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.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

And Now, A Word From David Suzuki's Grandson

Tamo Campos, David Suzuki's 24-year-old grandson, was arrested Thursday for defying an injunction granted to Kinder Morgan, which is currently conducting drilling tests in preparation for the much-contested proposed Trans Mountain pipeline.

Back at the site on Friday, at the base of Burnaby Mountain Campos gave an impromptu speech, the highlights of which follow:
“This is insane, why are we putting our economic system – the market – above the very ecology that we all depend upon? We’re more dependent on clean water, fresh air and clean soil, than the market! It’s the thing that keeps us alive!”

“We have to stand up to unjust laws – to make those the laws, because those are the laws that have always governed our lives. And indigenous people have had natural laws that pre-date colonial laws by thousands of years, and we need to respect that.”

David Susuki is undoubtedly proud of his grandson, writing a letter to and about him. Here is a brief excerpt:
All over the world, local citizens and communities are standing up to protect their ecological, social and economic interests against these invading entities that behave like thugs, intimidating with SLAPP suits and using every legal tool, anything to keep on their destructive path while avoiding the important issues like climate change and threat of spills being raised by protesters.

I say all this to set the action of Tamo and others in context. Tamo is fighting for the world that will be left to his generation in the future. I believe what Kinder Morgan and companies like it are doing is an intergenerational crime but there are no legal precedents to pursue criminal charges on that basis.
The following video contains Campos' speech:

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

When construction crews begin digging a new canal this month across Nicaragua, connecting the Pacific and Atlantic, it’ll be a boon to global shipping and, the government says, to the economy of the second-poorest nation in the Americas. But activists, scientists and others are increasingly alarmed by the environmental impact of a 173-mile artificial waterway—wider, deeper and three and a half times the length of the Panama Canal
The grim facts include:
-The new canal and its infrastructure, from roads to pipelines to power plants, will destroy or alter nearly one million acres of rainforest and wetlands.

-The canal route lies in the middle of a hurricane belt. A storm like Hurricane Mitch, which killed 3,800 people in Nicaragua in 1998, would probably cause the canal to flood,
triggering mudslides that would breach locks and dams. Communities, homes, roads and power lines would be swamped.

Add to that the fact that the route canal will cut across Lake Nicaragua, which is the source of most of the country's fresh drinking water. As a consequence,
critics say ship traffic will pollute the water with industrial chemicals and introduce destructive invasive plants and animals.
All in all, this sounds like yet another of the many recipes for disaster that the world is currently contending with or awaiting.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Must Be A Form Of Tough Love

For a government that frequently and loudly proclaims its veneration of our military, the Harper regime has a strange way of showing the love:
Veterans Affairs Canada has returned $1.13 billion to the federal treasury in unspent funds since the Conservatives came to power in 2006 — cash that critics say should have gone toward improved benefits and services.
In what I'm sure is a mere 'coincidence,
Data tabled in the House in response to a written question shows roughly one-third of the so-called lapsed funds were handed back between the 2011 and 2013 budget years when the government was engaged in a massive deficit-cutting drive.
Asked by NDP MP Peter Stoffer about the unspent funds, Veteran Affairs minister Julian Fantino, drawing upon a talent undoubtedly honed through his various career incarnations, responded with a non-answer, saying that the government has spent a total of $30 billion for vets since 2006:
“It means improved rehabilitation for Canadian veterans,” Fantino said. “It means more counselling for veterans’ families. It means more money for veterans’ higher education and retraining. It means we care deeply about our veterans.”
If I know the law from watching television, one could characterize the minister as being non-responsive, which allowed Stoffer to offer his own interpretation of the withheld funds:
“The deputy ministers . . . have obviously been told by the higher-ups that, ‘This money has to come back to us in order for us to have our books balanced, and that way we can use that money for other purposes, like income-splitting.’”
Not to be outdone, Liberal veterans critic Frank Valeriote offered a trenchant assessment, saying that
ex-soldiers who’ve been denied benefits will look at the unspent funds and feel “hoodwinked, completely abandoned” and wonder why they’ve made sacrifices for their country.

“It is reprehensible and unconscionable what they’re doing so that the government can create an image of fiscal responsibility”.
Perhaps in light of what many would describe as a betrayal of veterans, the Kenora Legion might like to rethink the punitive measures it took against Rev. Sandra Tankard for speaking out on their behalf on Remembrance Day. They have clearly misidentified the true enemy here.

