Saturday, January 31, 2015

Herr Harper, Who Is Your Goebbels?

Having returned from our Cuban sojourn last evening, I have not yet had time to get caught up on the Canadian political scene, but this item by Heather Mallick deconstructing one of Herr Harper's recent 24/Seven productions caught my eye.

Its martial music, military imagery and depiction of Dear leader's steady hand on the tiller of state, standing strong against those who "hate our freedoms," left me with only one question: Are Herr Goebbels' descendants now gainfully employed by Prop Can?

P.S. I noticed that the closed captions were turned on when playing the video. I guess that is so the true believers don't miss even one word. If you are not thus enamored of the prime minister, you might want to turn them off.

Friday, January 23, 2015

On Hiatus

Time to head back to our favourite island before it is infiltrated by the Americans.

See you in about a week.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Another Compelling Video From Operation Maple

Operation Maple (Take Canada Back) is continuing its fine job of reminding us of the terrible way we are governed, offering us frequent and compelling evidence that demonstrates how the neo-liberal agenda, pursued with such diabolical glee by the Harper regime, is continuing to undermine our country. I suspect its resources, and others (the Salamander, for example, has some interesting ideas in this regard which I shall soon write about) will become increasingly important as we move ever closer to the next federal election. Please visit their site and disseminate their material as you see fit.

The following video explores the history of the free trade agreement and its costly consequences, consequences that continue to this day and promise to grow even more grave under the Canada-China Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) and the Canada-Eu (CETA) deal.

Our sovereignty as a nation continues to erode thanks to these agreements, brokered with such secrecy, with the only true beneficiaries the corporate elites and the multinationals.

Rick's Latest

As usual, Mr. Mercer does us all proud as he yet again lambastes the obdurate, arrogant Mr. Harper, this time over the fact that he doesn't play well with others (a.k.a. the provincial premiers).

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Real Problem With Contemporary Journalism

The current scandal engulfing the CBC and Amanda Lang has made its way overseas into the cross-hairs of The Guardian's George Monbiot.

After providing a summary, with appropriate links, of the sordid Lang tale that encompasses massive conflict of interest and management collusion, Monbiot has this to say:
CBC refused to answer my questions, and I have not had a response from Lang. It amazes me that she remains employed by CBC, which has so far done nothing but bluster and berate its critics.
But the CBC's indefensible stance is not the real subject of Monbiot's essay, merely part of the context for his thesis:
[T]hose who are supposed to scrutinise the financial and political elite are embedded within it. Many belong to a service-sector aristocracy, wedded metaphorically (sometimes literally) to finance. Often unwittingly, they amplify the voices of the elite, while muffling those raised against it.
Studies and statistic prove his point:
A study by academics at the Cardiff School of Journalism examined the BBC Today programme’s reporting of the bank bailouts in 2008. It discovered that the contributors it chose were “almost completely dominated by stockbrokers, investment bankers, hedge fund managers and other City voices. Civil society voices or commentators who questioned the benefits of having such a large finance sector were almost completely absent from coverage.” The financiers who had caused the crisis were asked to interpret it.
The heavily biased reporting on that catastrophe, however, was only representative of a deeper malaise:
The same goes for discussions about the deficit and the perceived need for austerity. The debate has been dominated by political and economic elites, while alternative voices – arguing that the crisis has been exaggerated, or that instead of cuts, the government should respond with Keynesian spending programmes or taxes on financial transactions, wealth or land – have scarcely been heard. Those priorities have changed your life: the BBC helped to shape the political consensus under which so many are now suffering.
And what about fair and balanced reporting? A fiction, according to Monbiot:
The BBC’s business reporting breaks its editorial guidelines every day by failing to provide alternative viewpoints. Every weekday morning, the Today programme grovels to business leaders for 10 minutes. It might occasionally challenge them on the value or viability of their companies, but hardly ever on their ethics. Corporate critics are shut out of its business coverage – and almost all the rest.

On BBC News at Six, the Cardiff researchers found, business representatives outnumbered trade union representatives by 19 to one. “The BBC tends to reproduce a Conservative, Eurosceptic, pro-business version of the world,” the study said. This, remember, is where people turn when they don’t trust the corporate press.
He ends by listing the media's myriad failures, and the grave consequence of those failures:
...their failure to expose the claims of the haut monde, their failure to enlist a diversity of opinion, their failure to permit the audience to see that another world is possible. If even the public sector broadcasters parrot the talking points of the elite, what hope is there for informed democratic choice?

Monbiot's piece should be required reading for all concerned about the condition of that great protector of democracy, the fifth estate. As well, we would be indeed foolish if we failed to understand that the insights he offers apply, not just to Great Britain, but to Canada and much of the rest of western world, as well.

Harper Intimidation Tactic Backfires

As noted yesterday, the Harper-led CRA attacks on charities inimical to the base continues apace, the latest 'victim' being Dying With Dignity Canada, which is having its charitable status 'annulled.' However, this time it appears that the bully's strategy has backfired.

As reported in The Star, Dying With Dignity Canada is not going to appeal the decision, instead seeing it as a real opportunity:
“We won’t be opposing it, simply because it would be lengthy, time consuming, costly and a distraction from our core work,’’ Morris said in a telephone interview from Toronto.

She hinted strongly that once her group’s status is officially gone, it will use its website to begin endorsing politicians and parties who support the physician-assisted suicide position.

“We’ll be able to say here’s a candidate, come look,’’ Morris said.

“It’s unfortunate we’ll no longer be able to issue tax receipts, but it will also be a real freeing from constraints, because as a charity we’ve really had to follow careful guidelines from the (revenue agency). We’ll no longer need to do that,’’ Morris added.
A visit to their website shows a wealth of information on the topic of dying with dignity, surely fulfilling the educational component that comprises a good part of CRA-conferred charitable status, and solidly giving the lie to the Agency's alleged reason for revoking that status.

Nonetheless, as a result of Harper's sleazy intolerance of opposing views, I suspect that the profile of Dying With Dignity Canada has been considerably enhanced.

Sorry it didn't work out for you this time, Stephen.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Harper Attack On Charities Continues

Following a well-established pattern, the Harper regime has once again used the offices of Canada Revenue Agency to go after a charity that it deems ideologically inimical to its base. This time, it is Dying With Dignity Canada:
The federal government is stripping Dying with Dignity Canada of its charitable tax status following a political activity audit by the Canada Revenue Agency.

The organization, a registered charity since 1982, advocates for choice and dignity at the end of life, including providing information about patient rights, advance planning and education on the case for physician-assisted death.
Despite the fact that it has been a registered charity for over 30 years,
Dying with Dignity says the revenue agency has informed it that the organization never should have received charitable status in the first place because it does not advance education in the charitable sense.
That was some oversight, eh?

Health Canada Fails Us Yet Again

On this blog I have frequently extolled the fine investigative journalism practised by The Toronto Star. Whether on issues of municipal, provincial, or federal significance, The Star, as it frequently proclaims, "gets action."

From the standpoint of average Canadians, probably one of its most important investigations in recent times has been into Health Canada and its all too cozy relationship with the pharmaceutical industry, an industry protectorate seems to treat more as an equal than as an activity to be regulated. its relationship with the generic company Apotex is especially troubling.

