Sunday, September 30, 2012

McGuinty's Magical Thinking

“We’ve been through tough times before. This is one more.”

At his leadership review yesterday, that was Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty's rather understated response to his recent string of political misfires, misfires that include his costly efforts to win seats in the last election by shutting down two gas-fired power plants at great expense to the taxpayer, his failed attempt to bribe his way to a majority government in the Kitchener-Waterloo byelection, and his hamfisted and unnecessary strategy for reducing the provincial deficit by stripping teachers of their collective bargaining rights, despite the fact that teachers had offered a two-year wage freeze.

Apparently, Canada's answer to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker remains upbeat about future prospects, even though the teacher bill and the proposed broader public-sector wage freeze could prove very costly through court challenges to their constitutionality.

Indeed, it would seem that McGuinty's groundless optimism is infectious. As reported by Martin Regg Cohn,

Happily for the premier, a solid majority of party delegates (85.8 per cent) backed him in a mandatory leadership review — even as public opinion polls show he has the approval of less than a third of all Ontarians.

Perhaps the Premier's political instincts are failing him; at the leadership review, he seemed to think that a few platitudes about teachers would undo the political fallout of his folly as he reflected on “working with the best teachers anywhere — Ontario teachers.”

With his party now sitting at 20% in the polls, I suspect he is going to have to do a lot more than that to mend some seriously-damaged fences.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Smiling Face of Dalton McGuinty

... one may smile, and smile, and be a villain— At least I am sure it may be so in Ontario.

Institutional Misbehaviour, Redux - UPDATED

While I have written several posts in the past about the seemingly endless capacity of organizations and institutions to behave in ways that best protect themselves rather than serve the interests of their constituencies, each new instance continues to appall me.

Today's print edition of The Star (nothing online yet) details an investigation by the paper into the failure of a Belleville police officer to take note of the license plate of a suspicious vehicle spotted outside of the home of Jessica Lloyd on the night he went on to rape and kill her. This information might have prevented her death

While mistakes happen all the time, and I am hardly in a position to judge the officer involved, what is interesting about this story from my perspective is the fact that it took 20 months for The Star's request for information under The Freedom of Information Act to be fulfilled, largely, it would seem, because both the police and the Ministry of Community Safety were busy trying to conceal what had happened in this major oversight to protect their own interests.

Could this perhaps also be the real reason the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services earlier refused The Star's request for the dates Williams’ DNA was submitted for testing, stating that the release of the information would be an “unjustified invasion of personal privacy”?

Should this article appear online, I will provide further details in an update.

UPDATE: Here is the link to the story on The Star website. As noted in my original post, you will see that the biggest priority of both the Belleville police and the Ministry of Community Safety seems to have been how to best spin shortcomings of the investigation. As well, there still is no protocol in place to avoid such mistakes in the future.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Just Another Day's Work At The Star

Yesterday I wrote a post expressing real pleasure that The Toronto Star is enjoying such a wide readership and profitability, given the important work that it does on a number of levels.

Although evidence of that work is found in pretty much every edition of the paper, today's seems particularly noteworthy for its potential impact.

First, as a result of an investigation by the paper into the harmful effects, including strokes, convulsions, depression and suicide on children being treated with drugs for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, today we learn the following:

Health Canada has detailed records of probes into ADHD drug safety, including fatalities, that it is keeping secret from the public.

Every six months to a year, drug companies submit summaries of side effects suspected to have been caused by their drugs worldwide, information Health Canada says it evaluates.

These summaries, called periodic safety update reports, are not available to the public.

Because these reports contain “proprietary information,”, the public is denied potentially life-saving information. It would seem that government does not want to deny any opportunity for big-pharma profits, even if it leads to disability or death.

Expect more to come from The Star's efforts on this file.

Next, again as a result of publicity generated by The Star, an Iranian woman facing deportation to her home country is being allowed to present new evidence of the peril she faces if sent back. This new chance comes to Fatemeh Derakhshandeh Tosarvandan despite the new law passed by the Harper regime prohibiting failed asylum claimants from obtaining a risk assessment within a year after their claim is rejected.

This seems appropriate, since in severing ties with Iran, the Canadian government cited its abuse of human rights.

And finally, there is the ongoing saga at Toronto City hall, where The Star, persona non grata to the Ford administration, reports how that administration interfered with the process for citizen appointments to 120 city boards and agencies [which] included an attempt to stop staff from targeting “diverse” candidates in recruitment ads.

All in all, not a bad day's work at Canada's largest-circulation newspaper.

Stephen Harper's Worldview

For those seeking insight into how Stephen Harper and his regime views the world, The Star's Tim Harper offers some interesting insights.

In New York snubbing the U.N. while accepting his reward award as World Statesman of the Year from the Appeal of Conscience Appeal, the Prime Minister offered the following justification, which is patently emblematic of his Manichean view of the world:

He said Canadians expect their governments to act with international partners for the “wider interests of humanity . . . that is, of course, not the same thing as trying to court every dictator with a vote at the United Nations . . .

... Harper said the world must not shrink from recognizing the evil that is Iran, and called on the international community to do more to further pressure and isolate the regime.

It is this Iranian evil that compels Canada to speak out in support of Israel, Harper said, because those who would target Israel threaten all free and democratic societies.

“We should never consider others evil merely because they disagree with us,’’ he said, “or because they compete with us.’’

But when evil dominates, one will find irreconcilable disagreements with Canada, he said.

And now to the 'good':

It is this Iranian evil that compels Canada to speak out in support of Israel, Harper said, because those who would target Israel threaten all free and democratic societies.

“Our government does refuse to use international (forums) to single out Israel for criticism.”

Sorry for the lengthy excerpts, but I find the repetition of the word evil quite revealing of Harper's unsophisticated and simplistic worldview.

No word on what adjective the Prime Minister would use to describe Israel's treatment of the Palestinians in the occupied territories, or the fact that the military attack against Iran that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is advocating would cost countless lives.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Stephen Harper's Sins

On the day that Stephen Harper is to receive his World Statesman of the Year award from the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, presumably for his unstinting and uncritical support of Israel, the Huffington Post has a timely piece reminding us of some of the Prime Minister's myriad failings on both the international and domestic front.

Those who prefer to think critically rather than simply absorb propaganda will find the article of some interest.

