haven’t had an ultrasound. I don’t even have a fetoscope to listen, so I don’t know the size of the pelvis, the size of the baby, if the baby is even alive. If the mother needs a caesarean, she dies.”

AAAAAChilling isn’t it?  If you need a C-section, you’re dead.
AAAAAWhy though?  What is happening in Venezuela?

   “Venezuela is not facing only one crisis but multiple interconnected crises.

  Key among them is the state of the economy. In January 2017, according to estimates by the Finance and Economic Development Commission of the National Assembly (AN), it was predicted that inflation will close this year at 679.73 percent.

  However according to the International Monetary Fund, this year and next year’s projection is even higher. The organisation estimates that inflation will reach 720.5 percent this year, the highest in the Americas, and 2,068.5 percent by 2018.

  However, the economic crisis is hitting Venezuela’s public health system the hardest. In the country’s public hospitals, medicine and equipment are increasingly not available.”

AAAAAOuch.

  “Venezuela depends heavily on its oil. It has the largest oil reserves in the world which, in 2014, had 298 billion barrels of proved oil reserves.Oil revenue has sustained Venezuela’s economy for years. During the presidency of Hugo Chavez, the price of oil reached a historic high of $100 a barrel.  The billions of dollars in revenue were used to finance social programmes and food subsidies.

  But when the price of oil fell, those programmes and subsidies became unsustainable.”

  During the rule of Hugo Chavez, the price of key items, food and medicines were reduced. Products became more affordable but they were below the cost of production.  Private companies were expropriated, and to stop people from changing the national currency into dollars, Chavez restricted the access to dollars and fixed the rate.When it became unprofitable for Venezuelan companies to continue producing their own products, the government decided to import them from abroad, using oil money.  But oil prices have been falling since 2014, which has left the economic system unable to maintain the system of subsidies and price controls that functioned during the oil boom years.

  The inability to pay for imports with bolivares coupled with the decline in oil revenues has led to a shortage of goods.  The state has tried to ration food and set their prices, but the consequence is that products have disappeared from shops and ended up in the black market, overpriced.  As many as 85 of every 100 medicines are missing in the country. Shortages are so extreme that patients sometimes take medicines ill-suited for their conditions, doctors warn.

  Given the long litany of woes, some analysts think there are two options before Maduro’s government: to default on its debt or to stop importing food.”

Add in government corruption and massive inequality and it isn’t a much of a stretch to see Venezuela on the downward spiral toward Failed State status.   Another revolution or return to military dictatorship seems to be in the dark future for Venezuela.  Either option though likely won’t help the poorest of the nation, their misery is guaranteed in the years to come.

[Source: Globe and Mail]

[Source: Al Jazeera 1,2,3]

 

This excerpt features Dr. Gus Abu-Sitta and

Looking back a touch in history certain cases come immediately to mind.  The UN (US) sanctions on Iraq for instance, and the terrifying cost 500,000 children dead.  Now underlying this appalling strategy we can see what one of the aims of the sanctions actually were – deprive the Iraqi State of the ability to help its citizens, with the goal of weakening the fabric of society, paving the way for future military and corporate conquest.

Scary shit.

 

“G.A-S: In the South, medicine and the provision of health were critical parts of the post-colonial state. And the post-colonial state built medical systems such as we had in Iraq, Egypt and in Syria as part of the social contract. They became an intrinsic part of the creation of those states. And it was a realization that the state has to exercise its power both coercively, (which we know the state is capable of exercising, by putting you in prison, and even exercising violence), but above all non-coercively: it needs to house you, educate you, and give you health, all of those things. And that non-coercive power that the states exercise is a critical part of the legitimizing process of the state. We saw it evolve in 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. So as a digression, if you want to look at how the state was dismantled: the aim of the sanctions against Iraq was not to weaken the Makhabarat or the army, the aim of the sanctions was to rob the Iraqi state of its non-coercive power; its ability to give life, to give education, and that’s why after 12 years, the state has totally collapsed internally – not because its coercive powers have weakened, but because it was robbed of all its non-coercive powers, of all its abilities to guarantee life to its citizens.

AV: So in a way the contract between the state and the people was broken.

G.A-S: Absolutely! And you had that contract existing in the majority of post-colonialist states. With the introduction of the IMF and World Bank-led policies that viewed health and the provision of health as a business opportunity for the ruling elites and for corporations, and viewed free healthcare as a burden on the state, you began to have an erosion in certain countries like Egypt, like Jordan, of the non-coercive powers of the state, leading to the gradual weakening of its legitimacy. Once again, the aim of the IMF and World Bank was to turn health into a commodity, which could be sold back to people as a service; sold back to those who could afford it.

AV: So, the US model, but in much more brutal form, as the wages in most of those countries were incomparably lower.

G.A-S: Absolutely! And the way you do that in these countries: you create a two-tier system where the government tier is so under-funded, that people choose to go to the private sector. And then in the private sector you basically have the flourishing of all aspects of private healthcare: from health insurance to provision of health care, to pharmaceuticals.”

[Source:Counterpunch]

    It is horrifying enough the results of the planned destruction of a nation’s society, but what is worse, is the fact that this is a carefully planned and codified strategy employed by the so called (self described) ‘good-guys’ of the world.  If that doesn’t chill your cornfritters, I’m not sure what could.

The plan at the base of Trumerica is this.  Blame all woes on the other and then feed the 1% and military industrial complex money to solve problems they have no business trying to solve.

Menon summarizes the current administration quite succinctly:

“Trump also seems determined to stay the course on America’s forever wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Neither he nor his generals show any sign of abandoning the Obama-era strategy of whack-a-mole drone strikes and raids by Special Operations forces against terrorist redoubts around the world (as witness a recent failed special ops raid in Yemen and 24 drone strikes — half of the maximum number that the United States launched against that country in any preceding year). Trump has already deployed 400 Marines as well as Army Rangers to fight ISIS in Raqqa, Syria, and another thousand troops may soon be heading that way.  And General John Nicholson, commander of the US-led military coalition in Afghanistan, has called for “a few thousand” additional troops for that country.

So expect President Trump to dwell obsessively on threats that have a low probability of harming Americans, while offering no effective solutions for the quotidian hardships that actually do make so many citizens feel insecure. Expect, as well, that the more he proves unable to deliver on his economic promises to the working class, the more he’ll harp on the standard threats and engage in sabre rattling, hoping that a continual atmosphere of emergency and vulnerability will disarm critics and divert attention from his failures.  

In the end, count on one thing: voters who were drawn to Trump because they believed he would rein in interventionism abroad and deal with festering problems at home are in for a disappointment.”

Looks like good times ahead, let us hope the American people can keep their eyes on what is actually important as opposed to the crazed side show this administration is putting on tap.

 

[Source:Tom’s Dispatch]

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