Posts from our progressive community

Apologize, You Sleazy Bastard

Politics and its Discontents - 4 hours 50 min ago


The Geneva-based, International Commision of Jurists, has issued a written demand that Sideshow Steve Harper and his supposed justice minister, Peter MacKay, apologize to Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin for the drive-by smear job they tried to pull on her following the failure of their bid to seat Marc Nadon on the Supreme Court of Canada.

Not only was there no wrongdoing on the part of Justice McLachlin, they opined, but the Harper-MacKay tag team was an assault on the independence of our highest court.

“The ICJ considers that the criticism was not well-founded and amounted to an encroachment upon the independence of the judiciary and integrity of the Chief Justice,” the commission said in a letter from its headquarters in Geneva to Gerald Heckman, a University of Manitoba law professor who spearheaded the complaint.

It accepted Chief Justice McLachlin’s explanation, as expressed in a public reply from her office to the allegations of impropriety first made in April by the Prime Minister’s Office, that she had spoken to Mr. MacKay and her office had spoken to the Prime Minister's chief of staff, Ray Novak, only to alert them to a potential legal issue.


Unfortunately, the ICJ's stinging rebuke arrived in the midst of Canada's national nap time, the middle of the summer recess. Of course with a regime that regularly places itself above or at least outside the law the independence of the judiciary and integrity of the Chief Justice are of no great moment. Besides in the dark recesses of Harper’s mind, what actually happened is what he believes to have happened, not some foreigners’ opinions.


MoS, the Disaffected LibRecommend this Post

Justin, You Need to Read This

Politics and its Discontents - 8 hours 59 min ago


While Justin Trudeau's pandering Liberal Party may praise Israel's "commitment to peace," Israeli society is displaying a darker, brutal face.

Lisa Goldman, director of the Israel-Palestine Initiative at the Washington think tank, New America, writes of an Israel utterly at odds with Trudeau the Lesser's obsequious drivel.

Goldman writes of, "a series of events that were marked by violence and incitement against the Arab population, from the government to the street. One member of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, called for a war against the Palestinian people on her Facebook page. Another called an Arab legislator a “terrorist” during a parliamentary committee session, while still another, the leader of an ostensibly centrist party, submitted a proposal to ban an established Arab nationalist party with sitting members of the Knesset. The editor of a right-wing newspaper suggested that now was the time to transfer the Arab population out of the occupied West Bank. In Jerusalem, mobs of hyper nationalist youth rampaged through the cafe-lined downtown streets chanting “death to Arabs,” assaulting random passersby because they looked or sounded Palestinian. Most horrifically of all, a 17 year-old Palestinian boy from East Jerusalem was abducted from the street by six young Jewish men, three of them minors. The police found Mohammed Abu Khdeir’s corpse in the nearby Jerusalem Forest shortly after CCTV cameras recorded some young men forcing him into a car. He had been doused with gasoline and burned alive. Three of the six boys confessed to the crime and re-enacted it for the police.

This orgy of internecine violence was sparked by the mid-June abduction of three Jewish teenage boys – Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaer and and Eyal Yifrah – who were hitchhiking in the West Bank. The army carried out a massive three-week manhunt for the boys, that included pre-dawn raids and dozens of arrests; it ended with the discovery of three corpses buried in a field near Hebron. And while the men who committed the crime were almost certainly Palestinian, Hamas has vociferously denied involvement even as the Israeli government continues to accuse them of masterminding the abduction and murder as an act of terrorism.

After the nationally televised funerals for the boys, with moving eulogies delivered by their mothers, the country seemed to explode. Ultra nationalists openly organized anti-Arab demonstrations via Facebook groups.

Something has broken down in Israeli society. Friends who always said they would never leave because they were too deeply rooted in the place, its language and their families are deeply worried and even despairing over the radical rightward shift of the mainstream political discourse. Several have said they were looking for opportunities abroad because they couldn’t see themselves raising their children in a country where dissent was slowly but surely being suppressed even as the national discourse hardened rightward.

