Wednesday, December 31, 2014

As The Year Ends

... this deserves one more play. For a full review of the abysmal Harper Veterans Affairs record, check out the good work by the good folks at Press Progress.

The Harper Contest Continues

Lots of good observations and suggestions coming in. The above picture of The Blue Meanie was offered by Peter Leslie in the Facebook group Canadians Rallying to Unseat Stephen Harper (C.R.U.S.H.) It seems a most apt rendering of Dear Leader, and that very fashionable blue is sure to appeal to his acolytes.

Also on Facebook, Skeena has compiled a series of memes inspired by Michelle Rempel's bedroom selfie.

Here are two of them that do real justice to the Cowardly Lion residing at 24 Sussex:

Enjoy, and I hope these pictures inspire more submissions.

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Harper Naming Contest

Although there is no official prize, except possibly the profound gratitude of all those who aspire to rid our country of the Harper regime, a response by Scotian to a previous post about the cowardly lion who now 'leads' us got me thinking about a contest with which we might have some fun.

First, here is what Scotian said:
I normally do not use pejorative nicknames for politicians, hell, I don't generally use nicknames at all, but this requires one, and I am torn between Captain Closet or The Closet Commando. I'm leaning towards the former, because it resonates to the image of Captain Canada which Harper loves to portray him as, and as much as I hate to say it, when I say it I hear in the back of my head that old Hanna Barbara cartoon Character "Captain CAVEman!" shout as well, and I hope that also might resonate in the older voting crowd.

I believe it is important to get this into common use as much as possible as soon as possible to combat the revisionism Harper has been doing on this subject, because this moment in his life showed his true character, as moments of crisis will do in the heat with human beings. Given his bellicosity on the international stage, given his branding himself as a strong domestic leader the fact that his first instinct was the abandon his closest people and hide by his own choice needs not to be forgotten!
While I very much like both of Scotian's suggestions, I want to extend naming rights for the 'illustrious one' to all Canadians.

Assuming there is some interest in this idea, the best suggestions will be reprinted in a separate post in the near future.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Lest We Forget

H/t Michael Nabert

Perhaps The Police Should Stop Brutalizing People

... instead of blaming protesters for their ill-fortune.

Here is yet another incident that reminds us of the terrible abuse of power these 'protectors' of public safety seem quite comfortable with. The 'crime' these Louisiana police were reacting to? A young man attempting to video their heavy-handed tactics:

WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Remembrances Of Things Past

It was with some surprise that Canadians finally saw something positive emerge from the always suspicious and hateful Harper regime: its facilitation of talks between the U.S. and Cuba to begin the process of normalizing relations.

This echo of a time when Canada was looked upon as the world's honest broker prompted a Star letter-writer to express the following view:

U.S.-Cuba deal made in Canada, Dec. 18

Finally the Harper government plays a positive role on the world stage, by helping the U.S. and Cuba end over 50 years of hostility. This is the role Canada should be playing, and the role we used to play in the good old days – not the hectoring, finger-wagging, holier-than-thou lecturing of foreign leaders that is Stephen Harper’s preferred modus operandi.

Our Prime Minister should follow up this diplomatic triumph by re-opening Canada’s embassy in Tehran, pursuing serious dialogue with Vladimir Putin and putting some energy into resolving the crisis in Syria – which of course would involve actually engaging with Bashar al-Assad.

And while Harper’s at it, what about having a word or two with his buddy Benjamin Netanyahu about treating Palestinians like human beings?

None of this is any more likely to happen than a fat old white guy dressed in red fur coming down your chimney, but hey – this is a Christmas wish list. Canada’s instrumental and uncharacteristically statesmanlike role in the U.S.-Cuba deal was most likely a singularity, perhaps committed in a fit of absent-mindedness.

Too bad we can’t have more such lapses.

Andrew van Velzen, Toronto

Saturday, December 27, 2014

I Rather Like This, Don't You?

He May Have Hidden In A Closet .....

But that likely isn't stopping Stephen Harper from manipulating the narrative surrounding the Parliament Hill tragedy to his own political advantage.

At least, that is the speculation of Stephen Maher.

Crack addict Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, who killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and who was then himself killed in a barrage of shots within Parliament, is really not understood any better today than he was when the tragedy occurred on October 22. However, one thing is quite clear:
The shooting heralded the end of Trudeau’s long honeymoon, bringing him down within polling range of Stephen Harper for the first time since he became leader of his party.
But it is not a lack of data that prevents our understanding of those terrible events; two videos exist, one of which would either confirm or refute the narrative about Kevin Vickers, the sergeant-at-arms, who, we are told, finished Zehaf-Bibeau’s rampage by heroically diving, James-Bond-style, to shoot him dead.

The problem, as Maher reports, is that
... we don‘t know where that story comes from. On the day of the shooting — when the world desperately needed a story — anonymous sources told TV journalists that that’s what happened. We later learned that the shooter had been shot several times by a number of people.
The second video is one that Zehaf-Bibeau recorded to explain himself.

Unfortunately, neither video is being released to the public, despite the fact that
a week after the shooting, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson told reporters that he wanted Canadians to see it [the second video] “as soon as possible.”
In December, he took that back, and said that he might not be able to ever release it because of the “intensity of the investigation,” whatever that means.
Maher sees nothing good in this:
It’s possible that between October and December, Paulson’s political masters let him know that he should not release the video.

It suits the government to behave as if the RCMP is independent, but Paulson appears to be more like a deputy minister than a police chief.

And Harper wants to portray this attack as an example of why we must be led by him, not Trudeau or Tom Mulcair, who are too soft-headed or weak-willed to protect us from terrorists.
But of course, this kind of secrecy and the speculation it engenders is par for a government that has shown consistent, pervasisve and egregious contempt for almost everything that a healthy and thriving democracy demands.

Perhaps the larger question is, do enough Canadians care?

Friday, December 26, 2014

Giving The Devil His Due

I sometimes worry that I do not give sufficient coverage to my favourite crazed evangelical, Pat Robertson. A quick review of this year's posts shows that I offered a mere nine stories on God's anointed one during 2014. In the interests of staying on the 'right' side of God, or at least the smiting version so favoured by the Rev. Pat, I will end 2014 with this year's tenth post.

The good folks at Addicting Info and RightWing Watch offer the following video of Rev. Robertson's predictions for this past year. It is apparently his practice to 'go up into the mountains' (perhaps for line-of-sight communications with Yahweh?) to get the word about how each year will unfold. I suspect that Robertson's god is Republican, given what He predicted; then again, He might have simply been having a bit of sport with the increasingly addled evangelical; of course, another possibility is that the transmission lines were impeded by the archenemy of us all, the Great Deceiver.

In any case, I shall leave it to you to assess Robertson's prognostications. For a cheat cheat evaluation, you can always click here.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas

All the best to my fellow bloggers and all the readers who take the time to read my humble offerings:

If you want more Christmas spirit, pleade enjoy this special delivery Santa had for Julian Fantino, who, it seems, was a naughty boy this year:

More Conflict-Of-Interest At The CBC

The deterioration of the once highly-respected CBC continues apace. Not only has Peter Mansbridge, as seen recently in his year-end friendly chat with Stephen Harper, abandoned any semblance of journalistic impartiality and integrity, but he also seems to be acting as a bad example to younger colleagues, one of whom is reputed to be a potential successor to the chief correspondent.