News That Gladdens My Heart

Despite its oft-proclaimed demised, print journalism seems to be alive and well, at least in the GTA. As reported in today's edition, The Toronto Star is enjoying record readership:

The Toronto Star retains its title as the most-read newspaper in the Greater Toronto Area, with more than 1 million readers a day, according to the latest survey by the Newspaper Audience Databank, known as NADbank.

The Star’s weekday readership stands at 1,005,300 in the Greater Toronto Area. That is an increase of 4.1 per cent from the same period a year ago, the NADbank 2011/12 Mid-Year Study shows.

The survey also shows that combined print and online readership of the Star in the GTA stands at 2.3 million adults. That’s up 0.8 per cent from a year earlier.

This is especially good news, as it is without doubt an affirmation of the public's appetite for quality journalism, journalism that combines a social mission (The Atkinson Principles) with excellent writing, investigative journalism that results in societal improvement, and real integrity.

Unlike The Globe and Mail, now collapsing under the weight of inept management, a plagiarism scandal, and a narrow political agenda, The Star continues to make its way in the world with the intention of improving it, amply demonstrating that it can inform, entertain, and better our world without resorting to sanctimonious self-promotion, posturing, or propaganda.

It is one of the reasons I look forward to getting up each day.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Words Fail Me

This, from our enlightened cousins to the south.

H/t Let Freedom Rain

Social Media and Margaret Wente

About two years ago, I wrote a blog post explaining why we cancelled our subscription to The Globe and Mail. At the same time, I sent an email with a link to the post to Globe editor-in-chief John Stackhouse, suggesting that if he wanted to know why he had lost a long-term subscriber, he should read my post.

Later that evening, I received a response from Stackhouse which I have never discussed in this blog, simply because I regarded it as private communication. While I am not prepared to reveal the content of the letter, I will tell you his closing observation, which was something along the lines of, "You seem to prefer the smaller world of the blogosphere. Sad."

Well, it would seem that the world of bloggers is not so small after all, given it was Medi Culpa's analysis of Margaret Wente's plagiarism that has created something of a firestorm within the world of journalism, shaking to its foundations the once proud Globe. In his column today, The Star's Tim Harper addresses the role it plays in journalists' lives, and how it forces everyone to be very careful in how they write.

Of additional interest is a brief profile of Professor Carol Wainio, the blogger behind Media Culpa.

Oh, and Torontoist has some thoughts worth perusal as well.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Linda McQuaig on Neo-Conservative Contempt

There are some columnists whose work I am loathe to miss. For example, over at the Globe, unlike some people I could name, Lawrence Martin writes with precision and integrity, never failing to take to task the endless abuses heaped upon the electorate by the Harper regime.

At the Star, amongst many others, there is Linda McQuaig's monthly reminder of the injustices of a system that exploits the poor and enriches the elite. In her latest piece, entitled Mitt Romney blurts out the truth about neo-conservatism, McQuaig lacerates the self-serving practices and rhetoric of the hugely-entitled while discussing how traditional conservatism has been supplanted over the past 30 years, borrowing an insight from John Kenneth Galbraith when he described this “modern” conservative as engaged in “the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”

Although using Mitt Romney's recent gaffe revealing his contempt for about half of America's citizens, she also asserts,

Modern conservatism — or neo-conservatism — has infected Canada too, coming to fruition under the Harper majority government, which has intervened aggressively on the side of corporations against working people, and dismantled vital environmental protections in order to enrich energy mega-corporations.

Thought-provoking material from a writer always worth reading.

Promoting Hatred In NYC Subways

It is hard to believe that a people that have been so dehumanized, disparaged and persecuted throughout much of history should think that this is acceptable.

'I Am Not A Crook'

In words eerily echoing Richard Nixon's famous "I'm not a crook" declaration, Globe and Mail plagiarist Margaret Wente truculently writes the following in her still extant column:

I’m far from perfect. I make mistakes. But I’m not a serial plagiarist. What I often am is a target for people who don’t like what I write.

With Wente's dishonesty being aided and abetted by an editor-in-chief who has lost his way and regards the situation as "a private matter between employer and employee," the entire debacle amply demonstrates how far Canada's 'newspaper of record' has declined since John Stackhouse assumed the top position.

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Celebration of Literacy

Despite its rather lengthy history, yesterday was the first time my wife and I attended Toronto's Word On the Street, a celebration of books, literacy, and the dispelling of ignorance. As a retired English teacher and keen observer of the political machinations that envelop our society, it was very heartening to see so many thousands of people, many families with their children in tow, recognizing the crucial role that reading plays in a balanced and productive life.

This morning's Star reports the following:

Amidst the myriad of folks of all ages swarming Queen’s Park Circle for the Word on the Street Festival are parents like Stephen and Tara Palmer.

For them, it’s vital that twins, Tristan and Jacqueline, 4, develop a lifelong love of reading as early as possible.

“I think to be successful later in life in the field they choose to be in, (our kids) are going to need those skills. They’re going to need those skills to be basically happy people in society, to be well-rounded and to be able to think for themselves. The only thing you really own in this life is your mind,” said Stephen Palmer, 39, of Scarborough.

A profound observation: The only thing you really own in this life is your mind. When you think about it, that observation cuts through all of the propaganda we receive on a daily basis about the keys to fulfillment lying in the next purchase, be it the newest IPhone, the newest car, or the biggest house. Indeed, if we really can think for ourselves, we will inevitably conclude that constant growth and expansion through consumerism really is unsustainable.

And that was certainly the message of two of the 'rock stars' of ScotiaBank's Giller Prize speakers' series yesterday at the festival. On a tour together, Canadian icon and renowned scientist and environmentalist David Suzuki, and Jeff Rubin, the economist who has now written two books projecting our future as our energy costs rise, both agree that 'smaller' is an inevitable part of what awaits us.

Listening to these two men, and the intelligent questions that ensued after their presentations, made me realize even more acutely how blinkered and Manichean the Harper regime's outlook is. While regarding people like Suuzki as the enemy of the economy, the regime ignores the fact, as he pointed out, that a healthy biosphere is essential to a healthy economy, and that the two are really part of the same equation. For his part Rubin allowed that he would not expand the development of the tarsands until Canada had extracted much more of its value by refining the bitumen in Canada instead of exporting it away to be done in the U.S., thereby denying the creation of good jobs here.

