Posts from our progressive community

Busted Arm Blogging

Dammit Janet - 7 hours 30 min ago
Because Twitter is ephemeral and because this is my blog on which I can write whatever I want, here's what's been happening to me.

On Saturday night, I broke my left forearm. Went to Emerg, got it splinted, and got appt with Fracture Clinic 4 days later.

Which was yesterday. Here's my series of tweets about it. (I wrote them out first. Apologies for lack of caps, but one-handed inputting.)

well, that was more of an ordeal than expected. in short, emerg fucked up. bone should have been straightened out before splinting

would that explain BIG pain since? i asked. side-eye between doc and tech. (lotta side-eye throughout) answer: repressively, yes.

straightening process involved what they called chinese finger cages, in use since medieval times (my supposition). like that woven trick tube you put fingers in

more you pull, tighter it gets. all 5 fingers put in metal versions of tube. suspended. weight put on upper arm.

you are left for 10 minutes to weep, scream, gnash teeth, your choice, as break gets reopened. i gnashed.

then 3 techs arrive. 1 to pull on injured arm, leaning away, no shit. 1 to pull on other side to counter pulling, and, best part

1 to "model" broken bit, i.e. push and shove and wrangle bone into alignment, much apologizing included.

here, i chose to gasp and gnash, while plaster strips applied as alignment proceeds.

next, xray to see how all that went. here, one prays to whatever deity that it went well and doesn't need redo

yay! doc comes back to look at xray. no redo. i'm good. i asked for drugs. scrip written for MANY T3s, higher dose, more frequently allowed

next appt 1 week

upshot: freer fingers, no light cast, worse break than i was led to believe by emerg goof

work upshot: i'm going to forgo one gig and hope i'm good enough for the one soon after that
Further update: not surprisingly, arm feels much better with bone properly aligned in stiff cast. Still hurts like hell of course.

But new cast had a hard pointy bit poking into inside elbow. I thought what the heck and went back to the clinic this morning to see if they would fix it.

Butt barely grazed chair after being told to take a seat when nice tech came and got me and removed pointy bit. She also told me that I had been a heckuva trooper yesterday and that clinic doc was MASSIVELY pissed with emerg doc and that there would be repercussions.


I looked hard for a photo of "Chinese finger cages," using all kinds of search terms. No luck. You'll have to use your imaginations.

Friday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - 7 hours 38 min ago
Assorted content to end your week.

- Jerry Dias sees the forced passage of an unamended Bill C-377 as a definitive answer in the negative to the question of whether the Senate will ever justify its own existence. And Nora Loreto emphasizes that the bill has no purpose other than to attack unions:
The amendments contained in C-377 to the Income Tax Act are sweeping, broad and idiotic. If Canadians need any example that the Harper Conservatives care more about personal vendettas than good governance, the proof is wrapped up in C-377.

C-377 requires a ridiculous level of compliance from labour organizations and trusts. It forces unions, labour organizations, labour federations, organizations comprised of different unions, labour trusts and professional associations to publically report all expenditures of over $5000 and itemize exactly what that the money was dedicated to.

Everyone's salaries, everyone's timesheets and all contracts will be made public. This places an enormous burden on the bureaucratic structures of the labour movement.
It's easy to see why the Harper Conservatives hate unions. Unions are the final major roadblock in their campaign to fully transform Canada. Unions demand rights for working people, decent wages and benefits, all which constitute barriers towards full-scale and unregulated resource extraction and international trade deals.

Unionization and labour rights are fundamental within a free and democratic society. The ability of working people to gather, elect their own leadership and direct their own political campaigns is a tenet of democracy. It is the membership who has the right to make demands of the leadership; no one else.- Meanwhile, Daniel Tencer points out that public service workers and unionized workers tend to have the type of secure retirement we should all be able to plan on. And May Warren reports on the effects of precarious work in Guelph.

- Iman Sheikh writes that immigrants to Canada tend to be disproportionately healthy on arrival only to see their health decline - which surely signals there's far more work to do in making sure new Canadians have access to needed social supports.

- Charles Mandel interviews Bill McKibben about Canada's obstructionist role in global climate talks under the Harper Cons. But Kim Covert notes that the precedent recently set by a Dutch court in mandating emission reductions could well be followed here if our politicians don't live up to their responsibilities first.

- Finally, Michael Grunwald examines the most recent leak from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, including its massive handouts to big pharma at the expense of the health care system of every participating country. And the CCPA's latest issue of the Monitor nicely covers the false promise and serious damage done by trade agreements.

On closed-door decisions

accidentaldeliberations - 8 hours 51 min ago
Memo to Don Lenihan:

It's well and good to point to past backroom policy debacles such as utterly unwanted Crown corporation giveaways as examples of a complete lack of public engagement.

