Sunday, May 31, 2015

For Those Of You Who Missed Sunday Services Today ....

You can derive some inspiration from the always risible but earnest Pat Robertson, about whom I like to periodically post for the benefit of everyone's spiritual renewal. BYW, this moment is brought to you by The Mound of Sound, who obviously sensed my recent spiritual dryness when he alerted me to this.

Watch as Pastor Pat suggests a solution to an elderly acolyte's financial problems, a solution which, curiously, does not involve ending her tithing to the church:

A Precarious Existence

The Toronto Star last week concluded an excellent series on the plight of the precariously employed. If you haven't read it, I strongly recommend it for the insights and possible solutions offered into what is becoming far too common an employment situation for far too many: irregular hours, absence of security, absence of benefits and perpetual temporary worker classification. The impact of such conditions goes far beyond economic insecurity and includes being forced to put one's life on hold, delaying marriage, having children or, as we used to call it, settling down.

As usual, Star letter-writers offer their perspicacious perspectives on the issue.

Here they are:

Making bad jobs better, Editorial May 25

Congratulations to the Star and reporters Sara Mojtehedzadeh and Laurie Monsebraaten for the series highlighting the plight of the “precariously employed.” For too long have these employees been taken advantage of while they and their families have borne too much of the pain of today’s economic climate.

Businesses are in the business of maximizing profits and while some see the benefits of a stable and happy workforce, too many don’t. Since businesses are unwilling to act, it is clear that the solutions put forth by the Precarity Penalty report can only be attained through government intervention and stronger unions.

Right-wing conservatives have undermined unions such that fewer workers enjoy the security of decent working conditions, fair remuneration, benefits and a pension that will see an individual through his or her golden years in comfort and with dignity.

Conservatives have also convinced those without union support that since they don’t have the benefits secured through collective bargaining, unionized workers shouldn’t have them either, rather than expecting those benefits be extended to all workers. People need to remember that many of the standards that are in place today are thanks to unions and collective bargaining in the past.

As well, over the past 40 years, we’ve been brainwashed to believe that taxes are bad rather than seeing the huge benefit those tax dollars bring to all of our society.
We need bold governments (federal and provincial) that recognize a new and different world from the last generation’s but who are willing to serve the interests of the people in establishing and providing basic standards of living: decent wages and working conditions, affordable housing, medicare, pharmacare, education, affordable daycare, reasonable pensions, and safe communities.

Norah Downey, Midland

I have a solution for “precarious work.” It is to the employers’ advantage to have workers on a temporary or part-time basis, therefore there should be a substantially higher minimum wage than for full time work. This would make up for the loss of benefits and security.

Perhaps a 30 to 50 per cent higher minimum for precarious work would eliminate the unfair advantage to employers.

I have not experienced precarious employment myself, but have friends that have suffered from an employer’s deliberate firing and rehiring and short notice scheduling.

Jim Pike, Brampton

It is highly unlikely that conditions in employment will improve very soon if the issue of poverty can remain unresolved after so much has been written and studied over the years.

Nevertheless, one suggestion that might help to address both issues would be a guaranteed annual income. Employers would have to improve working conditions to entice people to do their jobs to earn profits for their companies.

While much thought and study would be needed to bring this to pass, I believe that capable politicians with the will could implement such an idea.

John Cousins, Bowmanville

How can you build a strong workforce on unpaid internships and volunteers? You can’t.

Your story reported on the stress caused by “precarious employment” and the obscene number of employees who will never know what job security is. Two pages later was a story about the Pan Am Games looking for more “volunteers.” This time the heavily funded games, with a reputation for the “excess of its highly paid executives,” was searching for highly trained medical professionals to work for free.

How did we go from slave labour, to the necessity of unions, to debt-ridden desperate students lined up to volunteer beside desperate parents, and desperate retired seniors?

Our leaders, both in government and the private sector, have failed to meet their duty to society. And yes, I was not paid to write this letter.

Jeff Green, Toronto

Saturday, May 30, 2015

He Won't Be Missed

H/t Michael de Adder

Anyone who regularly reads this blog will know that I (along with guest posters The Salamander and The Mound of Sound) regard Peter MacKay as just one of far too many blights on the political landscape, perhaps distinguished only by his less-than-pedestrian intellect and very public absence of integrity. The most egregious example of the latter occurred during a very public soul-selling transaction (most such deals, I assume, go on behind closed political doors). After promising David Orchard during what turned out to be the final leadership convention of the federal Progressive Conservatives that he would never merge the party with Alliance/Reform if he backed him for the leadership, a scant few weeks later MacKay showed the stuff of which he is made and did just that.

And with no apparent shame.

Undoubtedly, as occurs when a politician leaves the stage, a certain hagiography will develop around the departing MacKay. Happily, Andrew Coyne has no intention of joining in such an disingenuous charade. The title of his National Post piece says it all:

Peter MacKay was a politician of many titles, but little achievement
Harper made him his first foreign affairs minister, an appointment that caused great puzzlement in Ottawa, though not nearly as much as in other capitals, where the notion that the foreign minister should be something other than a placeholder for the prime minister still holds.

After 18 unmemorable months at Foreign Affairs, he replaced Gordon O’Connor at National Defence, where he oversaw a string of procurement bungles culminating in the F-35, whose costs the government understated by a factor of five, staving off Parliament’s demands for the real figures just long enough to win re-election.
Yet McKay's incompetence seemed to propel him to even greater heights of imeptitude within the Harper cabinet:
Then it was off to Justice, where he was responsible for shepherding a number of bills through Parliament that seemed almost designed to be found unconstitutional, even as Justice department lawyers were losing case after case at the Supreme Court.
Other than that, he is best remembered for his commandeering a military helicopter as personal transportation back from a fishing lodge, plus his broken romance with Belinda Stronach, after which he posed in a photo-op with with a borrowed dog as he 'licked' his romantic wounds.

Oh yes, according to Coyne, he also likes to play rugby.

What does MacKay's 'peter principle' rise ultimately tell us? Here is Coyne's uncompromising take:
His career at the top of Canadian politics tells us more about the state of Canadian politics than anything else. That such a palpable cipher could have remained in high office for nearly a decade is a testament to many things: the thinness of the Tory front bench, the decline of cabinet, the prime minister’s cynicism, the media’s readiness to go along with the joke. The one thing it does not signify is his importance. He had all of the titles, but little influence, and less achievement.
For me a cathartic article and post and a very welcome but overdue political departure.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Omar Khadr: A Powerful Refutation Of The Harper Narrative

If you saw last night's documentary on Omar Khadr, like me, perhaps you came away feeling some awe at the remarkable resilience of the human spirit. Unless you believe Khadr is a master actor manipulating all of us, you could not have seen the film without a resulting deep respect for his maturity, intelligence, and remarkable insights that one could only hope to see in a much older person; I daresay many of us (me included) cannot claim such insightful equanimity. That those qualities could have emerged out of the crucible of his horrendous years in Guantanamo almost defies understanding.

Toward the end of the interview, Khadr reflects on a question he is often asked: if he could change the past, would he? His answer was that except for the firefight (in which he may or may not have killed Christopher Speers), he is not so sure he would change things, as it was through his years of imprisonment that he learned about himself and became the person he is today,

All of which stands as a powerful refutation of the Harper narrative of the former child soldier as an irredeemable terrorist who poses an ongoing threat to the Canadian public.