Israel has always been a flawed democracy with many festering internal divisions. Its policies toward the Arab minority reflect the unresolved tension of a conflicted identity: Should Israel aspire to be a liberal democracy or a democracy for Jews? But in the five years since Benjamin Netanyahu was elected prime minister and formed a governing coalition composed of far-right, racist and anti-democratic parties, something very fundamental has changed in Israeli society. It feels as though the majority is willing to suspend essential elements of democracy in favor of Jewish nationalism. There doesn’t seem to be a place for dissent anymore.


The reduction of Gaza is an Israeli work in progress that has been going on for years. Within five years, ten at the outside, Gaza's dwindling fresh water supply should be exhausted, the groundwater rendered unfit for human consumption due to the engineered inundation of sea water. Meanwhile Israel continues building illegal settlements across the West Bank that render the very notion of an independent Palestinian state unachievable. This isn't a state of apartheid, it's a programme of incremental ethnic cleansing.

As for Trudeau and the neo-Liberal Party of Canada, their true colours are now completely beyond disguise.

MoS, the Disaffected Lib


Recommend this Post

Corporate Bullies, Then and Now……

Left Over - 9 hours 57 min ago
ANALYSIS

Big box bullies: Discount pricing squeezes small suppliers: Dianne Buckner Selling to big chains like Target, Wal-Mart a mixed blessing when they demand a discount

By Dianne Buckner, CBC News Posted: Jul 25, 2014 5:00 AM ET Last Updated: Jul 25, 2014 5:00 AM ET

Nothing new here, folks…you can move on…

As a child, I  was  handed over to my father on weekends, like many others.  One of the things that sometimes happened was that, on the way to his  home, we would stop in at small machine shops that did contract work with the big aerospace companies where my father  worked as a quality control engineer…I actually enjoyed being fussed over by all the  men, sat on a high stool and fed cookies while my father  spoke with  the manager or inspected small shiny silver parts of machines that  of course I had no knowledge of..

As I got older, my father told me about how many of those  small shops got  what he called ‘bushwhacked’ by companies like S**rs,  that would contract them for vast amounts of goods, to the point that they were working exclusively for the large  store, only to get told that they had to deep discount, or else…many of them, with no other contracts  and entirely reliant on  the big store with the big contract, went under…Others were forced to  lay off  workers who had been with them for many years.

And so it goes..my father’s point was that when I  asked why he refused to shop at S**rs, was that their ruthless behaviour  resulted in the loss of employment for many  talented tradesmen, and that made him mad…he pointed out that ‘house’ brands  of various  companies were in fact made by small contractors, and that the  resulting discount demands meant that  not only was there a loss of jobs in the US,  but that  the products, now built overseas, were no longer worthy of the good reputation for dependability they once had…all this happened back in the 60′s….

And now?  Nothing changes, does it?


Friday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - 10 hours 41 min ago
Assorted content to end your week.

- Nicholas Kristof offers a primer on inequality in the U.S., while the Washington Post reports that a think tank looking to fund research into the issue couldn't find a single conservative willing to discuss it. And PressProgress highlights the OECD's finding that the prosperity gap stands to get a lot worse in the U.S. and Canada alike absent some significant change in course to improve the lot of the 99%:
Increasing levels of economic inequality are the “new normal” and we can expect them to get worse, not better.

That’s the key takeaway from a recent study on long-run levels of income growth in Canada, Australia and the United States published by the OECD.

The study highlights the explosive rise of incomes in the top 1% over the last 30 years, and their growing share as compared to the bottom 90% and 99%. Authored by eminent Canadian economist and Broadbent Fellow Lars Osberg, it argues “there is no natural upper bound to the real incomes of the top 1% and thus no natural upper bound to their income gap with median households.”

Similar to the findings of French economist Thomas Piketty and the OECD, Osberg suggests that the balanced growth of the post-World War II era, which produced a more stable and fairer income distribution, bucked a broader trend in which inequality accumulates and deepens over generations. - Suresh Naidu, Yaw Nyarko and Shing-Yi Wang document (PDF) how tying a worker to a single employer - as the Cons continue to do through the temporary foreign worker program - serves to suppress wages. And Grace Macaluso reports on the role anti-poverty groups are playing in pushing for a living wage in Windsor.