Despite previous avowals by Health Minister Rona Ambrose that things would improve, it seems that business as usual prevails at Apotex. Yesterday, The Star reported that problems have again been uncovered, this time at its Brantford palant, information that, as in the past, comes not from Health Canada, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration:
At the Brantford facility in November, FDA inspectors found the company launched an internal review in 2013 to ensure it was effectively cleaning the equipment used to make drug products. Three swab tests of the equipment found unacceptable levels of contamination.

But Apotex shelved its internal review “until (an) effective cleaning procedure is developed,” according to an Apotex memo reviewed by FDA inspectors.

Then, in September 2014, the company made multiple batches “using the same equipment cleaning methods that failed the cleaning validation,” FDA inspectors found.

The company then released the drug products “based on a less stringent” quality-control requirement.
What were the possible contaminants?
An industry expert said the most common contamination from improperly cleaned equipment would be bacteria or trace amounts of another drug or antibiotic made using the same machines.
So where was Health Canada in all of this?

The agency, which had conducted its own inspection in July with similar discoveries, tagged along with the FDA in its November inspection. But that's where common ground diverges. While the FDA made the result of the inspection publicly available, Health Canada says it is still finalizing the report from its July inspection.

A hard-hitting editorial in today's Star makes it abundantly clear that this kind of cavalier foot-dragging is unacceptable:
That’s not good enough. It’s January and drugs that could possibly be contaminated are on the market.

Health Canada must move a lot more quickly to ensure consumer safety. And it clearly needs to take a much more rigorous look into Apotex’s manufacturing practices. The company has a long history of safety issues at its plants.
The editorial ends with sentiments that few Canadians could disagree with:
In the end, consumers are dependent on Health Canada — not the FDA — to ensure that drugs on the Canadian market are safe and effective. Health Canada should immediately identify the drugs in question and issue its report on Apotex’s Brantford plant. And it needs to have a good hard look at all of Apotex’s manufacturing practices.

Consumer safety is at stake.
That, strangely enough, does not seem to be a priority with Health Canada.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Triumph of Ideology Over Truth

None of us, of course, is free of prejudices, biases, and ideological/philosophical leanings. It is part of being human. But those of us who strive for critical thinking at least make an effort to recognize the aforementioned in our own thinking, and take measures to try to counteract their at-times destructive effects. I like to think that is what separates progressives from the reflexive ranters à la Fox News who substitute blather, invective and demagoguery for reason.

The New York Times' Paul Krugman has written a very interesting piece examining this issue, entitled Hating Good Government.

Krugman starts out by looking at climate change, and the fact that 2014 was the warmest year on record, a fact, however, that will make no difference in the 'debate.'
Evidence doesn’t matter for the “debate” over climate policy, where I put scare quotes around “debate” because, given the obvious irrelevance of logic and evidence, it’s not really a debate in any normal sense. And this situation is by no means unique. Indeed, at this point it’s hard to think of a major policy dispute where facts actually do matter; it’s unshakable dogma, across the board. And the real question is why.
To fully establish his premise, he next looks at the right's most prized article of faith, that tax cuts promote growth:
First, consider the Kansas experiment. Back in 2012 Sam Brownback, the state’s right-wing governor, went all in on supply-side economics: He drastically cut taxes, assuring everyone that the resulting boom would make up for the initial loss in revenues. Unfortunately for his constituents, his experiment has been a resounding failure. The economy of Kansas, far from booming, has lagged the economies of neighboring states, and Kansas is now in fiscal crisis.
So will we see conservatives scaling back their claims about the magical efficacy of tax cuts as a form of economic stimulus? Of course not. If evidence mattered, supply-side economics would have faded into obscurity decades ago.
Next, Krugman turns to health care reform, regarded by the right as an unspeakable evil promoted by the satanic Obama:
...the news on health reform keeps coming in, and it keeps being more favorable than even the supporters expected. We already knew that the number of Americans without insurance is dropping fast, even as the growth in health care costs moderates. Now we have evidence that the number of Americans experiencing financial distress due to medical expenses is also dropping fast.
Those facts, of course, will matter not a whit to the 'true believers' on the right.

Krugman then gets to the heart of the matter, the reason for this intractability that is impervious to facts:
Well, it strikes me that the immovable position in each of these cases is bound up with rejecting any role for government that serves the public interest. If you don’t want the government to impose controls or fees on polluters, you want to deny that there is any reason to limit emissions. If you don’t want the combination of regulation, mandates and subsidies that is needed to extend coverage to the uninsured, you want to deny that expanding coverage is even possible. And claims about the magical powers of tax cuts are often little more than a mask for the real agenda of crippling government by starving it of revenue.
And why this hatred of government in the public interest? Well, the political scientist Corey Robin argues that most self-proclaimed conservatives are actually reactionaries. That is, they’re defenders of traditional hierarchy — the kind of hierarchy that is threatened by any expansion of government, even (or perhaps especially) when that expansion makes the lives of ordinary citizens better and more secure.
We would be indeed foolish to think that such forces are not at work in Canada as well. One only has to look at the Harper regime's near-constant vilification of 'enemies, its suppression of science, its general demagoguery substituting for reasoned policy to see our sad domestic truths echo those of the U.S.

Not a time to be smug here, there, or anywhere.

How Does Stephen Harper Get Away With It?

Because we let him. That is the question asked and answered by a Toronto Star letter-writer in response to a column on democracy by Bob Hepburn, which I posted about last week.

There is an array of excellent letters on this topic, one that could serve as a primer for those who are disengaged. I hope you will check out the full page and share with those who might benefit from the insights offered.

Election best chance to restore faith in democracy, Opinion Jan. 11
This summary is brilliant and speaks to the heart of Canada’s challenge. Poor choices, decisions based on an ideology that excludes more voters than it includes, an arrogant blindness to the growing collateral damage caused by policies made within a narrow context – all of these and more can be reviewed and changed.

This column is a cry and pledge for change driven by the phrase, “How does Stephen Harper get away with it?” At the first step of the democratic ladder, the answer is “we let him get away with it.”

Perhaps it’s time for us (the voter) to ask, “How do we stop this erosion of our democracy?” And then set about a plan to do it, acknowledging that perhaps Mr. Harper’s strongest asset is the diversity and size of Canada making joint projects a geographic nightmare, a land where divide and conquer can be accomplished with our own money ($2.5 million in TV ads) not to mention the overriding complacency of the voter (the fiddle is playing while Ottawa burns). This summary challenges the voter.

The Star has done its job with strong and factual, canary in the mine reporting. We need to respond. Each Harper candidate needs voters to ask them all of these “how does” questions and stand our ground until we get the facts from each and every candidate who wants our vote.

And each voter must look inside her or his soul to discover again the value of our democracy is worth more than ideology.

Don Graves, Burlington

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Fox Apologizes?

Surely the end is nigh.

In case you have the interest and the stomach, this is what the apologies were all about:

And Speaking Of Ethics

Or, more accurately, the lack of them at the CBC, letter-writer John Page of Toronto offers this thought:
Re: Minimal mindset of CBC managers, Jan. 16

As a faithful listener and hard-core supporter of the CBC for over 42 years, I recently changed the channel — literally. The story on the conduct of Amanda Lang and CBC management brings home the reality of the decline and likely extinction of the CBC.

Maybe I am naive to think that Harry Brown, Joe Cote, Barbara Frum, and Knowlton Nash would have ever placed themselves in the ethically grey areas that your article touches.

Hoping the Star and other media can do some more investigation and reporting on this important subject.

Egg On His Car

... but not on his face. Yes, our peripatetic and staunch, uncritical supporter of all things Israeli, Foreign Minister John Baird, was spared the ultimate humiliation during a visit to the West Bank city of Ramallah today to meet with Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki.