It occurs to me that Omar Khadr serves as a kind of personal Rorschach test; to reject him out of hand is perhaps to mirror something cold and dark within one's own psyche; to admit the possibility of his redemption perhaps points to something powerful and positive that resides within.

The former child soldier also challenges us as a country. Do the values that have traditionally made Canada such an enviable country still reside here? Are tolerance, acceptance and compassion still some of the markers of our national character? Or have they been fatally subverted by a federal government all too content to demonize, divide, and stoke hatred and intolerance of "the other'?

My own description of the documentary has purposely been brief; watch it as time permits and form your own view of Omar Khadr:

Thursday, May 28, 2015

This From Adbusters


Omar Khadr: Out Of The Shadows

The above is the title of a documentary to be broadcast tonight at 9 p.m. on the CBC's main network. Here is a brief excerpt:

Given all of the taxpayer money it has spent challenging Khadr's repatriation, his bail, and his access to the media, I am certain that the enemy of critical thinking, the Harper regime, would prefer that we not watch it. It would much rather that people not understand the hollowness of its bifurcated worldview of good and evil so relentlessly presented since its ascension to power - a rule based upon fear, one that it continues to promote through its foreign adventurism against ISIS, its liberty-eroding Bill C-51, and its constant rhetoric about the danger all of us face from terrorists.

Pablum for simple minds, an ongoing insult to the rest of us.

Today's Star has an exclusive interview with Khadr; I would suggest all those with an open mind read it before watching tonight's documentary. Here are a couple of quotes from Khadr that say a great deal:
"I don't wish people to love me. I don't wish people to hate me. I just wish for people to give me a chance," he says.

"I believe that each person, each human being, is capable of doing great harms or great good," Khadr says. "People who did these bad things (torture) are not any different than any one of us.

"Even for people who tortured. There are a lot of people who came back and regretted what they did, so as along as a person is alive there is still hope for him that he's going to change."
A plea for a chance to rebuild his life. An understanding that redemption is possible even for those who have partaken in heinous acts.

Who among us has the right to deny Omar Khadr his chance?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

UPDATED: The Ad Wars Begin

Since I am currently preoccupied with rebuilding a small part of our deck (unskilled non-trades person that I am, the work is proceeding slowly), I shall take the easy way out this morning and embed some political ads that are making the rounds on You Tube and inviting commentary from the punditry.

The Conservative attack ad, which sows the seeds of doubt about Justin Trudeau, was stolen from inspired by a 2011 Manitoba NDP 30-second spot; for the sake of comparison, the latter immediately follows the Conservative one.


UPDATE: The Globe and Mail's John Doyle weighs in with amusing and pointed commentary on both political ads and the consortium debates.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Another Nail In The Coffin Of Canada's International Reputation

Ever the uncritical and obsequious friend of Israel and wooer of domestic Jewish votes, the Harper regime has once again shamed and blackened Canada's international reputation:
Israel has expressed its gratitude to Canada for helping to block a major international plan towards ridding the world of nuclear weapons.

Elsewhere, however, there was widespread international disappointment that Canada and Britain supported the United States in opposing the document at the United Nations review conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The document called on the UN to hold a disarmament conference on the Middle East by 2016. Such a conference could have forced Israel to publicly acknowledge that it is a nuclear power, something the Jewish state has never done.
In language that makes no attempt to conceal Harper's contempt for people's intelligence worldwide, his government stoutly maintained how important an issue disarmament is:
"Prime Minister Harper reaffirmed Canada's commitment to disarmament and non-proliferation, including within the framework of the NPT," the statement said.

"He also stressed Canada's belief that a weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone can only be truly effective if all countries in the Middle East participate freely and constructively in its establishment."

Not everyone was imbibing the government-issued Kool-Aid.
It's disappointing that Canada helped scuttle the four weeks of negotiations that led up to Friday's result, said Beatrice Fihn, spokeswoman for the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, a coalition of 400 non-governmental organizations in 95 countries.

"Three countries take their cue from a non-state party -- Israel isn't even part of the treaty -- and thereby have this final say," Fihn said.
The Toronto area is a crucial battleground in the upcoming election, with some ridings having a strong Jewish presence. Expect new polling from the PMO to assess the efficacy of this latest denigration of Canada's reputation.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

An Empty Podium

Given the firm rejection by Mr. Harper to join in the leaders' debates being arranged by a consortium of broadcasters, it would seem only fitting to have an empty podium onstage with his name attached, in case he changes his mind at the last minute, and to serve as a useful reminder of the prime minister's disdain (fear?) of honest and unbiasd formats.

With their usual perspicacity, Star readers offer their insights about this sad decision. All are excellent, but I am reproducing only a few below:

Confused about leaders debates? It's Harperology 101, May 16
I’m surprised Stephen Harper isn’t insisting the election debates be hosted by 24 Seven, his self-promoting video-streaming website. His heavy-handed refusal to participate in any debates hosted by a media consortium of CBC, CTV, ICI Radio-Canada and Global reeks of the fear he may not be able to exercise adequate control over the form and, perhaps, the moderator of those debates.

In assessing Harper’s decision, it’s worth recalling the under-reported episode this January when the PMO tried to stipulate that reporters submit their questions before interviews and press conferences. According to veteran reporter Robert Fife, both CTV and CBC unequivocally refused to comply.

Following fast on the heels of the Charlie Hebdo shooting, the government backed away from its stipulation — perhaps realizing that it was the wrong time to curtail freedom of the press.

If Harper wants to accept invitations to debate at events hosted by others, that’s up to him — though the decision of who is to moderate and the rules over any such debates should be carefully scrutinized by every single leader before going along with this scheme.

The debates hosted by the consortium Harper rejects out of hand have been free of biased moderating to date. I am unsure the same impartiality will govern in all other venues Harper favours.

Penny Gill, Dundas

In reference to the Stephen Harper Conservatives’ alternate plans on federal election debates, I urge the consortium to hold their debates as they planned and scheduled them and issue formal and public invitations to all the federal political parties. Whether the leaders attend or not is their problem, not the consortiums nor the voters.

An empty space at a federal election debate will give a very telling message on the interest, concerns and respect the absent leaders have for the people (voters) of this country. The control freak Conservatives must be shown that they are no better than anyone and they will be treated as equally as everyone else in the debates.

Canadians are getting very tired of their antics and this may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back if they continue on their path of arrogance and false sense of entitlement and superiority. I am of the considered opinion that the majority of voters would agree with and support my suggestion.

Gerald McIvor, Winnipeg

Funny how Harper loves to use the big networks to air his propaganda but fears participating in candidate debates hosted by the same group. This could however be a rare opportunity to salvage what’s left of our nation if Thomas Mulcair, Justin Trudeau and Elizabeth May were to simply seize the opportunity and agree to participate in debates hosted by the CBC/CTV/Global consortium without Harper.

Each could explain why their party is the best choice to put an end to Harper’s destruction of our nation’s environment, democracy, economy, integrity, honesty and reputation while sparing us from having to listen to all Harper’s spin crap. If he chooses not to play – well so be it.

Randy Gostlin, Oshawa

......CBC, CTV and Global should go ahead with their plans to conduct debates. If Harper chooses not to participate, they should set up an empty chair so voters can see what he thinks of them.

Mr. Harper refuses to meet the press in regular news conferences, unlike most PMs and U.S. presidents. He doesn’t trust the media. If he refuses to debate on the “national” television networks, the feeling of mistrust may become mutual.