I See That Rob Anders' Replacement Is No Prize Either

I'm sure some hoped that when Rob Anders, the Conservative MP for Calgary Signal Hill and national embarrassment, lost his riding's nomination to run in the 2015 election, he might be replaced by someone with at least a modicum of balance and rationality. Alas, the new torchbearer for the riding, Ron Liepert, is proving such hopes were futile.

An appearance on the CBC's The Current the other day amply demonstrates that while he will fit in well with the ethos that dominates the Harper regime, his 'logic' and his contempt for opposing views will prove to be a deep affront to those who favour reasoned argument over ad hominems:
Debating the Keystone pipeline with Greenpeace Canada's Keith Stewart, Liepert repeatedly complained of "extreme environmentalists" with "extreme arguments" waging "extreme environmental attacks on Alberta's oil industry" for calling for a transition to renewable energy sources.

After labelling critics of unsustainable oil and gas development as "extremists" several times, Anna Maria Tremonti finally interrupted Liepert and asked him point-blank: "Why do you call them 'extreme environmentalists'?"

"Because individuals like your guest would like to see fossil fuels eliminated across the world. That is simply not going to happen. You know, he lives in this dream world where somehow airplanes are going to fly with solar power, how transit in his city is going to be powered by renewables from wind. This is just a dream world that these extremists live in and we have to face reality. If you were to shut down the oil and gas industry in Canada today -- I don't have the statistics in front of me -- but our unemployment rate would probably be pushing 20% in this country. And we'd be living in a dream world that simply cannot exist."

As you will hear in the following excerpt, Stewart responded to Liepert's ranting calmly and rationally, two qualties that I am sure were completely lost on the political aspirant.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

WildRose Revisited

The other day I wrote a post about the Wildrose Party's retraction of its definitive equal rights clause that covered almost every conceivable individual. Although leader Danielle Smith had enthused the day before about its inclusiveness, when party delegates voted it down, she quickly changed her tune, saying that the more generic substitute was better.

In this morning's Globe, Gary Mason offers his own view on what many see as a regressive step for Wildrose, and what he calls yet another 'bozo eruption.":
The change was important for a political institution that is still viewed suspiciously in some quarters. It is widely accepted that it lost the past provincial election when an old blog post written by one of its candidates was unearthed in the dying days of the campaign. In it, Allan Hunsperger condemned gays and lesbians to an “eternal lake of fire.” Ms. Smith lamented the “bozo eruption,” and pledged that the party would do a better job in future of weeding out those with bigoted and narrow-minded attitudes.
The policy alteration was designed to do just that:
Last year’s recommended alteration to its human rights policy was designed, in part, to show Albertans that Wildrose is as inclusive as any party in Canada. It was hoped the change would dispel any notion it is not ready to govern an increasingly multiethnic and socially liberal society.
The failure of the party is egregious in this regard, and is reflected in its recent loss in the four by-elections last month, which saw all taken by the newly-revived Conservatives under Jim Prentice.
Suddenly, Wildrose looks lost and uncertain. At the convention Ms. Smith blamed the media for many of the party’s woes, accusing news organizations of perverting or ignoring positive stories to instead perpetuate the image of a negative and angry political brand. This takes gall, considering that for much of Ms. Redford’s two-year tenure, the media focused almost entirely on the former premier’s near-constant travails. Wildrose was served up daily opportunities to take vicious, but legitimate, swipes at its main rivals.
Surely, part of the blame must be put on Danielle Smith, who after those losses urged a leadership review that was rejected by the party.

Gary Mason ends his piece with this ominous observation:
The decision to reject overwhelmingly a human rights policy change that would have made the party look decidedly more modern and inviting does nothing to help its cause. At one time, Wildrose seemed close to governing Alberta. Now it could not seem further away from power.
The lesson for the Alberta electorate, I suppose, is clear. No one should be surprised that when these 'bozos' remove their 'public face,' the same faces peer back at them in the mirror.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Latest Addition To The Harper Enemies List

... apparently are army chaplains who speak truth to power.

Although technically she wasn't fired, (she offered her resignation, which was accepted), Rev. Sandra Tankard incurred the displeasure of both her local Legion and her Conservative MP, Greg Rickford:
The Royal Canadian Legion in Kenora, Ont., accepted the resignation of its chaplain on Monday, after some members and the local Conservative MP complained her remarks about Veterans Affairs and Afghanistan War veterans at a Remembrance Day service were too political.

