Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Getting Out Of Dodge

The Marshall (aka my wife) has spoken. We're getting out of Dodge for a week and heading to warmer climes.

I've sent the comment button on automatic. See you soon.

A Refreshing Perspective

For the first time in decades, I feel a modicum of optimism about organized religion. The new Pope, Francis, is breaking the centuries-long stultification of the Church through the kinds of pronouncements that reflect its founder's beliefs and are long overdue. But with views like these, in which he lacerates the conventional wisdom about capitalism, I can only hope that he has a trusted taster for both his food and his drink.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Harper Lies: The Dismal Truth About Corporate Tax Evasion

My friend Gary recently alerted me to this, which should sicken all Canadian citizens. It is a story of corporate greed, massive amounts of lost tax revenues, and a government that aids and abets both. After viewing it, be sure to read the missive from Star letter-writer Robert Bahlieda that follows, and think about it when you hear the empty rhetoric from the Harper cabal about its 'tough on crime' agenda:

Recently, a Global TV investigative report on offshore tax havens indicated that as much as $20 billion of uncollected taxes are owed by major Canadian corporations and other wealthy individuals who employ these tax loopholes to evade/avoid taxes in Canada.

To add insult to injury these same individuals are given generous tax credits for moving their businesses offshore, leading many corporations like Gildan and the Toronto-Dominion Bank to pay little or no taxes year after year while making millions and billions in profits. This is not new — it has been going on for decades and there are thousands of companies doing this.

In effect, the Canadian government is subsidizing Canadian companies for moving jobs offshore to other countries, killing jobs in Canada and raising everyone else’s taxes in the process while implementing austerity measures here to supposedly stimulate the economy.

The final insult is all this is legal. While federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty talks a good game on tax cheats, it appears he has intentional blindness about these egregious abuses of his own tax policy and no interest in pursuing his corporate friends.

Even more disturbing is the complete lack of interest and deafening silence on this important issue by government, business, academia or the public and particularly the media as indicated by the recent headlines. The antics of Rob Ford, senators like Mike Duffy who have evaded a few thousand dollars or selected abuses by a few nursing homes are deemed to be a more salacious and newsworthy headline than $20 billion in missing tax money owed by the corporate elite of Canada.

The self-righteous opposition parties are also silent on this issue. Better not to bite the hand that feeds them. Academics and economists who regularly opine on the abuses of unions have nothing to say about this unrealized multi-billion dollar tax windfall.

The massive amount of money owed by these upstanding Canadian tax cheats is a serious issue and should be top of the agendas of all in Canadian society. It is unfair, unjust and illegal despite what the tax law says. These “loopholes” (a polite term for legal corporate tax fraud) are quietly put in place and ignored by governments of all stripes to maintain their cozy relationships with powerful big business interests who have them in their hip pockets.

This is how capitalist democracy works. Powerful special interests lobby the government to get special treatment that ensures they remain powerful special interests. Meanwhile we prevaricate about increasing the Canada pension by a niggling amount or introducing a Guaranteed Income Supplement that would massively reduce social support costs in the long run, saving taxpayers additional billions.

Capitalist economics isn’t about making democracy work better, its about making it work better for the select few. Let’s start getting angry and take action on things that really matter in this world and relegate Rob Ford and the Senate scandal to the comics section.

Robert Bahlieda, Newmarket

Monday, November 25, 2013

In His Master's Voice?

I didn't realize that John Baird and Benjamin Netanyahu were so close:

The 2:20 mark especially shows their affinity:

"I Know Nothing"

It seems I am not the only one to have connected the dots between Harper and Sgt Schultz:

RCMP allege PMO played greater role, Nov. 21

Quoting from this news item, “On Wednesday, (Stephen) Harper repeatedly told the Commons the RCMP had found ‘no evidence’ he knew of the Wright repayment plan.” I am reminded of Sgt. Schultz (of Hogan’s Heroes) who frequently claimed: “I know nothing.”

Jaggi Tandan, Hamilton

Sunday, November 24, 2013

But I Save so Much Money Shopping There!

For the true cost of those bargains that we all slavishly delight in (cue Pavlov's dog), you might want to read this article about Walmart workers and watch the video below. As well, a recent post by Dr.Dawg is instructive.