Joe Spence, Kanata

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Is it Critical Thinking Or Political Bias? - Part One

I have written about the virtues of critical thinking many times on this blog, and I have also frequently observed the difficulty of achieving it; without question, I regularly fall short of the ideal. One of the impediments to such thinking is the task of separating one's biases from the process, or at the very least recognizing those biases in assessing people and situations.

Take Stephen Harper, for example. Few would dispute that his propensity for exerting control and influence is massive. His contempt of Parliament, the judiciary, and all those who oppose his views and agenda requires no recounting here. With that context in mind, I offer the following as part of that pattern. Whether the conclusions I draw are a result of critical thinking or my disdain for the prime minister and almost everything he stands for, I leave for the reader to decide.

Exhibit Number One: Today's Star reports that the the renovated Canadian Museum of History (formerly the Canadian Museum of Civilization, which I have visited) will not include a room devoted to the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike:
The exhibit, which opened in 1999, was modelled after a meeting room in the Labour Temple on James St. in Winnipeg, where union members met to debate, organize and vote in the months leading up to, and during, the massive strike.

There have been past accusations that the government is trying to rewrite history in the renovated museum. And of course there is the Conservative anti-union agenda to consider.

In the matter of eliminating this important piece of labour history, the museum adamantly rejects any suggestion of political interference:
“Government is certainly not telling us what to put into the hall. Nor do they know what we are putting into the hall. We are not reporting to them and they are not telling us what to do. There is a very high level of cynicism and paranoia out there,” said David Morrison, the director of research and content for the Canadian History Hall project.
Yet one could cogently argue that this decision is part of a much larger pattern, consistent with Mr. Harper's values and method of governance.

Exhibit Number Two: The elimination of home mail delivery is also part of a neoliberal agenda, which sees the fraying of government programs as an imperative. Despite the fact that Canada Post made a pre-tax profit of $194 million in 2014 and $24 million for the first quarter of 2015, it has no intention of reviewing its service cuts. Says Deepak Chopra, president and CEO of Canada Post:
"What we are trying to do is avoid becoming a burden on taxpayers for hundreds of millions of dollars if we don't act responsibly now."

"We don't want to wait until the problem has become so severe that the initiatives we will be forced to take would be even more difficult."
While the claim is that overall mail volume is down prompted the decision to end home delivery, no public consultations took place, nor were alternative plans, such as alternate day delivery, entertained.

Doesn't the autocratic nature of the move suggest the heavy hand of Harper was involved?

In Part Two, I will examine the curiously close relationship that seems to exist between the RCMP and the Harper cabal.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Life And Death Of Worker Resistance

When it comes to jobs, we live in very precarious times, with fewer and fewer people securing full-time work with benefits. Paradoxically, union membership continues to decline, while right-wing propaganda about the evils of such associations flourishes. As a society, we seem to have lost the will to fight for something better.

So what has happened? Episode one of The Life And Death Of Worker Resistance offers some very useful insights:

H/t Operation Maple

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Canadians Would Be Indeed Foolish To Shrug Their Shoulders At This News

Given the invasive and likely unconstitutional provisions of Bill C-51, and the prime minster's general contempt for democracy and privacy issues, Canadians would be beyond naive to believe that the Harper regime would not use this against us:
Canada and its spying partners exploited weaknesses in one of the world's most popular mobile browsers and planned to hack into smartphones via links to Google and Samsung app stores, a top secret document obtained by CBC News shows.

You can read the full story here.

King Stephen's Fondest Dream

H/t Project Democracy

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Walmart's Shameless Anti-Union Propaganda

This epitomizes why I don't shop at Walmart. A training film was released yesterday showing the shameless propaganda the corporate giant uses to discourage those entertaining the seditious thought of starting a union drive at one of their stores. Originally located on You Tube, the video has been taken down, but another site offers it. Since I cannot embed the video on my blog, you will have to click on this link to view it.

Here are a few of the highlights:
"The thing I remember most about the union is, that they took dues money out of my paycheck before I ever saw it... just like taxes."

"I don't think Walmart associates should have to have someone to speak for them. It's just not that kind of place."

"We also know that most union members shop in our stores and clubs nationwide. I talk to them all the time and I hear them complain about their jobs and their union representatives."

"I'll tell ya, every job has its ups and downs...and a union can't change that.”

"In today's world, your signature means a lot. To be honest, I don't like handing my signature over to anyone... much less to unions who seem to be spending so much time trying to hurt my company."
Walmart's low tactics are something to think about the next time you are tempted by their 'low' prices.

More On Government Muzzling

Yesterday, I posted a video of recently retired Fisheries and Oceans Canada biologist Steve Campana speaking about the sad state of morale within bureaucratic ranks. The Harper regime's obsession with control and secrecy means that government scientists are forbidden to speak about their research without going through a labyrinthine series of communications protocols that often still result in denial of permission to speak to 'outsiders,' i.e., the public.

Here is how one government scientist responded to the post, anonymously:
I speak as a government scientist who knows of what Dr. Campana speaks. The squeeze comes from a couple of directions - benign budgetary neglect and active silencing. The budgetary issues are shared by most other government departments:

- attrition of critical personnel as scientific staff are lost to the private sector or retirement and are rarely if ever replaced,

- the similar loss of administrative staff and the downloading of their jobs onto scientific and technical personnel (it is shameful how much time some of us spend doing travel requests and administration)

- loss of program funding which results in decreased opportunity for data collection or equipment purchases

- loss of critical infrastructure - technical library closures, loss of oceanographic vessels, etc...

- loss of travel budgets that have essentially cut many scientists out of the conference loop. This might seem to the outsider like a perk, and in some ways it is, however conferences provide more opportunities to begin important collaborations than any other way I know.

As for the communications issues, I think Dr. Campana summed it up perfectly. As employees, we are generally allowed to publish scientific journals (with some restrictions to more sensitive projects, I presume), but we are basically not allowed to ever speak with the media, even on the most benign of subjects. This has been brought about by the establishment of the Orwellian-named "Communication" branches within each department whose jobs seem to be the restriction of communication at all costs, and through the establishment of a hush-hush environment that is established from the top down. Also, local regional directors are more and more frequently hired outside of their areas of expertise, as if management is a thing in and of itself and knowledge of the department being managed is of secondary importance.

I could go on, but you probably get the point.
Meanwhile, yesterday on Power and Politics, Biologist Katie Gibbs, founder of Evidence for Democracy, addressed the issue with Power and Politics' Evan Solomon:

Finally, today's Star weighs in with a hard-hitting editorial on the issue, observing how this government repression has not gone unnoticed both domestically and internationally:
In the past couple of years the New York Times, Nature magazine, the Guardian and The Economist have all written critical articles pleading for our scientists to be set free.

Federal Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault is investigating complaints that federal scientists have been muzzled by the government.

A survey from Environics Research last year found that 91 per cent of government scientists feel they cannot share their expertise with the media without facing censure from their bosses.
Our democracy continues to wither; it will take collective concern and strong electoral action from the wider public to reverse this sad state of affairs.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A Recently Retired Government Scientist Speaks Out:

This is sad beyond words.
A recently retired Fisheries and Oceans Canada biologist says the muzzling of federal government scientists is worse than anyone can imagine.

Steve Campana, known for his expertise on everything from Great white sharks to porbeagles and Arctic trout, says the atmosphere working for the federal government is toxic.