During the Nov. 11 legion service, Rev. Sandra Tankard spoke out about concerns that veterans who fought in Afghanistan are not getting proper care, and then talked about cuts to Veterans Affairs.
Here is the offending comment, a very small part of an eloquent speech Tankard gave during her Remembrance Day service:
Our Government has continued to cut funding to the Ministry of Veteran’s Affairs, including removing Service Offices.

Like many other members of the Royal Canadian Legion, I claim my right to dissent against this action, both with my voice and a letter to my MP and with the promise of my vote to the party that would restore that funding to the people and programs it has supported!
After the service,
Tankard said local Conservative MP Greg Rickford approached her directly and expressed his "displeasure" about her remarks.
Asked what others could learn from her experience, Rev Tankard observed, rather wryly and with some restraint,
"perhaps it is that the freedoms we have to speak are not necessarily as vibrant as they once were."
Undoubtedly that is a sentiment Canadians from many walks of life would heartily concur with.

UPDATED: The Power of Imagination

I can imagine that giant ball being put to a better use, like capturing the hot air that the oil industry is so adept at spewing out, much more of which seems in the offing.

As reported in today's Star,
TransCanada Corp. plans to browbeat detractors of its ambitious Energy East pipeline with intense pressure so that they are distracted and forced to redirect their resources, according to documents obtained and released by Greenpeace on Tuesday.

These documents — dozens of pages — also describe the company’s public relations strategy, which includes detailed background research into environmental agencies that are opposing the pipeline and hiring “third parties” who will be able to do things when TransCanada cannot.
Among the groups targeted are the David Suzuki Foundation, Equiterre, Avaaz, Ecology Ottawa and the Council of Canadians, all well-known opponents of the potential environmental despoliation the Energy East pipeline represents.

That TransCanada is planning a dirty tricks campaign is strongly suggested by the fact that it has engaged
the U.S. public relations firm Edelman, the largest in the world, to promote the massive oil pipeline project.
As revealed by the CBC,
Edelman suggested a "campaign-style approach" and borrowing tactics from opposing environmental groups that "press their advantage" and successfully use online campaigns to leverage "large and passionate audiences that show a propensity to vote and take other political action."
Part of the strategy being promoted by Edelman seems to be borrowed from the Stephen Harper/Joe Oliver playbook:
It suggests a three-pronged approach — promote the pipeline, respond aggressively to any criticism and apply pressure on opponents using "supportive third parties who can put pressure on, especially when TransCanada can't."

It's the last tactic that bothers Keith Stewart from Greenpeace, who originally obtained the documents. He said Edelman is proposing to discredit opponents to Energy East by using sympathetic allies who are being fed information by TransCanada.

"When they actually try to do it in a sneaky manner, having attacks on their critics being co-ordinated by TransCanada but not putting their name on it, that's where I have a real problem," said Stewart in an interview with CBC.
Too bad TransCanada has gone out of country for this service. I'm sure Harper Inc. would have been glad to lend its well-honed expertise in such matters.

UPDATE: You can read much more about this at DeSmog Canada.

Monday, November 17, 2014

UPDATED: Perhaps They Forgot (In)Alien(able) Rights?

The Edmonton Journal reports the following story about the Wildrose Party:
Wildrose members on Saturday voted down a “definitive statement” on equality rights, one day after leader Danielle Smith trumpeted the motion that had been adopted by the party last year.
Perhaps its specificity offended some of the party's 'less progressive' members?
Delegates at the Wildrose annual general meeting in Red Deer voted 148 — 109 to reject a proposal to make policy a motion adopted last year defending the rights of all people, “regardless of race, religious belief, colour, gender, physical disability, mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, marital status, source of income, family status or sexual orientation of that person or class of persons.”

Instead, party members opted to maintain their existing policy recognizing that “all Albertans have equal rights, privileges and responsibilities.”
With the kind of logic and language worthy of the Orwell imprimatur,
Smith described the vote as an affirmation of the party’s current policy, rather than as a defeat of the proposed plank.

“I think that the nature of the debate was that they were concerned there might be something excluded in that long list,” said Smith, who was not on the convention floor for the vote. I think that’s a reasonable position to take. I certainly don’t think anyone should take offence to it.
She's probably right. The defeated equality statement did seem to have one glaring omission. There was not one mention of (in)alien(able) rights, and it would would hardly pay to offend these denizens of Rigel V11 :

The farsightedness of Wildrose is indeed breathtaking.