But before lauding Kathleen Wynne as the face of open government, might it be worth noting that she's doing the exact same thing on too short a time frame for public consultation, while paying lip service to "dialogue" after it's too late?

Shaming Those Who Deserve It - The Case Of Kim McArthur

Politics and its Discontents - 9 hours 46 min ago

Every picture of that I have seen of her shows Kim McArthur sporting the same smile as above, conveying the image of someone without a care in the world, a woman of clear conscience. Yet she should be troubled, just as Robbie Yuill, the subject of yesterday's post, should be. Like Yuill, it would seem McArthur is yet another deadbeat employer, refusing to pay money owed to a former employee, Chelsea Phelan-Tran.

The story begins in June of 2012, when Phelan-Tran
landed her dream job at Toronto-based book publisher McArthur & Company, run by award-winning entrepreneur Kim McArthur. Phelan-Tran, who owed $38,000 in student loans, was thrilled.

But by September, she was no longer being paid. For two months she worked for nothing, hoping things would turn around at the increasingly beleaguered business.
Meanwhile, she and her husband, expecting their first child, went into debt to the tune of $10,000. Getting no response to her email requests for payment from McArthur, Phelan-Tran finally took her complaint to the Ministry of Labour, which failed her badly.
According to ministry documents, McArthur “could not be located,” and it took until Aug. 22, 2013, to hold a fact-finding meeting on Phelan-Tran’s file. McArthur did not attend.

By that time, the publishing company had closed. But the ministry ruled that Phelan-Tran was still owed $3,500 and issued an order for McArthur to pay. The matter was sent to a private collection agency, and for a year, Phelan-Tran heard nothing.

Losing patience, she called the agency herself. The collection agent said she too had failed to locate the employer, at which point Phelan-Tran provided McArthur’s phone number and home address herself.

“She was like, 'Oh, you have that?” Phelan-Tran recalls.This inability to locate McArthur is perplexing, given that she has a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and a LinkedIn page. As well, The Toronto Star
located McArthur’s phone number, email and home address. She did not respond to multiple requests for comment, and did not answer the door of her Brantford house — where her 2001 Canadian Women Entrepeneur of the Year award leaned against the front window.Clearly, neither the ministry of Labour nor the collection agency tried very hard to find her, and this has left Phelan-Tran disillusioned:
The ordeal has left the 31-year-old Ajax mother shocked at the lack of support from those meant to work on her behalf.

“It’s a criminal act that she committed. She broke the law,” says Phelan-Tran. “She could just do it again and get away with it.”I have nothing to add to that damning assessment.
-Recommend this Post

They Never Offer Bribes

Northern Reflections - 11 hours 5 min ago

This week, Pierre Poilievre made sure that the public saw him handing out cheques. Michael Harris writes:

There he was, in all his obsequious glory, standing beside the massive press run of the expanded Universal Child Care Benefit outbound cash flow. It looked like a reprinting of the Oxford English Dictionary, so thick were the sheaves of cheques. One hundred and sixty bucks a month for kids under six — and a brand new $60 a month for those 6 and over. Mind the fine print; the UCCB is taxable in the case of the lower income spouse. All is never quite what it seems to be in Harperland.
It's not a new strategy. It's been Standard Operating Procedure for a long time:

The hijacking of public money for private political use is not new with this crowd. You will recall that the Harperites actually posed beside giant ceremonial cheques bearing the logo of the Conservative Party back in 2009.

MPs like Colin Mayes, Larry Miller and James Bezan all tried to take political ownership of government funding cheques. The message was clear. Remember who butters your bread, forgetting it seems, that both this bread and this butter are publicly owned.
And, of course, there is that one billion dollars that has been spent on "public service announcements:"

Here is another one. The Harper government has spent nearly a billion public dollars in party advertising thinly disguised as public service announcements. It is a scandal much bigger than Ad Sponsorship, and includes the obscene costs associated with the PM’s nauseating photo-ops. That’s where the already-announced gets announced again and again, and then re-announced by lesser mortals at smaller PR events across the country.
It's all about buying votes. The Mike Duffy trial has made abundantly clear that, in Harperland, you can be charged with accepting a bribe, but nobody will offer you one.

Pierre Poilievre and the Scandalous Con Plan to Buy the Election

Montreal Simon - 12 hours 32 min ago

As you may remember, when I last dropped in on Pierre Poilievre, I found him wandering around at a clothing sale in an Ottawa hockey arena.

Making a vanity video, desperately trying to buy votes with the Con's so-called Universal Child Care Benefit.

And even more desperately trying to do something, ANYTHING, to try to fix his terrible popularity problem. 

But since that was never going to work. They don't call him Pee Wee or Dickhead for nothing eh?