"I am concerned about the bigger policy issues that are essentially leading to a death spiral for government science," he said in an exclusive interview.

"I see that is going to be a huge problem in the coming years. We are at the point where the vast majority of our senior scientists are in the process of leaving now disgusted as I am with the way things have gone, and I don't think there is any way for it to be recovered."

What's That Sound I Hear?

Lesser mortals might baldly accuse Stephen Harper of cowardice. Editorial cartoonists have a better way:

H/t The Toronto Star

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Tireless Voice

A tireless voice for Canada and all of its iconic values, Maude Barlow urges us not to lose heart.

Her reminders of the terrible things the Harper regime has done to undermine civil society through funding cuts and tax audit witch hunts is truly sobering, and we should all be outraged, but her words should also galvanize us to stand up, defend, and fight for everything that makes Canada the unique and enviable country it is.

Otherwise, the barbarians will have won.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Stephen Harper and The Canada Revenue Agency: The Unholy Alliance Continues

I have written many times about the unholy partnership between Stephen Harper and the Canada Revenue Agency that takes the form of an auditing witch hunt of those charities that in any way offer criticism of Dear Leader's policies. The latest news offers further proof that official avowals of impartiality in selecting who will be audited are absolute lies.

The laest story involves the actions of the much-reviled and detested former premier of Ontario, Mike Harris:
A fundraising letter written by Fraser Institute senior fellow and former premier Mike Harris criticizing the Ontario government highlights a double standard in the way the Canada Revenue Agency audits charities, critics charge.

The letter takes swipes at the province for lacking a “credible plan” to balance the provincial budget within two years, and goes on to criticize Ontario’s debt and the province’s unemployment rate.
Especially troubling are the Institute's assertions that it doesn't engage in political activities, and that the Harris letter is not political.

Says its president, Niels Veldhuis:
“It’s written by a long time senior fellow of the Fraser Institute, Mike Harris. All of the data in the letter is based on Fraser Institute research..."
Progressive charities that have fallen victim to CRA audits disagree:
“It’s definitely political,”’ says Tim Gray, executive director of Environmental Defence, referring to the Fraser Institute letter.

“The Fraser Institute is clearly doing public policy work in the political sphere,” says Gray, whose environmental group is being audited by the CRA — a probe that began in 2011.

“They (Fraser Institute) should be reporting that (to Canada Revenue) and there’s no reason they shouldn’t be audited based on their compliance with that 10 per cent (political activities rule),” Gray says.

Gray adds that if they’re not being audited, then that raises the question — why not?
Two brief highlights from Harris' letter underscore the political nature of the missive (bolded areas mine):
“Credit rating agencies have further downgraded the province’s credit rating, primarily because it’s very unlikely that this government will reverse course and enact a credible plan to balance the budget within the next two years.’’

“Ontario has experienced reckless overspending by government, ballooning public sector salaries, increased red tape and more union-friendly labour laws.”
Environmental Defence director Gray asks why the Fraser Institute is not being audited. The answer, sadly, is all too obvious for anyone willing to see the pattern, and to understand the deep contempt with which the Harper regime regards anyone with the temerity to challenge its agenda.

The October election cannot come soon enough.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

And Speaking of Government Cheerleaders

Yesterday, I wrote about chief Harper sycophant Pierre Poilivre's abuse of the taxpayer through his vanity productions promoting the greatness of Dear Leader under the pretext of disseminating information about government programs. A flurry of criticism of this contemptuous behaviour yielded no signs of contrition from the minister of Democratic Reform.

Second only to Poilievre in obsequiousness is Number Two Harper fan and apologist, Paul Callandra, whose shameful performances both inside and outside of the House of Commons should be required reading and viewing for all voters. Yesterday, with his usual stalwart partisanship, he tried to justify the regular theft of tax dollars for government vanity productions on Power and Politics.

Watch only until your gorge begins to rise:

Friday, May 15, 2015

UPDATED: The Abuse Never Ends

The abuse of the taxpayer by the Harper regime is shameless and relentless. That's the conclusion drawn by The Star's Tim Harper today, and it is abuse that is amply demonstrated in today's Globe.

First to Tim Harper:
The Conservatives have provided a national background Muzak of sloganeering and propaganda that aims to lull Canadians into a false sense that everything will be okay if you just vote for them.

They’re using your money to buy your vote.
The contempt for Canadians is egregious:
... this government has spent $750 million blanketing you in Tory blue.

It has advertised programs before they existed. It has appropriated “Strong. Proud. Free” as an advertising slogan, but its genesis is considered a state secret and cannot be revealed for 20 years because Conservatives have deemed the matter one of cabinet confidence.

It is spending $13.5 million to advertise its budget — not to inform, but to promote.

It uses your money for its own partisan videos, endangering Canadian soldiers in the process of burnishing the Stephen Harper image.

David McGuinty says there are 9,800 Economic Action Plan billboards in this country, costing $29 million.

“At its core, this kind of advertising undermines the rules of fair play in our democratic system,’’ he says.

“Canadians believe the government thinks they’re stupid.’’
How little the Harper regime regards the taxpayer is made even more graphic by a video that government toadie Pierre Poilievre produced at taxpayer expense:
Employment Minister Pierre Poilievre commissioned a team of public servants for overtime work on a Sunday to film him glad-handing constituents in promotion of the Conservative government’s benefits for families.

The ensuing taxpayer-funded video – and other recent ones like it – are prompting concern that the Conservatives have taken a new step in the use of public funds to produce “vanity videos.”
I have to warn you that the following video, made at a children’s clothing consignment event at a local hockey arena in Poilievre's riding, should only be watched by those who are strongly constituted:

And if that's not enough, I offer you a second video, with the same strong viewer advisory:

I can only hope that instead of being impressed by the 'largesse' of the Harper regime, people will far and wide discern its subtext, that we are regarded by our government as suckers easily manipulated by the very propaganda we are footing the bill for.

UPDATE: Not only is this government contemptuous of us, it is truculently unapologetic about its disdain. Click here to see the ugly truth.

A Reconsideration

While I have written about the importance of critical thinking many times on this blog, I have always considered it an ideal, a destination that we should strive for throughout our lives. Never is the journey complete; never are we entirely free from our cultural, political and social contexts and values, all of which act as filters through which we interpret events and ideas. It's all part of being human, and I am acutely aware of the biases through which I see things.

One of my biggest biases, of course, is political in nature. I detest the Harper regime and everything it stands for. That anything good or decent could emerge from such a fundamentally anti-democratic and contemptuous government is a notion difficult for me to entertain. And yet, after watching Rex Murphy's piece on The National last night, I realized that something I had automatically assumed to be prompted by partisan politics may have been something else entirely:

You may have deduced, after watching the clip, that the salient point for me came when he discussed Lisa Raitt's motives in escorting Elizabeth May off the stage. When it was first reported, I automatically, perhaps reflexively, assumed that her intervention was prompted, not for the reasons Murphy attributes, decency and concern for a friend, but rather to spare her boss, Stephen Harper, from any more abuse from Ms May. After watching it, I said to my wife that perhaps Murphy had a valid point (something I am not used to saying about him!), and that perhaps I should reconsider my original cynical conclusion.