The protesters, who were waiting as Baird left Malki's office, were kept well back and Baird was not hit, authorities say. One media report says only one of the eggs landed on the roof of his car.

Protesters held signs reading: "Baird you are not welcome in Palestine."
Here is some raw footage of the event, which many Canadians will look upon rather wistfully, I suspect, given that at home, members of the Harper regime have a far more nuanced relationship with the public, appearing only before carefully vetted, friendly groups:

Saturday, January 17, 2015

More On The Amanda Lang Imbroglio

The Star's John Semley offers his thoughts on the inadequacy and ineptitude of the CBC's response to the Amanda Lang scandal:

Friday, January 16, 2015

Accountability, Whither Goest Thou?

If there is one good thing to be said about the Leslie Roberts scandal, it is that privately owned Global Television has acted with dispatch both in its investigation of the newsman/PR firm co-owner's terrible breach of ethics, and its subsequent actions. While the official 'story' is that Roberts has resigned, there is little doubt in my mind that he was given that option by management lest he be unceremoniously turfed.

This decisive behaviour stands in sharp contrast to the inaction of other media outlets. Perhaps the most notorious example of patently unethical choices is Margaret Wente's much-reported serial plagiarism which the Globe and Mail treated as some form of pecadillo that merited exactly what? All we know is that the editor at the time, John Stackhouse, said she had been disciplined; the terms of that discipline were private.

More recently, of course, we have had the sad spectacle of the CBC's Amanda Lang who, it is alleged, tried to stop a story exposing the RBC's use of the Temporary Foreign Workers Program to train and replace permanent employees; Lang's was a clear conflict-of-interest violation given the nature of her relationship with an RBC board member and the fact that she has accepted paying gigs from the bank.

As of this writing, the CBC continues to insist that Lang did nothing wrong, essentially the same approach that it took with conflict allegations against Peter Mansbridge and Rex Murphy.

These are hardly decisions that inspire confidence in the public broadcaster.

In his column today, Rick Salutin explores who is to blame for the sad state of affairs at the CBC (it is the managers, who cower in the shadows behind their “stars”) and remembers a time when when public institutions adhered to public values for the benefit of all:
Canada’s other main public cultural institution, the National Film Board, was built by John Grierson in the 1940s. He was a titan of global film. He acted imperiously. He recruited young Canadians and dazzled them with his ego and vision. One said, “A day never passed at the Board that Grierson didn’t remind us we were there to serve the people of Canada.”

Among his recruits was Sidney Newman. Newman went to the UK and worked in private TV, creating The Avengers. Then the (public) BBC hired him as head of drama. He revelled. He created Doctor Who, now in its 51st brilliant year. For the 50th anniversary, BBC did a film about Newman! He was its superhero.
Today, we regularly read reports of the death of traditional media, reports that, if I may borrow from Mark Twain, seem greatly exaggerated. However, those media do themselves no favours by trying to rationalize and justify failures when they occur. We, the news-consuming public, deserve much better.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Good Riddance!

From my perspective as a serious consumer of news, Leslie Roberts will not be missed.

What's Next? Thoughtcrime?

Yesterday I wrote a brief post on how the French government, despite massive outpourings in defense of free speech in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, is moving to severely curtail that right for those with whom it disagrees.

The Toronto Star has an editorial strongly condemning the French action, using the following examples to bolster its expression of odium:
...the French authorities have arrested comic Dieudonné M’bala M’bala and more than 50 others including several minors for voicing unpopular views of their own.
Not accused of any acts of terrorism,
they ran afoul of France’s tough laws against glorifying terrorism, promoting anti-Semitism and indulging in hate speech. They were arrested for saying what they think.
What was Dieudonné's 'crime'?
He posted — briefly, before deleting it — a Facebook notice that declared “as far as I’m concerned I feel like Charlie Coulibaly,” a reference to the gunman Amédy Coulibaly who killed a police officer and four people at the supermarket. Offensive as that posting was, does it rise to the level of a crime?
The BBC reports that people have already been jailed for making drunken threats against police, for posting a video mocking one of three murdered officers and for shouting “long live the Kalash” assault rifle at police in a shopping centre.
Canadians should not feel complacent over the fact that this crackdown on rights is happening a continent away, given the profoundly anti-democratic bent of the regime we currently groan under at home.

Can facecrime and thoughtcrime be far behind?

Toward Democratic Renewal

I'm sure that all progressive bloggers are disheartened and bedeviled by the devolution of democracy in Canada. Not only has it been under consistent and sustained attack by the Harper regime, but it has also (perhaps as a result of those attacks) seen a substantial rise in the number of disaffected and disengaged citizens, attested to by the abysmal turnout in recent elections.

In today's Star, Bob Hepburn has some suggestions on how to reverse this deplorable situation, posed in this way by Hepburn:
How can Stephen Harper and other political leaders be prevented from running roughshod over our democracy?
Hepburn suggests that Harper's egregious contempt for our democratic principles and traditions are sparking a backlash among a growing number of Canadians.

It is a suggestion with which the founder of Democracy Watch, Duff Conacher agrees:
“There will be huge competition on this issue among the political parties like we haven’t seen in more than 10 years,” he says.
So how can we, as concerned citizens, contribute to this push for democratic renewal?
First, you can write, email and telephone Harper, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, as well as your MP. In the past, many people have written to Ottawa, but have received unsatisfying responses or no replies at all. Don’t give up, though. Politicians will change direction if enough people write to them, Conacher says.
Next, Hepburn advises joining
a non-profit community group engaged in a public issue ... [that] can provide a chance to share your views with elected officials or public servants.
Third, spend $10 and join a political party. As a member, you can try to influence candidates and the political agenda at the local or national level.

Fourth, talk about political issues with your family and friends. [Alison]Loat [of Samara]says one of the biggest challenges for anyone interested in restoring democracy is getting others engage. Barely 40 per cent of Canadians report they have talked with their friends or families or work colleagues about a political or societal issue in person or on the phone in the last year.

Fifth, sign up with pro-democracy efforts and petitions that are being launched across Canada. For example, the Ottawa-based Council of Canadians is urging its members to take a vote pledge, with a promise to challenge two more eligible voters to join them in taking the pledge. As well, Dave Meslin, a Toronto organizer who co-founded Spacing magazine, is seeking ideas for a book he is writing, titled One Hundred Remedies for a Broken Democracy.
Hepburn also points out that Duff Conacher is
the driving force behind Democracy Education, a coalition of national groups that operates the website that strives to get voters to encourage non-voters to turn out for the coming election.
The idea is to extract a promise from as many of your friends and acquaintances as possible to Make the Vote Promise.

Taken separately, perhaps none of these will cure our political malaise, but in the aggregate, they may, with the proper effort, result in a return to healthier numbers at the ballot box.

We have our job cut out for us. The challenge is daunting, but I refuse to believe it is insurmountable.

Coalition Redux

Never ones to shy away from expressing strong opinions, Toronto Star readers weigh in again on the best way to try to defeat Mr. Harper in the next election:

Re: Pondering a union of moderates, Letters Jan. 10
Federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau must get their heads together. Prior to 2006, the federal conservative parties realized they were fighting each other. They became one party and have been in power ever since. In 2011, with a vote increase from approximately 37 per cent to 39 per cent, they went from a minority to a majority government.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper could win again in 2015 unless the left unites. NDP and Liberal issues and policies may vary slightly but they are heading in the same direction. If they don’t join, Harper will be one of the longest reigning prime ministers even though, by far, he is the worst prime minister ever, taking that title from (I’m sure) a relieved Brian Mulroney.