No Disagreement Here

H/t The Toronto Star

And a Toronto Star reader weighs in on the issue:

Re: RCMP investigating Nigel Wright, PM says, Nov. 20

If Prime Minister Stephen Harper didn’t know about illegal payments being made to Senator Mike Duffy (as he has claimed on numerous occasions) he doesn’t deserve to be in the office. We have a disgraced mayor in Toronto. Harper is a disgrace to Canada.

David C. Lawton, Sutton

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Small Story, But With Large Implications

To be sure, it is a short piece in the part of the newspaper that many readers tend to gloss over, page two. The title, Bangladesh garment workers’ minimum wage boosted, leads one to feel that finally there is a small bit of justice for workers in an industry that has cost so many lives and inflicted so much suffering on woefully underpaid garment workers.

The story reveals that the government of Bangladesh has approved an increase in the monthly minimum wage for entry-level garment industry workers to 5,300 taka ($72 Canadian) from 3,000 taka (about $40). However, the part that gave me pause, the part that spoke volumes about the relationship that exists between companies like Walmart, Joe Fresh and Benetton and the factory owners was this: ... factory owners ... said they would ask retailers to shoulder part of the costs (of the raise).

As we all know, it is common practice in the first world that when production costs go up, those costs are passed on to customers. The fact that the owners in Bangladesh can only express the hope for normal marketplace forces really places scrutiny on all of the big names in retailing to see if their past expressions of sympathy for the plight of garment workers are anything more than sanctimonious platitudes.

Indeed, now is a fine opportunity for Benetton, Joe Fresh, Walmart, etc. to show their true colours.

Friday, November 22, 2013

At Issue: Harper's Obfuscation

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary offers the following definition of obfuscate: to make obscure; to confuse. As an intransitive verb, it means to be evasive, unclear, or confusing.

I suspect that those engaged citizens following the details of the Senate scandal that continues to dog the Prime Minister and shows no sign of abatement would agree that both forms of the verb apply to the sad Nixonian performance of Stephen Harper and his operatives. During both Parliament's Question Period and TV interviews with the likes of his Parliamentary Secretary, Paul Calandra, the refrain is always the same: "I told Mr. Duffy to repay his inappropriate expenses," and "This was a secret deal between Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy."

As his channeling of Sgt Schultz grows increasingly predictable and tiresome, his credibility (if he really has any) diminishes proportionally. And yet to call the Prime Minister a liar would be unseemly for journalists, so euphemisms abound. Last night's At Issue Panel on The National offers some good examples; the discussion also leaves one with the very real sense of Andrew Coyne's barely contained disgust with the Prime Minister:

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Plausible Deniability?

After watching the Prime Minister's ongoing repetitive and wholly unconvincing responses to Thomas Mulcair's incisive questions during Question Period, and after reading the latest details of the RCMP investigation into the scandal engulfing his government, I couldn't help but wonder if Stephen Harper, as a youngster, was unduly influenced by Hogan's Heroes and perhaps identified with the always charming Sgt Schultz:

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Some Low-Hanging Fruit - UPDATED

Feeling singularly uninspired this morning, I offer a tidbit of the obvious: 'Ford Nation,' that much vaunted segment of the population that stands by their man no matter what, is under-educated and from lower-income backgrounds. Since I am not one of those that the Fords and their right-wing fellow travellers like to contemptuously characterize as 'the elites,' I will quickly add that those two facts do not in themselves qualify them for membership in the PSC (Profoundly Stupid Club). However, their unwavering support of the big boy and his brother, no matter what outrages they commit, no matter what levels of ridicule they invite upon the city of Toronto, perhaps does.

A story in this morning's Star reveals some interesting information about Ford Nation based on data from a poll conducted Nov. 7-11 by John Wright, senior vice president at Ipsos Public Affairs:

His first surprise was that Ford Nation — defined as those who will vote for Ford no matter what — for the most part don’t live in Etobicoke.

In fact, Ford only enjoys 16 per cent support in Etobicoke, the same level of backing he has downtown.

The mayor is most popular in York and East York, where 30 per cent of voters say they’d support him. Next comes Scarborough, with 27 per cent, and North York, with 22 per cent.