Both men said much more, but I came away from the festival, having listened to other speakers as well, with the renewed conviction that an informed and literate electorate is the only real weapon against those who would further enslave us through our collective ignorance.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Word On The Street

Word on the street suggests that reading books is becoming obsolete. This Word on the Street, which we are heading off to attend, suggests otherwise.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Victory for Lucene Charles!

Lucene Charles, the St. Vincent native who has been battling deportation from Canada for some time now because of her failure to fill out the proper immigration papers years ago, has finally achieved victory.

The decision in principle to allow her to stay has been made, a decision that will be finalized after the proper criminal and medical checks have been completed. A woman who is a valued and contributing member of the Hamilton community, Charles has worked for many years at St Joseph's Hospital.

The fact that Canadian immigration officials have come to the right decision is a victory for everyone, considering the publicity surrounding her case, and the flurry of social activism and petitions that ensued, were very likely major influences in this decision.

It would seem that even the Harper regime is not totally immune to the public will.

Sometimes It Is Hard Not To Feel Smug

Many years ago, the singer Mac Davis wrote and performed a satirical song entitled "It's Hard To Be Humble," about a man so impressed with himself that he has no insight whatsoever into what a buffoon he really is.

I sometimes think of that song when I ponder the shenanigans of Toronto's chief magistrate, Rob Ford, a legend in his own mind and, in his fevered yet cruelly limited imagination, the victim of unwarranted aspersions cast by the envious, aka the pinko left, the chattering classes, and, well, just the damned envious.

So it was with much delight that I read this morning's column by The Star's Thomas Walkom. Entitled Three cheers for Rob Ford, true face of the modern right, the piece suggests that unlike those who try to conceal their true agenda, (think Stephen Harper and the recently-exposed Mitt Romney),

... Rob Ford is never flummoxed. Or perhaps it more accurate to say he is in a state of constant flummox.

His hypocrisy is upfront. Any other politician who made his name fighting the so-called gravy train might be embarrassed when found to use public resources inappropriately.

Ford, however, is unapologetic. Did he pressure city workers to fix up the street outside his family business? So what? Did he break conflict of interest rules? He never read them. Is he using taxpayer-funded resources for private activities? Forget about it.

And so the psychodrama continues. But unfortunately, when pondering people like Rob and brother Doug (the alleged 'brains' behind the operation), I sometimes find that, to paraphrase Mac Davis' song, it's hard not to be smug, something I usually strive to assiduously avoid in my journey through life.

Friday, September 21, 2012

When Seniors Get Angry

You know you're in trouble when seniors start booing you. Too bad we are still asleep at the switch in Canada when it comes to the unnecessary cuts in OAS that Harper is making:

H/t ThinkProgress

More Harper Contempt for Transparency and Democracy

This story about Kevin Page's relentless and noble ongoing attempts to extract information about the public service impact of government budget cuts from the secrecy-obsessed Harper regime appeared in today's Star. Consequently, I couldn't resist the impulse to send the story link to the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, the body that recently named Stephen Harper The World Statesman of the Year for his 'stellar' efforts at promoting democracy and human rights.

By the way, it is not too late to sign the Avaaz petition to register your disgust with the foundation's decision.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Democratic Renewal

I just got back from my Algonquin trip, so just a very brief post. In skimming today's Star, there is a very interesting piece by Bob Hepburn on efforts at democratic renewal in Canada to combat the ongoing Harper attack on citizen engagement and voter participation. Small seeds can yield tremendous fruit if properly nurtured.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Humbling Lesson About Critical Thinking

I am going to be offline for a few days as I join two of my fellow retirees on a trek to Algonquin Park, so I leave you with the following rather lengthy blog post:

While I am always mindful of the vital importance of critical thinking, logic, and clear writing, and try to practise all three, I also know that I regularly fall short of those ideals. Recently, I had a humbling reminder of my shortcomings.

It began innocently enough with an email from my son, who works in Alberta, about the IPhone5 that was just announced. I sent him an email I received about how, despite earlier promises by Apple, the conditions and wages under which the phone are assembled at Foxconn in China have not improved. Here is a link for further details on those conditions.

In response, my son sent the following:

Ya, I remember when the Foxconn head told the media that managing his one million animals (his employees) gave him a headache.

It's a trade off. If you mandate higher wages, that will be passed along in the price, making goods in Canada more expensive, which disproportionately lowers the standard of living of poor people here, which pushes them back into poverty living conditions. It's like what my policy ethics professor was saying about while its true lower class wages are stagnant, poor people are still much better off than ever before when almost every poor person now can afford a flat screen tv with Blu Ray, and a computer, and a smart phone, etc. These things used to be available to only the high income earner, but because of goods made cheaply in China, everyone can afford electronics today. I'm not saying increasing Chinese wages is the wrong choice to make, but keep in mind that it will contribute to poor people in Canada having a lower standard of living. But maybe from a big picture perspective higher prices are worth it.

One thing I learned from the MPP [Masters of Public Policy] degree is that what seems like a good policy on the surface often has devastating unintended consequences. An example is in Greece currently, where people weren't paying property taxes, so the government added it onto home electricity and gas bills to ensure people pay. A lot of people stopped paying their natural gas bills, and a court ruled it was illegal for utility companies to cut off people's gas, resulting in utlility companies being unable to pay for their gas, resulting in threats by the gas company to cut off all gas to utilities. Ultimately, the government stepped in to avoid this with a huge payment, and now it basically pays everyone's gas bills, AND still no one pays their property taxes. Let me know if you want me to send you an article on this.

Another example we were taught is in medieval England where rats were out of control. The King stated that you'd get paid a lot of money for each rat corpse you turn it. The end result for people started breeding rats, and the rat population exploded, and rats were everywhere. I can think of a dozen examples of unintended consequences.

My point is that on the surface the Apple situation seems difficult to oppose; who doens't want better working conditions? But unfortunately the people who are starting this petition probably aren't economists or public policy analysts, and cannot begin to predict the cascading and potentially devastating effects such a policy might result in. I'm quite skeptical these days of any publication which promotes a certain policy. That's why government is so slow moving, because they have to consult with every stakeholder to ensure they understand every possible implications, and be prepared for it.

Sorry for the long email, it just bothers me when everyone on the internet thinks they're a policy analyst these days. Saying "I think higher wages in China are a good idea because poor people need more money" is far too simplistic an analysis for me to accept as valid. But as I type this I realize that it may be geared at Apple voluntarily increasing wages, not the Chinese government mandating it, which is quite different.