In his column today, Rick Salutin seems to come to a similar conclusion:
And now ... for something completely redemptive: that parliamentary correspondents’ dinner, where Green leader Elizabeth May said some things worth saying but in a maudlin, self-pitying way. Then on came Tory cabinet minister Lisa Raitt to lovingly, maternally help her offstage. May wanted one last shot and Raitt unjudgmentally let her take it: “Omar Khadr, you’ve got more class than the entire f------ Tory cabinet.” It was complex. As a cabinet member Raitt shares that lack of class. As a human presence, she was inspirational. Isn’t there some way to bottle what happened between them and turn it into a party and voting option? Well, there should be.

I suppose that when all is said and done, we have to always keep in mind that critical thinking, as stated above, is never a fixed state nor a goal completely achieved, both a humbling and a useful insight for politically engaged people like me.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Breaking News On Omar Khadr

The Harper vendetta against Omar Khadr has suffered another defeat:
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled Thursday that Omar Khadr, the former teenage al-Qaeda member freed on bail last week in Alberta, should be treated as if he were sentenced as a juvenile. The federal government had argued that he deserved to be treated more severely, as an adult.

The case centres on whether the eight-year war-crimes sentence Khadr was given by a U.S. military commission in 2010 ought to be interpreted as a youth or adult sentence.
Nonetheless, it would be naive indeed to think that the regime will leave him alone to get on with his life, not with an election in the offering.

So little time, so much hatred and division yet to foment.

The High Cost Of Integrity

In this world, remaining faithful to one's principles can be a very difficult proposition. We often hear how important it is to "go along to get along," and while we all make compromises during the daily course of living, sometimes the issues confronting us are too large to ignore, too loud to mute that voice crying from within. But acknowledging that voice can come at a cost.

Dr. John O’Connor appears to be paying the price.

The northern Alberta doctor, the on-call doctor for the residents of Fort Chipewyan, you may recall, has been an outspoken critic of the tarsands, his studies showing rare cancers occurring at extremely high rates for the residents residing downstream of the oilsands, apparently the victims of toxic emissions and effluents from the bitumen extraction taking place in their environs. His warnings have been largely ignored by both the Alberta and the federal governments.

But someone must have been listening.

O'Connor, as reported in The National Observer, has been fired.
After 15 years of committed service, his termination came on May 8 without the slightest warning.

“Please be advised that Nunee Health Board Society no longer requires your professional services to provide any patient consultation or on-call services to the staff at the Fort Chipewyan Health Center.”

And just in case that wasn’t hard-edged enough:

“In addition, you have no authority to speak to or represent the Nunee Health Board Society in any way to any other individual, party or entity (sic)”
While at this time there is no proof that his outspokenness caused his termination, the Observer offers some history that puts his dismissal into a provocative context:
Twelve years ago, he diagnosed an unusual number of cancers of the bile duct in the tiny northern hamlet of Fort Chipewyan, located downstream of the oil sands. The condition is familiar to Dr. O’Connor because his own father died from this same illness in 1993.

He also noted higher-than-average rates of other kinds of diseases, as well as persistent reports from local hunters and fishermen of unpleasant changes in the wildlife in the region – such as dead and disappearing muskrat, and fishes with strange deformities. He wondered if these circumstances had to do with the pollution from the oil sands companies.

In 2006, the CBC reporter contacted O’Connor, who said publicly, for the first time, that he felt there was a looming public health issue in the region.

Dr. John O’Connor's data was challenged by Health Canada and public health officials in Alberta, and he was threatened with loss of his license because he had raised “undue alarm”.
While he was eventually, over several years, cleared of such charges and complaints, it turned him into a tough crusader for what he considers life and death issues.

His dismissal coincides with another curious event:
About three weeks ago, renowned physician Dr. Esther Tailfeathers, who had been spending a week every month in Fort Chipewyan for the last three years, suddenly ended her service, without explaining why to the staff at the nursing station where she worked.
That a respected First Nation physician would suddenly disappear from the community, and then three weeks later Dr. O'Connor would be abruptly terminated raises important questions as to what is going on behind the scenes.
And it would seem that the impact of these losses will reverberate throughout the region he and Tailfeathers served:
John O’Connor has been supplying on-call services, 24/7, for 15 years. He has answered calls while traveling in other countries, from holiday locations, and even from the shower, walking nursing and paramedic staff in Fort Chipewyan through challenging medical emergencies whenever they occurred. On a number of occasions over the years, he offered to reduce his fees if the Nunee Health Board Society was having trouble meeting them. In fact, [he] reduced his invoice for August 2014 to February 2015 by 50 per cent at the request of Caroline Adam, the person who sent him the one-line email [of termination] on May 8.
Virtue, we are told, is its own reward. That may have to be the consolation for O'Connor, but given his capacity to fight the good fight, I very much doubt that the matter will end here.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Distracted Thinking

I am something of a creature of routine. For example, all things being equal, my early morning ritual consists of retrieving the Toronto Star from my mailbox and reading the front section while enjoying my breakfast. It is during this reading that I often get my idea for the day's blog post. Firing up the computer, checking email and going to my blog dashboard are my next steps, assuming no exigencies have arisen requiring my attention elsewhere.

A requisite part of these quotidian activities is a certain amount of focus and concentration, perhaps one of the reasons I don't scan the entire paper during breakfast. If reading a political column, for example, I have to concentrate so as no to misread the writer's intent. Without that focus, distraction and digression would undoubtedly result. Of course, as I get older, that concentration becomes harder to maintain. It is the way of all flesh, I suspect.

It seems to me that as a nation, perhaps as a species, we allow ourselves to be far too easily distracted by the bauble, by the sensational, by the essentially meaningless, while failing to note or appreciate far more important underlying realities.

Take the overreaction to Elizabeth May's 'performance' the other night at the press gallery dinner. The fact that she dropped the 'f' bomb, and not the context of its use, is what everyone talked about, to the point, quite hypocritically in my view, that some say she should resign as Green Party leader.

In today's Star, Thomas Walkon offers some perspective:
First she said she was surprised that previous speakers hadn’t acknowledged that the dinner was taking place on land claimed by the Algonquins.

“What the f--- was wrong with the rest of you,” she said.

This, incidentally, was one of only two times she used vulgarity in what has been labelled a profanity-laden speech.

Then she noted that the prime minister, as usual, wasn’t attending. Maybe he fretted about being hit by flying bread rolls, she mused, before suggesting that such fears were unfounded because “there’s got to be a closet here somewhere.”

I confess I found that rather amusing, in a mean sort of way.
May then turned her attention to Omar Khadr:
“Welcome back Omar Khadr,” she said. “It matters to say it. Welcome back. You’re home. Omar Khadr, you’ve got more class than the entire f---ing cabinet.”

And in fact he does. Khadr’s response to being jailed almost half of his life for the crime of being a child soldier has been gracious and measured. The Harper government’s response to Khadr has been anything but.
Despite that very important context, all anyone could talk about was May's language and whether or not she was drunk.

Our predilection to think trivially, to be overwhelmed by the sensational while ignoring the substantive, serves the ruling class very well. Gwynne Dyer's most recent column, I think, addresses this issue within the context of anti-terrorism laws passed by both France and Canada:
Left-wing, right-wing, it makes no difference. Almost every elected government, confronted with even the slightest “terrorist threat”, responds by attacking the civil liberties of its own citizens. And the citizens often cheer them on.