Like Peter and Rex Murphy before her, Amanda Lang, CBC News' Senior Business Correspondent, seems to have developed a bad habit that those outside of the cloistered Corporation would label as conflict of interest. Succinctly put, as reported by Canadaland, said correspondent took money from both Manulife and Sunlife and then gave them favourable coverage on the network.

On July 10 and August 7 of this year, Lang was a paid moderator for two Manulife asset management seminars.

Now here is Lang on September 5 – not quite a month later – welcoming Manulife CEO Donald Guloien on her business affairs show The Exchange for a cozy interview about his company’s $4bn acquisition of a competitor’s Canadian assets.

To compound the conflict, Canadaland reports the following:
Manulife Asset Management is the specific part of the company that hired her. Unprompted, Lang says this at 4:54:

“ of the things that Manulife has done is grown its asset management business in a big way in the last few years.”

The entire segment casts Manulife (and its stock) in a positive light, giving Guloien an uncritical platform to boast about his big deal.

CBC News aired Lang’s interview segment with Manulife’s CEO without any disclosure of her financial relationship with the company. The segment can still be streamed on the CBC’s website without any mention of the conflict of interest
Canadaland's reporter, Sean Craig, puts it all in perspective:
To recap: Lang (a contender for Peter Mansbridge's chair as anchor of The National) is CBC News' Senior Business Correspondent, the top business reporter in the organization. She hosts the CBC's flagship business affairs show, which regularly covers the insurance industry. And Manulife is a giant insurance company.

Yet Lang took their money twice, moonlighting at their corporate events. Then she had their CEO on her show. And then she praised, to him, the specific department of his company that had hired her.
And this takes place despite the fact that after the Rex Murphy and Peter Mansbridge conflicts came to light,
CBC News Editor-in-Chief Jennifer McGuire announced that from that point on when journalists asked her permission to speak for cash, she would "reject requests from companies, political parties or other groups which make a significant effort to lobby or otherwise influence public policy."
In November 2014 alone, Manulife held official meetings with two government cabinet ministers and Members of Parliament from each major opposition party.
Lang was also paid for a Sun Life speech in November. Just six weeks before, she conductd this interview with Sun Life CEO Dean Connor:

By the way, neither of the interviews offers any disclaimer about Lang's pecuniary relationship with the companies.

Of course, the CBC 'shirts' have all kinds of inventive justifications for these egregious violations of conflict-of-interests policies, none of which sound valid. If you are interested in reading them, check out the original story.

Needless to say, I and doubtless many others would say those 'explanations' come nowhere close to passing the olfactory tests of most reasonable people.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Suspicious Deletions At CRA

While it may not qualify as a smoking gun, a series of text-message deletions at Canada Revenue Agency looks decidedly suspicious. Given what many see as the Agency's Harper-directed war against non-profits that are critical of government policy, there is ample reason to see foul play in the move.

Today's Star reports the following:
The Canada Revenue Agency has destroyed all text message records of its employees and has disabled logging of these messages in the future, the Star has learned.

Emails, released through access to information legislation, reveal that Shared Services Canada, the federal organization responsible for information technology services, destroyed the records in the middle of a business day in August.
The CRA has steadfastly denied that the audits are politically motivated, a denial that rings hollow given that no right-wing organization (The Fraser Institute, Macdonald-Laurier Institute, et al.) has been given such scrutiny, while even the most seemingly innocuous of entities, such as The Kitchener-Waterloo Naturalists have been harassed, apparently as reprisal against once having a guest speaker address the tar sands issue at one of their meetings.

The fact that the text messages were deleted during the day has raised eyebrows:
Srinivasan Keshav, a computer science professor at the University of Waterloo, said he was surprised that the government deleted records and disabled logging in the middle of the day, when there’s a risk of disrupting the service.

Shared Services Canada told the Star in a statement that it operated IT infrastructure, based on instructions from individual departments and agencies that are responsible for their own information management practices.
Perhaps whoever ordered the deletions was feeling some heat?

The matter has come to the attention of Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault:
“If the commissioner is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to investigate this matter, she may initiate an investigation. Investigations under the Act are confidential,” Legault’s spokeswoman Natalie Hall told the Star.
Under the law, deleting messages for the purpose of restricting access to information is guilty of an indictable offence and could face up to two years in prison or a $10,000 fine.

While it is highly unlikely that this latest outrage against transparency will ever find its way into a court of law, I can only hope that, given the secretive and vindictive nature of the Harper regime, the court of public opinion will render an unequivocal verdict in 2015.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Real Journalism: Holding Harper To Account

Unlike the kind of faux journalism that the CBC's most reverent chief correspondent, Peter Mansbridge, has perfected, real journalism requires critical thinking and hard-hitting questions. In that, The Toronto Star holds to consistently high standards.

To appreciate this fact, consider first the following exchange during the year-end interview the Prime Minister granted his media acolyte:

Mansbridge: So why don’t we propose something then?

Harper: We have proposed something.

What have we proposed?
Well the Province of Alberta, excuse me, the Province of Alberta itself already has a, it’s one of the few GHD regulatory environments in the country. It has one. I think it’s a model on which you could, on which you could go broader.

This is the carbon levy?

This is the tech fund price carbon levy and the, the, it’s not a levy, it’s a price and there’s a tech fund in which, in which the private sector makes investments. So look, that’s what Alberta has done, that’s a model that’s available but you know as I say, we’re very open to see progress on this on a continental basis. I’ve said that repeatedly to our partners in North America and we look forward to working on that.
There is no follow-up by the good Mr. Mansbridge on this alleged carbon tax. That became the task of The Star, in today's editorial, which pointedly lambastes the Alberta model:
...the relaxed Alberta model that Harper promotes imposes a levy of just $15, and only on large emitters that fail to improve their energy efficiency (rather than reduce output). The firms can pay the money into a clean-energy research fund or purchase carbon credits. The result? Alberta emissions continue to soar, albeit at a slower rate, undercutting efforts in Ontario and British Columbia.
Far better, says The Star, would be to adopt the B.C, model,
which has a straight-up carbon tax, an approach the Star has long favoured. The $30-per-metric-tonne levy currently pushes up the cost of gasoline and natural gas by 6.67 cents a litre and 5.7 cents a cubic metre. But it is revenue-neutral. Residents reap the benefit in lower income taxes. It has led to a sharp drop in per capita fuel consumption.
British Columbia’s tax has been a “phenomenal success,” Charles Komanoff told the Star’s editorial board on Friday. He’s a co-founder of the New York-based Carbon Tax Center, dedicated to curbing global warming. The centre favours an aggressive carbon tax starting at $10 per metric tonne and rising to $100 over a decade.
The Star speculates that any talk of a carbon tax, even the weak one used in Alberta, is simply subterfuge on the part of Mr. Harper who, going into an election year, is trying to don the guise of a green warrior.

It is to be hoped that Canadians will not be so easily fooled this time around by such shameless posturing.

The editorial offers a solid suggestion that, if pursued, will reveal not only the truth behind Harper's rhetoric, but also the integrity and commitment of the other party leaders:
When Parliament resumes after the holiday break the opposition should make it a priority to pin him down on just what he’s prepared to propose to our major trading partners, by way of a credible scheme to price carbon and curb climate change. Voters should know before they cast their ballots on Oct. 19, or sooner.
I look forward to the House's resumption on January 26.


Sunday, December 21, 2014

John Doyle's Christmas Gift To All Of Us

One of the few bright spots on that erstwhile formidable newspaper, The Globe and Mail, is television columnist John Doyle. His trenchant wit and justifiable cynicism about showbiz, along with his capacity to point out shows worth watching, would almost make the paper worth its cost were it not for its abject subservience to its political masters.