To which I replied:

You have obviously given a lot of thought to the issue, Matthew, and what you say makes a lot of sense, but when all is said and done, the cheap labour is being exploited by Apple to maximize its profits, something I know that benefits their shareholders.

Ultimately, a balance between the competing interests needs to be struck, in my opinion.

He replied:

There are many large electronics manufacturer that manufacture through Foxconn; [as a result of wage hikes] their prices would go up as well. It's not just about Apple; other companies' share prices would go down.

How does this affect pension plans, and people retirement savings since a lot of people's nest eggs are in these stocks? There was a story yesterday about the iPhone 5 potentially propping up the US economy up to 0.5% annualized. What happens when all electronic sales go down due to higher prices? Will be have a recession? Probably not, but it will have an effect. Will the jobs go to Bangladesh instead? How much would this hurt the Chinese economy where growth is quickly falling? Could we have a global slowdown because of it?

It's a complicated issue is my point, and there is a lot to analyze before one can say it's a good idea or not. Where is the economic analysis with this policy suggestion? It seems to be missing.

And so the debate goes on. While I still hold that a balance needs to be struck, the correspondence with my son reminded me of how complicated issues are once one delves beneath the surface, and that all of us, manufacturers, corporations, shareholders and consumers have roles to play in the matter of workers' rights, working conditions, and wages.

And so I shall end as I began. Critical and logical thinking are ideals to which I aspire, but I do realize that the ideal can never be consistently attained. In the end, I guess, as with most worthwhile endeavours, all we can do is to consistently try our best.

See you in a few days.

Monday, September 17, 2012

How Romney Really Feels About the Non-Rich

A secret video from a Romney fundraiser reveals more about the presidential candidate than he probably wants people to know:

The full story and additional video can be found here.

A Fact Check on Tory Lies

I suspect that the Harper regime's capacity for fear-mongering, character assassination and bald-faced lies, so much in evidence in previous smear campaigns against Stephen Dion and Michael Ignatief, will have a greater challenge in confronting Thomas Muclair:

H/t Larry Hubich

If They Won't Spend It, Perhaps We Should Tax It Back?

That is the question I am left with after reading this article in today's Star on the over $500 billion (the article erroneously describes it as $526 million) corporate Canada is sitting on, in part thanks to generous tax cuts, rather than investing some of it and creating jobs.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Voice of Sanity on Iran

Journalist and columnist Joe Klein offers some calm and sane commentary while others are clamoring for war against Iran:

H/t Roger Ebert

An Avaaz Petition Against Harper's World Statesman Award

I recently wrote two blog posts expressing my dismay over the naming of Stephen Harper as World Statesman of the Year by The Appeal of Conscience Foundation.

An Avaaz petition, just started by a Canadian, is asking the foundation to reconsider granting this award and is available online; it lists several of the reasons this is such an egregious insult to all people who believe in the tenets of real democracy and human rights.

I sincerely hope you will consider signing it. It can be accessed here.

h/t Sandra Harris

Inconvenient Truths for the Corporate Sector

Given that recent reports have helped to puncture the myth of job-creation benefits arising from corporate tax cuts and corporate welfare, I was pleased to read Martin Regg Cohn's article in this morning's Star.

Entitled NDP leverages vote results to pressure big business to create jobs, the article discusses the current popularity of the provincial NDP in Ontario. Leader Andrea Horvath used her leverage in the last budget to both secure a tax hike on the income enjoyed by the wealthiest Ontarians and prevent another scheduled corporate tax reduction; the party also blocked Premier Dalton McGuinty's ruthless bid for a majority government in this month's by-election in Kitchener-Waterloo through the victory of NDP candidate Catherine Fife.

As Cohn reminds us, she also won McGuinty's pledge to look seriously at a job-creation tax credit that would reward companies for increasing their payrolls. Horwath argued her $250 million program, modelled on a similar U.S. plan, would deliver better value for taxpayers' money that is now doled out to corporations with no strings attached.

That pledge is about to come to fruition through McGuinty's new Jobs and Prosperity Council, chaired by Royal Bank CEO Gordon Nixon, hardly likely to be favorably disposed to such a notion. As Cohn makes clear, Nixon embodies the corporate welfare and tax leakage that the NDP condemns: Canada's banks benefited handsomely from a series of Liberal corporate tax cuts, reaping record profits without creating the kind of high-value jobs that merit taxpayer subsidies. He has, however, promised to hear Horwath out on her proposal

Let us hope that a clash of ideologies does not prevent some productive recommendations from emerging. I suspect that ignoring increasing public awareness of the injustice of unproductive tax cuts could prove politically costly to the beleaguered McGuinty.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

From The Great Exporter Of Democracy

I guess free speech is something Republicans only value when they export their democratic principles.

Harper's Conservatives: As Classless As Ever

Yesterday I wrote a brief post about the federal government's decision to stop defending the export of asbestos from Quebec, not on the basis of morality, but political expediency, as the newly-elected Parti Quebecois stands opposed to it.

A story in this morning's Star reveals that, as ever, the Harper regime is both as graceless and incapable of admitting error as ever. In reference to newly-elected Quebec Premier Pauline Marois, Federal Industry Minister Christian Paradis had this to say:

“Mrs. Marois’ decision to prohibit chrysotile mining in Quebec will have a negative impact on the future prosperity of the area."

Paradis said he did not want to spend any time debating the issue when his constituents are out of a job, but he made sure to remind everyone that it was Marois who had moved to finally end the dying industry.

“Our region will have to live with the consequences of Mrs. Marois’ decision, but we will continue to work together on the economic development of the community,” Paradis said.

So there we have it. No acknowledgement that maybe there is a greater good to be served than parochial politics in the decision to stop exporting death.

Just a continuation of the politics of division and derision, something the Harperites have repeatedly proven their adeptness at.

So we are left to ponder a crucial question: Is this really the kind of government that best serves the aspirations and ideals and interests of Canadians?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Canada's Export of Death to Cease

The Harper government is throwing in the towel on Quebec’s internationally-maligned asbestos industry now that the Parti Québécois is poised to take power and prohibit extraction of the cancer-causing mineral.

Industry Minister Christian Paradis said Canada will stop defending asbestos mining in international circles and no longer oppose adding chrysotile asbestos to the Rotterdam Convention, a global list of hazardous substances.

This report, carried in the Globe, is yet another searing commentary on the banality of evil infusing our federal 'masters.' Despite numerous past appeals to stop this indefensible export of death, the Harper government was unmoved by moral considerations and now is simply yielding to political expediency.