Perhaps the following facts speak for themselves:

- They are predominantly people with lower-income and lower education levels. Some 44 per cent of respondents who don’t have a high school diploma support Ford

- People who make less than $40,000 per year are twice as likely to be part of Ford Nation than those who make $100,000 or more

- Some 22 percent of respondents aged 18-34 still support Ford, as do 24 per cent of those over 55. Only 20 per cent of voters in the 35-44 age bracket support Ford.

The data clearly indicate that while support for Ford is not the exclusive domain of the young, the uneducated and the working poor, they do comprise the majority of his backers.

Draw what conclusions you will.

UPDATE: Jeffrey Simpson has an interesting piece in The Globe on the many contradictions inherent in Ford Nation's ongoing support of their idol.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What If

....everything you thought you knew about our democracy was an illusion? The following video, made before the last U.S. election and directed toward an American audience, will doubtlessly resonate with Canadians who despair of our current state:

On The Perils Of Retirement

As a retiree, I occasionally think that maybe I have too much time on my hands - too much time to follow politics, especially its more sordid aspects which, sadly, seem to define almost all politics today. National, provincial and municipal affairs appear beset with a kind of self-indulgence and selfishness (perhaps the two are synonymous) that, I believe, is wreaking havoc on the social health of the nation. Federally, we see a government mired in corruption and seething with contempt; provincially, a rabid and pervasive partisanship seems to have the public good as only a distant afterthought; municipally, we have the spectacle of a scorched earth policy being practised by Toronto's chief magistrate and his brother. Something is indeed rotten in the state of Denmark.

I do not live in Toronto, but anyone who thinks that the damage being done by the Ford follies is confined to Ontario's capital city is deluded. Putting aside all of the criminal and unethical acts he seems to partake in, the mayor's absolute refusal to see council's stripping of his powers as anything other than politically-inspired renders him manifestly unfit for public office, since clearly the demands of his and his brother's egos take precedence over the stability and well-being of the city of Toronto. But what about the fact that this debacle is being watched closely nationally, even internationally?

Despite their obvious intellectual limitations, I am convinced that on some level the Ford brothers must know that their insane antics are deeply corrosive to everyone's faith or trust, however slight they may be, in politicians everywhere. As but one example, they must know, yet they do no care, that reducing yesterday's council meeting to little more than a tag-team wrestling match, complete with the obligatory cat calls to the spectators, removes any dignity that one might associate with public office.

I am posting no video here of yesterday's events, but anyone so inclined can find them easily enough on the Internet - video of the Fords with Peter Mansbridge, on Cnn, and with NBC's Matt Lauer. To watch any of them will confirm the abject narcissism of the Ford brothers, but they will also probably consolidate a cynicism and disgust that only the insensate could be immune from. I can't bring myself to post them

The true irony here is that there really is only one solution to the wholesale destruction of politics taking place at all levels: voter engagement. But the longer the selfish, the ignorant and the mercenary dominate politics, the less and less likely it is that significant numbers of people will be willing to get involved, even if it is only to go to the ballot box, to stop the madness.

I am not at all hopeful about the future we are leaving to succeeding generations.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Something Different counteract the cynicism we can't help but feel following the political beat:

So They Really Do Care After All

This story should lay to rest any of the insidious propaganda about Walmart not caring about its workers.

The Hypocrisy Of The Harperites

It is no revelation to state how hypocritical the current Conservative cabal is. However, those tough-on-crime zealots are betraying new depths of their natures by their advocacy of 'compassionate', or should I say expedient, treatment of that exemplar of all that is wrong with the right, the disgraced Chief Magistrate of Toronto, Rob Ford. Not for them the fury they direct at Justin Trudeau for admitting to smoking a joint, but rather compassion for those who need to seek treatment.

Contrasting, for example Peter MacKay's public musings about Trudeau's unfitness to lead due to his dalliance with weed, the Justice Minister had this to say recently about the beleaguered Ford:

Federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay is calling on Rob Ford to get help after the Toronto mayor admitted publicly that he had smoked crack cocaine, an illegal drug.

But Mr. MacKay, whose Conservative government styles itself as tough on crime, declined to offer an opinion on whether Mr. Ford should step down. “That’s not for me to say,” he told reporters in Ottawa.

In his column in today's Star, Tim Harper offers some stinging commentary on this most troubling double standard:

The Conservative party of Canada, most significantly its Toronto ministers and MPs, is now defined by its silence over the tumultuous train wreck known as Rob Ford in the past two weeks.