I see he's taken his desperate search for love to a whole new and low level. 

Read more »

Thursday Evening Links

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 07/02/2015 - 17:54
This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Daniel Marans reports on Bernie Sanders' push for international action against austerity in Greece and elsewhere. And Binoy Kampmark documents the anti-democratic and antisocial ideology on the other side of the austerity debate.

- Noah Smith writes that while there's no discernible connection between massive pay for CEOs and actual corporate performance, there's a strong link between who an executive knows and how much the executive can extract.

- The CP reports on UNESCO's push to study the impact of the tar sands on Wood Buffalo National Park. And Tavia Grant breaks the news that Health Canada is just getting around the acknowledging the long-recognized dangers of asbestos.

- Stephen Maher comments on the Cons' manipulations of the Canada Elections Act to limit voting among poor Canadians. And Michelle Ghoussoub reports on the Council of Canadians' fight to reverse the restrictions.

-Finally, John Baglow notes that the Cons' especially villainous run of recent actions looks to reflect the death throes of Stephen Harper's government. Steve Sullivan calls out the Cons for seeking to terrorize Canada's electorate. And Michael Harris argues that Harper is a tyrant in the true sense of the word, while Andrew Coyne writes that Harper is truly alone as the federal election campaign approaches.

July 2015 Bits and Bites: Canada Day Edition

Anti-Racist Canada - Thu, 07/02/2015 - 14:53
Well, belated Canada Day. Or perhaps Canada Day +1.

We understand that some of our readers have a complicated relationship with Canada Day considering the treatment of First Nations people over the centuries and Canada's past retrogressive immigration policies that excluded people on the basis of ethnicity from coming to Canada. But do you know who shouldn't have any ambiguity about Canada Day?


Our bonehead friends more often than not refer to themselves as the much more innocuous sounding "White Nationalist," the emphasis being on the "white" part of course, but the "nationalism" portion is no less important to their identity. One of the criticisms of immigrants, First Nations peoples, and non-white Canadians (many of who's ancestors immigration histories predate those of the boneheads by decades) is that these group don't love the country like they do. The "White Nationalists" complain that the immigrants, First Nations, and non-white Canadians didn't do anything to build the country and are just here as "takers" with no fundamental loyalty to Canada:

Putting aside the fact that "RIP Canada 1867 to 1965" likely hasn't picked glacial stones out of a field or cleared brush in his entire life and is assuming the credit due his betters, this is a fairly typical missive. So, we can expect that "White Nationalists" in their zeal to show just how better they are than the unwashed hordes battering down the gates at proving how much they love this country:

Or not.

Read more »

If We Can't Pry Our Politics Free of Neoliberalism, We're Screwed

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 07/02/2015 - 10:32
Like it or not, neoliberalism is the prevailing economic orthodoxy in Canadian politics, the NDP included.  It's also the seed of our destruction as a nation and it's going to be a real bugger to kick our way free of it.

For years I've been writing on this blog that neoliberalism and free market capitalism do not work past a certain point at which a society starts running out of stuff and begins running into walls.  That's when you either descend into a form of economic neo-feudalism or else you transition into an allocation-based economy.  When there's not enough to go around, to meet basic needs, people expect pretty egalitarian solutions.

Which is why I was immensely pleased to find Oxford professor and economic historian Avner Offer's insights in Chris Hedges new book, Wages of Rebellion.

According to Offer, our ideology of neoclassical economics - the belief that, as E. Roy Weintraub wrote, 'people have rational choices among outcomes' that can be identified and associated with values, that 'individuals maximize utility and firms maximize profits,' and that 'people act independently on the basis of full and relevant information' - is a 'just world' theory.  'A just world theory posits that the world is just.  People get what they deserve. If you believe that the world is fair, you explain or rationalize away injustice, usually by blaming the victim.'

But, he warned, if we continue down a path of mounting scarcities, along with economic stagnation and decline, this neoclassical model becomes ominous.

'Major ways of thinking about the world constitute just-world theories,' he said. 'The Catholic Church is a just-world theory.  If the Inquisition burned heretics, they only got what they deserved. Bolshevism was a just-world theory. If Kulaks were starved and exiled, they got what they deserved. Fascism was a just-world theory. If Jews died in the concentration camps, they got what they deserved. The point is not that the good people get the good things, but the bad people get the bad things. Neoclassical economics, our principal source of policy norms, is a just-world theory.'

Offer quoted the economist Milton Friedman: 'The ethical principle that would justify the distribution of income in a free market society is, "To each according to what he and the instruments he owns produces."

'So,' Offer went on, 'everyone gets what he or she deserves, either for his or her effort or for his or her property. No one asks how he or she got this property. And if they don't have it, they probably don't deserve it. The point about just-world theory is not that it dispenses justice, but that it provides a warrant for inflicting pain.'