Definitely not something to be proud of.

Rick Salutin On Teacher Unions

We seem to be in the constant throes of anti-union sentiment during a time they are most needed. The right wing, including Ontario Conservative leader young Tim Hudak, seems to be especially enamored of the phrases "union bosses" and "workplace democracy," both thinly-disguised anti-union euphemisms. And now that teachers are taking their fight against Dalton McGuinty's theft of their collective bargaining rights into the schools, we can expect more self-serving pontifications from the usual suspects.

Amidst all of the hysterical propaganda, in his column today Rick Salutin offers a timely reminder of why teachers, who he describes as the only ones who can save our schools, need their unions to speak on their behalf.

Well-worth the read as a timely reminder to those who like to respond exclusively with their hearts instead of making a little room for their heads as well.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Registering My Disgust

Just a note for anyone looking to express their disgust at the award being given to Stephen Harper as World Statesman of the Year. I sent the following very brief note to Appeal of Conscience Foundation:

I just want to register my disgust with your decision to bestow on Stephen Harper the World Statesmen of the Year award. If you knew anything about the contempt that he has shown for democracy and the democratic process in my country, Canada, you would realize what a cruel insult the award is to the people of Canada.

I hope you show better judgement in the future.

Their contact form can be accessed here.

Why Harper's Award as World Statesman of the Year Is An Insult to All of Us

I cannot help but think that it is the Harper regime's unqualified and uncritical support for Israel that accounts for his being named World Statesman of the Year by the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, founded by an American rabbi in 1965.

The state of Israel, which trumpets itself as some kind of democratic beacon in the Middle East despite its shameful treatment of the Palestinians within its occupied territories, must indeed be grateful to a Prime Minister who, even as I write this, has made it easier for Israel to bomb Iran by cutting off diplomatic ties with the theocracy, something that hardly seems wise since we are always told that engagement is better than isolation.

How else can one explain this award to a man who has shown such deep and abiding contempt for democracy in his own country, behaviour that grossly violates the principles of the foundation which, according to its website “believes that freedom, democracy and human rights are the fundamental values that give nations their best hope for peace, security and shared prosperity.”

In today's Star, Bob Hepburn offers compelling reasons that all Canadians should be outraged by this 'honour' being bestowed on our rogue head of government.

Among the reasons:

In April, his government killed the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development (Rights & Democracy), which for 24 years had promoted democracy and monitored human rights around the world.

In 2010, Harper slashed funding for the Canadian Human Rights Commission so deeply that the agency had to close its offices in Toronto, Vancouver and Halifax.

In 2009, the prime minister approved cutting funds to Kairos, an organization of church groups that advocated for human rights, after it criticized Israel for bombing a Gaza health unit. In 2006, Harper’s government severely chopped funding to Status of Women Canada, resulting in the closure of 12 of the agency’s 16 regional offices. Also in 2006, the Conservatives shut down the Court Challenges Program, which had worked on behalf of the rights and equality of women, immigrants and gays and lesbians by helping to fund court challenges to discriminatory laws.

At the same time, Harper orchestrated two controversial prorogations of Parliament in less than a year, became the first prime minister ever to be found guilty of contempt of Parliament, and approved the distribution of a handbook on how Tories can disrupt committee hearings, such as by barring witnesses with potentially damaging testimony.

In addition, Harper and his cabinet have flagrantly ignored freedom of speech and information tenets by muzzling senior bureaucrats, withholding and even altering documents, launching personal attacks on whistleblowers and lying to voters.

Also, there’s the anti-democratic robocall affair in the 2011 federal election, with allegations of voter suppression by the Conservatives. The Federal Court of Canada will start hearings into the allegations on Dec. 10.

All of us should do whatever we can to voice our outrage over this insult to the values and traditions Stephen Harper shows such egregious contempt for.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Do What I Say, Not What I Do

For a country that seems to have a messianic zeal for exporting its freedom and democracy to other countries, the United States doesn't seem to care too much for those values domestically.

When Parents Get The Upper Hand in Education

Yesterday I wrote a post about the Hamilton parent suing the school board for its refusal to notify him when a range of topics objectionable to his beliefs was being covered in the classrooom. His intention was to withdraw his children each time topics such as marriage, environmentalism, evolution, gay people were mentioned, these subjects somehow anathema in his religious world.

Today I came across an article dealing with the consequences of giving parents too much power, as has happened in Alberta, already not the most open-minded member of our confederation:

For over a year now, parents in Alberta have had the right to compel a teacher to defend herself before a human rights tribunal for discussing topics such as gay marriage or aboriginal spirituality in the classroom.

It’s caused quite a chill — reluctance on the part of many teachers to include anything in the curriculum that might upset a parent and provide the basis for a complaint to the HRC.

The piece goes on to discuss the impact the legislation has had on education:

“Teachers started to change how they taught, with English teachers realizing they’d have to send letters home for almost any literature they studied. The quality of English education started to fall — and has continued to fall in the two years since (the legislation was passed),” [former English department head Dale] Wallace writes in a recent issue of Alberta Views Magazine.

Wallace asserts that it’s almost impossible to teach high-school English literature that doesn’t have references to sex, homosexuality or religion. Canterbury Tales has a religious theme; The Merchant of Venice includes homosexuality; Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale has sexual content as does Timothy Findley’s The Wars.

“As a result, challenging novels such as 1984 are replaced with safer ones, like Pride and Prejudice ... provocative, thoughtful films such as Apocalypse Now are replaced by films with different themes altogether, like Cast Away,” Wallace says.

I hope you will check out the entire brief article to learn of the consequences that can ensue when the intolerant are given power.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

More helpful Advice From the World's Richest Woman

She may be the world's richest woman, but she still has time for 'the little people' with this sterling advice for job creation and increased productivity.

The Limits of Growth

I remember within the past year opining to my wife that the long-term fate of humanity is grim. With an ever-expanding population, growing demand for limited resources, and an economic model that is predicated on relentless expansion and consumption, there will be no utopian solution to the intractable mess we have created on earth.

Victims of our own excesses, humankind's ultimate fate is likely extinction.

Like the prophets of the Old Testament, who did not really predict the future but often spoke unpleasant truth to power, Chris Hedges in his latest column addresses this issue, but he does offer a solution/projection of sorts, one that many people in general, and the power elite in particular, will not find at all pleasant.