“Conservative values are Canadian values. Canadian values are conservative values,’’ Stephen Harper told us after he won his 2011 majority.

But watching those “values” daily trashed by a man his party embraced, Harper has remained silent. He has done what he so often does. He has merely made himself unavailable to any Canadian journalist while chaos engulfed Ford.

The reason the conniving Conservatives have adopted what Tim Harper calls their 'hug-a-thug program is obvious:

The Conservatives will not risk alienating what is left of Ford Nation, even if it is the last man or woman standing.

But one would be wrong to think that Peter MacKay, who some regard as an upper class twit, is the only hypocrite here.

Health Minister Rona Ambrose, a woman so unrelenting in her war on drug use she cut off heroin for addicts in treatment, now has nothing but hugs for a self-confessed crack cocaine user.

“It is a touchy subject only because none of us want to pass judgment on someone who is going through a very difficult time,’’ Ambrose said in Calgary Friday.

And who can forget Julian Fantino, the perpetually dour and apparently humourless Veteran Affairs Minister and ex-cop whose selective remorseless pursuit of some ne'er-do-wells is the stuff of legend (Toronto bathhouse raids when he was the chief cop there is but one example)?

“I look at it as a humanity issue,’’ he told his local newspaper. “I’ve been involved in my whole career (in policing and politics) in dealing with situations where people, for whatever reason, get into serious personal difficulties and family difficulties. I’ve looked at it strictly from a human dynamic point of view.’’

Of course, last week Finance Minister Jim Flaherty teared up, brimming with compassion when contemplating Mr. Ford's demons. No judgement there.

Tim Harper saves his greatest scorn for Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver:

In the midst of last week’s Ford follies, Oliver appeared on CBC’s Power and Politics and was asked by host Evan Solomon about the unbelievable event of the day in his city.

“This is a sad and difficult situation but I have nothing to add,’’ Oliver offered.

When pressed on to whether he might have a view as an MP from Toronto, Oliver served up a civics lesson.

“Well, they are different levels of government, they are elected separately and they each have their different constitutional responsibilities and we respect the constitutional division of powers.’’

I suppose at his age, Oliver should be commended for his obvious agility in twisting himself out of shape to avoid answering Solomon's questions.

I shall leave you with a picture that my friend Gary alerted me to that perhaps pictorially sums up the Conservative cabal's solution to the problem of Rob Ford, given the obvious importance of altering the optics and 'changing the channel':

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Ford Saga Continues

I have shamelessly cribbed the following from Montreal Simon. Please check out his commentary on the continuing Toronto soap opera known simply as The Rob Ford Follies.

Opener - CBC News Toronto - Mayor Rob Ford... by IdolxMuzic

Saturday, November 16, 2013

From The Pens Of Editorial Cartoonists

...some Saturday afternoon wisdom:

A Thought For The Children

I hope this will be one of my last posts about the Rob Ford soap opera, but that is probably a futile hope, given the rich sociological and political insights that his escapades provide. However, today my thought is not about him or his quite possibly abused and complicit wife Renata. Today, my thoughts are for their children.

Rarely seen in public, the pair, a young boy and girl, must be living a hellish life, not only because of the public ridicule and odium heaped upon their father, but also due to the very real possibility that they are at physical risk. Recent revelations, thanks to the release of the previously-redacted police documents, is a narrative revealing the children's unwilling association with alleged drug dealer and extortionist Sandro Lisi, as well as crack addict Bruno Bellissimo, who sat with them in the back seat of the vehicle ferrying Ford to the Garrison Ball during one of the mayor's many nights of impairment.

Add to that the video of the raging mayor, perhaps at home, vowing in hyperbolic language to kill someone, as well as the fact that police have attended the home many times due to domestic disturbances.

It got to the point earlier this week that I actually looked up the contact information for the Toronto Children's Aid Society to express a concern about their well-being, but my wife suggested it would be futile because I have no personal knowledge of their possible imperilment.

Lest one think their mother Renata is somehow shielding them from the worst excesses of their father, Rosie Dimanno has a piece in today's Star that strips away that comforting possibility:

It was late at night, nearly a year ago, that Renata Ford pulled up in a taxi outside her parents’ home.