Let’s review some of his highlights. He promised to be transparent and accountable. Not so. United Arab Emirates allowed our military to use its military bases and hospitals, and they flew soldiers home at no cost to Canada. When Harper refused UAE commercial flights into Canada, we lost that privilege. This has cost Canada at least $300 million for an alternate airbase.

Harper wanted to buy 65 F35 jets from an American company, even though the U.S. air force wouldn’t because the jets were flawed. Because of Harper’s hawkishness, Canada was kicked out of the UN Security Council. He taught us that proroguing is not something you eat. He is the only prime minister in Commonwealth history to be held in contempt of Parliament.
Harper hired Deloitte Consulting for advice on how to handle finances. And yet before the election, he told us he had the means to balance the budget. He said he would be tough on crime, and then scrapped the long gun registry.

When Jean Chrétien’s Liberals chose not to fight in the illegal war in Iraq, Harper wrote a letter to the U.S. apologizing for Canada’s refusal. He promised Senate reform. Didn’t happen. Instead he stacked the Senate in his favour.

In 2011, the postal workers went on a rotating strike. Harper said that commerce relies heavily on the mail. So what did he do? He locked out the postal workers, so no mail was delivered. Sounds like a Monty Python skit.

He silenced the scientists for fear they may show evidence of climate change. Nothing gets said or done unless it goes through him first. Hence, the label he has acquired: Party of One.

John Vesprini, Stoney Creek
First, to paraphrase Churchill, “first past the post is the worst form of election possible, except for all the others.”

All proportional representation does is transfer power to small parties, far in excess of their voter turnout. That is one reason the NDP supports it. You will discover that, and express your malcontent, when a hard-right party wins a balance of power with 15 to 20 per cent of the vote.

Second, why is it that right-wing parties are routinely cited by letter writers with the “61 per cent voted against this government” and left-wing parties are not? Kathleen Wynne won a majority with 38.2 per cent of the vote, but none of the letter writers acknowledged that fact.

Based on election results from the last two elections, in Ontario Stephen Harper enjoyed the support of 44 per cent of actual voters, and 27 per cent of eligible voters, while Kathleen Wynne had 38 per cent and 20 per cent respectively.

Finally, the Conservative party did receive the plurality of votes cast in the last election, on a party basis. There are four parties on the left, which split the so-called “progressive” vote.

Two parties splitting the “right” vote cost us 10 years of Jean Chrétien’s Liberal government. Until the “progressives” unite, we will continue to get a government elected by a majority of Canadians, on a party basis.

Alan McDonald, Trenton
As I have said before, it is doubtful that a uniting of progressives will take place before the upcoming election. It may be seriously entertained afterwards, if Harper is re-elected with another majority. However, if that happens, I suspect it will be too little, far too late.

Thirst for personal power will have triumphed over the public good, once again.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

UPDATED: Have The Terrorists Already Won?

Much press has been devoted to the aftermath of the cowardly massacre at Charlie Hebdo; strong displays of solidarity both in defence of freedom of expression and disdain for the jihadists' efforts to squelch it, have been widespread. But despite these demonstrations, one can legitimately ask if the terrorists have already achieved victory.

I offer but one example here of the egregious irony/hypocrisy of a state-sanctioned suppression of the very right that so many are so staunchly defending against attack.

Associated Press journalists Lori Hinnant and Angela Charlton report the following:
In a sign that French judicial authorities were using laws against defending terrorism to their fullest extent, a man who had praised the terror attacks while resisting arrest on a drunk driving violation was swiftly sentenced to four years in prison.
I guess freedom of expression is ultimately largely contingent upon whether or not one finds acceptable the view being expressed. So it would seem that both the French government and the terrorists have found something upon which they can both agree.

UPDATE: Many thanks to Karen for providing this very timely link.

A Blog Post Recommendation

I have only one purpose in this brief post, and that is to strongly recommend that you take a look at Dr. Dawg's latest post. A trenchant and incisive dissection of the rot that has beset the CBC, Dawg concludes that there is little worth saving at what he calls the 'MotherCorpse', given its increasingly flagrant disregard for conflict of interest issues, Amanda Lang's case being only the latest.

Who is to blame for this sorry state? Well, you'll have to read Dawg's post for his answer.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The CBC: The Ethical Slide Continues

H/t Canadaland

The once-prized principle of journalistic ethics continues its precipitous decline at the CBC. Following last years's timid management response to conflict of interest allegations against chief correspondent and resident sycophant Peter Mansbridge and its sophistic treatment of oil shill/resident crank/climate-change denier Rex Murphy, the Corporation's management is at it again in defending its senior business correspondent, Amanda Lang.

Two days ago, Canadaland reported the following:
Multiple sources within CBC News have revealed to CANADALAND, under condition of anonymity, a shocking campaign Amanda Lang undertook in 2013 to sabotage a major story reported by her colleague, investigative reporter Kathy Tomlinson.
The story that Lang tried to block was uncovered by reporter Kathy Tomlinson and her Go Public team. It revealed that the Royal Bank of Canada was
using an outsourcing firm to bring in temporary workers for its Canadian employees to train... in order to sack those Canadian employees and ship their jobs overseas.
Canadaland reports that as CBC journalists across the country were gathering more information to follow up on the story, they were summoned to a conference call with Tomlinson and Amanda Lang:
Lang, they recall, relentlessly pushed to undermine the RBC story. She argued that RBC was in the right, that their outsourcing practices were “business as usual,” and that the story didn’t merit significant coverage. She and a defiant Tomlinson faced off in a tense, extended argument. Two of the CBC employees we spoke to recall a wave of frustrated hang-ups by participants.

“I cannot emphasize enough how wrong it was,” said one CBC employee we spoke to. “That another journalist, not involved in a story, would intervene in the reporting of others and question the integrity of her colleagues like that. I haven’t seen anything like it before or since.”
Lang's efforts did not end there, and extended to on-air efforts to undermine the story, as you will see if you read Canadaland's full report.

Canadaland has since learned the apparent reason for Lang's efforts to subvert the story:
CANADALAND can now confirm that CBC Senior Business Correspondent Amanda Lang’s ties to RBC go beyond sponsored speaking events.

Sources close to Amanda Lang, who spoke to CANADALAND on the condition of anonymity, confirm that she has been in a romantic relationship with RBC Board Member W. Geoffrey Beattie since January 2013 at the latest. This relationship is ongoing, and the two were involved in April 2013, when Lang acted within the CBC to scuttle a colleague’s reporting on abuses of Canadian labour law by RBC.
Predictably, CBC management is circling the wagons.
CBC News Editor-in-Chief Jennifer McGuire said in a memo to staff Monday that the allegations about business reporter Amanda Lang’s involvement in the story on RBC’s use of temporary foreign workers were “categorically untrue.”
End of story. Or so the CBC might wish. But with the kind of fine investigative work being done at Canadaland (they were, in fact, the first to uncover the Jian Ghomeshi accusations), I suspect that this story is far from dead.

Monday, January 12, 2015

"Dirty Secrets From The Man Who Worked For Harper"

This needs to be watched by all Canadians concerned about our country's future. Please circulate widely:

H/t Operation Maple

The Harper Strategy Strikes Again

To which of the myriad Machiavellian Harper strategies do I refer? It's the one that says if you don't like what a group is saying, muzzle them or shut them down.

