Sunday, June 30, 2013

I Don't Know About You ...

... but despite our many earth-bound problems, I find this sort of thing absolutely fascinating:

Contrasting Pictures

This post could perhaps more aptly be entitled A Tale of Two Centuries. The top picture, from yesterday's Dyke March in Toronto, represents some of the best of the twenty-first century as people increasingy accept and welcome the diversity that is humanity. It is hard not to feel a measure of pride in a country that, while still beset with a myriad of problems, has been one of the world's forerunners in promoting equality regardless of sexual orientation. Both the Dyke Parade and today's Pride Parade are ample testaments to that progressiveness.

The second picture, taken from yesterday's Pride Parade in St. Petersburg, could just as easily have been taken in the nineteenth century or earlier, as protesters clashed with paraders who were taking a brave stance in a city where it is illegal to demonstrate on behalf of equal rights for LGBT people; by publicly doing so, they broke a city bylaw that is about to become national law.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will soon sign into law a bill that bans “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations.”

Under Russia’s new law, people who promote homosexuality through any media, including online, can be charged up to $3,200. The fines are tenfold for organizations, which can also be shuttered for 90 days.

According to state-owned pollster Vtsiom, 88 per cent of Russians support the ban. A survey by independent pollster Levada last year found that half of Russians believe homosexuals should be forcibly given medical or psychological treatment.

Changing people's attitudes and perspectives is among the most difficult of challenges. The fact that such challenges can be met is epitomized in twenty-first century Toronto in particular and North America in general.

In a world beset by runaway climate change, choking pollution, government surveillance of its citizens and a relentless and unforgiving corporate agenda that gleefully exploits an increasingly desperate workforce, surely it is time to turn our attention to matters more important than who people spend their time and their lives with.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Oh So True

H/t Canadians Rallying To Unseat Stephen Harper

The Age of the Disposable Worker

On this blog I frequently lament the fact that we live in the age of the fungible worker, the one who is easily exchanged for another should his or her expectations of decent wages and working conditions threaten to impede the flow of easy profits accruing to corporate coffers. It is happening abroad, an example evident in the declining fortunes of China, which has seen wages rising, resulting in multi-nationals shifting their production to lower-wage regimes; we see it in North America, with manufacturers closing up shop to relocate in jurisdictions with more lax labour regulations, the Caterpillar closing being one of the more recent and egregious examples in Canada.

But as bad as corporate indifference to workers' fates may be, there is an entirely distinct class of workers for whom Canada as a nation shows little but withering contempt: the migrant worker, the people we import from places like Jamaica, Mexico and the Dominican Republic, to do the work we refuse to do - agriculture labour such as picking tobacco and fruit and vegetables. As bucolic as such endeavours may sound, they are often fraught with danger, but even when the unthinkable happens, workers and their loved ones are not extended the kinds of protections that Canadians enjoy, an example being the right to inquests into deaths that occur on the job.

Such was the case with Ned Peart, a Jamaican worker brought to Ontario through the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program, [who] died in 2002 after a tobacco bin fell and crushed him at a farm near Brantford. When the Office of the Chief Coroner refused to hold an inquest, Mr. Peart’s family lodged a human-rights complaint in the hopes of catalyzing broader legislative reforms.

Watch the video below and see if you can avoid the natural distaste that arises when such obvious injustice occurs:

Friday, June 28, 2013

For Those Who Don't Mind Gov't Surveillance Because They Have Nothing To Hide

You might want to take a moment to read Rick Salutin's thoughts on the implications of living in a country where environmentalists and others who oppose the government's corporate agenda are regarded as terrorists.

As well, this Canadian Dimension piece might also give you pause.

A Rare Moment of Praise For The U.S.

Despite being deeply cynical about Amercian poltics in general, and Barack Obama in particular, a rare opportunity to praise both has just arisen. Although relatively modest in scope, in response to the terriblly unsafe working conditions in Bangladesh that have cost so many workers their lives and maimed countless others, the U.S government has moved to suspend Bangladesh’s special trading privileges to force that country to improve the situation.

Although the greatest source of these dangerous conditions is the clothing industry, it will, unfortunately, be only minimally affected by the suspension, for reasons explained here. Nonetheless, it is hoped the move will put pressure on both Canada and the EU to take appropriate measures to further 'encourage' the Bangladeshi government to clean up its act:

Since the April disaster, Canadian labour activists have tried to convince Ottawa to use its tariff program to force Bangladesh to improve safety and establish workers’ rights.

The pressure is now on Canada, said Hassan Yussuff, secretary-treasurer of the Canadian Labour Congress.

“I applaud the U.S. decision. I hope Canada and the EU follow,” Yussuff said from Ottawa.

Alas, such a hope, at least as it applies to Canada, appears to be a forlorn one. It would seen that Mr. Harper and his corporate handlers have never met a situation of desperate workers it has not tried to exploit, hence its fond embrace of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, its changes to E.I., its efforts to weaken unions domestically, etc. etc.