UPDATE: Special thanks to Alison who, in her comment below, provided a link to some telling information:

Wildrose priorities ... not too big on inalienable equality rights for people but nonetheless want property rights entrenched in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Today, the Wildrose was joined by federal Conservative Lethbridge MP Jim Hillyer to announce a new legislative motion that will be the first step in entrenching Alberta landowner rights in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Introduced by Wildrose Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Rod Fox, the amendment to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms would be brought about under section 43 of the Constitution Act, which states that
if a constitutional amendment applies to one or more provinces, but not all of them, the amendment requires only the support of the province to which it applies with resolutions by the Senate and House of Commons, and of the legislative assembly of each province where the amendment applies.

Wildrose leader Danielle Smith is wildly enthusiastic about entrenching property rights, since it gets government 'off the backs of the people,' a foundational tenet of the party:
“Landowners are the best stewards of our beautiful landscapes and they deserve to have their rights fully protected so they can manage their property with minimal interference from government,” Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith said. “This kind of positive constitutional change is possible and critical for advancing property rights in Alberta. I hope that after Mr. Prentice’s campaign commitments this past summer, both he and his government will fully support this motion.”
Make of that what you will.

Just a Little Reminder

While the right enthuses about Dear Leader's performance on the G20 world stage, here's something to bring everyone back down to earth:

And letter writers also have some thoughts to share on the issue.

This from The Globe:
Yes, the U.S.-China climate deal is a really, really, really big deal (Yes, This Is A Really, Really Big Deal – editorial, Nov. 13). Climate change is not just one of the greatest threats facing humanity, it is the greatest threat. With a carbon fee and dividend, we can have a carbon-reducing mechanism, plus more jobs. Since B.C. introduced its revenue-neutral carbon tax, its clean technology industry has been flourishing and emissions per capita are down sharply.

I have conservative values, but Stephen Harper’s closed-minded approach to this issue does not resonate with these values. One hopes the China-U.S. emissions agreement will force him to do something.

Sharon Howarth, Toronto
And from The Star:
Before he became prime minister, Stephen Harper famously said that climate change was a “socialist plot.” Now that we have the new U.S.-Chinese climate agreement, perhaps our Petro State leader will say, “This is just another plot. Canada sells oil. Let others worry about the planet’s future.”

Anthony Ketchum, Toronto

Saturday, November 15, 2014

More Of The Same

In today's Star, Thomas Walkom explains why the U.S. China climate deal is not likely to have any impact whatsoever on Harper's ongoing and egregious contempt for all things related to climate change:
For this prime minister, only one player in the climate change debate matters: the petroleum industry.

When Harper talks about dealing with climate change in a way that protects jobs and growth, he means jobs and growth in the Alberta tarsands.
In part, this is sheer politics. Alberta is the Conservative heartland. If Harper were to be seen as neglecting Alberta, he would risk triggering the same kind of rebellion that destroyed the old Progressive Conservative Party of Brian Mulroney and Joe Clark.

But in part, it is based on Harper’s theory of the Canadian economy. The prime minister views resources — particularly energy resources — as the driving forces of the entire economy.

Under this logic, whatever is good for oilsands producers is good for Canada.
Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

Friday, November 14, 2014

UPDATED: Would You Hug A Terrorist?

There is no question that here in the West, we like to treat death almost as an embarrassment; we sanitize it, hide it away in hospitals and palliative care units, and conduct our lives with a kind of cognitive dissonance, believing on some level that while it happens to others, somehow an exception will be made in our case.

Not for us the graphic horror of many deaths: severed limbs, exposed entrails, torrents of blood. One need only look at how photos of the Boston Marathon victims were doctored to realize the truth of our aversions.

Unfortunately, in the many war-torn areas of our fractured world, especially the Middle East, people do not have that option. Their lives are often a daily series of bombardments shattering their communities and their lives that cannot withstand even the greatest efforts at denial.

Why are we so isolated from their suffering, their maiming, their deaths? Modern technology, of course, allows countries like ours to attack from a distance, using drones, long-range missiles, etc., the resulting images just fuzzy war-video game images that are broadcast to us. It is all too easy to dissociate from real life and its deadly consequences.

Fortunately, there is a movement entitled Hug A Terrorist that is seeking to combat the depersonalization that permits us to accept obscene terms such as 'collateral damage' with equanimity. It was started last summer by two Palestinian-Syrian girls as a response to the carnage in Gaza to show that the people who are labelled terrorists are often just innocent, ordinary people, many of them mere children:

Yesterday, McMaster University in Hamilton hosted an event inspired by that video. You can click here to watch the news report.