Last week, the French government passed a new bill through the National Assembly that vastly expanded the powers of the country’s intelligence services. French intelligence agents will now be free to plant cameras and recording devices in private homes and cars, intercept phone conversations without judicial oversight, and even install “keylogger” devices that record every key stroke on a targeted computer in real time.
Things are almost equally as grim here in Canada:
The Anti-Terror Act, which has just passed the Canadian House of Commons, gives the Canadian Security Intelligence Service the right to make “preventive” arrests in Canada. It lets police arrest and detain individuals without charge for up to seven days.

The bill’s prohibitions on speech that “promotes or glorifies terrorism” are so broad and vague that any extreme political opinion can be criminalized.
In both countries, the sensational, (the threat of death by terrorist) stoked by respective governments to cultivate a compliant response from their citizens, ignores a very important factual context:
France has 65 million people, and it lost 17 of them to terrorism in the past year. Canada has 36 million people, and it has lost precisely two of them to domestic terrorism in the past 20 years.
That seems to have worked for France:
The cruel truth is that we put a higher value on the lives of those killed in terrorist attacks because they get more publicity. That’s why, in an opinion poll last month, nearly two-thirds of French people were in favor of restricting freedoms in the name of fighting extremism—and the French parliament passed the new security law by 438 votes to 86.
It appears to have been less successful here:
And the Canadian public, at the start 82 percent in favour of the new law, had a rethink during the course of the debate. By the time the Anti-Terror Act was passed in the House of Commons, 56 percent of Canadians were against it. Among Canadians between 18 and 34 years old, fully three-quarters opposed it.
Should Canadians feel superior? Not really. After all, Bill C-51 is now the law of the land, and we can be certain that the 'terror card' will be played relentlessly in the Harper campaign for re-election.

Time for a crash course in Critical Thinking 101.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Creative, But Incomplete, Solutions

If you read The Mound of Sound regularly, you will understand that there is no quick fix for the myriad problems the world faces. As he has pointed out on more than one occasion, threats like climate change cannot be viewed in isolation. It is only part of a wide panoply of interrelated ills that the world faces, ills that include overpopulation, over consumption, and dwindling resources. Our lifestyles are growing well beyond the earth's capacity to sustain us.

With that proviso in mind, there are a number of developments that, while not a solution to our bloated lifestyles, nonetheless show us what is possible when we think "outside the box."

Last week, The Star's Edward Keenan wrote a thought-provoking piece asking whether or not there are straightforward solutions to intractable problems:
What happens when a serious problem we thought was incredibly complicated and nearly impossible to solve suddenly becomes easier to deal with?

That’s a question raised by a recent blog post by economics professor John Quiggin, who sits on the board of the Australian Climate Change Authority. With the announcement this week by Elon Musk of Tesla Motors electric car fame that his company would be mass-producing a home and utility battery to store solar energy at a fraction of the price of existing similar batteries, combined with developments in electric cars, “we now have just about everything we need for a technological fix for climate change, based on a combination of renewable energy and energy efficiency, at a cost that’s a small fraction of global income …”
But one of the big obstacles to such developments is the way we think:
Quiggin notes, correctly I think, that the long-standing seeming intractability of climate change has led people to draw some distinct conclusions, and based on them gather in warring political camps: those who think dealing with it requires ending capitalism and reshaping virtually all of society; those who think the first group is perpetrating an elaborate hoax; and those in competing camps who think the solutions require very big carbon taxes, or massive investments in nuclear energy or “clean coal.”
Therefore, there is real resistance to the notion that a quick fix is possible. This, Keenan says, is the same mentality that led doctors in the mid-1800s to resist the simple measure of washing their hands and their equipment to reduce maternal and child mortality:
Doctors had their own accepted theories about the cause of such deaths and refused to think they could be causing the problem.
And so it is with other developments which, more than anything else, seem to require an open mind and a willingness to move beyond a rigidly fixed world view. Take, for example, solar roadways:

This technology was put to the test near Amsterdam, where a bike path was lined with SolaRoad:
SolaRoad has generated more than 3,000 kilowatt hours of electricity since the 70-metre-long strip officially opened in November 2014, in Krommenie, a village northwest of Amsterdam, the project reported late last week. It said that was enough to power a single-person household for a year.

"We did not expect a yield as high as this so quickly," said Sten de Wit, spokesman for the public-private partnership project, in a statement that deemed the first half-year of a three-year pilot a success.

Based on what it has produced so far, the bike path is expected to generate more than 70 kilowatt hours per square metre per year, close to the upper limit predicted based on lab tests.
Creative thinking has also led to a development dealing with the millions of cigarette butts littering our streets and parks:
TerraCycle is one of a handful of companies that is working to collect and recycle spent butts, by turning them into plastic lumber that can be used for benches, pallets, and other uses.

Another company, EcoTech Displays, is working on a system to recycle butts into insulation, clothing, and even jewelry.
You can watch a video of the process by clicking on the above link.

Will any of these developments save our world? Not in themselves. But they do show us what is possible when we resolve to break out of old modes of thinking, sadly a task perhaps as difficult as the process involved in developing new technologies.

Monday, May 11, 2015

A Sign I Would Love To See In Canada

This is how a politically disgruntled Brit is dealing with his frustration over the Tories.

Anyone in Canada up for a little creative protest?

Continuing With A Theme

Well, as a new week dawns I find that I am not quite ready to turn to new topics, as Omar Khadr is still very much in the news. For a good roundup of the implications of his release on bail and his short media scrum, be sure to check out Montreal Simon's post today.

Sunday's news panels also devoted considerable time to Khadr. You may enjoy this video from The Sunday Scrum featuring Rosemary Barton, Glen McGregor and David Gray:

Last evening on The National, the discussion continued with Jonathan Kay, Tasha Kheiriddin and John Moore. Advance the following video to about the 16-minute mark to watch it:

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Oh, And Another Thing

Without doubt, some readers will be wearying of my seeming obsession with Omar Khadr. A good part of my interest in him over the past few years stems from the injustice with which he has been treated, given the flouting by both Canada and the U.S. of International human rights law as it pertains to the child soldier. The other part of my interest stems from the fact that Khadr has been a Rorschach test for the Harper government, revealing the latter's relentless meanspiritedness and willingness to sacrifice people for electoral power.

It is my hope, as stated previously, that the tide will begin to turn against the Harper regime as its mask slips away, given the public's opportunity to see and hear Khadr now that he has been released into his lawyer's custody.

If the following letters from The Globe and Mail are any indication, people are beginning to see beyond the stereotype of the 'terrorist' that Harper et al. have been promoting all these years:

Capacity for reform
Anyone who heard Omar Khadr’s comments to the media after being released on bail cannot help but be struck by the federal government’s doggedly vindictive response (‘Freedom Is Way Better Than I Thought’ – May 8). If the heart and soul of the Canadian penal system is truly rehabilitation, surely he is a good example of the human capacity for reform. Unless, of course, the government is committed to an ideological agenda from which it is unwilling to deviate, however compelling the evidence to the contrary.

Peter Laurie, Peterborough, Ont.


At last, the “convicted terrorist” Omar Khadr speaks. First, Prime Minister Stephen Harper muzzled the child, then he muzzled the man, but on Thursday Canadians were allowed to finally hear him for themselves. I am proud of Canada.

Robin Hannah, Toronto
Whether any of this has long-term efficacy will, of course, be put to the test in October.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

A Very Good Week

H/t The Toronto Star

For progressives, it has been a very good week. For Stephen Harper and his adherents, not so much.

First, there was the resounding and iconic defeat of the Progressive Conservative dynasty in Alberta. The message to the broader population: change is possible, a message not likely to be forgotten as we head into an October election.