Offer... said that the effectiveness of an ideology is measured by the amount of coercion it takes to keep a ruling elite in power.  Reality, when it does not conform toi the reigning ideology, he said, has to be 'forcibly aligned.'

...As larger and larger segments of society are forced because of declining economies to become outsiders, the use of coercion, under our current model, will probably become more widespread.

...Offer argued that 'a silent revolution' took place in economics in the 1970s. That was a time when 'economists discovered opportunism - a polite term for cheating.  Before that, economics had been a just-world defence of the status quo. But when the status quo became the welfare state, suddenly economics became all about cheating. The invisible-hand doctrine tells us there is only one outcome, and that outcome is the best. But once you enter a world of cheating, there is no longer one outcome. It is what economists call 'multiple equilibria,' which means there is not a deterministic outcome. The outcome depends on how successful the cheating is. And one of the consequences of this is that economists are not in a strong position to tell society what to do.'

The problem, he said, is that the old norms of economics continue to inform our policies, as if the cheating norm had never been introduced.

'Let's take the doctrine of optimal taxation,' he said. 'If you assume a world of perfect competition, where every person gets their marginal products, then you can deduce a tax distribution where high progressive taxation is inefficient. This doctrine has been one of the drivers to reduce progressive taxation. But looking at the historical record, this has not been accompanied by any great surge in productivity; rather, it has produced a great surge in inequality. So once again, there is a gap between what the model tells us should happen and what actually happens. In this case, the model works, but only in the model - only if all the assumptions are satisfied. Reality is more complicated.'

...Our current economic model, he said, will be of little use to us in an age of ecological deterioration and growing scarcities. Energy shortages, global warming, population increases, and increasing scarceness of water and food will create an urgent need for new models of distribution. Our two options, he said, will be 'hanging together or falling apart.' Offer argues that we cannot be certain that growth will continue. If standards of living stagnate or decline, he said, we must consider other models for the economy.

Offer, who studied the rationing systems set up in the countries that took part in WWI, suggested that we examine how past societies coped successfully with scarcity. ...In an age of scarcity, it will be imperative to set up new, more egalitarian models of distribution. Clinging to the old neoclassical model, he argued, could erode and perhaps destroy social cohesion and require the state to engage in greater forms of coercion.

...However, if we cling to our current model - which Offer labels 'every man for himself' - then, he said, 'it will require serious repression.'

He concluded: 'There is not a free market solution to a peaceful decline.'

What professor Offer is arguing for is, essentially, social democracy as the only viable option to safeguard social cohesion and ward off serious repression necessary to continue today's status quo. What a great time for Layton and Mulcair to embrace neoliberalism and guide the NDP to abandon the Left.

Humanists must engage with the Truth and Reconciliation Report

Terahertz - Thu, 07/02/2015 - 09:19

Earlier today I finally had some time to sit down and read parts of the Truth and Reconciliation report and set out why Humanist Canada’s response was woefully inadequate (at best). I Tweeted my responses and then built my first Storify. Hopefully this works. [View the story “Humanist Canada’s “response” to the Truth and Reconciliation Report” on Storify]

Some Times Things Go Really Wrong. Some Times They Go Really Right.

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 07/02/2015 - 08:51
It's about the worst thing you'll ever hear on a cockpit voice recorder - the pilot saying, "Wow, pulled back the wrong throttle," seconds before the passenger plane falls out of the sky.

According to Taiwan's Aviation Safety Council investigators, those were among the last words uttered by Captain Liao Jian-zong before his Trans-Asia ATR turboprop plane went in.  One engine lost power about three minutes into the flight and then the pilot cut the power to his remaining good engine.

Some pilots, however, catch a break.  A month before the Trans-Asia disaster a pilot found his Cirrus SR-22 out of fuel over the Pacific west of Maui. Fortunately for the pilot the Cirrus comes with its own, built-in parachute.  The pilot came down safely and was rescued by a passing cruise ship.

Maybe That's Why It Was "Buy First, Fly Later."

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 07/02/2015 - 08:15

Lockheed's F-35 joint strike fighter is one for the books.  In fact there'll be several books written examining how it was conceived, developed, built and sold and they'll be studied in aviation circles for generations to come.

To call the F-35 counter-intuitive is a massive understatement.  It's what you might expect of a George w. Bush and Dick Cheney love child.  One quick mistake in the middle of a boozy night and the rest took care of itself.

The idea was to build a new ground attack light bomber that would be not one but two generations ahead of anything else flying.  It was supposed to be so advanced that it would take America's potential adversaries (can you say China and Russia?) decades to catch up, ensuring America's air superiority far into the future.  That was the idea.  From there pretty much everything went very, very wrong.