According to a police report, the contents of which have not been proven in court, the mayor’s wife was slurring her words and belligerent with the driver, police sources have told the Star. She either refused to pay the fare or did not have the money.

Their argument became so heated that the cabbie called for police assistance.

When cops arrived, they observed that Mrs. Ford had bruises and cuts to her limbs and face that appeared to be a few days old. But, when asked about it, she refused to say how the injuries had been suffered. She was, in fact, too incoherent to say much of anything — either inebriated or on drugs.

The upshot of this event is that nobody was charged. When police tried following up the matter in subsequent days — as they always do when domestic abuse is suspected — Mrs. Ford was not cooperative.

As much as Ford's wife may be a beaten-down victim who likely commands little respect within the Ford hierarchy - Doug Ford once referred to her on their now-defunct radio show as "the Pollack'- she is also, by virtue of her decision to 'stand by her man,' both figuratively and literally, just another of her husband's enablers and complicit in, at the very least, the psychological abuse that police records suggest is a quotidian fact of life in the Ford household. Tellingly, Dimanno reveals that over the past eight years, police have attended the Ford home at least two dozen times for domestic disturbances.

Like the infamous Michael Jackson, who was able to carry out his terrible depredations against children for so many years thanks to his money, power and influence, I cannot help but wonder whether the same dynamics are at work with regard to the well-being of the Ford children.

I see no way that this story has a happy ending.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Medium Of The Moronic

New and long-term members of the Profoundly Stupid Club can rejoice: their mascots, Rob and Doug Ford, the darlings of the dimwitted, the bastions of the benighted, the exemplars of intellectual enfeeblement, will live to fight another day.

Sun News, favored by those who like their commentary simple and absolutist, the place where the good guys wear metaphorical white hats and the bad guys black ones, has announced that starting Monday, the dimwitted duo will be hosting a new show called, predictably, Ford nation.

I guess this addition to their lineup will solidify Sun TV network's reputation as a repository of the ridiculous and banal, if any doubts still linger.

No word yet on whether the network is going after broadcasting rights to the World Wrestling Federation as a followup.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Stupid Among Us

I was in a rather foul mood yesterday, and I think it was largely attributable to the ongoing spectacle known as Toronto civic politics. Like one sated on too much unhealthy food, I am royally sick of the disruption caused by the crimes and misdemeanours of Rob Ford and his tag team partner, brother Doug. But what I think especially set me off was the pathetic whinging of the duo, who project an image of deep hurt over what Doug calls the "public flogging" of his brother; coupled with the inability to feel even a scintilla of shame or remorse over what they have done to the city and its people, it renders both of them unfit of public office.

But what enraged me most was the patent stupidity of the duo that they hold out as some sort of perverted testament to their characters: "Rob was elected to do a job, and he will continue to do it," says the chief enabler. Big Baby Brother plaintively brays, "All I can do is apologize and move on." Neither is able or willing to acknowledge the massive damage to public reputation, morality and civil discourse they are both responsible for.

To make matters even worse, yesterday during the council meeting they both engaged in a shameful attempt at moral equivalence. Brother Doug barked at Denzil Minnan-Wong, "Have you ever smoked marijuana?"

While the stupid, aka Ford Nation, might have felt that his suggestion of hypocrisy was warranted, people with higher cognitive functioning would have immediately seen the shameless flaw in his 'strategy,' namely that whether anyone has ever smoked pot or gotten behind the wheel when they shouldn't have has absolutely nothing to do with the issues and demons facing his brother. There is simply no comparison.

Yet I got the distinct impression that reputed Drug Dealer Doug felt that he had scored a victory in his defense of his troubled and troubling brother. And I guess that's what really set me off, as it is clearly emblematic of both the intellectual and moral poverty of the rabid right-wing, the faction that seems to believe that you can bully and bray to victory.

Rob got into the act as well, 'magnanimously' offering to pay the cost of drug tests for all council members.

And oh, how they love to play the victims here, besieged by a bloodthirsty mob over a few merely private peccadilloes. Doug gave a CNN interview in which he offered the following emblems of victimhood, his family in general and his daughters in particular:

“Is it tough on the family? Yes, it's tough on the family,” Ford said. “We've been getting death threats. My daughters, I have four young girls, they were threatened to be sodomized and raped."