Next, a major misplay by the Prime Minister's team in publishing online, for the infamous propaganda organ 24/Seven, the faces of Canadian soldiers during Harper's visit to iraq and Kuwait, part of his never-ending re-election campaign.

Finally, and perhaps most significantly, was the release of Omar Khadr, the government's relentless efforts to keep Khadr from the public's view so they could control the narrative about him having failed, as noted yesterday. Instead of the remorseless terrorist portrayed by the regime, the public saw a thoughtful, gracious and reflective man eager to get on with his life.

As observed by Thomas Walkom in today's Star,
he came across in that brief press conference as remarkably human — as someone who wants to build a new life, but isn’t entirely sure how to do it; as a person who has outgrown his past but is still trying to come to terms with it.

This is not the Omar Khadr that the Harper government wants us to see. It prefers a world that is black and white, where the bad guys are terrorists who commit heinous crimes and the good guys are one-dimensionally heroic.

Government ministers, and the prime minister himself, refer to the fact that Khadr pled guilty to war crimes, including murder.
The Star's Chantal Hebert is equally lacerating in her assessment of this week's displays of Harperian ineptitude:
All week, partisan overkill made the government look both ugly and inept. It is hard to think of a more self-defeating combination for a party that is about to solicit a fourth mandate.
Her observations about Khadr echo those of Walkom:
As the former Guantanamo detainee holds his first scrum, it becomes apparent why Harper’s government was so adamant that he not be allowed to speak to the media. It was easier to paint Khadr as an unredeemable terrorist in the abstract than it will be now that most Canadians have the opportunity to hear from the actual person.
Despite that, the government held firm, Mr. Harper refusing to utter even the glimmer of a gracious note, as he offered his thoughts and prayers to the family members of U.S. Sgt. Christopher Speer.

For a man who always seeks to be in total control, Stephen Harper must have found this a very frustrating week. May he continue to live in interesting times.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Art, Revisited

Somehow, this speaks to me more than the original does.

H/t Graeme MacKay

The Sweet Taste Of Freedom

Watching Omar Khadr's media scrum last night, it became obvious why the Harper regime fought so hard, first, to deny media access to him while he was in prison, and second, why it so vigorously opposed his release on bail: when you control the narrative, you have free rein, as the regime had, to demonize and incite fear and hatred. When that control is lost, a different perspective and narrative emerges.

While I am no expert in human psychology, what I saw last night was a reflective and articulate young man who was enjoying his first tast of freedom in 15 years, a young man who appears to be without bitterness or rancour over his gross mistreatment by the Harper government. When asked what he had to say to the prime minister, he essesntially said that he would have to disappoint him, as he is not the person Harper thinks he is.

He showed admirable restraint; perhaps he felt that his lawyer. Dennis Edney's, earlier excoriation of Harper as a bigot, a man who doesn't like Muslims, was sufficient denunciation of our cruel overlord.

I doubt that Khadr has an easy road ahead of him. His freedom on bail comes with many restrictions, and where his appeal against his American conviction will go is anyone's guess. What the years of imprisonment, torture and other abuse have done to him remains to be seen.

Perhaps those experiences will have been leavened by the efforts of people who have worked hard to help educate him during his long incarceration:
Nine Alberta university professors, most of them from The King’s University College in suburban Edmonton, have spent years visiting Khadr in prison, spending hours tutoring him. Since Khadr was transferred to Alberta in May 2013, the professors have worked with him at least once a week.
Then there is the social network knitted together by University of Alberta graduate Muna Abougoush, who
began the website six years ago to keep Khadr’s name circulating and to remind people that he was still imprisoned. She began writing to him and visiting him in prison. “Omar has such a support community. I could probably say with certainty most inmates don’t have this,” says Abougoush. This past Christmas, Khadr received 500 letters from supporters — some as far away as China. And he tries to answer them all.
Perhaps some of those lacking in sympathy for Khadr, now that they have something more than government propaganda upon which to base their opinion, will come to new insights. As pointed out in today's Star editorial,
whatever his misdeeds Khadr, now 28, has paid the full price, and more. From the day U.S. troops captured him in Afghanistan in 2002 he has been denied justice, tortured, forsaken by Ottawa and tried in a discredited U.S. military court. He has spent twice the time behind bars as he would have, had he been convicted here of first-degree murder as a young offender.
Omar Khadr now stands at a crossroad: the life he has lived thus far, over which he had little to no control, and the life ahead, ultimately filled with the freedom to choose. May his journey be a fulfilling one.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Omar Khadr's Lawyer: "Mr. Harper Is A Bigot. Mr. Harper Does Not Like Muslims."

Denis Edney's stinging rebuke of Stephen Harper and his regime's contemptuous treatment of Omar Khadr over the years will resonate with all fair-mined Canadians.

UPDATED:Seeing Above The Clouds

One of the consequences of being a longtime follower of politics is the development of a cynical perspective on life, one that recognizes the avarice, self-interest and self-promotion that all too frequently masquerade as service for the greater good. It seems that those we elect regularly abandon any semblance of service to their constituents, choosing instead to curry favour with their 'masters' in the hope of career advancement and consolidation of power. In doing so, they subject us, as the current cabal in Ottawa has so skillfully done, to a worldview that emphasizes threat, darkness and selfishness.

Hope, collective interest and redemption are not in their lexicon.

Yet despite my deep distrust of people's motives, I have never lost faith in the possibility of redemption, a concept I often think of when considering Omar Khadr. His story is well-known, and I will not rehash it here other than to say that having experienced 15 years of consequences for being a child soldier must have left a deep mark on his psyche. Yet if I have learned anything in life, it is the incredible resilience of the human spirit. The story of Ismael Beah, who was a child soldier in Sierra Leone, amply attests to that fact.

All of which makes it hard for me to countenance the relentless efforts to both demonize Khadr and vigorously oppose his release on bail from Alberta prison Bowden Institution. Well, today the judge will make her ruling, after which he could very well be released into the custody of his lawyer. As reported in today's Star, here is what the former Guantanamo inmate has to say:
“In prison, I had lots of bad experiences. If I hold on to each one, I would have been very bitter,” he told the prison psychologist, Nathan Lau, during an interview on Feb. 20.

“I can’t afford to be bitter. I did something bad and I’m here for a reason. The only way to survive is to have hope,” he said. “If I hope for people to give me a second chance, I should afford them the same.”
Khadr says he looks forward to life on the outside but conceded, “I don’t think it will be a piece of cake.”

“I’ve screwed up in the past and I’m worried it will haunt me. People will think I’m the same person I was 12 or 13 years ago. They might treat me in the same light,” he said.

“However, if I carry myself with dignity and respect, people will respect me. I hope there won’t be this terrorism nonsense. I’m not going to get involved.”
I, for one, hope Khadr gets his chance, starting today.

UPDATE: Apparently, the judge deciding Omar Khadr's fate was able to see through the hyperbole and hateful rhetoric of the Harper regime and has ordered his release on bail:
Justice June Ross of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench said bail is a Canadian right, and while Mr. Khadr is in jail in Canada, he is covered by Canadian law.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Bye, Bye, Steve

Operation Maple has a series of videos in which ordinary Canadians discuss their reasons to 'leave Steve' in 2015. Here they begin:

UPDATED: Harper's Jihad Part 3

Dear Leader's jihad against Muslims continues apace. As you probably know, his regime is going to court today to request an "emergency" stay of Omar Khadr's release on bail, their arguments appearing increasingly desperate. Previous claims that his release would do irreparable harm to Canada's relationship with the U.S. have proven to be unfounded. That he poses a threat to public safety is refuted by the fact that he has proven to be a model prisoner.