To rush the world dominating F-35 into service, they would put it into production while it still had years of testing ahead of it.  It would be coming off the assembly lines and into customer's hangars while the Lockheed/US Air Force team were trying to find and fix whatever was wrong with it.  Here's the thing. What is this now, 2015? That testing isn't scheduled to be completed until 2019 at the earliest.  In other words, you build it.  You sell it.  You eventually figure out what's wrong with it and then hope you can fix it.  Imagine walking into some car dealership, pointing to the shiny red thing on the showroom floor and asking the sales guy "what's wrong with this model" only to have him reply "we really don't know yet. We think it's mainly going to be the engine and the steering and the brakes. Oh yeah, there's also that fire thing."  It's such a curious approach that the Pentagon boss who took over monitoring the project coined a special term for it, "acquisition malpractice."

With something this screwed up from the outset, it didn't take long for politics to creep into the F-35 programme.  This is one very political airplane, right up there with Canada's Avro Arrow, only in this case the political wheel of fortune is working to keep the airplane alive.

Two numbers you have to keep in your mind - 22 and 35.  The F-22 Raptor is Lockheed's stealth super-fighter.  It's the one that the White House decided that even America's closest allies could never have.  The US Air Force was supposed to get about 800 of them but the Obama administration shut down the project at about 178.  Now think of that from Lockheed's point of view.  They developed it and got it into production assuming they would recoup their costs with a tidy profit over a run of 800 airframes.  Suddenly the customer, who won't let you sell it to anyone else, says, "I've thought it over and 178 will be plenty so just shut it down."  Talk about being left hanging.

But Lockheed had a backup airplane that could save the day, the F-35.  The Pentagon was looking to buy a couple of thousand of those and there would be several hundred more flogged to America's allies from Italy to South Korea. Salvation.  With that, the F-35 became the biggest and costliest military package in American history.

Unfortunately the F-35 dream turned into a nightmare.  Development problems kept popping up, costs soared and the testing/delivery schedule fell several years behind.  Those foreign customers got nervous, very nervous.  Let's just say that Lockheed, the Pentagon and the White House had their hands full keeping the international market from collapsing.

One thing the foreign customers wanted to know was if they bought the F-35 what else would they have to buy?  The F-35 might be okay at dropping bombs in someone else's back yard but how were they going to defend their own airspace?  With that, the light strike bomber morphed into an air superiority fighter.  Lockheed went to great lengths to tout the F-35 as superior in all respects, including air combat, over the F-15/F-16/F-18/Mig-29/Sukhoi-27 legacy fighters.  There were some who coughed "bullshit" into their hands but Lockheed insisted their stealth bomber fighter could take on all comers.

Which is why Lockheed can't be very happy about the leak of an in-house test report showing that, in the furball of air combat, the F-35 is, as critics have long claimed, a dud.

A Lockheed Martin F-35A Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) was outperformed in the type’s first basic fighter maneuvering exercise by a 20-plus-year-old F-16 fighter, according to a leaked Lockheed Martin report prepared by the pilot who flew the mission.

Inferior energy maneuverability (EM), a limited pitch rate and flying qualities that were “not intuitive or favorable” in a major part of the air-combat regime gave the F-16 the tactical advantage and allowed its pilot to get into both missile-launch and gun parameters over the F-35. Another drawback was that the large helmet and F-35 canopy design restricted the pilot’s rearward view.

"You got a bogey on your six."  "Okay, what is it?" "Hard to tell, could be just about anybody. Don't worry, it'll all be over soon."
The report confirms the critics' "over/under" description of the F-35 - overdue, over priced and under performing.
The manufacturer and the US Air Force admit the report is genuine but say that, thanks to the F-35's on-board electronic wizardry, it doesn't matter.  The F-35 will shoot down the enemy before it ever has to get into the turn and burn stuff. Sort of like saying "sure, there's a wheel missing but aren't those seats just gorgeous?"
The fact is that Lockheed said their plane could at least outperform those 20-year older fighters and it can't.  Once again Lockheed's credibility is in the toilet and still they expect everybody not to notice the smell.  What else are they claiming that is stretching the truth?  If you ask the critics, well they've got a list.
An F-35 pilot would be damned lucky if all he had to go up against was some vintage F-16 or F-18.  He's more likely to find himself trying to survive an encounter with some Russian or Chinese super-fighter specifically designed and equipped to defeat the F-35 by exploiting its many vulnerabilities.  
The years of delay in developing the F-35 have been a gift to its intended adversaries and they've made the most of it.  For starters, it's no longer invisible. That stealth advantage, for which the F-35 sacrifices speed, range, payload and agility, has been largely negated by new, multi-sensor technology that can detect, track and target the F-35 at long distances.  Worse yet, the other guys now have their own stealth fighters in development aided by generous, unauthorized access to American stealth technology secrets.  Memo to Lockheed: If you think you're onto something really, really good, try to keep it to yourself. 
For Canada, which was planning to blow the budget to acquire a paltry fleet of just 60 F-35s, the leaked Lockheed test results should be enough to at least demand a real flying competition pitting the F-35 against its competitors.  We've been put on notice that the F-35's pitchmen aren't all that reliable.  We need to find out for ourselves what this thing actually will and what it won't do by inviting all the warplanes to Cold Lake for competitive trials under realistic combat conditions.