The Hill Times today reports the following:
Newly-appointed Veterans Affairs Minister Erin O’Toole has informed an advocacy group for wounded and psychologically injured veterans that it is no longer a stakeholder adviser to the Veterans Affairs department.

Mike Blais, who helped launch Canadian Veterans Advocacy in 2011 to advocate for veterans and serving Canadian Forces members who did combat tours in Afghanistan and their families, told The Hill Times that Mr. O’Toole (Durham, Ont.) gave the bad news to the group in a voicemail he left on Mr. Blais’ phone service Jan. 7.
Mr. Blais' group, which had been part of a Veterans Affairs Canada Stakeholder Committee established in 2012,
had been one of the most vocal critics of the department’s treatment of injured veterans and Canadian Forces members in the months leading up to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) decision to shuffle former Veterans Affairs minister Julian Fantino (Vaughan, Ont.) out of the post last week, following scathing criticism from Auditor General Michael Ferguson for delays in treatment for veterans.
What prompted the termination, which the 'classy' Mr. O'Toole left in a voicemail message to Mr. Blais? Here is what the former said last June in the House:
“As a veteran myself, I have been quite offended by some of the work that group does. It is not sincere. It is not based on sound policy. I understand, at committee, that they have acknowledged that their funding has come from unions”.
Setting the record straight, Blais offered the following:
The advocacy group lobbied against government budget plans in 2012 that would have resulted in job losses at Veterans Affairs Canada, he said, after which the union representing the employees provided Canadian Veterans Advocacy a donation of $2,000.

“Every department at that time took a 10-per-cent hit except Veterans Affairs Canada,” Mr. Blais said.

“We worked hard on that and the Union of Veterans Affairs Employees made a donation of $2,000, no strings attached, just a donation to the war chest. There is not tit for tat, no, nothing, right. As a consequence to that, even though it was three years ago and a meagre $2,000, they’ve been attempting to label us,” Mr. Blais said.
Julian Fantino may have been replaced as Veterans Affairs minister, but his malignant, vindictive spirit clearly lives on.

Holding Police to Account

Late last month I wrote a piece for The Paper News examining the nearly impenetrable 'blue wall' that is an ever-present barrier to justice and accountability whenever the police abuse their authority, violate the public's rights, or otherwise brutalize them. One of the cases I wrote about was the disabling beating OPP Sgt. Russell Watson administered to Tonie Farrell, a 48-year-old Orillia ‘Good Samaritan’ whose only 'crime' was to try to help a woman who had been assaulted by three thugs.

The SIU (Special Investigations Unit) did its usual 'stellar' job. It found there were no reasonable grounds to charge the offending officer.

In today's edition of The Star, readers weigh in with their usual penetrating insights. I reproduce a few of them below:

Re: Good Samaritan brutally beaten by OPP officer, Dec. 30
Officer assaults citizen, causes serious, permanent injury. Officer charges citizen with assault and obstruction. SIU investigates officer but lays no charges. Judge dismisses charges against citizen, condemns officer’s actions.

Sadly, this case is not unique; it demonstrates the double standard that exists when the citizen victim of the assault is charged while the police perpetrator suffers no legal or disciplinary consequences. By setting the bar for charging police far too high, the SIU is failing its duty to protect Ontarians from the “bad apples” who perpetuate a culture of violence in police forces across the province.

How many more victims will it take before citizens take to the streets to demand accountability?

M. Goldstein, Mississauga
I was appalled to read about OPP Sgt. Russell Watson’s life-shattering assault on Tonie Farrell, and even more appalled to hear that he will face no consequences. This is another in a long line of incidents proving that our police are a law unto themselves.

If they are particularly stupid or their acts particularly egregious, judges may scold them, but the SIU will find there’s no grounds to lay a charge, and their superiors will not even discipline, much less dismiss them. Evidently Watson’s OPP superiors consider punching and kicking women to be all in a day’s work.

When police officers lie under oath, they are not charged with perjury. When they conspire to cover for each other and subvert the course of justice, they are not charged with conspiracy. That “blue wall of silence” seems to reach around the entire justice system.

If an individual’s safety is based on happening not to cross a police officer’s path at the wrong moment (or in the “wrong” skin), we’re in serious trouble. Governments at all levels must take steps to bring police under the rule of law. We cannot trust our justice system or our police if they can break the law with impunity.

Nina Littman-Sharp, Toronto
And about that curious provision in the law that allows the police to obstruct SIU investigations by refusing to turn over to them their investigation notes:
As I read this article, I became ever more appalled as Tonie Farrell was transformed from Good Samaritan to an abused victim to an accused defendant and then the SIU finding of no wrongdoing. Truly a disgrace.

The most infuriating and confusing aspect of this sorry tale is present in the following passage from the Dec. 30th article: “The SIU conducted a month-long investigation in 2013 and interviewed Watson, but he did not provide his notes, as is his legal right.”

This is a mind-boggling situation. I have never been a police officer nor faced violent danger in my employment. Nonetheless, I have never for one second considered the notes that I took with the pen and paper or computer (supplied by the employer and used during a paid workday) to be my property or facts that I could keep secret.

I worked as a quality assurance manager, and as such I performed investigations into quality issues, and as a member of the joint health and safety committee also conducted investigations on safety incidents. I cannot imagine a circumstance where my refusal to fully co-operate with my co-workers and management supervisors would not result in disciplinary action, which would appear on my HR records and, if there were repeat infractions, result in my dismissal.

My wife and close friends with whom I discussed this issue were similarly confused at learning that the rules appear to allow police officers to withhold information and not fully and completely assist and comply with investigations.

I wish to request the Star to prepare an article to explain to readers like myself the legal logic behind the ability (or “right”) of officers to withhold their field notes. This article should include a complete review of the pros and cons of this “right.” It would be very enlightening to learn of situations where the exercising of this “right” is clearly the correct course of action as well as the flip-side, such as the Farrell vs. Watson case and others like it.

Stan Taylor, Brampton

Sunday, January 11, 2015

More Than Rhetorical Questions

In today's Star, Bob Hepburn has a piece that should be read by anyone who needs a brief refresher course in some of the more egregious attacks against democracy perpetrated by Stephen Harper. I offer only a short overview of the article here, as I hope everyone will read the original in its entirety:
Since he became prime minister in 2006, Harper has displayed a stunning disrespect for democracy in Canada, either approving or turning a blind eye to decisions that have undermined our democratic traditions and institutions and our faith in democracy.
Over the years, Harper has taken advantage of Canadians’ waning interest in federal politics to implement his anti-democratic initiatives and to run roughshod over Parliament and campaign rules and practices.
Hepburn then goes on to pose a series of questions that are far from rhetorical:
How does Harper get away with dismantling the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development, which promoted democracy and human rights around the world for 24 years?

How does Harper get away with cutting funding for organizations such as Kairos, a coalition of church groups that advocated for human rights?

How does Harper get away with introducing a fair elections act that was so unfair it should rightly have been called the anti-democratic elections act?

How does Harper get away with slapping gag orders on public servants and scientists, preventing them from speaking to the public?

How does Harper get away with letting cabinet ministers restrict freedom of speech and information tenets, withhold and alter documents, and launch personal attacks on whistleblowers?