- Meanwhile, in what's surely unrelated news, the Cons' CRA intimidation includes a new position that charities are no longer permitted to work on preventing poverty.

- Don Cayo writes about the dangers of allowing a government to intimidate critics into silence. And Steve Sullivan reminds us of the role public interest groups rightly play in ensuring that individual rights are protected:
The courts play an essential role in our democracy by interpreting and applying the laws passed by government — acting as both check and balance on the other two branches of government, the executive and legislative. No true democracy anywhere in the world gives governments unlimited powers. In Canada, the job of the courts is to make sure that what the government does is consistent with the charter and the Constitution. Our legal rights mean precisely nothing if governments can override them simply by passing a law.

Time and again, Canadians have told parties and pollsters that they treasure the Charter of Rights — that it’s part of the bedrock of our society, something that unites us. Harper probably doesn’t agree; his government pointedly refused to celebrate the 25th and 30th anniversaries of the charter’s ascent into law, while blowing millions of dollars to commemorate a war none of us were alive to remember.
...
Instead of moaning about special interest groups and activist judges, Mr. Albas might want to set aside his copy of the PMO talking points and actually read what the judges are saying. They called the government’s policy on health care for refugees “cruel and unusual”. They protected safe injection sites because the evidence shows they’re saving lives. They ruled the prostitution laws the government defended were unconstitutional because they put sex workers in danger.
...
When Mr. Harper thought his charter rights were being violated, he stood on his rights as a Canadian citizen and took the state to court. If the court route was good enough for him, it should be good enough for the rest of us. - Finally, Scott Harris notes that while decades of constant pro-trade propaganda may have turned support for trade agreements into a default position, Canadians strongly oppose most of the actual details of CETA (among other deals).

He Would If He Could

Northern Reflections - 11 hours 12 min ago

                                                                       http://theinternetpost.net/

Stephen Harper and his minions have been complaining loudly about the power of "special interests." But, Steve Sullivan writes:

When Stephen Harper headed up the National Citizens Coalition, he filed a constitutional challenge against the Elections Act. He claimed the law’s spending limits on third-party advertising during elections was an infringement on his freedom of expression rights as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

According to the logic offered up by many Conservatives lately, what the boss did back in 2000 amounted to an attempt to undermine Parliament. Dan Albas, the Conservative MP for Okanagan-Coquihalla, recently told CBC that interest groups are trying to “… do an end-run around our democratic process and turn to the courts where it seems some judges are quite happy to engage. This can result in decisions contrary to what have been decided in our democratic process.”
The Harperites are nothing, if not hypocritical. They would prefer that there was no Supreme Court to second guess their decisions. However:

The courts play an essential role in our democracy by interpreting and applying the laws passed by government — acting as both check and balance on the other two branches of government, the executive and legislative. No true democracy anywhere in the world gives governments unlimited powers. In Canada, the job of the courts is to make sure that what the government does is consistent with the charter and the Constitution. Our legal rights mean precisely nothing if governments can override them simply by passing a law.
While they loudly celebrated the anniversary of the War of 1812, they let the 25th and the 30th anniversaries of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms pass without notice, even though,

time and again, Canadians have told parties and pollsters that they treasure the Charter of Rights — that it’s part of the bedrock of our society, something that unites us.
But Stephen Harper has never been about uniting us. He has found success by dividing us. And, if he could abolish the Charter, he would.



Possibly The Most Important 60-Minutes You've Spent In A Good, Long While

Politics and its Discontents - 12 hours 45 sec ago


Guardian enviro-scribe, George Monbiot, delivers a stark warning and a call to arms in this year’s Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute address. Monbiot warns that we’re about to feed the environment into the gaping maw of the financial sector so responsible for its current degradation.

Monbiot says that neo-liberalism will complete the devastation of our already reeling environment. He points out, in words that ring true for Canada also, that we lack the political leadership we need so desperately to protect our environment.