New column day

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 07/02/2015 - 07:36
Here, following up on these posts about the possibility the Cons might decide to ignore their own fixed election date and delay the election expected for October 19. 

For further reading...

- The Canada Elections Act is here. And for an interesting comparison, see Saskatchewan's fixed election date provision from the Legislative Assembly Act, 2007:
8.1(1) Unless a general election has been held earlier because of the dissolution of the Legislative Assembly, the first general election after the coming into force of this section must be held on Monday, November 7, 2011.
(2) Subject to subsection (3), general elections following the general election held in accordance with subsection (1) must be held on the first Monday of November in the fourth calendar year after the last general election.
(3) If the writ period for a general election to be held in accordance with subsection (2) overlaps with the writ period for a general election to be held pursuant to subsection 56.1(2) or section 56.2 of the Canada Elections Act, the general election must be held on the first Monday of April in the calendar year following the calendar year mentioned in subsection (2).
(4) In this section, “writ period” means the period commencing on the day that a writ is issued for an election and ending on polling day for that election.Which gives rise to a couple of noteworthy points. First, unlike the federal legislation, Saskatchewan's doesn't explicitly leave room for any discretion to alter the date. And second, Saskatchewan's own election date will be in flux until the moment the writ drops (or doesn't drop) federally.

- The Federal Court of Appeal's decision on the limited effect of the federal fixed election date is here. Amy Minsky explained here why we shouldn't take the federal law too seriously. And Andrew Coyne rightly recognized here that we should consider it a serious problem that we need to plan for the readily foreseeable prospect that Stephen Harper would ignore his own law.

- Finally, Alice nicely summarizes some of the more dysfunctional aspects of the federal electoral system, and suggests that fixing our electoral machinery should be an important priority for the next Parliament:
And I'm not saying it's job one for a new government to kick off a better process to fix this all, but it's surely in the top 100. Because the constant gaming of the system, the constant ramming of bills through Parliament without consideration of their constitutionality or practicality, is what's responsible for the current completely farcical mess.

If you support a fixed election date, think through what ALL the implications of that are. If you want pro-rated expense limits for longer writs, consider whether there should be any limits to them or the writ length at all. If you want to control political party, government, and third party advertising and promote transparency in the pre-election period, think that through as well. There is also a looming crisis in political finance after the next election, since most parties have been unable to fully replace the per-vote subsidy in their fundraising efforts, but could now face election campaigns with unknown and unknowable expense ceilings, given the new pro-rating of the spending limits. It would not surprise me at all if that was in part the motivation for a group like Engage Canada to intercede and try to prevent the re-election of a Conservative majority government, which would soon have no adequately-financed opposition at all.

If it were not a third rail in politics these days to suggest another Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Finance, I would say it might almost be called for: to maintain our distinctive Canadian democracy, and avoid the worst pitfalls of the US permanent campaign. At the very least, amendments to the Elections Act should receive far more attention and study from Parliamentarians than they are now.

Minimum Wage and the Laughable National Post. . .