A man who refuses to drink the corporate Kool Aid, Doyle maintains an independence that I suspect few are accorded at the Globe. In that spirit, his offers his Top Ten Most Irritating TV-Related Canadians for this year. I reproduce a few that may be of special interest to followers of politics:
Ezra Levant

A truly, truly outstanding year. His supremacy in irritating-ness is unmatched, a fact that must make him proud. His demented ranting about young Mr. Trudeau. An Ontario court ruling that he was guilty of libel and that he demonstrated a “reckless disregard for the truth.” And his bizarre attack on an Ontario school-board memo he alleged was some sort of anti-Canadian, pro-Muslim conspiracy. Still he smiles.

Pastor Mansbridge

Mansbridge should not have accepted money from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers for a speech. It was just a dumb thing to do. Inept and, as such, hugely irritating.
If I may make a personal aside here, Mansbridge should also not be doing the devil's work.
The people behind “A message from the Government of Canada”

Specifically, the ad titled Drug Prevention – Marijuana Use, in which over deeply ominous music, it was announced, “Did you know that marijuana is on average 300 to 400 per cent stronger than it was 30 years ago? And that smoking marijuana can seriously harm a teen’s developing brain?” Actually the science is limited and, actually, the commercial is political, not medical. Irritating to think we are taken as fools.
Pierre Poilievre

Anyone with the ridiculous job title minister of democratic reform, which sounds like something dreamed up in a satire of North Korea, should be a bit abashed. Poilievre spent the year as a finger-pointing, accusatory bully. Every time he appeared on TV he was outrageously choleric, instantly a ridiculous figure.

Our Glorious Leader (OGL)

The PM, the pianist and singer, whatever you want to call him, or Our Glorious Leader, announced himself to be in “a different headspace” in a year-end TV interview. We knew that.
Regarding the last illustrious name on the list, obviously much more could be said. But I guess there are even things that the redoubtable Mr. Doyle knows he cannot say.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Stephen Harper: Merry Christmas And Bah, Humbug!

My fellow Canadians,

If the above doesn't not warm the cockles of your Christmas hearts, please check out these, a small portion of this year's 'gifts':

Something for your digestive consideration.

Something for the greenie on your seasonal list.

And, for those workers both domestic and foreign, one of my perennial favourites.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night. ;)

If you still need an infusion of seasonal spirit, click here for a special treat that will leave you demanding more.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Setting The Record Straight

Weakly constituted as I am when it comes to tolerating disingenuous and dishonest political theatre, I was unable to watch the Chief Prevaricator, a.k.a. the Prime Minister, while his chief courtier and media enabler, the most Reverend (and reverent) Peter Mansbridge, performed what Michael Harris described as his Yuletide foot massage during their year-end chatfest.

However, I was able to muster up the strength to watch this snippet, after which follows a critical analysis on the CBC website of Mr. Harper's claims:

Harper Whopper Number One:
"We’ve got more work to do, but our emissions are falling," Harper said on Wednesday.

"Other countries’ emissions for the most part are going up. World emissions are going up. Canada’s have not been going up."

But the government's own report suggests emissions will go up dramatically by the end of the decade because of oil and gas production, Canada's emissions will be 22 per cent higher than its Copenhagen target of reducing greenhouse gases by 17 per cent below their 2005 levels by 2020.
Harper Whopper Number Two:

Harper says he'd be open to using a carbon-pricing system like Alberta's for the entire continent, a concept he's previously opposed.

"I think it’s a model on which you could, on which you could go broader," Harper said in Wednesday's interview.
Says David McLaughlin, an adviser at the University of Waterloo’s school of environment,
... emissions continue to rise under Alberta's system of carbon pricing.

"The price of $15 a tonne is too low to actually get the emissions reductions we want from these big emitters. So it would not do the job of reducing emissions in Canada."
Harper Whopper Number Three
The prime minister also took credit for getting tough on coal.

"We are phasing out in Canada through regulations, we are phasing out the use of traditional dirty coal. It’s going to go to zero in the next 15 years or so," Harper said.
Alas, as with most pronouncements by the Prime Minister, there is less here than meets the eye:
New federal coal regulations apply to new plants built after 2015. Existing plants built in the last 50 years are grandfathered, meaning they would have up to 2030 to close or introduce carbon capture and storage technology to reduce emissions.
And Ontario's Environment Minister Glen Murray points out an inconvenient truth:
...the province closed coal plants with no help from Ottawa.

[I]"f the federal government wants to start taking credit for provincially funded initiatives, they could at least have the decency to make a commitment to support those initiatives in the future."
Thanks for taking a few moments to see through the Emperor's diaphanous attire.

My Name Is Ozymandias

Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Not That Anyone Asked

...but the always reliable Pastor Pat tells us there is really no reason to worry about the 'gay problem' for reasons he makes clear below:

John Cleese On Sarah Palin

As Cleese says in this 2008 interview, Michael Palin is no longer the funniest Palin.

And about Fox News, which currently employs the post-political Palin, Cleese has this to say. It is probably the best analysis I've heard of the rampant stupidity that seems to infest the United States (sorry for that gross overgeneralization):

Enbridge Spill

I'm sure the company will spin this 262,000 litre oil spill in Regina as a 'good news' story. You decide.

You can read additional information here.

The Globe And Mail Does It Again

The self-proclaimed newspaper of record once more proves itself to be Dear Leader's biggest fan and most sycophantic press enabler as it sits down for a year-end burnishing of its idol's ego.

Due to my respect for readers' sensibilities, I am not offering any excerpts from the 'interview.' Read it only if you have strong stomachs and are not contemplating a meal in the next hour or two.

Nonetheless, I'm sure The Globe's abomination 'conversation' with Harper is just a foretaste of what we can expect in its endorsement editorial before next year's federal election, which will likely run along these lines:

Has the Harper government made mistakes? of course. Do we wish it were less secretive? Yes. But Canada requires the consistent and strong leadership Mr. Harper has shown. In these uncertain times, the choice for voters is clear.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Winston Smith - Alive And Well At The CBC?

You may recall the protagonist of Orwell's 1984, the records clerk named Winston Smith whose job it was to continually rewrite history so that it accorded with the constantly-changing imperatives of Big Brother's government. The novel's ending is ambiguous; Winston, a broken man, may or may not die.

I am here to report that Winston did, in fact, survive, and is currently in the employ of the CBC, going about the old job he had at the Ministry of Truth.

And the Corporation is keeping him busy.

Winston's first order from feckless management is to deftly excise a segment of Stuart McLean's classic about Dave and the Christmas turkey:
In the wake of an online campaign waged by animal activists, the CBC’s Vinyl Cafe radio program has decided to edit out portions of Stuart McLean’s beloved holiday story, “Dave Cooks the Turkey.” The campaigners alleged some listeners deemed parts of the fictional tale degrading to animals.
What are the offending elements, exactly? Here's one of the "degrading" passages:
“As the turkey defrosted it became clear what Grade B meant,” a recorded version of the story goes. “The skin on the right drumstick was ripped. Dave’s turkey looked like it had made a break from the slaughterhouse and dragged itself a block or two before it was captured and beaten to death.”
That is followed by this "insensitive outrage":
Unable to operate his oven, Dave eventually brings the bird to a hotel for cooking, where the chef says that it looks like the turkey had been “abused.”
You can listen to the sequence starting at about the 18 minute mark here.