Just what is a charter and card-carrying member of the Profoundly Stupid Club to do?

I don't have the answer for him and his fellow travellers, but perhaps it is well past time to stop ceding so much airtime and print and influence to the benighted right wing. Perhaps it is time to simply tell them, in language and tones that they can understand, to shut their mouths, stop their bullying, go to hell, and leave the weighty matters of public office to the adults in the room.

Toronto Councillor Adam Vaughan maybe said it best yesterday: "We've spent too much time on this fool already."

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

This Is Why They Can't Have Nice Things In Toronto

Watch below as reputed drug dealer Councillor Doug Ford thuggishly engages in some sanctimonious and hypocritical grandstanding in 'defence' of his hapless brother:

As well, you might want to read Joe Fiorito's piece in today's Star on the inanity and hypocrisy of those who still support Rob Ford.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

I Have No Shame

Not one to take the high road, I will state the obvious here. Clearly, the Rob Ford bobblehead is not built to scale.

One Picture Really Is Worth A Thousand Words

Who invited this guy?

H/t The Huffington Post

The Search For Authenticity

In their bewilderment over the staunch following that Toronto mayor Rob Ford continues to enjoy amongst 'Ford Nation,' some pundits have advanced the idea that it is his 'authenticity' that accounts for his traction, no matter what drugs he ingests, no matter how many criminal elements he consorts with, no matter how many lies he tells to the public. His deep flaws, some suggest, appeal to the 'everyman.'

At best, I suspect this is only a partial answer. Nonetheless, it has gotten me thinking about leadership styles; serendipitously, the other day I caught the latest Justin Trudeau ad on TV in which he seeks to distinguish himself from the Harper regime without really uttering anything of substance:

While I realize that the ad is directed to a demographic much younger than mine and may in fact 'hit the mark' with that audience, I was struck by a few aspects of the production:

1. It offers an obvious contrast to the button-down, anally-retentive demeanour of our current Prime Minister. Although his suit colour is fairly subdued, Trudeau's open shirt suggests a relaxed manner that only one possessed of a vivid imagination could transpose on Stephan Harper (the latter's blue cardigan campaign costume notwithstanding).

2. Trudeau's cadences are balanced, offering another contrast to the inflectionless Harper.

3. The Liberal leader maintains strong eye contact with the camera, suggesting an openness and authenticity that voters may find appealing.

4. He utters platitudes that no one could disagree with.

However, even though it is a very polished production, the ad does nothing for me; as a veteran observer of political matters, I find the entire effort completely contrived, for all of the above reasons.

We leave in an age of shallow thinking, disengagement and phony 'reality shows.' Given the widespread disengagement from the electoral process of young people, this ad may indeed strike a responsive chord among its intended audience.

How do others feel about the ad?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Oh Tim, Why Don't You Stop Bothering Us?

When considering the political motivations of Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak, the boy who would be premier, there seem to be only two possibilities: he is either an indefatigable demagogue appealing to the same kind of folks (a.k.a. Ford nation) who blindly support Toronto mayor Rob Ford, or he truly believes the nonsense he is spouting, the latter perhaps the more disturbing, given the intellectual limitations it would suggest.

Either option, in my view, renders Hudak unfit to hold Ontario's highest public office.

A secret document leaked to the Toronto Star confirms that, if his party wins the next election, this Mike Harris clone would be indeed disastrous for all but the most ideologically-twisted residents of Ontario:

This kind of document [which] is usually a closely guarded secret available to about three people, reveals the daily itinerary Hudak would have followed had an election been called last spring. It reveals the usual rhetoric designed to appeal to the base: “tax cuts create jobs,” “reducing the size of government,” and spoiling for a fight with teachers.

It also affirms Hudak's commitment to crippling unions in Ontario, as revealed by this part of his schedule:

The party’s direction the next day in Windsor becomes very clear with the heading “Fixing Labour Laws” and a Hudak appearance at a non-union factory, the kind of visit that is repeated as the campaign progresses.

One of the party’s many party policy papers calls for getting rid of the Rand Formula, which requires all employees in a closed union shop to pay dues whether they join or not. Coincidentally, Supreme Court of Canada Justice Ivan Rand introduced the formula in 1946 as a result of the 1945 Ford strike in Windsor.