A finance ministry official told the Star that Canada is “concerned about working conditions in the global ready-made garment sector” and supports efforts to improve standards.


It does not appear Ottawa has any plans to follow the American lead, calling the move largely “symbolic” as it doesn’t apply to the garment industry.

No doubt Corporate Canada and Mr. Harper (separated at birth?) will soon unleash a torrent of rhetoric about constructive engagement through trade to improve the conditions of workers abroad. No doubt Galen Weston will continue with his sanctimonious rhetoric. And no doubt countless lives will continue to be lost in Bangladesh and elsewhere if no one else picks up where the Amertican example leaves off.


Who could have seen this coming?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Just Because ...

...he deserves all of the ridicule and contempt we can muster.

The Peripatetic Pamela

It would seem that the good Senator from somewhere, Pamela Wallin, is on the road so much that she has been denied health coverage in both Ontario and Saskatchewan, at least according to The Globe and Mail. This conflicts with a report in The Waterloo Record, which states that she has an Ontario health card, which is not necessarily such good news, given her senatorial claim of being a Sasatchewan resident.

What is a wily woman from Wadena (originally) to do? But then again, the question of health coverage may be the least of her problems.

But perhaps all of this pales in comparison to the problems her fellow provinceless Red Chamber mate, The Puffster, has caused for their common master, Mr. Harper, whose handling of the Senate imbroglio has left many decidedly unsatisfied.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

On Corporate Welfare

David Lewis, the one-time head of the federal NDP and father of Stephen Lewis, used the phrase corporate welfare bums in his 1972 federal election campaign to describe the various subsidies handed out to the corporate world. It was a withering jab at the world of business, so proud to trumpet the merits of unfettered capitalism while not too proud to take every bit of free money that government has to offer it.

Today, that concept has never been more relevant. Probably the most egregious example of corporate welfare will become apparent in the coming months as the rest of Canada ponies up to pay for the environmental devastation wrought in Alberta that is, in my mind, the direct result of climate change, change which the corporate world continues to deny, evident in its ongoing concerted effort to oppose any measures that might ameliorate its most devastating effects. Corporate Canada will be asked for nothing by the Harper regime, which will continue to lower its tax rates as soon as the deficit is eliminated.

The futility of corporate welfare is, I think, very nicely addressed in the lead letter appearing in this morning's Star as Morgan Duchesney of Ottawa points out the folly of lowering corporate tax rates and getting nothing in return:

Re: The Great Recession still lingers, June 22

Stephen Poloz, the newly minted governor of the Bank of Canada, is working hard to distance himself from former governor Mark Carney’s “dead money” warnings to corporate Canada. Does that mean that Poloz also approves lowering tax rates for non-investing Canadian corporations that happily ship jobs to low-wage destinations like China?

As former CEO of Export Development Canada, Poloz is an expert proponent of corporate welfare. As corporate Canada continues to avoid research and development investment while stridently demanding lower taxes, the regime of public subsidy for private profit continues unabated under the Harper government’s well-advertised Economic Action Plan. Such behaviour exemplifies the eternal mythology of the so-called free market.

Private sector investment could reasonably be left to corporate Canada if our industrial titans were not so addicted to public subsidy. Ongoing multi-billion-dollar tax breaks and outright grants to the energy sector are good examples of this public-risk- for-private-profit model. In spite of the cost to working people, stiff corporate resistance to investment remains strong, although this hesitation is categorized as “thrift” by the generous Poloz. There is every indication that the Harper government plans to reward Canadian corporations with further tax cuts in spite of their continued reluctance to invest their profits in necessary research and development.

Of course, our political leadership has little desire to take a hard line on the business elite, who are, after all, their funding source and future employers. The tired excuse about not wanting to punish “job creators and innovators” is a bit threadbare in light of abysmal levels of corporate investment in Canada.
If Canadian corporations are operating overseas while shifting profits to low-tax jurisdictions, exactly who is benefiting and just how “Canadian” are these companies if they employ foreigners and only benefit arms-length stockholders?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight

Many years ago I read a novel by Jimmy Breslin called The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight, which dealt with profound ineptitude within a certain New York mafia family. It would seem a worthwhile novel to revisit, now that there is a real-life gang operating in Ottawa that seems to have caught the incompetence bug. Once known as a tightly-focussed and disciplined cabal answering to a 'Mr. Big' at the top of the organization, the group has lately veered into a series of farcical errors that have substantially eroded its 'street-cred' and caused considerable restlessness amongst rank-and-file members.

You can read all about it via The Huffington Post and The National Post.

One wonders if a revival of the Ted Mack Amateur Hour can be far behind.

It's Never Enough, Is It?

Forget for the moment that McDonald's is one of the world's biggest corporations; forget for the moment that a steady diet of its food will likely shorten your life; forget for the moment that it is a minimum-wage employer whose workers make it possible for them to accrue their billions of dollars in annual profits.