CBC has posted on Facebook the following exercise in political correctness:
“Clearly we don’t want any part in the abuse of animals, nor in promoting the abuse of animals,” the post read.

“The story will be on the show next weekend. But we have made a few small changes. We have edited out a couple of lines that, after reading some of the thoughtful letters that have come in over the past week, we no longer feel comfortable airing on our show.”

Won't hurt a bit, I'm sure.

But Winston has a far greater and more involved task before him, one that has been made only slightly easier by some preclearance work the CBC has done in its ongoing efforts to exorcise the troublesome visual spirit of Jian Ghomeshi:

Winston is now tasked with removing his haunting digital presence:
CBC management announced Monday they are pulling almost all interviews conducted by Jian Ghomeshi offline, sparking outrage from Q listeners on social media.
But master of doublespeak, Chuck Thompson, the CBC's media relations chief, was quick to clarify:

“We aren’t erasing the archives, we’re just taking them offline for now”.

With language befitting a politician, Thompson went on to say,
“There is no obvious right or wrong approach here”. ... “We’ve been giving this a lot of careful consideration over the last few weeks and want to give the program every opportunity to be as unencumbered as possible while some very creative people reimagine Q’s future.”
Listeners and viewers were not so accommodating:
“Jian did many wonderful interviews. It is part of CBC’s history. You must not erase it!” wrote one commentator. “Editing the past would be very disingenuous,” wrote another.
But, of course, editing and rewriting the past has always been Winston Smith's forte, hasn't it?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Breaking News


Seven Wildrose MLAs are planning to cross to Alberta’s governing Progressive Conservative party, CBC news has learned.

Two party sources said the seven are: party leader Danielle Smith, House Leader Rob Anderson, and MLAs Jeff Wilson, Gary Bikman, Pat Stier, Blake Pederson and Jason Hale.

Members of the 14-person caucus met Tuesday afternoon to discuss an offer from the PCs, led by Premier Jim Prentice.

MLAs Shane Saskiw, Drew Barnes and Rick Strankman said on social media that they were planning to stick with the Wildrose, which is the official opposition.

Currently, the PCs have 63 seats, the Liberals hold five, the NDP have four. There is one independent MLA.

The executive of the party is holding a teleconference Tuesday night to discuss what’s next.

The PCs are holding a caucus meeting on Wednesday.

A Merger In The Offing?

My son, who lives in Alberta, keeps me apprised of that province's politics. Will Wildrose join Jim Prentice's Progressive Conservatives? Speculation is rampant.

The Canadian Wealth Gap - Far Worse Than Most Think

We hear a great deal about the giants who walk among us - the Canadian masters and mistresses of the universe, all those 'self-made' men and women who accomplished their feats thanks to daring, sheer hard work, and exclusive reliance on their own resources. They didn't ask for any 'handouts.'

You know who they are, the same ones who suffer a convenient amnesia about how their rise to the top was greatly facilitated by education at taxpayer-funded public institutions, government grants and loans, and access to public infrastructure and skilled workers without which they would have likely achieved little.

I'm sure those same people will dismiss the following as leftist propaganda.

The rest of us should receive it as disquieting truth.

Say It Isn't So!

It seems that the refusal of a petulant prime minister to meet with the premier of Canada's largest province is having some unfortunate consequences:

H/t The Toronto Star

Monday, December 15, 2014

Harper Exposed Once More

Those of us who follow politics closely and with a critical eye have long seen through the myth his handlers have perpetuated that Stephen Harper is a wise and reliable steward of the economy. Doubtless that gross mischaracterization will continue to be applied, and with greater frequency, as we move closer to next year's election. Happily, more and more people are recognizing the fallacious and fatuous nature of such claims.

In her column today, The Star's Carol Goar offers ample evidence that this emperor has no clothes by examining his 'crazy' approach to our economy and his obdurate refusal to take meaningful action against climate change:
It would be “crazy economic policy” to regulate greenhouse gases in the oil and gas sector with petroleum prices dropping, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told Parliament last week. “We will not kill jobs and we will not impose the carbon tax the opposition wants to put on Canadians.”

About as crazy as putting all the nation’s eggs in one basket: Canada becoming a global “energy superpower.”

About as crazy as ignoring the boom-and-bust history of the oil and sector.

About as crazy as assuming people will allow pipelines to snake under their land, carrying bitumen from Alberta’s oilsands to refineries in Texas and tankers on the Pacific coast.

About as crazy as forbidding federal scientists to say anything about climate change and threatening to revoke the charitable tax status of voluntary organizations that seek to protect the environment.

About as crazy as neglecting the price Canadians are already paying for climate change: power outages, damaged homes, spoiled food, lost productivity, higher insurance premiums, the cost of stocking up on everything from generators to non-perishable food.

About as crazy as pledging to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 17 per cent at a 2009 climate change conference in Copenhagen without any plan to limit the carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide spewed into the atmosphere by the oil and gas industry.
To complicate the web of lies regularly spun by the regime, Goar points out some other inconvenient truths:
Public opinion is shifting. More than half of Canadians expressed deep concern about climate change in a poll conducted by the Environics Institute in October. Three-quarters said they were worried about the legacy they were leaving for future generations.

The provincial premiers, tired of waiting for leadership from Ottawa, have hatched their own plan to build a low-carbon economy by putting a price on pollution, developing renewable energy and capping greenhouse gases.

The central pillar of Harper’s economic strategy — being an aggressive fossil fuel exporter — has crumbled in a world awash with petroleum. Investors are cancelling their commitments. Employment in the oil and gas sector is shrinking. Government revenues are dropping.
It is to be hoped that as we move into 2015, more and more Canadians will realize that on these and so many other fronts, Stephen Harper is clearly yesterday's man.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Under The Bus

While these Raging Grannies could perhaps use the services of a good singing coach, their hearts, and their lyrics, are clearly in the right place:

We Must Be Luddites

That can be the only possible explanation for the fact that the federal government is breaking its promise to end abuses of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program so that Canadians can have the first opportunity at applying for available jobs.

As reported by the CBC,
The federal government has granted an exemption to Microsoft Canada that will allow the company to bring in an unspecified number of temporary foreign workers to British Columbia as trainees without first looking for Canadians to fill the jobs.
Yep, it is high time we Canadians stopped fearing technology.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Recognizing Harper For What He Is

Last evening I watched a PBS special on the folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary. Archival footage spanning over 50 years of the group and their times reminded me of the passionate and committed century I grew up in, a time that saw people marching en masse to protest the Vietnam War, to advocate for civil rights, etc. Outside of the Occupy Movement, rarely has this century seen such activism.

I often think that the forces of corporatism, aided and abetted by their government enablers, have been very successful in largely muting, if not totally silencing, the spirit of protest. Their relentless message that the market is the only altar to worship at has frequently skewed, perverted and undermined our better natures and the values upon which our society was founded. Care for the collectivity, they suggest, is a quaint notion that has no place in modern life.

Fortunately, not everyone has drunk that particular Kool Aid. There are two major comforts that sustain me in these times; the deep political awareness and critical thinking that my fellow bloggers are so brilliantly capable of, and the regular letters to the editor at The Star that repudiate the passivity so cherished by the right wing.