How does Harper get away with slamming the chief electoral officer for doing his job?
And those are just a few of the reminders Hepburn provides us with.
He ends with these sobering observations:
While some pro-democracy groups have raised alarms in the past about Harper, most Canadians have just shrugged their shoulders, albeit in disgust. They are disengaged, discouraged by government scandals and believe politicians don’t listen to them and aren’t interested in the issues that are important to them.

But Canadians cannot take democracy for granted.

During the next 10 months leading up to the October election, voters can let Harper and other politicians know they they’ve had enough.

For all Canadians, the stakes are huge. That’s because this election may be the last real chance for years ahead to restore faith in our democracy.
So, my friends, read, weep, and then disseminate Hepburn's information widely.

Harperian Hypocrisy

Keep spreading the word, brothers and sisters:

H/t Michael Nabert

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Star Readers Respond To Eric Balkind

Earlier in the week, I reproduced a Star letter-to-the-editor written by Eric Balkind, who urged the other federal political leaders to amalgamate their parties as the best way to stop Stephen Harper in the next election.

That letter has provoked a number of equally well-considered letters, all worth reading, published in today's edition. Here are but two of them:
Kudos to Eric Balkind for telling it like it is. Without a doubt there are many Canadians who agree with what he writes as well as his prescription for what ails Canada: forming a new party of political moderates ahead of the coming election in order to defeat the Harper Conservatives.

Since these politicians no longer call themselves “Progressive Conservatives,” let alone govern in that spirit, it would be fitting to call the new party the “Progressive Party of Canada.” This would clearly distinguish the party and include the Green Party — which has much to contribute to a worthy vision of Canada — rather than exclude it with the name “Liberal Democrats.”

To echo Balkind, Canadians desperately need party leaders Justin Trudeau, Thomas Mulcair and Elizabeth May to put the country’s well-being ahead of their parties’ interests. Many of us fervently hope that these honourable politicians are including that conversation in their new year’s resolutions.

Salvatore (Sal) Amenta, Stouffville

John Blake, of Picton, Ontario, has a different approach, one that I favour for the 2015 contest; it is a strategy that, given the bald thirst for power both Messieurs Trudeau and Mulcair have, seems a tad more likely to be seriously entertained:
It is unrealistic to think that the NDP and Liberal parties would even consider amalgamation. Neither Mulcair nor Trudeau became leaders of their parties only to oversee the demise of his party.

With the election looming the Conservatives are in a commanding position and will probably win because they have a large bank account ready to finance the many vicious attack ads they will use against their opponents. There will be 30 new federal seats and, because of demographics, the Conservatives will win at least 14 of them and possibly more — vote splitting will give the Conservatives many more seats. Add this to their core vote and Harper will win quite possibly with a majority.

What the NDP and Liberal parties need to do is not amalgamate but co-operate on those seats that the Conservatives will probably win due to the split vote. If the NDP and Liberals co-operate and field just one candidate in such seats then there is a good chance of getting more than the 35 per cent who voted Conservative.

This would almost certainly lead to a minority government whose first order of business should be the introduction of a voting system that truly reflected the voting intentions of the people of Canada.
May what is best for Canada prevail over personal ambition!

Friday, January 9, 2015

About That Fear-Mongering, Mr. Harper

Thanks to Inse for this. He writes:

Maybe to try and counteract the obviously upcoming increase in security measures and fear mongering by the usual suspects (and don't forget to donate to the party funds!)

Meanwhile, Back At The Trough

The steps of Peter Mansbridge and Rex Murphy, I imagine, have a bit of a spring today, content in the knowledge that they are no longer outliers in the land of journalistic conflicts of interest. There's a new kid on the block (or, perhaps more appropriately, at the trough).

The Toronto Star reports that Global News anchor Leslie Roberts has been caught in a multitude of egregious conflicts of interests, promoting on air and in his tweets the interests of clients of BuzzPR, the public relations firm he owns with a partner:

Here is but one example of that the newspaper has uncovered:
Toronto lawyer Sandra Zisckind of Diamond and Diamond has often been a Global guest, sitting at the anchor table with newsman Roberts with both her name and the name of her law firm in a bold caption on the television screen as she comments on legal issues. The spots, connected to the news of the day (a high profile arrest or liability issues related to something in the news) run for about three minutes — a boon for any company trying to build a business. What Roberts said he has never revealed, to viewers or to Global, is that he is “creative director” and part owner of BuzzPR, which provided Diamond and Diamond lawyers with media training and helped them get featured on Global news.
His defense of such practices is weak:
Roberts said he never directly accepted payment from a client to be a guest on his show. However, he acknowledged that each business client pays BuzzPR to get media exposure on Global and other networks.

The list of Roberts' moral and ethical compromises is lengthy, and the clients mentioned in the Star article have either enjoyed on-air interviews with 'their man', been treated to 'shout-outs' by him, or enjoyed his twitter acknowledgments.

Predictably, Roberts says that he has done nothing wrong; it is an assertion that offers everyone a rare and unflattering look into the soul of an on-air personality.

Personally, what I see repulses me.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

'Dear Leader' Decries Attacks On Democracy

This is indeed rich.

Said Prime Minister Harper, in response to the French massacre:
"When a trio of hooded men struck at some of our most cherished democratic principles — freedom of expression, freedom of the press — they assaulted democracy everywhere.
Actions, Sir, speak much louder than words.

If We Want To Save The Planet...

We have to be prepared to leave most of the world's fossil fuels in the ground. So says a new published report.

Expect none of us, neither our political 'leaders' nor our fellow citizens, to rise to the occasion.

Uh Oh. Mr. Harper Will Not Like This

There are many ways in which the 'Fair' Elections Act makes it more difficult for Canadians to exercise their voting rights; a group especially hard hit are aboriginals, not known for their support of the Conservative Party of Canada.
Previous federal elections have allowed a second person to vouch for the identity of a voter who lacks documents that contain an address. But last year’s controversial Fair Elections Act essentially ended the practice after the Harper government said it was open to abuse.
The act substitutes a new procedure — called “attestation” — which makes it more difficult and complicated for a second voter to declare that a prospective voter resides in a riding.
Critics of the Fair Elections Act warned the elimination of vouching would particularly hurt First Nations communities, where ID with addresses is hard to obtain.
In response, Elections Canada has budgeted up to $1 million to try to reduce the damage done to First nations people by this odious act.

How do they hope to accomplish this? Elections Canada
is planning a series of outreach projects, including through the Assembly of First Nations, to spread the message that people without ID at polling stations “don’t have to give up and go away”.
The contract with the AFN includes an effort to hire more indigenous people for election work, and a post-mortem after the vote, now scheduled for October.
While the efforts by Elections Canada are commendable, it faces an uphill battle, given the traditionally poor participation in elections by aboriginals, who bear an historic alienation from the democratic process.

Nonetheless, one can be certain that the Harper braintrust, which looks upon any opposition, however legitimate, with deep animus, is at this moment plotting ways to circumvent this modest effort by Elections Canada to engage First Nations people.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

And Speaking Of Closet Cowards

The following is also thanks to a link from Skeena's page:

An Invitation From Skeena

I recently received an invitation from Skeena Sage Williamson, pursuant to my Harper Naming Contest (which, by the way, is still running), to embed her Facebook page carrying the Harper closet cowardice meme. Continuing to grow, the page deserves to be visited regularly, especially now that we are in an election year.

You can access it here.

Below are just two examples of the delights that await you there:

How Fed Up With Harper Are Canadians?

The answer to that could very well determine Dear Leader's electoral fate in 2015, according to Tim Harper's analysis in today's Star.