Even as conservative and pro-government an organ as The Globe and Mail is saying enough is enough.

What is a government desperate to use Khadr as a political pinata to do? How to appeal to the prejudices and hatreds of a rabid base?

The latest claim, made yesterday and in all likelihood as fatuous as the others, is this:
"A lack of clarity in the international transfer process may jeopardize the system as a whole," the government states in documents obtained by The Canadian Press.

"(Khadr's) release unsettles the foundation of this system by introducing uncertainty and a lack of control over the manner in which Canadian offenders' sentences are enforced."
In response, Khadr's lawyers said the government's case for a stay was weak.

For one thing, they say, the government acknowledges Khadr's case is unique and will have little or no effect on other prison transfers.

"The onus is on the (Crown) to establish that irreparable harm will actually occur if a stay is not granted," they state in their reply brief.

"Reliance upon harm that is speculative or merely 'likely' is insufficient."
And so the drama continues.

Meanwhile, the Kafkaesque persecution of Hamilton lawyer Hussein Hamdani, about which I wrote last week, continues. In an interview yesterday on CHCH News, Hamdani yielded an interesting perspective, one that seems entirely plausible given the remorselessly vindictive nature of the Harper regime.
“This is politically motivated in my estimation, so it’s not really a review. This is just something that’s been said to remove someone, who’s been critical of a recent piece of legislation, bill c-51,” Says Hamdani.

Which may be true. The allegations contained in the TVA news report are not new, they’ve been investigated before by CSIS, and the RCMP. “Which is interesting because I’ve been renewed, and renewed and renewed and every renewal there is further security checks that are done by CSIS, by the RCMP and I’m vetted again. And every time I’ve passed, you know, right from the beginning.”

And, if you read the next paragraph, fresh insight into the regime's motivation is offered:
As recently as February however, Hamdani was the pride of the Harper government at President Obama’s summit on countering violent extremism. Hamdani says his ouster could also have something to do with his recent appearance at a fundraiser for Justin Trudeau. “I think what’s happening is that this government says, why are we having somebody who is obviously a Liberal supporter on our round table? We don’t like him. We’re gonna get a better ‘yes man’!”
None of this, of course, will come as a surprise to those of us aware of the deeply vile nature of our current government. The difficult task before all of us is making a wide swath of Canadians aware of the terrible manipulations they are being subjected to, all in the service of retaining power.

A better reason to get rid of these renegades in October I cannot think of.

UPDATE: Thanks to the regime's tireless persecution of Khadr, he will have to wait at least two more days to be released on bail.

Monday, May 4, 2015

A Little Bathroom Humour

I know it's probably a tad juvenile, but this kind of stuff keeps me young at heart:

A city councilman forgot to take his mic off when he took a bathroom break... and the whole council heard everything.

Posted by NowThis on Saturday, May 2, 2015

And these two comments are worth noting:

Franklyn Diaz: He didn't wash his hands

Wan Da Wise: Talking about the spread of disease and this guy didn't even wash his hands

H/t: Now This News

On Harper's Mastery Of The Economy

H/t The Toronto Star

'Nuff said.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Sunday Sermon

As a special service for those of you who missed attending your house of worship today, I offer the following two orators for your discernment. You will notice a common theme as they discuss the impending wrath of their very strange, intolerant deity:

You will have to click here to 'enjoy' a fiery rant by someone named Rick Wiles, who seems theologically tuned in to Pastor Pat's frequency.

Harper's Jihad - Part Two

As I have written elsewhere on this blog, I am convinced that humans (along with other primates) have an innate sense of fairness, one that is regularly violated in so many ways by the Harper regime. Yesterday I wrote a post about the bald and unsavoury political motivations behind Dear Leader's crusade against Muslims both domestic and foreign. One egregious example is his ongoing war against Omar Khadr, the latest skirmish involving the government's efforts to prevent the former child soldier from being released on bail.

Happily, there is ample evidence from a host of Star letter writers that Canadians feel deep outrage at this persecution, and see through Harper's divisive and self-serving rhetoric. Here is just a small sampling of those letters:

Re: Free at last, almost, Editorial April 25
Re: Let the Khadr furor fade away with him, April 27

What is the matter with Mr. Harper? Why this persistence in hounding this young man, who as a child was prosecuted in the U.S. and served most of his time. We Canadians believe in being fair and we try not to demand that last pound of flesh. Not so Mr. Harper it seems. He wants his pound of flesh.

Omar Khadr deserves a chance to prove he has moved on from his teenage years and their influences and can be a valuable member of society. Mr. Harper needs to check his big bully ways at the courtroom door.

Joan Joseph, Cambridge

The behaviour of the Harper government in relation to Omar Khadr continues to be mean and vicious, all apparently based in politics. It is calculated to appeal to the Harper base in the so-called tough defense of national security and be useful in the coming election.

I think, however, that this may in fact work against the government. Surely the general Canadian public is not that ugly.

Derek Chadwick, Toronto

Please let Omar Khadr go. Let him go. Enough already. Hasn’t this poor man suffered enough?

The Harper regime’s decision to appeal the granting of bail is frankly despicable. Once again, thank goodness for the Charter of Rights. I’m sure Stephen Harper wishes he could abolish it, but it’s fortunately too well entrenched for even a seasoned political opportunist like him to destroy.

Nothing says more about the mean-spirited, reptilian rule of Supreme Leader Harper than the tragic saga of Omar Khadr. Yes, his ordeal began under a Liberal government, but nobody has exploited his story as eagerly and effectively as Harper, simply to further his anti-Muslim agenda and his bogus war on so-called “terrorism.”

As Thomas Walkom mentions in a recent column, Khadr is nothing more than a political football to be tossed around in the upcoming election campaign. This is disgusting beyond words.

Khadr has been the victim of a mockery and travesty of justice unseen in recent times. The injustice he has been subjected to is a stain on the Canadian body politic. All Canadians should be ashamed of his inhumane treatment.

How dare Canada lecture anyone on human rights after what we’ve put this guy through?

I say go, Omar, go – enjoy your freedom. You’ve more than earned it.

Andrew van Velzen, Toronto

Why do Stephen Harper and the Conservatives hate Omar Khadr?

Omar Khadr was a child soldier, captured by the Americans in 2002 at the age of 15. They chose to ignore his child soldier status and to prosecute him under laws that were enacted years after he was captured and imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay. All other G8 countries demanded the release of their nationals from Guantanamo Bay, except Canada.

Omar Khadr’s father was an operative for Al Qaeda and a personal friend of Osama Bin Laden. His son had no choice about becoming an Al Qaeda soldier. He has spent the past 13 years in detention at Guantanamo Bay and in prison in Canada, where he has been denied access to anyone who would speak for him in the press.

Stephen Harper and the Conservative government have made it clear that they intend to continue persecuting this young man as long as they can use him as a scapegoat to whip up fear and hatred (against “terrorists” and Muslims) – whatever might help them to get re-elected.

Surely, Harper and the Conservative government are guilty of conspiracy to persecute a child soldier and should be charged under the Geneva Convention. At the very least they are guilty of promoting hatred against this young man.

Bill Aird, North York