The Price of Pluralism

There is a price for the privilege of living in a pluralistic society, and that cost, which the majority of people willingly pay, is tolerance for the views and beliefs of others. Tolerance, while not requiring the embrace and adoption of the values held by others, does entail respecting those values. That is something that fundamentalists, be they Christian, Muslim, Jew or whoever, do not seem to understand, judging by the actions of Hamilton dentist Dr. Steve Tourloukis and his supporters.

The Toronto Star reports the following:

A number of conservative Christian and Muslim parents — unusual political bedfellows — suddenly are asking schools across the GTA to notify them when their child’s class will discuss topics ranging from homosexuality and birth control to wizardry, evolution and “environmental worship,” so they can withhold their child from classes that contradict their religious beliefs.

They are giving schools the same five-page “Traditional Values Letter” used by a Greek Orthodox father who has sued the Hamilton school board for refusing to warn him when his children’s teachers plan to talk about family, marriage or human sexuality. Hamilton dentist Dr. Steve Tourloukis said Monday he only wants those issues taught to his Grade 1 daughter and Grade 4 son “from a Christian perspective.”

Without a hint of irony, Tourloukis says, “I’m not an extremist, but I must ensure that my children abstain from certain activities that may include lessons which promote views contrary to our faith.”

Am I being hypocritical in not extending tolerance to his point of view? I don't think so, simply because my view of public education is that it plays a vital role, not just in imparting facts and developing critical skills, but also in socializing people so that they become fully functioning and contributing citizens, integrated into society at large. This is hardly the dark 'agenda' or conspiracy to promote a particular way of life that neo-conservatives seem obsessed about.

And therein lies the problem with the fundamentalist mindset. It is so narrow and exclusionary that any opposing viewpoints must be suppressed.

Hardly a recipe for either a healthy faith or a healthy society.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Pat Robertson Pines For Simpler Times

Every time he speaks, TV evangelist Pat Robertson demonstrates how cruel dementia is:

H/t Antonia Zerbisias

A Q&A With Allan Gregg

Many thanks to Accidental Deliberations for providing information on this Q&A with Allan Gregg, a good companion piece for his Assault On Reason article/speech. This Hill Times article on Gregg's thesis is also worth perusal.

If You Say It Enough Times ...

Recently I have been writing about the vital role critical thinking plays in a healthy democracy; this morning, after reading the letters section of The Star, I couldn't help but think about one of the oldest and most frequently-used techniques to inhibit that process: repetition.

Repetition , a strategy frequently accompanied by displays of demagoguery and fear-mongering, works on the premise that if you say something frequently enough, it will be perceived by many as true. A strategy especially favoured by the reactionary set, perhaps one the best examples is the myth that both small and large-c conservatives are good fiscal managers. A check of the fiscal health of both Canada and the United States over the past 30 years or so when under conservative rule easily puts the lie to that fable.

Yet the belief persists.

This morning, a letter written by Gary Brigden from Toronto, in part addresses this issue. Enjoy:

Re: Canada getting less competitive, Business Sept. 6

Once again the facts get in the way of pronouncements from the Harper government.

According to the World Economic Forum, Canada has slipped to 14th place in world standings in global economic competitiveness. Since 2009, Canada has slipped five spots in global competitiveness. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been in charge the whole time, yet he always speaks about how well Canada is doing compared to the rest of the world.

How is it that with all of our natural resources, our stable banking system and supposedly superior education system, we continue to slide downwards in global competitiveness?

Well, it turns out our education system is not training youth for the jobs of the future. Our research and development lags way behind most countries. And, most importantly, our government’s role in promoting innovation through procurement practices is severely lacking.

Ironically, while the Harper government seems to think lower wages, less safe work environments brought about through legislation and less attention to the environment overall will miraclously boost our GNP, the opposite is true.

As is usually the case, democratic socialist goverments account for 8 of the top 10 placements in global competitveness.

How is it again we keep hearing from Conservative and Republican governments that we must give more tax breaks to the corporations and rich people to create jobs, while the facts claim and prove the exact opposite?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Assault on Reason

Yesterday I wrote a post on the important role education plays in the development of critical thinking skills, skills that are crucial for anyone who aspires to being something more than a puppet of government and corporate propaganda. Unfortunately, as I noted, current education reforms under consideration in Ontario will undermine the building of those skills.

Last evening I read an excellent article by Allan Gregg, essentially the speech he gave at the opening of Carleton University’s new School of Public Affairs.

Using Orwell's 1984 as his framework, Gregg offers a disturbing analysis of how the Harper government is in fact enacting the very practices that Orwell warned about in his novel. For example, Ignorance is Strength, a well-known oxymoronic slogan from the novel, seems to be one of the chief strategies at work in the Harper formulation of public policy; the elimination of the long-form census, the muzzling of scientists, the dismantling of research stations and the substantial reduction of workforce at the Library and Archives of Canada are but four very disturbing examples.

I cannot recommend his piece strongly enough. Although somewhat lengthy, it is well-worth the read for anyone who recognizes the vital role that an informed and reflective citizenry plays in a healthy democracy.

And ours is without question a democracy whose health is under threat; in my home province of Ontario, for example, young Tim Hudak begins the process of trying to rebrand himself, a rebooting whose success without doubt will be dependent on the voters' collective amnesia and short attention spans. Federally, of course, the Harper regime seems intent on giving corporate profits supremacy over sound environmental protection, just one of the many challenges posed by a government contemptuous of its citizens.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Such An Expressive Face

This is young Tim Hudak's mad face. Damn those union bosses!

An Embargo On Ideas In The Offing?

One of the pleasures of my retired life is getting together for coffee on a regular basis with my friend Ray, a retired vice-principal and one of the rare 'good-guys' of administration that I encountered in my life as a teacher.

When we meet, we discuss a range of topics, many of them political, but also others that could be classified as philosophical, social, and metaphysical. On our most recent meeting, I told him how much I enjoy our exchanges, providing as they do not only an opportunity for the clarification of my own thoughts, but also an expansion of their scope and range.

In many ways, our discussions are what I used to enjoy most about university, back in the days of small classes, small tutorials, and small seminars. I attribute whatever critical thinking skills I possess largely to that education.