As well,
He must keep voter turnout low because his supporters are more committed and likely to cast a ballot. A flood of new, Trudeau voters will doom him.
Given their well-known voter suppression tactics, as well as the provisions of the 'Fair' Elections Act, we can be certain that the Harperites will be indefatigable in their efforts to ensure the above.
He must soften his stand on climate change and the primacy of energy and resource extraction. He is an outlier on the world stage and Canadians know it. Worse for Harper, his jobs-first, environment-second mantra makes him an outlier in his own country, even in the Alberta oilpatch, which realizes a little greening could help get their bitumen to market.
The success of the Harper cabal's attempts to 'green' their master, of course, will depend largely on the credulity of the Canadian electorate. One hopes that voters have paid more than scant attention to the ongoing duplicity of Harper on this file.
He must maintain the support of new Canadians who, Conservatives believe, will remain loyal to a government that creates the atmosphere for success, but stays out of their face.
This could be Harper's strongest suit, given his bellicose but essentially empty rhetoric on the world stage.
He must again convince Canadians that change is risky, champion his trade deals, and argue that putting the economy in the hands of an untested poseur or a job-killing socialist would bring ruination.
Anyone paying attention to the precipitous drop in oil prices should be able to question the myth of Harper as some kind of economic genius, given how he placed almost all of Canada's proverbial eggs in one basket.

Tim Harper ends his piece with some reminders that we all need to carry into the election:
Whether it is the Harper autocracy, his environmental record, his demonizing of opponents, Supreme Court spats, omnibus bills, back-of-the-hand treatment of natives, dictatorial treatment of the premiers, ethical stumbles, treatment of veterans or an unyielding lack of collaboration, the list of grievances against a government verging on 10 years in power adds up.
It is those crippling Harper-engineered failures of democracy that all of us have a responsibility to repeatedly remind often amnesiac voters before they go to the polls this October.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Well, This Certainly Speaks For Itself

Doesn't it?

H/t The Globe and Mail

An Appeal For A United Front

I have often extolled the quality of letters written by Toronto Star readers. Today, a particularly cogent missive from Eric Balkind, who lives in Guelph, Ontario, argues that the only sure way of defeating Harper in this year's election is for the other parties to unite.

Unfortunately, his appeal is likely to fall on deaf political ears, given the fact that our 'leaders' place a much higher priority on enhancing their own power than they do on the collective well-being of Canadians:
As we begin a new year, I suspect that many Canadians can hardly wait for the next federal election to be called. I am also convinced that most folk want to see a change in Ottawa; under the current regime we have watched as this great country has been downgraded as the result of PM Stephen Harper’s narrow, single-minded approach to governance.

Massive omnibus bills that conveniently hide unjust and narrow policies are routinely presented and passed in the Commons, scientists are muzzled, veterans are treated as irksome problems, and First Nations people continue to live in Third World conditions and the matter of the 1,000-plus missing and murdered aboriginal women is “stuffed under the political carpet.”

Provincial premiers receive little attention and essentially, the country is run by just one man. Moreover, the list of affronts to a true democracy grows longer almost by the day.
We can change this lamentable state of affairs but our opposition parties must wake up to reality because there is every chance that a Conservative government will be returned, once again, to an entirely undeserved new term in office.

Time for the opposition parties — Liberal, New Democrat and Greens to put differences aside and amalgamate. Time for their leaders to put aside personal egos and begin to work for what is best for Canada. Time for them to hammer out a common, left-of-centre platform and form a new party called perhaps, the Liberal Democrats.

As long as each and every riding in the country is contested by one just conservative candidate and at least three or more more liberally minded hopefuls, the conservatives will continue to gain the advantage of the split vote. If these three groups have the resolve and the drive they can rid us of the Harper scourge and begin to remake our country into a fairer and more egalitarian place in which to live.

I suspect that Mr. Harper’s biggest fear is that such a move might happen because, if it did, he would certainly be swept from power. His greatest hope is surely that the opposition will remain divided and allow him another majority although he commands the allegiance of far fewer than 50 per cent of the population.

Now is the time for Liberals, New Democrats and Greens to think, first and foremost, of the country rather than of their own, narrow political perspectives; the future of one of the most decent countries on the planet is very much at stake!

Thomas Mulcair, Justin Trudeau and Elizabeth May, please, for all of our sakes, get your acts together. If you don’t make the effort I shudder to think what our Canada will look like five years from now.

Good News For Those Who Believe Stephen Harper Is Good For Canada

Monday, January 5, 2015

Pastor Pat On 'The Blessings Of Discipline'

Many will doubtlessly be reassured by Pastor Pat Robertson's ongoing enthusiasm for biblical discipline, although they might be wondering if it is appropriate for him to darkly allude to the sorts of things that happen to young men in prison:

Mockery Is All They Deserve

Crawford Kilian of The Tyee poses an interesting question/suggestion:

What If We Made 2015 the Year of Poking Fun at Conservatives?

While there is certainly no dearth of mockery emanating from the blogosphere and people like Rick Mercer, Kilian suggests that 2015 is a propitious year for Canadians to return to a time when we were known for our irreverence and refusal to defer to those who claimed to be our betters:
The first Canadian volunteers to reach Britain in the First World War soon gained a reputation as bloody-minded, disrespectful and insubordinate. Today's Canadian is defined as the kind of person who says "sorry" when you step on their foot; the Canadian of a century ago would have punched your lights out.
Kilian notes that our formerly insouciant ways extended beyond soldiers' disdain for pretentious officers to politicians themselves, and continued well into the last century:
In the midst of Trudeaumania in 1968, the great man was already being lampooned in books, opinion columns and cartoons. Journalist Stanley Burke and cartoonist Roy Peterson collaborated in the 1970s on Frog Fables and Beaver Tales and a sequel, which portrayed Pierre Trudeau as a frog -- amusing many and scandalizing none.
Nor were Conservatives granted an exemption, as
the CBC's Max Ferguson made his reputation with a sendup of John Diefenbaker's pompous, wattle-shaking speaking style. The Royal Canadian Air Farce skewered Brian Mulroney's oily good cheer, Joe Clarke's awkward laugh, and Preston Manning's Prairie whine.
The writer suggests that somehow, things gradually changed, and not for the better:
In interviews, journalists began to speak with excessive respect to prime ministers and their cabinet officers, as if the politicos were the bosses and not the servants. Mulroney, Clarke and Manning lived to become statesmen, not jokes.
One need only note the recent deferential year-end 'interview' the most reverent Peter Mansbridge conducted with Stephen Harper for an egregious illustration of that fact.

Clearly, the time has come for some widespread and much deserved disrespect, given the material the Harper regime supplies on an almost daily basis:
So Pierre Poilievre had us rolling in the aisles with: "The root cause of terrorism is terrorists." He and his Conservative colleagues have themselves become punchlines, like Paul Calandra and Dean Del Mastro.

Stephen Harper must wonder how long he can keep a straight face. For eight years he's been the guy with the boffo gags (Prorogation! StatsCan! Vic Toews! The F-35! Robocalls! Julian Fantino!) while seeing off a string of inept straight men like Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff.
Kilian concludes with this observation:
It's going to be a very solemn 2015 indeed if the NDP and Liberals (and the media) don't lighten up and start giving the ridiculous Conservatives the ridicule they deserve for running this country into the ground for the past eight years.
I suspect there are few among us who could disagree.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

A Double Standard?