“This is the horrendous mistake that New Labour here and the Democratic Party in the United States have made. ‘We’ve got to win the next election so we’ve got to appease people who don’t share our values, so we’re going to become like them. Instead of trying to assert our own values, we are going to go over to them and say, “Look, we’re not really red; we’re not scary at all. We are actually conservatives.” That was Tony Blair’s message. That was Bill Clinton’s message. That, I’m afraid, is Barack Obama’s message. ...We’ve ended up with a situation where there are effectively no political alternatives to neoliberalism being advanced by the ...government. In which the opposition is, in almost every case, failing to oppose. It is in this position because it has progressively neutralised itself by trying to appease people who do not share its values.”


Does that sound familiar? It does to me. Monbiot captures the abandonment of the Left and centre-left in Canada by New Democrats and Liberals alike. They’re all neoliberal petro-pols and, as such, richly deserving of our contempt and loathing. Monbiot warns of the darker side of neoliberal politics – the inability to support anything but neoliberal solutions to our environmental threats. Foremost of these, he warns, is the madness of “natural capital” – monetizing the environment, component by component.

“You are effectively pushing the natural world even further into the system that is eating it alive. Dieter Helm, the Chairman of the Natural Capital Committee, said, ‘The environment is part of the economy and needs to be properly integrated into it so that growth opportunities will not be missed.’

“There, ladies and gentlemen, you have what seems to me the government’s real agenda. This is not to protect the natural world from the depredations of the economy. It is to harness the world to the economic growth that has been destroying it. All the things which have been so damaging to the living planet are now being sold to us as its salvation: commodification, economic growth, financialization, abstraction. Now, we are told, these devastating processes will protect it.”

“It gets worse still when you look at the way in which this is being done. Look at the government’s Ecosystems Market Task Force, which was another of these exotic vehicles for chopping up nature and turning it into money. From the beginning it was pushing nature towards financialization. It talked of ‘harnessing City financial expertise to assess the ways that these blended revenue streams and securitizations enhance the return of investment of an environmental bond.’ This gives you an idea of what the agenda is...

“What we are talking about is giving the natural world to the City of London, the financial centre, to look after. What could possibly go wrong? Here we have a sector whose wealth is built on the creation of debt. That’s how it works, on stacking up future liabilities. Shafting the future in order to serve the present, that is the model. And then that debt is sliced up into collateralized debt obligations and all other marvellous devices that worked so well last time round.


“Now nature is to be captured and placed in the care of the financial sector, as that quote suggests. In order for the City to extract any value from it, the same Task Force says we need to ‘unbundle’ ecosystem services so that can be individually traded.

“That’s the only way in which it can work – this financialization and securitization and bond issuing and everything else they are talking about. Nature has to be unbundled. If there is one thing we know about ecosystems, and we know it more the more we discover about them, is that you cannot safgely disaggregate their functions without destroying the whole thing. Ecosystems function as coherent holistic systems, in which the different elements depend upon each other. The moment you start to unbundle them and to trade them separately you create a formula for disaster.”


Monbiot concludes that the only way to save our planet is to utterly reject neoliberalism, no matter the name of the party that embraces it. What he’s saying is that we have to reject not just the Conservatives but also the Liberals and the New Democrats. He says the message from these parties is “follow us and we’ll give you a slightly less worse government.” He’s right and that’s just what the Liberals and the New Democrats have on offer. They’ve already gone to the Dark Side, you just need to be honest with yourself and admit it.

MoS, the Disaffected LibRecommend this Post

When will Canadian MPs show this kind of guts?

Creekside - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 22:24


This from 10 days ago, long before the most recent Israeli shelling of UN schools and hospitals with one child killed in Gaza every hour.

Note how these British MPs have vaulted right over the despicable cowardly practice, apparently obligatory among politicians in Canada and the US, of "fair and balanced" mealy-mouthed equating of the occupied and occupier - as if the blockaded people of Gaza (700 dead civilians) are somehow responsible for the security of Israel (2 dead civilians) with its Iron Dome and $3billion a year in US aid.

Yes, and while we're at it, when will the Canadian media show this kind of guts? 
Jon Snow, Channel Four :


.