A similar message — Allow Choice in Union Membership — was on the agenda again just a few days later in Guelph and the Kitchener-Waterloo areas, which fuels fears that Hudak’s agenda is to turn Ontario into a right-to-work province, similar to several U.S. states.

The conservative mind, as a rule, has difficulty accepting new ideas or new information that can alter one's thinking and views. This handicap is abundantly evident in the case of young Tim who, compelling evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, is confident spouting the old shibboleths about unions being the root of all evil, the primary reason that unemployment is high and business is staying away from the province.

In his jeremiads against unions and his Pavlovian enthusiasm for right-to-work laws, young Tim ignores the data betraying his hollow and simplistic thinking:

In right-to-work states, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly wage as of May 2011 ranged from lows of $13.11 (U.S.) in Mississippi and $13.68 in Arkansas to highs of $15.70 in Nevada and $16.40 in Arizona. When you chop off the highs and the lows, most were in the area of $14 and change or $15 and change.

In those states without such rules, the median hourly wage ranged from lows of $13.46 in West Virginia and $14.13 in Montana to highs of $19.87 in Connecticut and $20.65 in Alaska. But many were in the area of about $17 and up.

What about his assertions that crippling the unions would mean "jobs, jobs, jobs"? Again, the American experience reveals that it is not a panacea:

The lowest jobless rates, as of October, are in North Dakota, Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa, Utah and Wyoming, all right-to-work states, at between 3.1 per cent and 5.2 per cent. The highest are in North Carolina, a right-to-work state, New Jersey, California, Rhode Island and Nevada, also a right-to-work state, at between 9.3 per cent and 11.5 per cent. Unemployment in Michigan is 9.1 per cent.

I could go on and indict Hudak's similarly blinkered thinking when it comes to tax cuts equaling job creation (despite the fact that unemployment is still high in Ontario even though our corporate tax rate is amongst the lowest in the world,) but I think you get the idea.

So whether Tim Hudak is merely a cyncal manipulator of people's passions and prejudices in the pursuit of power or a young man who lacks the intellectual depth and fiber needed to hold high political office, one fact remains constant. If people allow themselves to be seduced by sweet and soothing rhetoric that promises low taxes, prosperity and no pain (except, of course, for the workers who support the economy), they will have no one but themselves to blame if Mike Harris Redux is the headline after the next provincial election.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Rick Mercer On The Harper Regime's Shoddy Treatment Of Vets

As a supplement to The Disaffected Lib's excellent post on Remembrance Day, take a look at Rick Mercer's thoughts on a government that not only has turned its back on wounded war vets but also tossed them out on the street:

We Are All To Blame

Here is a letter from today's Star that puts responsibility for the proliferating problem of deceitful, inept, corrupt and demagogic political leaders where it belongs: on all of our shoulders:

Re: How to cover a deceiver without airing mistruth? Opinion Nov. 6

Publisher John Cruickshank’s wonderful piece addresses what should be a deep concern in our society: the prevalent and amoral use of “spin.” In the 1960s, when I was being raised in Toronto, we called “spin” what it was: a lie.

The temerity of many people in our society, most notably those with whom we should have the greatest trust — politicians and political parties — lie on a regular basis. While there are some individuals (in what should be a noble profession) who avoid spin aka lies, it has become all to common to lie as a means to an end. We have witnessed this in spades over the past six month, both in Ottawa and in Toronto.

Mr. Cruickshank makes an excellent point. By printing the spin, aka lies, the press is enabling this disgusting behaviour. He is absolutely correct in stating that quotes from people-who-lie become, de facto, truth.

These lies have become so much a part of our culture that some people accept behaviour such as that of Mr. Ford and Mr. Harper as “acceptable,” dismissing the lies under the umbrella of “everyone makes mistakes” or “he is saving me tax dollars.” How anti-social and self-serving.

While many politicians have lost their moral compass, so has our society. We, as members of civilized society, are complicit in allowing them to get away with spin aka lies.

It is time for us to take back our compass. For a start, let us call these people what they are: liars. Let’s not allow them to get away with it. Like bullies, spin-people cannot stand the light of day. They prefer to crawl around under rocks, in the slime and in the dark.