While it garnered widespread support, there were those who objected to it, such as local Harper MP David Sweet, who tweeted that he agreed with [the]sentiments ... [but] considered the campaign "outrageous and poorly timed."

Others felt even more strongly:
[A] handful of other Mac students watched the activity. Wearing a yarmulke, 3rd-year student Zach Harris said he thought the campaign made light of terrorism.

"It belittles the word," he said.

Another nearby student, Sarah Kohanzadeh, said she thought students passing by were uncomfortable with the campaign.

Neither Harris nor Kohanzadeh went across the hall to talk with the pro-Palestinian students, they said. Both of them belong to the university's Israel on Campus group, but said they were watching the campaign in the Student Centre independently of the group.

"We're trying to stay low," Kohanzadeh said.

Jacob Klugsberg, a 4th year student, said he found the campaign offensive in using the concept of terrorism "ironically or in a joking way." He said he did walk across the hall to talk. He said he hopes the campus can be a place where discussions happen to move toward "lasting peace."
Happily, unlike in the 'real world,' disagreements did not devolve into violence.

UPDATE: Ira Rosen, of the Hamilton Jewish Federation Public Relations Committee, takes grave exception to the event:
This stunt is morally reprehensible and deeply offensive and casts the very real human suffering caused by terrorists as a joke. It is an insult to the memory of Canadians, indeed to all people, who have fought and died at the hands of terrorists.
You can read his full response here.

It Seems That Bill O'Reilly Got A Few Things Wrong About Jesus

At least according to scholar Resa Aslan:

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Beware! Just Say No!

This latest anti-drug propaganda public service ad from the Harper regime is not being well received. Here is a sampling of the critical reaction culled from You Tube:
- "As a Canadian taxpayer, I'm highly offended that my money contributed to this mass disinformation, which amounts to nothing more than scare tactics. It's time for the government
to drop the political motives that are clearly behind these types of messages about drugs, and instead embrace an opinion that is based on public health."

-"What a weak argument - '300 - 400% stronger than it was 30 years ago'. Now you only have to smoke a half joint, instead of 3 joints like you did 30 years ago! Weak! I want my tax
money back!"
-"Listening to this commercial can seem harmless, but it can cause serious damage to a teen’s developing brain."

-"I used to think marijuana was bad, till I saw this commercial. Now I've concluded adults are liars."

-"I don't smoke cannabis, but it's disgraceful knowing my tax money is being wasted on propaganda. How about some sources?"

-"Is this the same advertisement that the College of Physicians refused to support?"

-"Not a fan of pot, but this ad is just stupid," concluded a user going by the handle Antphetamines.
I don't know about you, but I still prefer the original scare story:

Anyone Up For A Citizen's Arrest?

That is the question Toronto lawyer Paul Cavalluzzo essentially asks, given the egregious contempt for law that the Harper government in general, and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander in particular, is showing regarding refugee health care:
Our government has clearly refused to comply with an order in a case in which the court found that the government’s denial of health benefits to refugees was a violation of our Charter of Rights (Ottawa’s Treatment Of Refugees Is Shocking – Nov. 7).

This defiance is in the face of the court refusing the government’s request to stay the order. Moreover, the government has publicly stated that it is obeying the court order, in spite of the clear facts to the contrary.

In my practice of law, I’ve represented trade union leaders who have gone to jail as a result of defying court orders. Perhaps it’s time for a citizen’s arrest of Immigration Minister Chris Alexander or indeed the PM, who likely authorized this defiance.

It’s time this government learned that the rule of law means the law applies equally to all. It is not enough to wax eloquently on Remembrance Day that we should honour our fallen soldiers who fought valiantly and died to protect the rule of law. We truly honour them by complying with the rule of law and not defying it!

Contempt of a court order is an insult to their memory.

What Will Be The New Excuses For Inaction?

H/t The Globe and Mail

Now that the United States and China have signed a deal to drastically reduce their carbon emissions, one can only imagine that the Harper propaganda machine is now in overdrive, probably squirming under the unwanted attention this deal will direct at the regime.

As noted by The Pembina Institute yesterday,
“Canada has long justified its own failures to limit the growth of greenhouse gas emissions by pointing to the inaction of heavy emitters like the U.S. and China, but that excuse does not stand up to scrutiny.