Instead, just keep the following video and this story in mind the next time you stop by 'The Golden Arches'.

If you are sufficiently outraged by this egregious exploitation, please consider signing this petition.

Rather Apt, Don't You Think?

H/t The ChronicleHerald

Monday, June 24, 2013

Harper 'Stunned' By Magnitude of Alberta Flooding

I expect that climate-change denier Harper will be stunned with alarming regularity soon:

Shh! Don't Ask!

I have to confess to feeling a small measure of guilt each time I reproduce someone else's words with little editorializing on my part. Yet my ego is sufficiently robust to be able to acknowledge the fact that there are many others with views that merit space in this blog, views that are in many cases expressed more elequently and succinctly than mine.

Such is the following letter from today's Star by Judy Ward of Oshawa as she opines on CETA, about which I have written in the past. Ms Ward speaks for many as she strongly objects to the Harper cabal's obsession with keeping Canadians ignorant about a trade deal that could have devastating domestic effects:

Canada-EU trade deal is wishful thinking, Business June 20

We read day after day about our prime minister travelling about the world and talking free trade. Why doesn’t he talk to Canadians? He wants a free-trade pact with the EU. What is he planning to trade away in order to secure this agreement? Why doesn’t he let Canadians know what is on the table in these talks? We have a right to know.

It is rumoured that the EU wants to change our banking rules. Why? So we can end up like Spain or Greece or Portugal or Cyprus or even Ireland? It is also rumoured that if businesses didn’t like our rules they could sue us for loss of income.

But what frightens me is that our prime minister may be trading away our health care. We have a right to know what is on the table and health care should not in any way, shape or form be on the table. No hospitals, drugs or any aspect of health care should be bartered in the name of free trade.
The secrecy surrounding these talks is frightening. This information should be available to Canadians. We are the ones who have to live with the decisions made by the government. We have a right to know what its plans are. If the opposition parties know what is happening with these talks, then they should make it public.

This is the most secretive government I can ever recall. Tell us what is being bartered in these talks before an agreement is signed.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

If Woodward And Bernstein Were Dead

.... I'm sure there would be reports of seismic activity in the vicinity of their graves over this question asked of Glenn Greenwald by Meet the Press host David Gregory about the propriety of his bringing Edward Snowden's story to the world:

He Certainly Has Mr. Harper's Number

It is always heartening to me, and I am sure to countless others, to see that some members of the Canadian electorate are not asleep at the proverbial wheel but instead busy exercising their critical-thinking skills. Peter Dick of Toronto is one such citizen. Not content to blithely and blindly accept the official mythology that the Conservative government is an able manager of the economy, Mr. Dick, in today's Star, offers the following trenchant observations about a naked emperor and his entourage:

Re: Parliamentary session over for summer, but scandals still remain, June 20

Government House Leader Peter Van Loan continues to spout the Stephen Harper party line in Thursday’s Star, saying: “We’ve been working hard to strengthen our economy, create jobs and support Canadian families.” If only repeating this, ad nauseam, made it true! People outside the 1 per cent know how bad things are. Economies suffer and degrade when people don’t spend money, and people don’t spend money when they are unemployed, in a precarious job or making less than a living wage.

As long as Harper continues to create and support policies that export Canadian jobs, put downward pressure on Canadian salaries, weaken unions and destroy any semblance of job security, he is sabotaging the economy for us all. Add to this the deliberate degradation, rather than bolstering, of the Canada Pension Plan and employment insurance benefits, and you ensure that fewer and fewer Canadians have disposable income to spend. How strange that an “economics guy” like Harper does not make the connection between a precarious, low-paid workforce and a tanked economy. Harper’s policies contradict everything that comes out of his mouth, and your wallet already knows this. Vote accordingly.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Pam Sings The Blues

On this fine Friday evening, for those of you whose tastes tend toward the confessional genre, may I suggest this rendition of "Pam Sings The Blues"?

A critical caveat: Although the wailer from Wadena hits all of the right notes, her performance somehow leaves one with a vague but abiding dissatisfaction.

Government Would Never Abuse Its Authority, Would It?

You decide.

Let's All Be Good, Quiescent Citizens, Eh?

It is no secret that this country, under the 'leadership' of the Harper cabal, has suffered a significant loss of democratic freedoms reflected in the abuse of and contempt for parliamentary procedure, the subversion of senate inquiries, the muzzling of civil servants, and the extollment of opacity in place of transparency (anyone made a freedom of information request lately?) to name but four 'crimes' of the government. A new threat, of which I have already briefly written twice, is the new law, Bill C-309, which makes it a crime punishable by up to ten years in prison to wear a mask during a riot (cue the misdirection here) or an 'unlawful assembly'. It is the latter stipulation that should be of concern to all of us.