Harper's Reign of Terror - Part Four

Politics and its Discontents - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 16:39


Except, that is, in Harperland. The latest Orwellian edict to come down from the Harper-directed CRA, reported by The Winnipeg Free Press, is as follows:

The Canada Revenue Agency has told a well-known charity that it can no longer try to prevent poverty around the world, it can only alleviate poverty — because preventing poverty might benefit people who are not already poor.

The bizarre bureaucratic brawl over a mission statement is yet more evidence of deteriorating relations between the Harper government and some parts of Canada's charitable sector.

The lexical scuffle began when Oxfam Canada filed papers with Industry Canada to renew its non-profit status, as required by Oct. 17 this year under a law passed in 2011.

Ottawa-based Oxfam initially submitted wording that its purpose as a charity is "to prevent and relieve poverty, vulnerability and suffering by improving the conditions of individuals whose lives, livelihood, security or well-being are at risk."

The international development group, founded in 1963, spends about $32 million each year on humanitarian relief and aid in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America, with a special emphasis on women's rights.

But the submission to Industry Canada also needed the approval of the charities directorate of the Canada Revenue Agency, and that's where the trouble began.
Agency officials informed Oxfam that "preventing poverty" was not an acceptable goal.

"Relieving poverty is charitable, but preventing it is not," the group was warned. "Preventing poverty could mean providing for a class of beneficiaries that are not poor."

Oxfam Canada's executive director called the exchange an "absurd conversation."

I really have nothing to add to that assessment.

Recommend this Post

[Random number] things to know about _Words And Pictures_

Dammit Janet - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 13:03
So on $2.50 Tuesday at a local second-run movie theatre, since I was in the vicinity to dispatch some banking business, I decided to go watch something.

_Words And Pictures_ seemed moderately interesting: Australian director Fred Schepisi; Juliette Binoche and Clive Owen in lead roles.

Unfortunately it is set in the USA, yet shot in British Columbia passing for New England.  Thus it gets the Vegas treatment rather than a quieter, gentler interpretation of an intriguing narrative.

Consequently Owen reprises the Hemingway bombast he perfected in an earlier role.  He plays Jack Marcus: a charming, erudite, passionate, verbose and inspiring high school teacher who is also a deceitful, enraged alcoholic.

Binoche is allowed to develop multiple dimensions of her character Dina Delsanto; she is also a painter (in real life!) and it is her work that she produces that is featured in the movie.  It provides the script with some modicum of authenticity.

The students in this expensive, carefully groomed and pruned prep school are of "all sorts" though judiciously selected for their good looks; a vast palette of ethnic ancestries, all Benetton photo op-ready. 

Yet it's ironic how it happens that the de-rigueur bully character - also a creepy nascent sexual sadist - turns out to be NOT the typical privileged WASP but a cocky young man who may be the only student that might be considered "semitic" (though not overtly identified as such) at the snooty private school. 

He attempts to evade responsibility for his sexual harassment and stalking actions by framing a Black classmate for this particular vicious and vile prank.  The denials and protests that he utters, claiming he's done nothing wrong sound EXACTLY like the excuses and justifications proffered by Cody Boast.



Boast is the frat boy of pallour on the right.  He has received four convictions to date for his criminal actions.  He is a serial predator; unless all the women who have been the target of his abuse and rage speak up, nobody knows the exact number of victims upon whom he has inflicted his vindictiveness and spleen.

The psychiatrist claims that if Boast continues with his treatment it would be unlikely that he will re-offend.

I disagree. He supplied an obligatory proof of *remorse* with regard to the harm he inflicted up one ex-girlfriend and her family, at the same time he had started a campaign of intimidation and cyber-bullying against another prey.  He's learned much from these experiences; when his violent behaviour escalates, he will likely select new targets who won't have as much resources to push back as previous trophies did, and he will be much more efficient in disposing of evidence to avoid being caught.

But I digress.  Here's my list (I can hear my co-blogger FH groaning) of things that ruined _Words and Pictures_ for me.