In today's paper, there is a wealth of missives on the subject of Stephen Harper, all with a common theme: the emperor has no clothes. In his snubbing of Ontario and his refusal to meet our Premier, a myriad of Harper's flaws as both a human being and the leader of the country are exposed for all to see. I hope you check out all of them; here are but a few to whet your appetite:
Re: Deep freeze, Dec. 5

This page one story is a chilling expose. Childish behaviour is an increasing card being played from our political deck. The cry of “we will have another meeting at some point in time” is indicative of a federal leader exhibiting an increasingly punitive, juvenile approach to Ontario citizens. Pretty scary position when one man believes that it is his way or no way.

Hang in there, Premier Wynne. Childish tantrums are often quickly put aside when something shiny attracts their attention. It appears that our prime minister did not learn everything he needed to learn in kindergarten. Pity.

Don Graves, Burlington

It makes you wonder how someone who leads a country as significant as Canada can be so small-minded and treat the largest province in the country with such a contemptuous, childish and partisan attitude. Just because Ontario is led by a Liberal who points out the weaknesses in the Canada Pension Plan and infrastructure payments to Ontario.

I do feel that Kathleen Wynne will soon be in a very enviable position, when Stephen Harper, with cap in hand, will no doubt be forced to appease her and start to make every attempt to persuade Ontario and Quebec to accept the Energy East pipeline. Anyone with any concern of global warming, which Harper obviously has no regard for, would question its credibility and the true benefit to Ontario and Quebec.

Harper will continue to do anything he can to promote Alberta’s oil sales while doing very little to assist the two manufacturing arms of Canada, Ontario and Quebec. I predict Harper will be almost pleading with these two provinces to accept Energy East, even though it appears the ultimate decision will be in the hands of the National Energy Board, which no doubt has been stacked with pro-Harper appointees, similar to the Senate.

Anybody who has taken Economics 101 knows that you should not base your economy purely on commodities; you need to build a manufacuring base too. Commodities go up and down based on supply and demand, while manufacturing creates at least a stable working environment and also makes Canada more competitive in the world.

They say that Ontario and Quebec will decide the next election. The Harper plan for 2015 is to end up with a balanced budget and to give out a few election goodies to entice or fool the public, which he has already started. However I believe with the drop in the oil prices, I doubt he will balance his budget, unless he claws more back from infrastructure payments to the provinces.

My guess is that the 40 per cent who actually voted for Harper in the last election, will start to question the Canada he has created and will realise his expiry date has been exceeded, will realise how little he has done for Ontario and Quebec, and will join the majority 60 per cent who did not vote for him.

John F. Langton, Oakville

Now, let me see if I’ve got this democratic theory right. The Prime Minister represents all of Canada, and not just part of it. He or she works for us and therefore listens to us. He or she is more ear than mouth. And the money that the PM uses to guide us down the path is not his or her money but ours. It is a common wealth.

The PM must take care of all of us, not just the wealthy, the petroleum people, and the corporations. The PM should not empty the cookie jar because, as Aesop showed us centuries ago, we must be ants and not grasshoppers.

And that listening thing goes for all the ministers of the government as well, whether that is Pierre Polievre, Tony Clement, Chris Alexander, Peter MacKay or that tone-deaf and arrogant Veterans Affairs Minister I call Pope Julian.

David J. Paul, London, Ont.

Is Stephen Harper not the prime minister of all 10 provinces of Canada? It appears he is only the prime minister of Alberta, where the oil is, since he won’t meet with our premier. Why then should any Ontarian consider voting for him?

Bev Murray, Burlington

Friday, December 12, 2014

Today's Score: Harper Base 1, True Canadians 0

My previous post reflected on the Faustian nature of Chris Alexander's rise to prominence within the Harper regime. Further evidence of his moral departure from true Canadian values is reflected in this breaking news, which suggests that Canada is preparing to admit Syrian refugees, but only if they fit certain criteria, the biggest one being that they be religious minorities, i.e., Christians, but not Muslims.

Score another one for the Harper base:

Perhaps John Cleese best reflects my sentiments over this disgraceful pending policy:

Chris Alexander's Faustian Pact

By all accounts, before he entered politics, Immigration Minister Chris Alexander was a competent and respected member of Canada's foreign service; his resume includes the fact that he was Canada's first resident Ambassador to Afghanistan. The lustre attending his career, however, has vanished since he become a member of the Harper cabinet, surely a Faustian deal if there ever was one. To dispense with integrity to merely parrot one's master is a choice hard to comprehend.

Earlier in the week, Tim Harper wrote a column on some of the Prime Minister's 'performers' and non-performers. Here is what he said about Alexander:
While his predecessor Jason Kenney could look tough but sell what he said were necessary immigration measures, Alexander usually looks defensive and a little flinty.

He has been accused of fudging the numbers of Syrian refugees who have been accepted by Canada, looked heartless in cutting medical care for refugee claimants, triggered a constitutional challenge with changes to the Citizenship Act and hung up on a CBC host on live radio.
That, in my view, is a rather restrained assessment of the man. In today's Star, letter-writer Pam Churchill of Toronto offers what is perhaps a more penetrating evaluation:

Re: Some weak players in PM’s dream-team cabinet, Dec. 8
Columnist Tim Harper speaks for many of us when he ponders the mystery of Chris Alexander, “a young, smart, former ambassador with world experience who should be a natural, but is still finding his way in a complicated portfolio.”

Maureen Dowd offers some insight (New York Times, May 19, 2014). When I think of Chris Alexander, her words come to mind.

She was speaking of Condoleeza Rice, “who had all the qualities to dazzle. Smart, attractive, hardworking, personable, chic . . . she sailed to success at an early age.” Yet, says Dowd, “she exceeded at failing better” because “her real ideology was succeeding.” So, says Dowd, “in order to succeed, she rejected old mentors, Brent Scowcroft and Colin Powell, and went along with the preposterous pre-emption plan of the old hawks who had far less respect for her: Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld” and “made a Faustian deal to sell a fake war.”

To Dowd, it is a lesson in selling your soul, which should teach us about “the perils of succeeding at any cost, about how moral shortcuts never lead to the right place.”

Perhaps Chris Alexander does not believe what he says nor support the policies he espouses. That could explain why he is still finding his way. Whatever the answer, thinking about him always brings Dowd to mind and leaves me sad.
To be sure, both Rice and Alexander are sobering object lessons of the heavy price many are willing to pay to be key participants in today's political arena.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Where Some Truth Resides

A friend of mine sent me the following. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did:

Prime Minister Harper took an aerial tour of the proposed pipeline route through BC earlier this week.

When he returned he said he thought it went reasonably well.

Remembering A 'Superstar'

Well, we arrived back in the early hours of yesterday, having enjoyed a relaxing week in Cuba. Unfortunately, there was no English-speaking Canadian television available, so I feel unprepared to offer any political commentary until I get caught up. Fortuitously, however, my son sent me the following item, which, I hope, you will find of interest.

Is it wrong for me to feel such deep and utter disdain for Jonathan Bernier, who, as you will see in the video below, does nothing to dispel the stereotype of the 'dumb jock.'

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

It's That Time Of Year

We'll be away for a week due to our Vitamin D-deprived lives. Cuba beckoned. The price was right. See you soon.

The Shape of Conservative Attack Ads To Come?