First, what constitutes an unlawful assembly? It would seem that it is in the eye of the beholder. The Criminal Code defines it this way:

"An unlawful assembly is an assembly of three or more persons who, with intent to carry out any common purpose, assemble in such a manner or so conduct themselves when they are assembled as to cause persons in the neighbourhood of the assembly to fear, on reasonable grounds, that they will disturb the peace tumultuously; or will by that assembly needlessly and without reasonable cause provoke other persons to disturb the peace tumultuously."

You can see that one of the problems here is the rather subjective nature of an unlawful assembly, the determination of which would ultimately fall to the authoriteis on site to make. For example, if a group of people, without a permit, assemble to loudly and very publically protest, for example, environmental degradation, and one of them, because he/she fears retaliation from an employer, dons a disguise, if the authorities call it an ulawfual assembly, that person is potentially facing a very protracted period of incarceration.

Are people who might be present at a current protest in Westover over Enbridge plans to pump tar sand crude to Montreal but don't want to run afoul of employers thereby deterred from this 'unlawful assembly'? Those who embrace the corporate agenda would doubless be hearted by such deterrence; those who can think beyond the bottom line, not so much.

While the author of the bill, Conservative M.P. Blake Richards has insisted that the law is necessary for dealing with protesters "pre-emptively,", Osgoode Hall Law School Professor James Stribopoulos [has] pointed to the possible "chilling effects" posed by making it unlawful to disguise one’s identity at a protest, say to prevent against reprisals from your boss or coworkers, or to avoid facial recognition software.

Given that existing law already makes it an offence to wear a mask during the commission of a crime, some are suggesting the new law will not withstand a constitutional challenge. Writes the Huffington Post's Marni Soupcoff:

The problem with the new law is that it threatens to chill the political and social activities of completely innocent people -- or to land them in jail for doing nothing more serious than trying to stay anonymous. What if a .... particularly creative environmentalist wanted to make a point at an anti-oil sands demonstration by wearing a handmade sludge-covered duck mask?

Can the government really get away with this level of intimidation, dampening, and punishment of public demonstrations... Not if the Charter's protections of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly mean anything. Which is why I hope the new law will be challenged in court -- and soon. It deserves more serious constitutional scrutiny than it has been afforded, and it deserves more outrage too. Canada should not feel comfortable joining the ranks of Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia -- countries (none of them exactly known for their respect of civil liberties) that have ... recently banned Guy Fawkes masks.

So the choice becomes a very basic one: Will we play the role of the quiescent citizen that coroporate/governmental interests are so avidly casting for? Or do we think that democracy is something well-worth vigourously fighting for and defending?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

I'm Sure It Is Just A Coincidence ...

...but if I were paranoid, I might see a connection between this and this.

Hope He Has A Restful Summer

Wondering if the rotund Senator from somewhere has made his annual pilgramage to P.E.I. yet. In any event, the Cavendish Cottager (as The Disaffected Lib refers to him) should not travel too far afield, as the RCMP may have some questions for him soon. As reported in The Ottawa Citizen, the federal force

...appears to have broadened its investigation into Senator Mike Duffy’s expense claims by obtaining campaign records from 11 Conservative candidates from the last election.

The exhibit report filed in court lists campaign returns and “expense claims and payment documents related to Mike Duffy from the following candidates.” It lists current Conservative MPs Gerald Keddy, Greg Kerr, John Carmichael, and Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver. The list appears to be comprised of candidates who Duffy promoted during the 2011 election campaign, when he visited ridings across the country on behalf of Tory candidates.

One does not want to jump to the conclusion that The Puffster was double-dipping, claiming both per diems from the Senate and expenses from the canadidates; no, one definitely doesn't want to impute fraud on a man who apparently exists in a such a state of confusion that where he lives is one of life's more profound mysteries.

That would be cruel indeed.

A New Transparency For Harper?

Sometimes the truth can be ugly indeed.

H/t Canadians Rallying To Unseat Harper

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Harper Government Finds Another Way To Stifle Dissent

Wearing a mask at an 'unlawful' assembly (example, spontaneous demonstration) now carries a maximum 10-year-prison term, thanks to Bill C-309, a private member's bill sponsored by Conservative MP Blake Richards which became law today.

No word yet on any bills making it unlawful for police to conceal their identities by removing badges while attending such events.

Delusional Or Just Cynical About The People He 'Represents'? Updated

Take a look at this and decide what is going on in the mind of Trevor Zinck, the disgraced MLA from Nova Scotia who pleaded guilty to embezzling money from the public purse through fraudulent claims but somehow thinks he should retain his seat.

Perhaps he has been looking to the Senate for his inspiration?

UPDATE: Seems like the lad just came to his senses.

Moral Bankruptcy And Strategic Errors

Like the morally bankrupt coward that he is, our Prime Prevaricator, Stephen Harper, recently made another ham-fisted attempt to discredit Justin Trudeau (a man, by the way, who does not especially impress me.) Given his general contempt for the intelligence of the majority of Canadians, it probably seemed like a good idea at the time to have his office 'leak' the story of a money-losing speaking engagement by Trudeau at Georgian College.