kirbycairo - Thu, 07/02/2015 - 06:50
The National Post Editorial of June 30th which argues that the performance of Rachel Notley in Alberta is a good reason not to vote for the NDP in October is a excellent performative demonstration of just how thin the arguments of the rightwing are when it comes to attacking the centre left. I only offer the link because it reminds me of how overwhelmingly weak the right's talking points have become and how dramatically the neo-liberal discourse has broken down. Let's put aside for the moment the fact that NDP governments actually have the best record of balancing budgets in Canada. Let's put aside too the fact the federal NDP has moved so far into the centre that they can't, by any significant standards, be called a "leftwing" party. The National Post editorial is so risible because, with nothing to grasp at but straws, the Post has staked its significant national resources on arguing that the effort to raise the minimum wage in Alberta is some kind of ominous move toward fiscal irresponsibility and (though they obviously don't use the word) socialism. Perhaps the most laughable part of the Post's argument is the hackneyed one that raising the minimum wage simultaneously raises unemployment (their beautiful, rightwing, journalistic phrase is "suppresses hiring.) The fact that this is simply straightforwardly false, does nothing to dissuade the Post from using an age old lie. Despite generations of effort on the part of rightwing ideologists to lie with statistics, there is not a single credible piece of evidence that a higher minimum wage drives overall unemployment. Nothing, nada, zilch, zippo…you get the picture. And, ironically, there is a growing body of evidence that raising the minimum wage has directly the opposite effect. However, as embarrassing as it is for a national newspaper to rest its argument against the NDP on this age old untruth, there is something more interesting for us here, and this is the claim that raising the minimum wage will do nothing to alleviate poverty. There is an important sense, though not at all the way the Post intends, that this is true. Raising minimum wage WILL, in fact, alleviate poverty, if we understand by that expression that it will make people's poverty a little less painful and difficult. A slightly higher wage might make it a little easier to make rent or allow a low-wage worker to eat a little bit healthier, but unfortunately it won't raise them out of poverty. The logic here is hardly complicated, and even the rationally-challenged National Post editors can understand it. If you raise the minimum wage from, say 12$ and hour to 15 or even 20, it is still a poverty wage. Thus, raising the minimum wage will do little to alleviate the numbers of people living in poverty. There can, however, be a knock-on effect, because if you have a family of two wage earners with one making a decent wage and the other at minimum wage, the small raise, may actually bring the family from just below the so-called poverty line to just above it.

Ironically, however, this is not the reason that the Post attacks the minimum wage. The Post doesn't really want to remind us that people are living in poverty and that raising the minimum wage won't address this problem, because any proposals for a rise in the minimum wage wouldn't be enough on their own to take workers out of a poverty level wage. In this sense the National Post is right for entirely the wrong reasons. The reason that raising the minimum wage won't solve the problem of poverty is not because raising the wage is a bad idea that will lead to an economic slowdown, but because minimum wage earners will still be living in poverty even after you raise their wages! Because of this basic fact, there is a second irony here; it is the fact that voting for a left of centre party like the NDP does nothing to threaten the basic structure of corporate power or the intentional maintenance of a low-wage labour pool. The ironically-challenged National Post editors don't get a very basic fact about capitalism, social-democratic efforts like those of the NDP are not meant to be a serious challenge to the capitalist economic system, rather they are meant to make that system a little more tolerable. When you think about this seriously it is quite hilarious because social democrats are much better for the long-term survival of the capitalist order than the rightwing. In the long run the rightwing agenda will increase poverty and inequality and thereby make it more unstable and will grow a basic dissatisfaction with the underlying economic relations. The social-democratic strategy will make the system more livable in the long run and people will be much less likely to rebel or challenge the economic relations.

Here's the thing that neither the editors of the Post nor much of the mainstream NDP supporters want to think about - the cause of poverty is, more than anything, about the overall inequality in an economy, and raising the minimum wage will only address that inequality in the most superficial sense. Even many poorer countries have enough overall resources to end poverty, the problem is that the resources are amassed in few hands. It really is as simple as that, despite what the National Post or rightwing economists want us to believe. If 95% of the wealth of a nation continues to be held by 5% (or even less) of the population, there will be ABSOLUTELY NO WAY to seriously alleviate poverty in that nation. If you lived in a family of five, say, with an income of 250 thousand dollars you would expect everyone in the family to be living well. However, if that wage was only earned by one of the family members and he or she lived in a huge mansion, eating caviar everyday, and he or she made the rest of the family live in a small concrete room in the basement eating Kraft Dinner, then the 250 thousand would make little difference to the other four members of the family. Here is the simple proscription - you have to share the money to ensure that everyone is living well!

The minimum wage is a very small effort to alleviate poverty and by itself it will do almost nothing. Contrary to what the National Post (and the rest of the rightwing) would have us believe, raising the minimum wage will do nothing to hurt an economy, but they are unintentionally correct in saying that such a move will do little to alleviate poverty. Much to the Post's chagrin, to actually address poverty we have to do a hell of a lot more than raise the minimum wage! We actually have to take a significant amount of wealth out of the hands of a few ultra-rich families and spread it though society if we actually want to alleviate poverty,

Here's the kicker - no political party has any kind of serious plan to do this.

Shaming Those Who Deserve It

Politics and its Discontents - Thu, 07/02/2015 - 06:47
Many of them probably sleep quite well at night in the belief that their unethical, criminal behaviour is likely never to see the light of day, and even if it does, it will at worst be exposed on a somewhat obscure Ministry of Labour website. Taking advantage of people seems to come naturally to them; denying workers their rightful wages perhaps even gives them some pleasure. They are employers no one should ever have to deal with. And now, some of them are finally being exposed.