A new This Hour Has 22 Minutes song parody of Meghan Trainor's hit "All About That Bass" reveals possible Conservative pre-election attack strategies aimed squarely at the Liberal party leader.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Fraser Institute (A.K.A., The Pinocchio Gambit)

It is to be hoped that no one was near the proboscis of Jason Clemens, Executive Vice President of the right-wing Fraser Institute, when he told this tall tale to Steve Paikin recently on TVO's The Agenda:

For a parsing of Clemons' concoctions, please click here.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Citizenship For Sale

Are there things that money shouldn't be able to buy? In an age when the 'wisdom of the market' is an orthodoxy embraced by many, it is a question that the neoconservative agenda would suggest borders on heresy.

Yet that is precisely the question economist Michael J. Sandel poses in his compelling and thought-provoking book, What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets, which I recently read. Written in very accessible language, it's thesis is that while market principles can work very well in many areas of our society, the increasing reach of those principles into regions once deemed off-limits has an unfortunate side effect of promoting either unfairness or debasement of a value/principle that he characterizes as corruption. In many cases, it has both effects.

One quick example before I come to my purpose for writing today. If a person in India sells one of his kidneys to a person able to pay (likely someone in the first world), market principles would say that because both parties benefit, the deal is a good and efficient one. The donor chooses to sell an organ for money he would not otherwise have, and the recipient gets a new lease on life.

However, closer examination of the transaction reveals something very troubling. The deal is not between two equals. The donor is poor and thus unfairly placed in the position of selling due to his need for the money. The one willing and able to pay for the kidney is therefore exploiting that need, so there is, whether openly acknowledged or not, an element of coercion involved in the transaction.

The second element that makes this disquieting is the fact that it debases people by reducing them to mere commodities, in this case a source of organs.

Sandel provides a wealth of examples in his book, ranging from naming rights, to education, to the arts, to sports, queue-jumping, death insurance, etc.

In all of this, Canada's hands are not clean. Citizenship, once thought to be the reward at the end of a long process, is for sale:
The Canadian government is poised to relaunch a program that grants permanent residency to foreign millionaires but a veteran immigration lawyer says he fears Ottawa is still underpricing what amounts to a path to citizenship.

Ottawa announced in February it would end the decades-old Immigrant Investor Program, saying the $800,000 investment required of newcomers, as well as other conditions, “significantly undervalued Canadian permanent residence.”
The language of the article suggests that the commodification, unfairness and debasement of which Sandel writes is rife in the government's approach:
Richard Kurland, a Vancouver-based lawyer with decades of experience in the field, said he expects an announcement from Immigration Minister Chris Alexander within two weeks and predicts the minimum investment required under the revamped program will be about $1.5-million.

He suggests Canada aim much higher, starting at the $2-million level. From there, he recommends Ottawa experiment with trying to raise the required cash outlay to even greater heights.

“One-and-a-half million dollars? What is that? A condo and a half in Shanghai?” Mr. Kurland said. “Ratchet it up to $2.5-million to $3-million for investment and wait to see if over a five-month period, six-month period, there are still some empty spaces on the board.”
Sadly, this mentality is not confined to Conservatives:
Former immigration minister Sergio Marchi said he thinks Canada should set the required investment at $1.5-million, and not higher, to remain competitive with the roughly 20 other countries that offer similar programs in exchange for permanent residency or citizenship.
Citizenship as competition, eh? Doesn't sound very Canadian to me.

And while a high price tag is being affixed to becoming Canadian, it would seem that its value is going down.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Parsing Darren Wilson And Robert McCullough

As indicated in my previous post, there are very legitimate reasons to believe that prosecutor Robert McCullough purposely failed to secure a grand jury indictment against Michael Brown's killer, Officer Darren Wilson.

In the following video, provided by Addicting Info, legal commentator and former prosecutor Nancy Grace eviscerates both McCullough's performance and Wilson's testimony:

The Failure To Indict: Things Become Clearer

Lay not that flattering unction to your soul
That not your trespass but my madness speaks.
It will but skin and film the ulcerous place
Whilst rank corruption, mining all within,
Infects unseen.

Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 4

Like an unlanced boil with the potential to infect the entire bloodstream, the Ferguson grand jury decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown ensures that things will fester and infect not only that Missouri town, but also the entire United States.

Given that almost all grand juries hand down indictments, the failure of the Ferguson jury to do so is itself cause for scrutiny. That its failure is charged with heavy racial overtones and bias on the part of the prosecutor makes such scrutiny even more urgent.

While the normal procedure is for the prosecutor to present just the evidence needed to secure an indictment, things were done differently in Ferguson:
Over the course of three months, St. Louis County Prosecuting Atty. Robert McCulloch asked the jury of nine whites and three blacks to hear virtually every piece of evidence in the case: witnesses who both supported and contradicted police Officer Darren Wilson's account, three autopsy reports, bloodstains and shell casings.
While McCulloch claims that this was done in the interest of full transparency, others are dubious:
"This was a strategic and problematic use of a grand jury to get the result he wanted," said Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., director of the Harvard Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard University. "As a strategic move, it was smart; he got what he wanted without being seen as directly responsible for the result."
The dumping of all documentation had the effect, likely intended, of creating reasonable doubt in the jury about whether there was probable cause for an indictment.

As well, McCullough presented no challenge to Officer Darren Wilson's testimony. Legal experts say this failure
prompted jurors to accept at face value Wilson's testimony that he feared for his life as Brown allegedly charged at him after he punched the officer and tried to grab his gun.

"A first-year law student would have done a better job of cross-examining" Wilson, said Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for Brown's family. "When was his credibility ever challenged?"

What explains McCullough's successful apparent effort to manipulate the grand jury? Answers are suggested by the prosecutor's past.
“I couldn’t become a policeman, so being county prosecutor is the next best thing,” Mr. McCulloch, who lost a leg to cancer as a teenager, once told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He’s unabashedly proud of coming from a police family. His father, his mother, a brother, an uncle, a nephew and at least one cousin all have worked for the St. Louis police department.
When he was 12 years old, family tragedy struck:
Fifty years ago – in July, 1964 – a fleeing black criminal snatched a police officer’s gun away during a struggle and then shot and killed Paul McCulloch, a St. Louis police officer and the future prosecutor’s father.
Such a trauma would have a long-term impact on anyone. Unfortunately, it appears to have left a bias rendering McCullough unfit for his role as St. Louis County prosecutor:
At least twice since becoming county prosecutor in 1991, Mr. McCulloch has been involved in controversies over what he did – and didn’t – present to grand juries in cases involving police officers.
Both of those cases involved black men and their interactions with police.

Despite his checkered past, McCullough ignored a petition signed by 70,000 people requesting him to step aside for the Wilson grand jury investigation:
“I have absolutely no intention of walking away,” from the case, Mr. McCulloch said, adding he had been the county’s prosecutor for “24 years, and I’ve done, if I do say so myself, a very good job.”
In light of the fiasco under his watch in Ferguson, many, I suspect, would disagree with his glowing self-assessment.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Charities And Political Activities

I am not a lawyer, but I post the following information for those who are, and for those deeply offended by the Harper government's ongoing attacks on non-profits that dare question the regime's wisdom while giving a free ride to right-wing entities whose ideology matches that of our overlords.

Here is the CRA policy statement on the difference between political purposes and charitable purposes (Reference number CPS-022):
All registered charities are required by law to have exclusively charitable purposes. As the Act does not define what is charitable, we look to the common law for both a definition of charity in its legal sense as well as the principles to guide us in applying that definition.[Footnote 2] The formal objectives or goals of a charity must be set out in its governing documents.