The information, offered on the condition that the PMO not be identified as the source, backfired on the increasingly desperate Conservatives, as you will see below. The Harper cabal's biggest miscalculation, it seems, is that it didn't count on a quality virtually non-existent within its own ranks, personal and professional integrity:

As usual, our national embarrassment, Harper, refused to answer questions about this tawdry affair while at The G8.

BTW, if you don't think that sheer moral bankruptcy is sufficient explanation for recent Tory ineptitude in its dirty tricks deployment, The Star's Susan Delacourt has an alternative view.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Lesson in Democracy from Brazil - Updated

Although I do not condone violence in any form, if you read the accompanying story you will see what happens when the citizens of a country feel strongly about something, in this case their opposition to the £10 billion being spent in preparation for the World Cup next year in Brazil. Can you imagine how our politicians would respond to such widespread expressions of discontent?

And then there is this, by Carla Dauden:

UPDATE: Of course, confronting the abuse of authority always entails a price, doesn't it?

Police pepperspray lone bystander

An Alleged Con Speaks About A Con

Thanks to Alison at Creekside for this and, of course, her ever-growing Harper's Parade of Perps.

Resettlement Plan For Harper's Cronies

H/t The ChronicleHerald

Monday, June 17, 2013

What The Harper Oil Enthusiasts Don't Want You To Think About

This and this:

Dear, Dear, Dear, Dear Me

Lordy, I see young Tim Hudak is hurling those sticks and stones again. Won't that boy ever try acting like a grown man?

And Speaking Of Contempt For Democracy ...

Does anyone remember this gem from 2011 when Mr. Harper essentially said that parliamentary democracy is of absolutely no consequence?

H/t Citizens Rallying To Unseat Harper

David Suzuki On Harper's Contempt For Democracy

David Suzuki has a thought-provoking essay in today's Globe and Mail that also serves as an excellent precis of some of the things the Harper government would like us to forget, including its promotion of ignorance/contempt for factual data, its demonization of environmentalists, its arrant hypocrisy, and its general contempt for voices that express disagreement with its ideology.

I hope you will read it and disseminate it widely; constant reminders of this cabal's war on democracy and informed discussion will be, I think, crucial, if we are to have a chance of ousting it in 2015.

Who Will Give Us Hope?

I recently wrote a post on the ailing Nelson Mandela and why he is so important a world figure. Last Friday Gerald Caplan wrote a piece in the Globe entitled The world will be poorer without Nelson Mandela. I hope you will take the time to read his thoughts on the importance of this iconic figure, a man of whom I think it would be appropriate to borrow Hamlet's tribute to his father and say, I shall not look upon his like again.

Caplan's last paragraph, which I am reproducing below for your consideration, sums up for me both the hope Mandela inspires and the despair over the realization that it is unlikely someone of his singular moral force will ever again grace our fractured landscapes:

I suppose it’s too much to hope there can ever be another Mandela. But could we not come just a little bit closer? Is there not one prepared to dedicate her or his life to the eternal struggle for social justice and equality? Is it too much to ask whether some, or even a few, or maybe just one, of today’s leaders might not look at this man and wonder what could be learned from his singular life? Or maybe the truth is that, revere him as we do, we won’t really know how much we have lost until we have to face the world without him.

Summertime, And The Livin is Easy (For Some)

H/t The Toronto Star

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Is Our Freedom More Illusion Than Reality?

That is a question you may be prompted to ask yourself after reading this piece by Kevin Logan and watching the video below. Described therein are the measures and efforts designed to realize what I suspect is Mr. Harper's fondest dream: a compliant, unquestioning, 'disciplined' and very passive populace, not surprisingly the same goal of the corporate agenda.

A Grim Reminder Of Who Is Leading Our Country

It's a dreary rainy morning in my part of the country, so this rather grim reminder of present political realities seems appropriate if one is familiar with the notion of pathetic fallacy.

H/t Scott Monette

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Heroes and Villains

There is little doubt in my mind that the economic chaos defining the lives of millions of people is intentional, not just so their labour can be exploited as cheaply as possible, but also because desperate citizens make for compliant and disciplined drones. Historically, it has usually been thus, with the elites calling the shots while the rest scramble for meager existences, through no fault of their own other than their place in the embryo lottery.

When you are in a position of economic security, it is much easier to follow the corporate/political intrigue that continues to debase our democracy and degrade our humanity. Unfortunately, that position of security is constituted by an increasingly small segment of the non-elite population.

So if your life isn't consumed by trying to simply keep body and soul together, you might find some articles on Edward Snowden of real interest, especially given the questions that they raise about what limits should exist in a democracy, and whether people living in a putative democracy have the right to know whether they are being spied upon en masse:

Why Edward Snowden, NSA whistleblower, is more hero than traitor by Tony Burman.