  • Over-the-top dialogue. Less is more. The writer could learn a thing or two by watching films scripted by Noel Coward.
  • Mediocre or atrocious lighting and cinematography. Scenes shot on some sets are fine, but otherwise, ugh. There's one scene in bright sunlight, outside Dina's studio that looks so amateurish for an Australian director of photography that makes me suspect he delegated it to a gaffer.
  • Owen's hammy performance should have been reined in; he's capable of nuanced and powerful characterization. _Croupier_ and many more.
  • Actors cast in secondary character roles are excellent but sadly they are given crummy, cliché lines to spout. 
  • Inconsistencies and implausible details that make you go ... what?  For example: a chi-chi private school that can afford to hire an art instructor whose paintings command stellar prices has only a cramped, ill-equipped studio for honours students?  The spiteful pornographic caricatures produced by the criminally-stalkerish student are briefly flashed upon the screen and appear to be devoid of genitalia.  

There's more, but those are the highlights of points that undermined the movie's credibility and otherwise high-end qualities.

On balance, it's a better-than-average movie, if one is not vulnerable to the situations depicted. I found that parts of it were painful to watch; it could be extremely triggering for women who have experienced intimate relationships with alcoholics and/or men afflicted with entitlement delusions: expecting and wanting their emotional needs and sexual demands to be met.

There's been a flurry of excellent resources that have been suggested, with regard to this phenomenon: "A deeply disturbing portrait of male entitlement", "Nice guys, the friend zone and sexual entitlement" and "Men aren't entitled to women's time or affection" are some good items to read on the topic.

Very near to the point of no return

Dawg's Blawg - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 10:18
Der Spiegel’s online English edition has an interview with former Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin, which is unsurprisingly written from the perspective of one who supports Israel, but nevertheless sees the danger in the current situation and Israeli choices... Mandos http://politblogo.typepad.com/

New column day

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 07:58
Here, looking at the sad similarities between Regina and Detroit, and noting that the crucial step we should take to avoid the latter's humanitarian tragedy is to fund our commitments to workers and residents while we have the means to do so.

For further reading...
- Tom McKay and Wallace Turbeville each discuss how the decision to run Detroit under corporate principles made a bad financial situation far worse.
- Jon Swaine reports on the recent move to shut off water for up to 100,000 residents. Monica Davey writes about the vote to slash already-meager pensions. And Dominic Rushe reports on the city's new arena costs, while Bill Bradley highlights the absurdity of a bankrupt city nonetheless finding a way to shovel free money toward a billionaire sports team owner. 
- Finally, CBC reports on the threatened termination of the City of Regina's pension plan. And the Leader-Post weighs in on the need to actually address the issue - though its contrast between workers and beneficiaries and the "longsuffering taxpayer" (who was apparently supposed to fund a new stadium without having that suffering taken into account) seems to me to signal the wrong desired outcome.

Harper's Reign of Terror - Part Three

Politics and its Discontents - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 07:39


The prospect of being hanged focuses the mind wonderfully.
- Samuel Johnson

While I doubt that many within the Harper regime are literary types or schooled in the humanities, I suspect the above quotation or variants thereof represents the underlying spirit of their relentless attacks on nonprofits that oppose the government's ruthless agenda.

And now there are indications that the noose is tightening, that the focus of those attacks is widening, with the purpose not only of cowing advocacy groups into silence lest they lose their charitable status, but also their supporters.

Today's Star offers this chilling lead:

Canadian charities would have to turn over lists of their donors’ identities to the Canada Revenue Agency under a proposal being floated by the Conservative government.

The cover story being offered by the regime is that it would better equip the CRA to detect charity-receipt fraud, inasmuch as the majority of Canadians now file their tax returns online, where actual receipts are not required. By having a list of donors and the amounts given, the revenue agency could easily ferret out fraud.

On the surface, such a proposal would seem to have merit, simply a measure reflecting sound fiscal management. However, as with almost everything the Harper cabal offers, there is a nefarious side to such a measure, as

... some charities are wary of the administrative burden — and the potential close surveillance of groups that criticize government policies.

Revenue Minister Kerry-Lynne Findlay made the suggestion behind closed doors this spring to charities officials in Ottawa as the government seeks ways to tighten regulation of Canada’s charitable sector.