“With this announcement, China is showing real leadership on climate change. Given the energy demands of China’s growing population and economy, identifying a target year for its emissions to peak, along with a plan to invest heavily in clean energy generation, is a significant and ambitious step.

The Harper spin machine has some formidable facts it will have to twist and pervert if it is to continue facilitating climate change. Here are some of those facts as provided by the Institute:
- Canada is among the top emitters, per capita, in the industrialized world
- Canada and the U.S. have both committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17% below 2005 levels by 2020.
- The U.S. is likely to meet its 2020 climate target, while Canada is expected to miss its emissions target by 20% (122 megatonnes of CO2e).
Canada’s oil and gas sector regulations are now eight years overdue. In the meantime, emissions from the oilsands are set to rise from 34 megatonnes to 101 megatonnes between
2005 and 2020.
- Canada has regulated emissions related to 10% of the energy in its electricity system, whereas the U.S. has targeted all electricity emissions.
- Canada’s coal regulations are mitigating 0.4% of our emissions by 2020. The U.S. clean power plan would mitigate 4.9-6.6% of U.S. emissions.
Perhaps the first salvo has already been fired, with the Conservatives employing a technique they have honed over the years - baldfaced lies and non-sequiturs. Stephen Lecce, a spokesman for Harper, said
"Canada has taken decisive action to reduce emissions, while our economy has grown and over 1.2 million net new jobs have been created since the global downturn"
Perhaps the regime will take a page out of the U.S. Republican playbook, which was quick and predictable in its denunciation of Obama's deal:
"I was particularly distressed by the deal ... which, as I read the agreement, requires the Chinese to do nothing at all for 16 years while these carbon emission regulations are creating havoc in my state and other states around the country," said U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell on Wednesday.
Or maybe, as illustrated in yesterday's post on Fox News' reaction to the deal, it will simply indulge in bafflegag or attempt to change the conversation. Already, as reported in The Globe,
Mr. Harper and Alberta Premier Jim Prentice insist Canada cannot impose costly emission regulations on the oil sands unless the United States adopts GHG rules for its oil sector.
If none of these strategies work, I suppose Harper could just continue doing what he has done best for so long: bury his head in the Alberta tarsands.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

UPDATE: Lest We Forget

Brutality against women can come from those whose duty it is to protect and serve:
A Winnipeg woman said this week that she had filed a complaint after an officer beat her in her own home as her 8-year-old son watched.

Lana Sinclair told CBC that Winnipeg police officers showed up on Halloween night to investigate reports of “yelling.” One officer spoke to her son, while another officer talked to her.

“He came up to me and poked me,” Sinclair recalled. “I was sitting on a chair in the kitchen and I jumped up and said you don’t need to touch me.”

The officer pulled out a baton, and beat her with it, she explained to CTV. She said he then smashed her face into a work table, and into the floor.

UPDATED: Many thanks to Inse for providing this link to a very disturbing video showing physical brutality by a London Metropolitan police officer. In this case, unlike the vast majority in Canada, the offending officer was charged and terminated.

A Sobering Remembrance Day Reminder

I have to confess that all of the extra 'enthusiasm' for this year's Remembrance Day makes me uneasy. Poppy sales are at an all time high. Special and protracted ceremonies are planned. Government propaganda is being churned out incessantly.

While I fully respect the fact that many people fought and died to protect our increasingly fragile freedoms, the reflexive reaction of a wide swath of citizenry to the military, especially since the events of last month, should be cause for some concern. It suggests to me a willingness to suspend critical faculties when they are most needed, given that we currently strain under the yoke of probably the least democratic domestic regime in our history.

Two Star letter writers address these concerns effectively:

Re: ‘I know Hitler will destroy Germany,' Insight Nov. 8

I have read, with fascination, David Halton’s story of his father’s reporting on the early days of the Nazi era in Germany. Glorification of the military; rush to war at the first opportunity; rigorous control of the media message; muzzling of dissent; demonization of certain groups. Remind you of anywhere?

People everywhere must constantly be vigilant or live to regret it.

John Simke, Toronto

Matthew Halton, in his 30-part German series for the Star, provided an intersting description of Gleichschaltung, in which Germans served the state rather than the other way around after the Nazis wrested control of Germany in 1933.

To Halton, Gleichschaltung “was ‘bringing into line’ every aspect of German thought and activity, the Nazis’ rationale for suppressing “political parties, trade unions, independent churches, even long-standing provincial governments whose powers were stripped away.”