Under the Act and common law, an organization established for a political purpose cannot be a charity. The courts have determined political purposes to be those that seek to:

-further the interests of a particular political party; or support a political party or candidate for public office; or
-retain, oppose, or change the law, policy, or decision of any level of government in Canada or a foreign country.

The main reason why the courts rule out political purposes for charities is a result of the requirement that a purpose is only charitable if it generates a public benefit. A political purpose, such as seeking a ban on deer hunting, requires a charity to enter into a debate about whether such a ban is good, rather than providing or working towards an accepted public benefit.

It also means that in order to assess the public benefit of a political purpose, a court would have to take sides in a political debate. In Canada, political issues are for Parliament to decide, and the courts are reluctant to encroach on this sovereign authority (other than when a constitutional issue arises).[Footnote 3]

It is important to remember that although the stated purposes of an organization are the obvious source of reference of whether or not an organization is constituted exclusively for charitable purposes, it is not the sole indicator. The Canada Revenue Agency also takes into account the activities that the organization is currently engaged in as a potential indicator of whether it has since adopted other purposes
To a mere layman such as I am, something smells very, very rotten in the state of Harperland.

Anyone up for taking this on?

They Said What?

Funny how right-wing non-profits with charitable status can be political whenever they want with no fear of tax audits, whereas those with progressive credentials are singled out repeatedly by the Harper regime for special attention from the CRA.

Take as an example The Frontier Centre for Public Policy, a right-wing entity that is calling on governments to rethink Canada's child labour rules in an effort to get more young Canadians into the workforce.

Specifically, the Centre's brain trust, apparently of a decidedly Dickensian disposition, has deemed certain labour rules as "rather unnecessary."
Which rules exactly? The Frontier Centre lists a few to reconsider:

-"Children under 12 are almost never allowed to work."

-"In Alberta, 12- to 14-year olds are forbidden from working more than two hours on a school day."

-"Minimum wage laws also make it more difficult for young people with no experience to find their first job."

-As FCPP policy analyst Brianna Heinrichs explained in an accompanying Regina Leader-Post opinion piece, "age rules and a minimum wage can stifle young potential workers seeking either independence or some pocket change."

-"Hampering young Canadians from having a job is robbing them of opportunity," Heinrichs added. "People should not coddle children until they are of age and then act disgusted when young adults express a sense of entitlement or cannot find a job due to lack of experience."
As touching as their concern for young people might be, there are many who feel that dismantling child labour laws would be, shall we say, counterproductive. Says the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour's Kent Peterson:
"Labour laws are a good thing. They protect us, they protect our children, and they ensure corporations – and their cheerleaders such as the Frontier Centre – cannot exploit and abuse workers just to make a few more pennies of cheap profit."
Should you feel so moved, you can listen to the Frontier Centre's podcast on this subject here.

Rick Repudiates Economic Action Plan Ads

Dishonest and manipulative, such taxpayer-funded government propaganda deservedly earns the scorn of Rick Mercer:

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

And Speaking Of Police Brutality

The following video is difficult to watch, but the sad truth is that these kinds of outrages occur regularly, as a simple Internet search will show.
A witness says that Denver police officers abused a pregnant woman and her boyfriend, and then tried to cover it up by deleting the video from his tablet.

Levi Frasier told KDVR that he was recording as two uniformed officers tried to arrest David Flores, who had been identified by narcotics officers for possessing heroin. An arrest report said that a scuffle had started because Flores had stuffed a white sock in his mouth, which the officers believed was filled with drugs.

KDVR investigative reporter Chris Halsne noted that a close examination of the video showed Flores’ head repeatedly “bouncing off the pavement as a result of the force” of being punched by the officers. In photos that were later taken of Flores in an ambulance, his head could be seen soaked with blood from his injuries.

Respect, Fear, and Loathing

If we are completely honest, many of us will admit to a deeply ambivalent relationship with the police. On the one hand we look to them for protection against the less ordered elements of society, but on the other hand, in the deeper recesses of our psyches, we also fear and, at times, loathe them. And on some level we probably recognize that they can be very dangerous if we insist too vehemently on our rights against their sometimes arrogant intrusions into our 'space.'

Think of the rampant abuse of police authority during the G20 Toronto Summit. Think of the murder of Sammy Yatim.

And I say all this from the cossetted position of a middle-class and educated white man.

I can only imagine how much more difficult that relationship must be if one is black.

Dr. Dawg has written a fine analysis/post-mortem of the the shooting of Michael Brown and the failure of the grand jury to indict his killer, Officer Darren Wilson. If you haven't already done so, make sure to check it out.

Similarly, the CBC's senior Washington correspondent, Neil Macdonald, has penned an arresting piece that deserves wide readership. His thesis: questioning police authority is a risky, even potentially deadly, business:
Most police despise any challenge to their authority. Some will abuse it, if necessary, to protect that authority, and the system can allow them to do that.

Some police are bright, professional and educated. Some are louts. Some are racists. You never know which variety you're facing.

But what they all have in common (outside Great Britain) is the weapon at their hip, and the implicit threat of its ultimate use to settle matters.
Macdonald suggests there is but one way to behave when confronted by the police:
But I've had my share of dealings with police, in the U.S., Canada, and elsewhere in the world, and there is a universal truth: when police demand submission, it's best to submit.
Michael Brown's fatal mistake, he implies, was his refusal to submit:
Officer Darren Wilson told grand jurors that when he told Michael Brown and his friend to walk on the sidewalk that Saturday afternoon instead of down the middle of the road, Brown replied "fuck what you have to say."

Eventually, they tussled at the window of Wilson's cruiser. Finally, with both of them outside on the street and facing one another, Wilson shot the unarmed teenager to death.

Clearly, the yawning racial divide of the United States was a contributing, perhaps overriding, factor in Brown's death, and that chasm will likely never be bridged. But Macdonald suggests a practical measure that might go a long way to curbing the police violence that so painfully and periodically erupts:
Ensure that every police officer working the streets of America wears a body camera. That would certainly help.

Many police cruisers are already equipped with dash cameras. And the Ferguson case demonstrated the fallibility of eyewitness accounts.

So why not pin digital cams on uniforms? They would act as impassive, accurate monitors, both in cases of police abuse and when someone falsely claims police abuse.

I suspect police here will probably resist the idea, though. Nothing questions authority like hard video evidence.
And as experience has shown us, such a measure is sorely needed in our own country as well.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

What If?

Last evening, I was watching the 6o'c lock news, distracted and perturbed by the howling winds (up to 100 kms. per hour) buffeting our windows. Here in Southern Ontario, about 100 kilometres from the snowstorm that has devasted Buffalo, I can perhaps be forgiven for feeling especially sensitive to increasingly frequent bouts of extreme weather linked to climate change.

Then I was overcome with a real anger whose origin I couldn't immediately identify. But as I thought about it, I realized that it was in part related to the prospect of a power outage, something we seem to experience here at least three or four times a year. There is nothing like a power outage to reduce us to an almost primal state, a state in which our facade of mastery of the universe is brutally stripped away. It is always a sobering and humbling opportunity to realize that, vis-à-vis nature, we are nothing.

Then I realized the real basis for my anger: all of the corporate and federal poltical hostility to taking meaningful action to try to keep the global rise in temperatures within 2 degrees Celsius, the uppermost limit that science tells us might prevent runaway and irreversible climate change.

While our overlords may safely (but temporarily) ensconce themselves as the worst comes to pass, the rest of us will be left to contemd with an increasingly harsh environment, all so that corporate entities can continue to amass record profits, taking all they can before the world as we know it disappears.