David Bourque, Scarborough

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Time For A Break

Recently, as I watched Peter Mansbridge's One on One interview with former Prime Minister Joe Clark, I was reminded of a time when Canadian politics had more texture, depth, structure and, yes, intelligence. Clark, no fan of Stephen Harper, spoke knowingly of the complexities of politics, both domestically and internationally, and his point was clear: we have, under the current regime, turned our backs on time-tested traditions that stood us and the world in such good stead, replacing them with what can almost be described as caricature.

For example, rather than to continue to engage Iran, the ultimately more productive choice, we have severed relations with the theocratic state, thereby ending any possibility of ongoing dialogue towards moderation. Our unqualified, uncritical and unstinting support for all things Israeli, no matter how egregiously in violation of international law, would be another instance. We are clearly no longer the world's honest broker.

There was a time in politics when honour meant doing what was right for your country and for your citizens. That time is no more, confirmed daily by a Prime Minister who regularly refuses to answer questions about his real knowledge of the Duffy payoff. It was confirmed yesterday by the eleventh hour admission from Rob Ford about his drug use.

Neither man, of course, will do the right think for this country and its citizens. Holding on to power is their only raison d'être.

And so the debasement of the people continues, with neither man showing a whit of concern for the toll that such corruption takes on the electorate; indeed, they probably exult in the likelihood that even fewer people will turn up at the ballot box, thereby giving their bases even more power to continue the perversion of politics under their corrupt avatars.

With my heart heavy with disgust, disillusionment and contempt for those holding the reins of power today, I think I will likely take a few days off to read, attend to neglected household chores, and try to recharge my spirit.

Meanwhile, I would encourage you to read some of our fine national columnists and our fellow bloggers if you have the heart for it and the capacity to withstand the despair they can engender. Truth is always painful.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Another Nail In His Coffin

Stephen Harper, the self-professed economist (can you call yourself that when you don't have a Ph.D.?) who 'claims' such sterling management to the economy, has received another blow to his exaggerated and unwarranted reputation of competence:

A European Union analysis of the just-completed trade agreement with Canada suggests the EU gained more than it expected — and might have settled for less had Ottawa pushed harder.

The internal document, obtained by The Canadian Press, indicates EU exporters expect to make great inroads in the Canada market. Negotiators hope the gains can be used to their advantage in other trade negotiations, including talks with the United States that have just begun.

Could that be the real reason the CETA negotiations were conducted in such unprecedented secrecy?

Carnival in Calgary

I hear that the Tory convention is turning out to be a real circus:

Friday, November 1, 2013

A Debt Owed To The Media

As fashionable as it is to denigrate the mainstream media for their frequent timidity and conservatism, public knowledge about both Rob Ford's disgraceful performance as Mayor of Toronto and the current Senate scandal embroiling Stephen Harper, impeaching the integrity and honesty of both politicians, would not exist were it not for a diligent media, especially the press.

I have often stated in this blog that I am both proud and pleased to subscribe to The Toronto Star, given the integrity of its work and the fact that many of its investigations have resulted in change at both the local and the national level. These changes have included rigorous restaurant inspections whose results are now publicly posted to its most recent accomplishment, a promise from Minister of Health Rona Ambrose to remediate the situation after The Star brought to light the tragic death of Marit McKenzie, killed by a blood clot caused by an acne medication. At the time, Health Canada said that the drug safety review information was classified due to "confidential business information."

Yesterday, during an interview about her role in exposing the video apparently showing Rob Ford smoking crack, Star reporter Robin Doolittle encouraged people to take out a subscription to a newspaper, the implication being that the work they do is crucial in a democracy, and that work cannot be accomplished without the financial support of engaged readers.

Were it not for the diligent work of CTV reporter Robert Fife, who was instrumental in exposing Senategate, followed up by the efforts by other dedicated reporters, a corrupt and disdainful Prime Minister would be able to spin his tales of fancy without challenge. Instead, Stephen Harper and his cabal face what is likely their greatest crisis, one that may very well reverberate until the next election and could even result in criminal charges.

Watergate may have set the standard for investigative journalism, but the need for curious reporters with a passion for the truth will extend far into the future. No, whether we acknowledge it or not, a healthy press is a linchpin of a healthy democracy, augmented by social media and blogs, no doubt, but never to be replaced by them.

To reiterate Doolittle's message, "Get a newspaper subscription." The health of our political system may very well depend on you.