Call me crazy, but wouldn’t Gleichschaltung somewhat describe Harper Inc.’s end-game?

Alan Pellettier, Scarborough

H/t Operation Maple

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Thank God I'm Safe

In our household, we don't 'hold' with energy drinks, so I guess our immortal souls are safe. But I'm not quite clear what that Great Deceiver, Satan, gets out of peddling such beverages:

I Feel Better Already

....knowing that Mr. Harper's fight against ISIS hasn't distracted him from an even greater threat to all that is holy and good:

Saturday, November 8, 2014

UPDATED: Reassuring Legislation For Xenophobes and Bigots, A.K.A. The Harper Base

I don't know who composes the names for government bills these days, but they are blatantly selective in their intended audiences. The latest proposed piece of Harper legislation leaves little doubt that its target audience is the red meat supporters of our current regime: the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act (Bill S-7).

Hmmm, interesting title. Cultural - can't be referring to Canadians, since we are reputed by many to have no culture. Barbaric - outside of cultural outliers like Luka Magnotta and Paul Bernard, no barbarism amongst our native-born. And clearly the ex-soldier who attempted to blow up a downtown Calgary skyscraper that houses a Veteran Affairs Canada office was disturbed, not a barbaric ideological warrior/terrorist.

This bill is transparent in design and intent, guaranteed to ensure that our equanimity, so recently roiled by the Parliament hill attack, is not too quickly re-established. In his column today, Thomas Walkom points out that the bill has merit only in three aspects:
One would explicitly outlaw forced marriages. Another would clarify the general provincial practice that sets 16 as the minimum age for marriage. A third would make it illegal to transport a child under 16 abroad for the purpose of marriage.
The rest, however, goes over ground already covered in the Criminal Code:
Polygamy, for instance, is already illegal in Canada. Governments have the power to arrest and charge polygamists. Yet as the long-running, Bountiful, B.C. polygamy saga shows, Canadian government have not been anxious to do so.

But the new federal bill does not address the barbaric practices of established Canadian polygamists in B.C. Instead, it focuses solely on immigrants.
Immigration Minister Chris Alexander claims there are hundreds of immigrant engaged in this foul practice. The bill would allow for their deportation.

And then there is this,
... the section dealing with honour killings that is the most curious. Bill S-7 would rewrite the Criminal Code to preclude a defendant in a murder trial from arguing that an insult to family honour provoked his action.

Such a clause might be necessary if Canada’s courts were routinely soft on honour killers. But they aren’t.
Alexander himself
cited the case of Mohammad Shafia, an Afghan immigrant who, along with his wife and son, killed three of his daughters and the girls’ stepmother.

What the minister didn’t point out is that all three killers received the maximum sentence — life in prison.
So it remains clear that the Harper regime is continuing to do what it does best: sowing fear, suspicion and hatred, emotions sure to appeal to a certain segment of the population that is largely responsible for the debasement of politics that has been ongoing since their election of Dear Leader.

I just thought of a better name for Bill S-7. How about The Shameless Manipulation of the Canadian People By a Corrupt Government Act?

UPDATE: Click here to see Press Progress' definitive ranking of the most ridiculous and misleading Conservative names for bills.

Friday, November 7, 2014

A Pity They Don't Practice Such Restraint Domestically

Those paragons of virtue and restraint, the business elite, have given us direction for successful relations with China.

Guy Nelson, who makes amusement park rides and was tapped as one of the businessmen to accompany Dear Leader to the Orient, is also freelancing as the Harper regime's foreign policy adviser. He has proclaimed that Canada should stay out of Chinese politics:
Nelson sees China as a huge opportunity for his company, noting theme parks planned by Walt Disney Co and Universal Studios in China, but said bumpy relations between the two countries hurt business.

"Canada has to not try to impose our values excessively on this country," he told reporters on the sidelines of the business conference.

"How China chooses to run its country is their business.
One cannot help but wonder where we poor befuddled peons would be without such unsolicited guidance from these Masters of the Universe.

Russell Brand On Homelessness

Oh, how the right wing must hate him. Read this and watch the accompanying video to find out why.

I especially like this from Brand:
“There’s a prevailing idea,” he continued, “that there’s something ethically wrong with being poor, and that America’s run according to Christian values. But when people are practicing genuine Christian values, they themselves are directly prosecuted.”

“Clearly,” Brand said, “what Jesus was really into was having guns, and not having abortions, and not being gay. Those are his main priorities. But after he made sure that everyone had a gun, no one had an abortion, and nobody was gay, he had a little think about the poor people and whether they needed anything.”