Then a thought occurred to me. The Salamander has frequently commented on how we need some powerful symbols, metaphors, and imagery around which opposition to the Harper agenda can coalesce. What if, for all the increasingly volatile weather, for all of the power outages, for all of the floods, for all of the "100-year storms," and for all of the other frequent natural disasters we are facing, Canadians place the blame where it belongs: let us affix pictures in our public consciousness (and in our advertising) that expose the corporate giants and their chief Canadian aider and abettor, Stephen Harper, for what they are: Protectors of a monied status quo that is dooming the rest of us to a life soon to become nasty, brutish, and perhaps short.

What if, when the next wallop of nature visits us, we think of it this way:

This storm is brought to you by Stephen Harper, who refuses to lift a finger to mitigate climate change.

Just a thought.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Citizenship That Speaks Loudly

Although we live during a time when the term 'citizen' has been largely supplanted by corporate misnomers like 'stakeholders' and 'customers' and 'taxpayers,' the concept of citizenship still lives in the hearts of many. And while we hear all the time about the 'rights' of stakeholders, not often are we reminded of the 'responsibilities' of citizenship.

A recent post of a speech given by Tamo Campos, the grandson of David Suzuki, was one such reminder, as is this one by Simon Fraser University molecular biologist Lynne Quarmby, arrested at the same place as was Camos, Burnaby Mountain, for exercising her right of protest against the activities of Kinder Morgan:

Earlier, David Suzuki himself gave an impassioned speech:

All who see the world solely through the lens of 'market values' should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

But Are His Pants On Fire?

That is a question only Bill O'Reilly can answer, but given his veracity-challenged career, I would not take his response at face value.

The fun begins at about the 2:40 mark below as Keith Olbermann pierces some O'Reilly-concocted mythology:

For The Record

About the undercarriage of that busy Tory bus, Star readers have much to say:

Ex-Tory staffer jailed nine months for robocalls, Nov. 20

My sympathies go out to Michael Sona and his family, the latest addition of those people used by the Harper government and then thrown under the bus for getting overly enthusiastic about being a Canservative “short pants.”

This episode should be taught in political science courses the world over as a precautionary tale of how a draconian oligarchy works and how to avoid getting hyped into criminal activity.

At 22, Mr. Sona was a virgin in politics and its black arts, not much different than the ideological youth of his age that want to fall for the recruiting methods of the jihadist murders and go to their deaths in foreign wars. I am disgusted with the trail of maligned and discredited lives left in the wake of Secret Steven.

Next in the Harper government guillotine, Mike Duffy and Nigel Wright.

Stay tuned.

Gord Deane, Mississauga

Democracy has sunk to a new low. Now a lowly cog in the wheels has accepted the blame for one of the greatest failures in Canadian democracy — subjecting an established electoral vote to subterfuge.

To read Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s press release and Finance Minister Joe Oliver’s verbal statement that there was no foul play on behalf of the Conservative Party in the robocall trial brings disbelief. So says me, the trial judge and millions of other Canadians. This is not what I want from the political leaders of my country.
Combine this with muzzling scientists, hiding environmental relaxations in omnibus budget bills and promoting the devaluation of the Canadian dollar adds up to selling out the Canadian future.

Rather than competing on value, our manufacturers would rather compete on a cheap dollar. Instead on investing in labour, equipment and value-added services to increase productivity, a cheap dollar does the trick for our CEOs. All the while taking home huge pay packets and outsourcing labour wherever they can (read banks).

As for the Conservative Party of Canada, I am ashamed to see Mr. Harper show up at G20 meetings full of bluster but without any substance behind him. As for his commitments to provide a solid foundation for the future growth and prosperity of Canada, he now sees the political advantage of disbursing our surplus to the most advantaged rather than building and/or supporting one of these priorities:

A national child-care program to support the real needs of Canadians; environmental policies that address climate change; infrastructure investment across the country that deal with problems experienced by Canadians on an everyday basis – transit, housing, health care and education; a so-called commitment to investing in the health of women and children around the world while at the same time decreasing our aid levels and ignoring the needs of these same groups in our own country; icebreakers and support ships that will be required in the near future to safeguard the Arctic Ocean; and once and for all a commitment to examine crime and abuse, especially toward to aboriginal women.

As for the esteemed economist Mr. Harper, he has bet the country’s future on oil extraction and export at the expense of every other industrial sector and region, despite the government’s abundant advertisements of their Economic Action Plan – such blatant spending with our dollars! Perhaps a more balanced action plan would be more beneficial for all Canadians rather than betting it all like it was Vegas craps.

Man up or turn tail and resign.

John Berry, Toronto

As a voter, I am outraged that Michael Sona is getting away with only nine months in jail for an “affront to the electoral process.” My rights as a voter have been violated and I would have liked a stiffer penalty — and further probe into who might have abetted Mr. Sona in this very grave crime.

Mimi Khan, Scarborough

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Canada's Fearless Tax Warrior

That intrepid capeless crusader for core Conservative concepts, Finance Minister 'Uncle' Joe Oliver, has found yet another weapon in his utility pouch to save us from the implacable clutches of taxation. Rather than rely on a bureaucracy that may be rife with 'fifth columnists', Oliver has decided to outsource fiscal analysis to those most acquainted with the scourge of taxation, lobby groups!

Our man's courage in the face of sneering opposition is a wonder to behold:
Finance Minister Joe Oliver says the government approved a $550-million tax credit for small business without conducting any internal analysis to find out how many jobs the measure would create.

The minister told the House of Commons finance committee Wednesday that such analysis was deemed unnecessary because it had already been done by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, a small-business lobby group.
That 'analysis' claimed the credit would create 25,000 “person years” of employment, a figure quickly deflated by the Parliamentary Budget Officer, who concluded the credit would create only about 800 jobs over two years.

Perhaps sensing that his enemies ('the tax and spend crowd') were getting close to uncovering his alter ego, Oliver performed the perfect feint by taking on the persona of a village idiot. When asked by MP Scott Brison why the government didn't undertake its own analysis before granting the tax credit, he said:
“Because we didn’t think that we needed to do another analysis when we already had received one and we knew that this is a good news story for small businesses. The small business organizations have been asking us for a long time for this break”.
The colloquy, as reported by Aaron Wherry, continued:
Brison: So are you aware of the methodology they used?

Oliver: We are aware that they have expertise, they’ve spoken to their members and I have had an opportunity to speak to them and I’ve had an opportunity to speak to many small businesses in my riding in Toronto and elsewhere around the country. You know, you may not want to listen to small businesses. We do, and they are the biggest generators of employment in the country.

Brison: So you’re not aware of their methodology they used to come to that number?

Oliver: I am aware that they have spoken to their members and they do their regular type of analysis that you’d expect them to do. I mean, when you invest over half a billion dollars, there’s a macro-economic impact and we’re very comfortable there’ll be significant job creation.
NDP MP Nathan Cullen, part of the brigade attempting to derail Oliver's crusade, offered an observation that we can only hope deflected harmlessly off of the finance minister's protective shield. He said
that the minister’s comment shows the government is making major decisions based on ideology rather than evidence.

“They’re outsourcing policy to business lobby groups,” said Mr. Cullen. “Would they outsource policy to the Canadian Federation of Students? Would they outsource it to the national unions? They are now just allowing other people to write policy and spend employment insurance money.”
Fighting for one's faith can be a lonely endeavour, but if anyone can gird his loins and carry on, it is Uncle Joe.