Edward Snowden is messenger, not message by Heather Mallick.

In praise of Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden by Rick Salutin.

And from the man who brought Snowden's revelations to the world, On Prism, partisanship and propaganda by Glenn Greenwald.

Friday, June 14, 2013

"I Take Full Responsibility"

There, Pam Wallin said it, and like all politicians who trot out what has become but a tired platitude, she would now like all of us to tune in to another channel. (How about we devote ourselves to really serious matters, like that dastardly Mulcair showing such flagrant contempt for all that is holy?)

Those who are strongly constituted can watch the wayward woman from Wadena justify herself in an interview with Peter Mansbridge. (I confess I have not worked up to watching it yet - wonder if Peter asks her about her strategy in recently resigning two board memberships). Those whose patience with politically-motivated patter is limited can instead watch the clip that follows the interview in which the At Issue Panel offers a brief assessment of the good senator's 'performance'.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Cry Me A River? Updated

Can't help but wonder if this is a salvo in the Conservative battle to undermine the credibility and legitimacy of Elections Canada, given the recent and past party 'indiscretions' that have come to the attention of that body.

UPDATE: It seems the weepy Del Maestro recovered his equilibrium sufficiently to launch this cowardly attack (protected by parliamentary privilege) on one of the witnesses against him in his overspending scandal.

But MacKay Is A Man of His Word, Isn't He?*

So I am sure there is nothing to get alarmed about with this revelation.

* Well, I suppose some would disagree.

Why Is Harper So Fervent About Free Trade?

Much has been written about the Harper government's obsession with concluding a variety of trade deals; probably one of the most worrisome in terms of its implications for Canadian sovereignty, jobs, environmental protection and culture is the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) that Canada is pursuing with the European Union, about which I have written previously.

As reported in the news today, Harper has just addressed both British Houses of Parliament advocating for it:

“It remains our hope that we will soon achieve a comprehensive economic and trade agreement with the European Union, Canada’s second-largest trading partner after the United States,” Harper said.

“For Canada, and for Great Britain as a member of the EU, this will be a historic step — a monumental one, in fact: A joint Canada-EU study has shown that a commercial agreement of this type would increase two-way trade by twenty per cent.

But like so much else about the cabal that currently rules us, I believe there is an underlying truth about Harper's fervour that his rhetoric seeks to obscure. The fact is that such deals, while they will open up new markets for business and thus help to fatten corporate coffers, will also make it easier for those very same corporations to continue to ignore their responsibility to create good-paying jobs in Canada.

Consider an obvious truth. In the old days, there was an understanding, a 'social contract' if you will, that good profits and good jobs went hand-in-hand. Pay your workers a good wage and they will buy your products. That premise, many would argue, has steadily eroded with freer trade, with job losses outpacing job creation, and a growing gap in inequality within Canada.

It is no secret that the middle class is dwindling, the same middle class that used to buy the bulk of goods and services produced domestically. Now, however, with outsourcing and the steady erosion of domestic manufacturing, that domestic market has shrunk. But it doesn't have to be that way.

In today's Star, Jonathan Power has a piece about the rapid growth of prosperity in the developing world. One of the most important observations he makes is the following:

The most important engine of growth of the developing South is their own domestic markets. The middle class is growing at a pace like never before. Within a dozen years the South will account for three-fifths of the 1 billion households earning more than $20,000 a year. Between 1990 and today, the South’s share of the world’s middle-class population expanded from 28 per cent to 58 per cent. Even in the poorer parts of India or Africa, mobile phones, motorbikes and contraceptives are fairly common. Phone sales are up to a cumulative 600 million in Africa — and climbing fast.

So, of course, these emerging markets are much coveted by the corporate agenda, further relieving them of their former 'burden' of job creation in order to expand their profits. And while the corporate press will continue to promote the propaganda of freer trade prosperity, we would all be wise to bear in mind that the prosperity it talks about is not to be found domestically, as they would have us believe, but rather, offshore.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Suggestion For Kellie Leitch - UPDATE

She may be a lost cause, but I have a suggestion for Harper enthusiast/Simcoe Grey Conservative M.P. Kellie Leitch, about whom I have written previously on this blog. The former medical doctor turned defender of the indefensible, who is one of a series of rotating trained seals spokespeople for her dear leader, would be well-advised to read this letter about speaking truth to power from Lee Gold of Toronto:

Re: MP Brent Rathgeber leaves Conservative fold over lack of accountability, June 7

I thought we would never see the day when a member of the so-called Conservative party spoke truth to power. Finally, someone within Harper's own party could no longer stand the status quo.

Finally, someone within this big, diverse country objected to the dictatorship of the man at the top. A prime minister's job is to represent Canadians, all of them, and not just himself and narrow business interests.

To do that you have to listen and let people speak. But Stephen Harper does not. Diverse voices are not heard even within his own caucus. The only voices he hears are holdovers from the ruinous Mike Harris years in Ontario. Everyone else is silenced.