Under normal circumstances, a court of last resort would be welcomed in the pursuit of justice, but it is apparently an entirely different story when it involves holding Israel to account

Paper News

There is a new online publication called Paper News with the following mission:

A brand new online publication, Paper News is looking to bring a new voice to the national conversation, providing Canadians with a unique spin on issues spanning every coast and prairie.

The organization is looking for submissions. I recently wrote a piece for them covering the ongoing problem of police brutality and abuse of authority, topics upon which I have written extensively on this blog. You can access it here.

With the large pool of writing talent and opinion evident in the political blogs I read, I hope others will consider sharing their views with Paper News.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

And Now, A Word From PropCan

About two weeks ago, the Toronto Star carried a story about the Harper regime's engagement of the services of a publicity agency called News Canada Ltd.. The organization provides copyright-free material to any media outlets that wish to carry it.

The Harper government pays up to $1.5 million annually for its services, but the real story is that there is nothing in any of the video or text materials that reveal they are sponsored content. It is a propagandist's dream.

The Star reports about one of their videos that casts Health Canada and Aboriginal Affairs in a misleadingly positive light:
An undated video about the Nutrition North program available for use on the News Canada website states as fact that it has increased access to fresh foods in remote areas, leading grocery retailers to pass on the subsidy to consumers by reducing prices

A quick Internet search for any real news story about Nutrition North might turn up results about how the auditor general said the aboriginal affairs department does not actually know whether that is true.
You can access the video by clicking on the link below:

Bringing Nutrition To Canada’s North

This leads me once again to reproduce more fine letters from perspicacious Star readers, who have no trouble seeing through yet another Harper-orchestrated deception:

Re: And now the news – brought to you by the Tories, Dec. 20
The use of News Canada Ltd. by the “Harper Government” to “create and distribute government-approved news items” is compelling evidence that the Conservative Party of Canada is acutely aware that something fundamental is missing from their ability to effectively communicate with Canadians. That something is credibility.

Credibility must be earned and it must be maintained through honesty, integrity, competence, sound judgment, empathy, and fairness. The Conservatives have amply demonstrated that these values are sadly missing from their partisan culture.

Our economy is suffering because of a lack of vision and diversification. Our veterans cannot get the help they so desperately need while budgets are cut and $1.1 billion is returned to government coffers. The gap between rich and poor grows ever wider ever more rapidly. Environmental groups and left-leaning think tanks that question government policies are audited. Northern Aboriginals scavenge in the dump for food while the minister reads her newspaper and refuses to answer questions. The list goes on.

There are two ironies in the credibility crisis the “Harper Government” now faces. The first is that the Conservatives have brought this upon themselves. Years of “truthiness,” cheating, bullying, and hypocrisy have eroded their credibility with Canadians to the point that the Conservatives now believe the only viable way they have to get their messages out is through deceit.

And therein lays the second irony. This attempt to deceive Canadians will only serve to further erode what little remains of the “Harper Government’s” credibility.

Lyle J. Goodin, Bowmanville
Harper has stolen another page from Nazi propaganda minister Josef Goebbels’ book. Harper’s advisers then created an enemies of the PM list as did field marshall Hermann Goering with his blacklist to warn Hitler of his enemies. Meanwhile Canadians receive weekly propaganda leaflets from their Tory MPs across the country telling of their accomplishments.

Bill Tuer, Cobourg

To read the rest of the missives, please click here.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Pope Francis Is On The Right Track, But Not With The Right Wing

You know that when Fox News starts howling, someone is doing something right.

The reactionary network is issuing dire warnings:
Fox News reported on Pope Francis' upcoming action on climate change by promoting climate change denial and suggesting that the pope is aligning with "extremists who favor widespread population control and wealth redistribution."
The segment exposing the Pope's 'dastardly plan'
also featured climate "skeptic" Marc Morano -- who is paid by an industry-funded group to run the climate change-denying website -- to falsely claim that there has been "no global warming" for "almost two decades".

An Inse Suggestion

In my morning post, I reprinted the following letter from The Toronto Star:
With Stephen Harper’s Conservatives intent to push science back to medieval times, it may be time for Canadians to embrace those efforts and get with Harper Times. Issue all conservatives a bell to be worn in public. They have become pariahs of society, like the lepers of old, and should be treated as such.

How a party representing less than 40 per cent of the electorate can be allowed to systematically dismantle our democracy and scientific institutions shows the current first past the post voting system is a relic that has long passed its expiry date.

Tyler Lindsay, Niagara Falls
Inse subsequently sent me the following, which I post with thanks, clearly reflective of the spirit of Tyler Lindsay's missive:

The Fearless Pope Francis

Yesterday, The Mound of Sound had a post on the role that Pope Francis is playing in the climate change debate. Given his growing moral authority and extensive popularity throughout the world, those with vested interests in retaining the status quo that is destroying the earth, and their aiders and abettors, (Stephen Harper et alia), have, I think, much to fear.

Here is a video well-worth watching from Democracy Now! that discusses Pope Francis and the encyclical he is slated to release in March on climate change. It is so refreshing to see a pontiff who is doing what we should all be doing: comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.

2015: Day Two

H/t The Toronto Star

Well, it is good to know that Star letter-writers have lost none of their edge over the holiday season. Responding to the paper's recent editorial lacerating the Harper regime's science policy ("Whatever the government’s motives, whatever it understands or does not about how science works, it has over the last eight years devastated Canadian research in a way that will be hard to reverse.") they offered the following:

Re: Canada needs a brighter science policy, Editorial Dec. 28
A lack of national science policy is fallout from the Conservative strategy of pitting one end of the nation against another, favouring pipeline-rich Alberta and shunning Ontario, for example.

There is no mechanism for uniting Canadians against this divisive, undermining approach. Stephen Harper has made clear that those who do not subscribe to his views are on his “enemies” list, and this would include scientists and other intellectuals who would challenge his free market doctrine.

The disrespect Harper has shown scientists, Statistics Canada, and others such as veterans and aboriginal peoples, is a form of contempt all Canadians should note come the next federal election.

Unlike the openness and enthusiasm for science joyfully brought forth to Canadians by Commander Chris Hadfield, Harper has silenced the dialogue about any policies Canadians value as fundamental to our democracy and impeded the future of Canada’s membership in a worldwide community of scientific research.
One has to wonder about his motives. It is time for Canadians to stand up.

Diane Sullivan, Toronto

The Harper government has taken us back several decades in our understanding of our relationship with the natural world, decades we may not be able to recover. Degrading our natural systems — wetlands, lakes, rivers, forests, wildlife, diversity of species and atmosphere — and calling the resultant increase in GDP a benefit to society is counterintuitive.

Instead of reveling in the exploitation of the sources of our water, food, air, flood protection, erosion control, soil fertility, resilience to diseases or invasive species, and protection from climate change, it would be far more productive to develop National Accounts that place a value on the assets of our natural world.

We continue to devalue the natural world of which we are a part and is essential for our existence, at our own peril.

Melanie Milanich, Toronto

With Stephen Harper’s Conservatives intent to push science back to medieval times, it may be time for Canadians to embrace those efforts and get with Harper Times. Issue all conservatives a bell to be worn in public. They have become pariahs of society, like the lepers of old, and should be treated as such.

How a party representing less than 40 per cent of the electorate can be allowed to systematically dismantle our democracy and scientific institutions shows the current first past the post voting system is a relic that has long passed its expiry date.

Tyler Lindsay, Niagara Falls