“Sharing is one of the most important Christian values. Looking after each other is a Christian value.” But, he added, American businessmen use “Christianity and morality of all kind to protect their own corporate interests.”
'Nuff said.

This Explains A Lot

The above picture helps to illustrate why industrialized nations seem so cavalier about climate change. Click here for details.

Meanwhile, Stephen Harper's climate soul mate, Australia's Tony Abbott, has just extended a giant middle finger to the world's developing countries:
Australia is resisting a last-ditch push by the US, France and other European countries for G20 leaders at next week’s meeting in Brisbane to back contributions to the Green Climate Fund.
The Green Climate Fund aims to help poorer countries cut their emissions and prepare for the impact of climate change, and is seen as critical to securing developing-nation support for a successful deal on reducing emissions at the United Nations meeting in Paris next year.
Such stellar leadership. Such monumental selfishness. Such compelling reasons to despair.

Beware The 'Great Men' In Our Midst

Were he perceived throughout the country as the legendary Canadian he is in his own mind, I'm sure that former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna would be lauded far and wide for his insights and advice. Yet the current Deputy Chairman of The Toronto Dominion Bank, board member of Canadian Natural and shill spokesman for the oil industry does the interests of neither Canada nor the larger world any benefit when he extolls the virtues of the Energy East pipeline, as he does in his platform of choice, The Globe and Mail.

Entitled Energy East is truly in the national interest, his piece enthuses over the impending evolution of our country's economy, thanks to the Energy East pipeline, which will transport untold barrels of Alberta tarsands crude to the east coast for refining:
At its core, Energy East intends to transport up to 1.1 million barrels of Western Canadian crude to Eastern Canada per day. It means the conversion of 3,000 kilometres of underutilized natural gas pipe and the construction of 1,600 kilometres of new oil pipeline, primarily in Quebec and New Brunswick.
But wait! There's also untold prosperity accompanying tarsands bitumen down that pipeline:
In fact, according to a report by Deloitte, it’s estimated that the oil sands will create $2.1-trillion in economic benefits across Canada in the next 25 years, including more than $780-billion in taxes paid to the federal and provincial governments.
Had Globe subscribers not yet had the opportunity to don their Depends, I hope they took a few moments to compose themselves before continuing on:
In fact, Energy East changes the game for the entire oil-and-gas sector in Canada. It’s good for Alberta, opening up access to domestic and world markets. It helps Eastern Canada rid itself of its dependency on foreign supplies of oil that often come from countries with considerable instability and values that are not ours. In addition, there are significant benefits for all provinces in terms of job creation and badly needed tax revenues.

The one thing missing from this ad for unbridled development, of course, is any acknowledgement of the catastrophic consequences that any further exploitation of fossil fuels will bring, as outlined in the latest UN Climate report.

Perhaps this Globe online commentator best puts things into their proper prospecitve:
It is truly shameful that the Globe and Mail in running this op-ed did not disclose that Frank McKenna is a member of the Board of Directors of (and presumably receives compensation from) one of Canada's largest tar sands companies.

And as for his thesis. Sure, the tar sands may bring $2.1 trillion in benefit to some Canadians. But as long as the destination for the carbon in those 175 billion barrels of tar is the global atmosphere, the costs to the world (of which Canada is still part) will be immeasurably greater. How our so-called leaders in the corporate sector and media can be incredibly selfish and besotted with short-term wealth defies belief.

Or to put it even more succinctly: When you cut through all his rhetoric, former New Brunswick Premier Frank McKenna winds up being nothing more than a shill for Alberta tarsands and one gravely inimical to the world's prospects for long-term survival. Hardly a Canadian icon, no matter what he may think.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Some Days, It Is Very Hard To Resist The Demon Of Despair

Gordon Klingenschmitt, a.k.a. Dr. Chaps, as unhinged a 'reverend' as you are ever likely to encounter, has been elected to the Colorado House of Representatives. A man who brags of having once tried to rid of woman of the "foul spirit of lesbianism" through an exorcism, you can click here to read about a few of his more 'colourful' observations.

Or perhaps you might like to watch this video in which he offers a novel interpretation of Martin Luther King's famous speech:

Or maybe this will be more to your liking:

I suppose there are many in Colorado very thankful for the fact that they can now legally purchase and use marijuana. Everyone deserves respite from the madness that now engulfs them.