Unfortunately, over the years the notion of a post-secondary education as a means of cultivating one's ability to think has fallen into disfavour, devolving in Ontario to its nadir when that master of division and dissension, Mike Harris was our premier. He floated but never actually implemented the idea of funding universities based on the percentage of people who were able to get jobs six months after graduation, a notion perhaps not surprising coming from the man who showed such disdain for nuanced and complex thought.

While not quite so blatant, the neo-liberal reactionary agenda is again at work in Ontario under Dalton McGuinty's 'leadership.' Glen Murray, the minister of training, colleges and universities has proposed sweeping changes in how the province conducts the business of education, most, it seems to me, prompted by cost-cutting considerations.

Two of the most insidious proposals involve making the basic undergraduate degree a three-year-pursuit, and establishing an online-university that would require no real contact with one's professor and classmates, thereby eliminating the opportunity for the dynamic exchanges that are the key to achieving new ideas and perspectives. The fact that these proposals do not serve the cultivation of critical thinking skills, I can't help but consider in my more paranoid moments, are quite consistent with a corporate agenda that seems to value only compliant, unquestioning employees, not independent thinkers capable of seeing a broader picture.

In any event, Heather Mallick has written a thought-provoking piece in today's Star which suggests that nothing good can come out of these proposed changes.

An Apt Contrast

There is the Energizer rabbit, brought to you by Everready:

Then there is the Never-ready rabbit, brought to you by Ontario's Conservative Party:

Friday, September 7, 2012

Political Contempt For The Electorate Continues

Reiterating one of his favorite themes of late, Tim Hudak, the never-ready-for-prime-time-politcal leader of the Ontario Tories, blamed the 'union-bosses' for denying him victory in last night's Kitchener-Waterloo by-election.

Blaming a “tsunami” of public sector union bosses who bought votes in a riding held by his party for two decades, the hapless Hudak proffered the following wisdom for the benighted electorate who thought they were exercising their own discretion in voting the NDP candidate, Catherine Fife, to victory:

“I think it’s dangerous and ominous for the province to see that power on display,” an embittered sounding Mr. Hudak said at a news conference Friday morning.

Just one more open display of contempt for the will of the people. But then again, I guess Tim would characterize anyone challenging his worldview as a mere union dupe, wouldn't he?

Uncommon Wisdom From The 'Common' People

That is the best way to assess the fact that last night, despite all of his gerrymandering, Dalton NcGuinty was decisively thwarted in his ruthless drive for the majority government he had been denied in the last general provincial election.

Thanks to the people of Kitchener-Waterloo, both he and the leader of the Official Opposition, young Tim Hudak of the Conservatives, are looking decidedly vulnerable today. A good analysis of that vulnerability can be found in Martin Regg Cohn's column in this morning's Star.

And just before I leave the topic of politicians who forget who they are elected to serve, I am reproducing a letter I came across yesterday in The Spectator. The observations made by the writer, Mark Kikot of Burlington, are ones that our arrogant political 'masters' would be wise to bear in mind the next time they contemplate the bald pursuit of power at the expense of the electorate.

McGuinty scapegoats public-sector workers

Premier Dalton McGuinty is demonstrating through his current strategy for dealing with the deficit that behaving like a conservative government is easier than being a liberal government, and that behaving like a corporation is easier than being a government.

Those Ontarians who have accepted the corporate mindset as the controlling metaphor in their lives, and the corporate structure as an inescapable reality, would argue that any responsible government should function like a business. Costs that cannot be sustained must be offset by cuts in order to produce a supposedly more efficient, hopefully more effective, and clearly more profit-driven organization; in other words, the ideal model for governance is the lean mean machine.

While any sensible person should acknowledge that we cannot continue to live beyond our means, any sensible person should also recognize that the debt incurred by a government must be shared by all the sectors of the society that that government represents.

By targeting primarily the public sector, and the educational sector in particular, in its attempt to balance the books, the McGuinty government has made scapegoats of those public sector workers who provide social services that improve the quality of life for all Ontarians. In adopting this politically convenient strategy, McGuinty has created the impression that the deficit is entirely an in-house problem, instead of a problem for which the private sector is also responsible. It is unreasonable and unjust to expect the deficit to be reduced almost exclusively at the expense of public sector employees who make on average much less than $100,000 a year, while private sector employees who make between $100,000 and $500,000 a year pay taxes at pre-deficit rates, and corporations continue to be granted privileged tax status in the hope that they will create jobs.

The McGuinty government in its bull-headed idiocy is moving forward with legislation that ignores the collective bargaining process and imposes working conditions, not negotiated contracts, on teachers and other educational workers. There can be no social contract without contractual agreements.

Mark Kikot, Burlington

Thursday, September 6, 2012

McGuinty's Gambit Fails

At least I can sleep well tonight.

The Latest on Lucene Charles

While I have written about her a couple of time in the past, the ordeal of Lucene Charles is not yet over.

Because she failed to complete the paperwork to achieve permanent residency status when she married a Canadian 15 years ago, the St. Vincent native, the mother of four children, three of whom were born in Canada, still faces deportation.

Charles is the kind of person we would hope to have in the neighborhood, a productive person who works for the betterment of her community. Employed full time as an assistant to an administrator at St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton, she was recently honoured as a YWCA Woman of Distinction in May for her extensive volunteer work.

Despite the fact that she would be an obvious asset to Canada, because of an oversight in paperwork, she faces being sent back to St. Vincent, an impoverished Caribbean island where three of her children, born in Canada, will go to for the first time if she cannot find adequate placement for them.

You can read the complete story here, and I will only offer the following observation:

I have come to the point in my life where I strongly believe that so many of the so-called rules (immigration-refugee rules, for example) should only be treated as broad guidelines, and that each situation has to be judged on its own merits, and by that I mean excluding considerations like whether a decision may set an undesirable precedent.

Decency and humanity, two of the surest criteria one can embrace, should and must be the only criteria.

Advice From the World's Richest Woman

Wow! Sounds like this Australian lady really made it 'the hard way'.

Dalton McGuinty: A Man Running Or On The Run?

I have to admit, I find the imagery extraordinarily pleasing.

Like a man on trial for criminal offences entering the courthouse via an underground passage to avoid the media glare, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty stole through the back door during a Wednesday evening stop at the campaign headquarters of Liberal lawyer Eric Davis, who is vying to give McGuinty his majority as he runs in the Kitchener-Waterloo byelection today.

Davis is trailing the NDP candidate badly, but that was not the reason for the premier's covert entrance. It was to avoid protesters out front angry at plans to privatize the Ontario Northland Transportation Corporation.