We owe a debt of gratitude to Brent Rathgeber for finally naming what the rest of us have seen so clearly. But, of course, it gets coverage and has more credibility when it comes from within.

Let's hope the other “trained seals” step out of their comfort zones, stick up for their country and desert the current dictatorship.

UPDATE: I see Ms. Leitch continued to show her party fealty today, as she 'addressed' concerns levelled by Mark Eyking, the Liberal MP for Sydney-Victoria, that the federal government is denying the E.I. appeals of fishermen in Bay St. Lawrence, Nova Scotia.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Why Mandela Is So Important

Although I have only made reference to him three other times in this blog, Nelson Mandela is a person who I revere like no other. And of course, I am hardly alone in that sentiment, attested to by the fact that millions of people, not only in South Africa but around the world, are in a state of anxiety over his latest hospitalization.

But in frail health at the age of 94, hospitalized yet again with a stubborn lung affection many attribute to his 27 years of incarceration, most of it on Robben Island off the coast of Cape Town, where he contracted tuberculosis, it is unlikely that Mandela will be with us much longer.

Why is the world so reluctant to let him go? I can think of no other world figure who will be as mourned upon death as Mandela will be, and for some fairly obvious but crucially important reasons:

He is, without question, a man of outstanding character and deep morality. Not only did he show the courage of his convictions against apartheid by remaining in prison for 27 years (he could have been freed much earlier had he renounced the African National Congress), but upon release, when ordinary people would have been consumed by bitterness over that suffering and the lost years, he went on to become the President of South Africa and led the way to reconciliation with, not revenge against those who had treated him and his fellow blacks so abominably over the decades.

In doing so, Mandela held up a mirror to all of us, showing the potential that resides deep within and discoverable if we are willing to do the work that that entails. He taught us, political and corporate culture notwithstanding, that we are much more than mere fodder for that thing called the economy, that we have an innate dignity and a worth current propaganda would gladly deny.

Mandela showed us that we do not have to defined and circumscribed by our circumstances, that transcendence is possible.

I suspect that current rulers, both domestic and international, would like us to ignore those glimpses of our better angels that Mandela's life has afforded us. Those glimpses might lead to other things, like an expectation that those we elect put the people and their dignity before the exultation of corporate forces. They might demand that government not move in lockstep with those forces who see, not human dignity but only human fodder, mere fungible commodities to feed the machine in its quest for never-ending growth.

People might also begin to expect character from those they elect, not the subterfuge, not the opacity, not the arrant greed which have been mainstays of so many so-called democracies, not the least of all our own in Canada. They might demand real integrity, not a manufactured image, to define those who ask for our trust. They might demand real accountability.

I suspect our rulers would like us to ignore the lessons in life and humanity that Mandela's example has given us. Better for them if we continue upon our frightened and frequently insensate path, either disciplined by the ever-present fear of job loss or anodized by the latest in reality programming that invites us to mock our fellow human beings, the latest fashions, the latest technological marvels.

We are, of course, free as in the many opportunities that life presents to either ponder and learn from or ignore the truths that the long existence of Nelson Mandela has provided us with.

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.

Nelson Mandela

Monday, June 10, 2013

John Spong Talks About Religion

I have been doing a great deal of reading about religion over the past few years, and although I rarely allude to it in my blog, I have a deep conviction that our existence here is but a small part of a much greater reality. Writers like John Spong, Marcus Borg, and Harvey Cox have helped me to grow out of what I consider the childish and superstitious notions of religion that the professional atheists (Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens) find so easy to mock and dismiss into a more nuanced appreciation of what we call God.

Here is a brief clip of John Spong articulating some of that perspective:

And In Case You think Canada's Fingers Are Clean...

Last evening I wrote a brief post about Edward Snowden, the brave young man who has made public the fact of extensive domestic surveillance in the United States that all its citizens should be concerned about, yes, even those whose reflexive response to such outrages is, "If you've got nothing to hide, why be concerned?"

This morning comes news that our Indefensible Defence Minister, Peter MacKay, approved a secret electronic eavesdropping program that scours global telephone records and Internet data trails – including those of Canadians – for patterns of suspicious activity.

As reported in The Globe and Mail, the program, which originated in secret under the Paul Martin Liberals in 2005, was reinstituted in November of 2011 following a lengthy hiatus after a federal watchdog agency raised concerns that it could lead to warrantless surveillance of Canadians.

I am sure that, just as Barack Obama is defending the American violations of basic civil liberties as necessary to fight terror, our government, should it rouse itself to address the issue here, will offer similar meaningless reassurances. And if that doesn't quell the voices of dissent which I hope loudly arise, it can always resort to the things it does best: vilification, denigration and calumny heaped upon those who dare think for themselves.