Guided by the Atkinson principles (A strong and united Canada, civic engagement, individual and civil liberties, a necessary role for effective government and the rights of working people), The Toronto Star takes its mission seriously, as recently demonstrated by its exposure of two people, Robbie Elpueppeto Yuill and Kim McArthur, for their refusal to pay their employees the wages they are owed.

Let's start with the experience that Kris Kadas had at the hands of Mr. Yuill, the operator of a small restaurant called Grilled Cheese in Toronto's Kensington Market. Kadas says he is owed backpay of $856.75, part of what he says are thousands of dollars owed to a handful of workers:
In a string of text messages Kadas showed the Star, between himself and a phone number that former workers identified as belonging to The Grilled Cheese owner Robbie Yuill, Kadas repeatedly asked for the owed money.

The texts he got back included: “Hey why don’t you come over here stand right in front of me my brothers want to talk to you too.”

Kadas fought back, telling Yuill: “you need to treat your workers better,” but he still received no pay.Kadas went on to post his experience on Reddit, advising people not to patronize the business, now temporarily closed owing, one assumes, to the adverse publicity generated. Kadas sees this closing as a ploy:
As of yesterday the doors have been locked and the owner is nowhere to be found. He has done this before and reopened with a new team only to screw them over as well. When and if the place becomes operational again please do not give your money to a terrible person.
Global News took up the crusade, and filed this report:

After that report was aired, other former employees came forward:

Exposing corrupt practices to the light of day through both social and mainstream media may be the best way to remedy them. As you will see in my next installment, which looks at the shameful behaviour of Kim McArthur, orders issued by the Ontario Ministry of Labour to pay wages owed often go unheeded.Recommend this Post

Conservative death throes

Dawg's Blawg - Thu, 07/02/2015 - 06:02
An animal is most dangerous when it’s wounded, they say, and the Conservative Party of Canada has been metaphorically bearing that out for months. Sinking steadily in the polls, it has sought to further impose its brand of sado-politics upon... Dr.Dawg

Alone At Last

Northern Reflections - Thu, 07/02/2015 - 05:16

Stephen Harper's allies are abandoning him. At last count, 46 of the 166 Conservatives who rode into Ottawa in 2011 have left the Harper stable. Andrew Coyne writes:

It isn’t just the half-dozen ministers who have, just months before the election, announced their retirements, in some cases (John Baird) without so much as a day’s notice, in others (James Moore) without a word of acknowledgment from the prime minister. It isn’t the two dozen other MPs who will not be running again, or the notable absence of star candidates among the new recruits.

It is the palpable sense of other ministers maintaining their distance, in rhetorical terms at least, unwilling to indulge in the harshly partisan attacks he demands of his subordinates. The undying loyalists, the ones whose careers he promoted on just this basis — the Pierre Poilievres, the Chris Alexanders — will stick with him to the end. But that is pretty much all that remains, a dwindling palace guard of zealous staffers and the callower ministers. “The Harper government” used to be a branding exercise. It is now an almost literal description.
Harper has become, in Michael Harris' phrase, a Party of One. The numbers are bad and they keep getting worse:

Averaging the polls together, the poll-tracking website shows the Tories sliding steadily all through the last two months, from a pallid 32 per cent at the beginning of May to a dismal 29 per cent at the end of June. Worse, only about five to seven per cent of non-Conservative voters would consider them as their second choice. 60 per cent of voters tell EKOS the government is moving in the wrong direction, versus just 32 per cent for the contrary.
Still, the folks in charge say it's steady as she goes:

The strategy is to stay the course, make no sudden moves, until voters return to their senses. Yet there are distinct signs of jitters in Conservative central command. Recent days have witnessed a pro-Harper political action committee launching and shutting down in the space of a week, followed by the production of an anti-Trudeau attack ad so grotesquely over the top — it features photos of ISIL victims just before their execution — it had even stalwart Tory supporters denouncing it.

Only the true believers are left -- and their numbers are dropping. Mr. Harper may, indeed, find himself alone at last.

Stephen Harper and the Creeping Militarization of Canada

Montreal Simon - Thu, 07/02/2015 - 02:58

In my last post I showed you yet another example of how Stephen Harper is trying to militarize our culture.

By having such gentle and iconic Canadian traditions like the RCMP Musical Ride, compete in the same arena with a sinister SWAT show...

Complete with armoured cars, explosions, and even a prisoner to carry off in handcuffs.

And yesterday's Canada Day show on Parliament Hill was more of the same. With more soldiers and police officers than you could count. A twenty-one gun salute.

And this thundering message from Great Warrior Leader. 
Read more »

Worth considering

accidentaldeliberations - Wed, 07/01/2015 - 19:24
Shorter National Post:
Rachel Notley and the Alberta NDP are keeping their campaign promises. For some reason, we think this should be a warning rather than a beacon of hope for the rest of Canada.


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