A photo showing an agitated electorate would not be consistent with the image the unflappable McGuinty likes to project of competent and trusted leadership.

It kind of reminds me of his school photo-op the other day, when he toured École élémentaire Pierre-Elliott-Trudeau, whose teachers belong to a union that has settled its contract. The potential for unwanted publicity would have been too great had he made an appearance at a school whose teachers are members of either the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario or the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, given that their collective bargaining rights are being stripped away by McGuinty's government.

It is a fact, among many others, I suspect the voters of Kitchener-Waterloo will keep in mind as they cast their ballots today.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

And Yet Another Threat To Beleaguered America

Folks, I merely report these things, as bizarre a commentary they are about our beleaguered American 'friends.' I do not make them up.

H/t Salon

Heather Mallick On The Insidious Nature Of Poverty

The older I get, the less patience I have with government that preaches an austerity that has a disproportionate impact on the poor. Of the right-wing rhetoric and mythology that all one has to do is to work hard to succeed, so evident in last week's Republican convention, I have absolutely no tolerance.

Our government and corporate leaders largely mouth a propaganda that results in a commodification of people as they go about insidiously destroying the sense of community that makes society tolerable, worthwhile, and at times noble.

This is why I was pleased to read Heather Mallick's column in this morning's Star, that is a poignant commentary on both the vulnerability of the poor and the fact that none of us is immune from the vicissitudes of life, no matter how we may think we have fortified ourselves against misfortune.

Thursday's Ontario Byelections -Updated

Compelling reasons to hope that Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty does not secure his majority government via Thursday's byelections:

The Ornge scandal, and his refusal to appear before the Legislative committee to explain his role in it.

The $180 million taxpayers are on the hook for because McGuinty cancelled the gas-fired power plant under construction in Oakville in order to win the seat during the last general election.

His use of bribery to persuade Tory Liz Witmer to vacate her seat in Kitchener-Waterloo so he could hold a byelection for her seat.

His unnecessary and politically-motivated legislation that has robbed Ontario teachers of their collective-bargaining rights.

The Premier has amply demonstrated, from the above and a myriad of other acts, that he neither deserves nor can be trusted with a majority government.

UPDATES: Apparently Mr. McGuinty's refusal to come clean at the Ornge committee hearings is contagious.

Also, it seems like I am not the only one who doesn't believe he should achieve a majority government via unnecessary byelections.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Yet Another Threat To America!

Judging by the discernment levels of many Americans, I guess this dire warning by washed-up action hero Chuck Norris and his wife about the threat to America posed by Obama's re-election will galvanize people:

Another Thing Americans Have To Worry About

Think how much worse things could be if guns killed people. But as we all know, thanks to the reassurance offered by the NRA, guns don't kill people; people kill people.

Propaganda From Vic Toews

There are two letters of particular note in this morning's edition of The Toronto Star, one a propaganda piece from our much beleaguered Minister of Public Safety, Vic Toews, the other from Ron Charach, who seems to possess a certain perspicacity in his assessment of the Conservative government.

I am reproducing both below, with a few editorial additions on my part to 'clarify' Mr. Toews' words:

Re: Priority is on marketing in Tory anti-crime agenda, Opinion Aug. 27

Our government’s crime legislation does not create new criminals. Rather, it keeps the most dangerous, violent and repeat offenders behind bars for longer periods of time.

FACT: The Omnibus Crime bill imposes a mandatory minimum sentence of nine months for anyone found growing six or more marijuana plants in a rented premises, and could impose the same sentence for someone caught simply sharing a joint, which might be considered trafficking, even if no money was paid.

Our Conservative government was given a strong mandate by Canadians to make our streets and communities safer. We make no apologies for putting the rights of law-abiding Canadians ahead of the rights of criminals.

FACT: Only 39.6 of those who cast votes did so for the Conservative Party

We will continue to implement laws, policies, and procedures that protect Canadian families while standing up for our most vulnerable citizens. That isn’t marketing. It’s the first duty of every government.

FACT: The Conservative government is not standing up for our most vulnerable citizens, who are threatened with increasing poverty, a major contributor to crime, through the loss of even more jobs thanks to the Canada-Columbia free trade pact. And, of course, informed opinion says that CETA and the Asia-Pacific free trade pact, currently being conducted in secret, will likely result in more of the same.

Vic Toews, Minister of Public Safety,(Hypocrisy) Ottawa


When it comes to what governments choose to call laws, there is no Truth in Advertising commission. If there were, C-69 would be the Soft on Ruger Miniis bill, C-38 would be the Gut the Environmental Laws bill and C-10 would be the Up the Incarceration Rate/ Private Prisons bill.

The abortive C-80, which should have cost Vic Toews his job, should have been the Stoop to Snoop bill.

These Father-knows-best Conservatives will protect us from Internet predators, but for the real thing, the Anders Breiviks and Marc Lepines of the world, we are essentially on our own.

I for one am not surprised that the Republicans are looking up at Canada these days and like the Republican-style, majority government we have going here, with plenty of omnibus bills to allow the Conservatives godspeed in reshaping Canada in their own image.

Ron Charach, Toronto

Monday, September 3, 2012

A Reminder From Homeland Security

The following video could be a source of real amusement were it not an ample testament to the paranoia of our friends to the south. Also a useful tool for inhibiting any sense of community, I would think.

And I'm sure that the fact that almost all of the 'terrorists' in the video have swarthy complexions is but a coincidence.

H/t Disinformation

A Labour Day Reminder

On this Labour Day, as we reflect on the current dire situation facing many in the workforce, it might be useful to spend a little time with this video in which Allan Greg Gregg talks to journalist Chris Hedges about his book, The Death of the Liberal Class, which exams how the corporate class has gained its dominance thanks to the desire of the 'liberal class' to share in its power. It is a book well-worth reading.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Why Fair Taxation Is Crucial

Now here is something everyone who wants to be well-informed should watch. Part of TVO's Big Ideas series, it is a talk entitled How Did Taxes Become a Bad Word? by Alex Himelfarb, Director of the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs at York University, former Clerk of the Privy Council, and fellow blogger.

Unlike the strident and largely irrational hysterics of the right who preach salvation through tax cuts, Himelfarb offers us a carefully reasoned argument about how to achieve greater equality and the kind of society that all of us, in our better moments, hope for.

I found him inspiring to watch.