Perhaps, as the Sixth Estate suggested in a post last week, people don't care anymore about privacy loss. But maybe, just maybe, enough will see the implications of such widespread spying for what it is: a wholly unjustifiable and massive abuse of our essential rights as citizens.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Another Portrait In Integrity

While Edward Snoden will undoubtedly be portrayed in the days and weeks to come as a traitor to his country, his courageous revelation of the domestic spying that the NSA is engaged in earns my admiration. Not only has he demonstrated his personal courage and convictions by his willingness to be publicly named, he has also shown for those who have any lingering doubts that, despite his high-flown rhetoric, U.S. President Barack Obama is a complete fraud in portraying himself as a moderating agent of change:

Says Snowden:

"I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions," but "I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant."

For Your Sunday Reading Pleasure ...

Whether or not you live in Ontario, you may find Martin Regg Cohn's column of some interest in illustrating the fractured and uneven relationship that Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has with the provinces. Writing in the voice of Ontario residents responding to Flaherty's finger-wagging over the MetroLinx proposal to raise the HST one point to help meet the GTHA's transit needs, he observes,

Your latest letter takes federal-provincial pugilism to a new level of aggression — lecturing and hectoring [Ont. Finance Minister] Sousa by telling him what he already knows: That he cannot create a regional GTA sales tax, a tax he has neither imposed nor proposed.

He goes on to point out Flaherty's hypocisy as well as his intransigence in meeting with his provincial counterpart to discuss federal involvement in addressing transit funding, once more underscoring the rather limited 'skill-set' (divide and conquer seems to be their default position) the Conservative Party of Canada brings to the table in federal-provincial relations.

All in all, a rather good piece of writing to enjoy on a Sunday morning.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Wheels of G20 Justice Move Very Slowly

Although I have written countless posts about the abrogation of charter rights and myriad instances of police brutality that occured in Toronto during the infamous G20 weekend in 2010, the story never seems to be over.

This past week saw one officer acquitted in the assault of Dorian Barton; Glenn Weddell was found not guilty of aggravated assault and assault with a weapon by Ontario Superior Court Justice M. Gregory Ellies based on Wedell's testimony that he initially did not even remember any interaction with Barton, but after reviewing images of the event recalled that he merely helped Barton up from the pavement by his T-shirt and guided him clear of police lines.

This 'memory' stood in sharp contrast to that of Andrew Wallace, a hospital worker also taking pictures of the protest, [who] said he saw Weddell emerge from a line of riot police to viciously hit Barton with his shield and baton, completely without provocation.

Another man, Adam Nobody, testified to similar mistreatment this week; he was, again apparently without provocation, beset upon by five or six officers who pinned him to the ground and pummelled him repeatedly. Police lawyer Harry Black, who is defending Const. Babak Andalib-Goortani against charges of assaulting Nobody with a weapon, his nightstick, made the predictable attempts to impugn Nobody's character and veracity, but the latter remained calmly consistent in his testimony.

In another development,

A court has ruled Ontario’s police watchdog must re-examine a complaint about orders given during the G20 summit by the upper command of Toronto police — allegedly including Chief Bill Blair — to arrest anyone wearing bandanas or masks.

Jason Wall, who filed the complaint, was wearing a brown bandana around his neck when he was arrested on June 27, 2010, while walking on Yonge St. near Gerrard St.

Wall, 26, was charged with wearing a disguise with intent and held for 28 hours in the Eastern Ave. prisoner processing centre.

Finally, and probably the most cowardly and disgraceful act of the entire weekend of police abuse involved John Pruyn, the man who was in the so-called 'official protest zone' at Queens Park with his wife and daughter when, inexplicably, police charged the area, ripped off Pruyn's leg, appropriated his walking sticks, and hauled him off to detention for 24 hours. He received his leg back upon release.

While the link to the Star article doesn't seem to be working, I will tell you what he wants: an official apology by the police officers involved in the abuse, "their boss, Chief Bill Blair, and their ultimate boss, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, that they were wrong to treat him that way."

So far, and unsurprisingly, none of the above has indicated any interest in acknowledging Pruyn's request.

Perhaps all should be reminded of the old adage: Pride goeth before the fall.

Cheques and Balances

I guess they really are the key to maintaining both fiscal and democratic health.

But to ensure such a salutary state, people need to get their 'narratives' straight. Perhaps they need some outside assistance?

Friday, June 7, 2013

"Part Of It's Just Human Decency"

That's Emily Cohn explaining the 'revolutionary' philosophy driving Costco's profits:

H/t Tyna MCNair

Where's Wallin('s Home)?

Perhaps the peripatetic Pamela is simply a tad confused?

PMO Slush Funds, Defecting Tories, The Prime Prevaricator's Diction And Deflection Tactics

These are the main topics discussed on last night's At Issue panel:

BTW, Parliament rises in about a week. I hope the weather for Harper and his many enablers continues to be hot and uncomfortable, with heavy storms in the fall.

In Praise of Political Cartoonists

Where would we be without their pithy insights?