Findlay asked officials of the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Canadian Cancer Society and others for their input, as well as their reaction to a proposal to standardize the format, size and colour of official income-tax receipts for charitable donations.

The consultation took place before a March 26 media event at which Findlay and Kevin Sorenson, minister of state for finance, boasted about the government’s achievements in reducing red tape for charities.


So how did those who attended the meeting react? Understandably, given the justifiable fear of regime repercussions, few want to comment publicly. One attendee, who requested anonymity, said that it was initially met with “stunned silence”.

“You can imagine why neither of these proposals would reduce red tape for charities — and why, given the current climate, there would be significant concern about the intent,” said the source.

And what might that intent be? In addition to the existing audits being directed against those who offer criticism of its reactionary agenda, the regime would have another cudgel (increased administrative costs) with which to threaten nonprofits, as well as one to wield selectively against their supporters.

Think about it. Is there really a leap in logic to suggest that the long arm of the Harper-directed CRA could now reach punitively into the lives of supporters of targeted nonprofits? Could those in accord with the goals of nonprofits that criticize government policy find themselves, once their donor information was in the hands of officials, suddenly receiving notification of impending tax audits?

Can you imagine how pervasive the chill would become? Can you imagine how crippling the effect would be on targeted nonprofit support?

There was a time when I would have dismissed my above thoughts as the manifestation of an unhinged conspiracy enthusiast. Sadly for our country, that time has long since passed.Recommend this Post

Thursday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 07:04
This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Linda McQuaig criticizes the Cons' use of the tax system to try to silence charities who don't match their political message:
PEN now joins Amnesty International, the David Suzuki Foundation, Canada Without Poverty, the United Church and other groups that, having criticized an array of Harper policies, have been obliged to devote precious resources to defending themselves from a special probe of charities ordered by the Harper government.

This beefing-up of tax audits of charities is particularly striking when compared to Harper’s laid-back approach to auditing the real bad guys: corporations and citizens using offshore tax havens to cheat the government out of billions of dollars in revenue.

Indeed, the allocation of an extra $13 million to carry out audits of charities has taken place even as the government slashes the overall Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) budget by $250 million over three years and lays off hundreds of auditors.
...
Internal CRA documents, obtained under access-to-information by Sen. Percy Downe, reveal that an infusion of $30 million by Ottawa in 2005 to counter “aggressive international tax planning” resulted in the collection of an extra $2.5 billion over four years.

By contrast, putting extra resources into auditing charities will almost certainly produce no additional revenue.
...
(W)hile there aren’t enough auditors to go after many of the wealthy Canadian corporations and individuals hiding money offshore, the government managed to find two auditors to spend three days this week at PEN’s little Toronto office — the beginning of an audit that will go on for many months. The Harperites may be inept at using audits to collect vast sums of revenue hidden by the rich — but they sure know how to beat up on defenceless groups trying to promote the public good.- And Dean Beeby breaks the news that the Cons aren't satisfied going after charitable organizations, and instead want to be able to compile their own list of individual donors as well. But there is some push for disclosure where it's actually needed as a check on undue institutional influence, as MoveOn is calling for corporate spending in U.S. politics to be subject to public scrutiny.

- Bill Curry reports on the C.D. Howe Institute's recommendation that the federal government focus on economic development rather than deficit scolding - with Joe Oliver naturally responding that he has no interest in job creation if it might conflict with his political goals. And Rick Goldman comments on the futility of using austerity policies in the name of fighting deficits when they ultimately cause more harm than good even by that measure.

- Steven Chase discusses the latest application of the Baird Doctrine that bluster matters more than action in foreign policy - as a much-trumpeted aid announcement for the Ukraine four months ago has led to zero actual contribution from Canada.

- Finally, David Atkins connects the U.S.' drift to the right with participation in party primaries - as the Tea Party and other right-wing groups have driven Republican turnout (and thus policy oriented toward its base) while Democrats have been increasingly staying on the sidelines over the past 40 years:
When conservatives don't get what they want, they tend to double down at the ballot box. When progressives don't get what they want, many of us tend to storm away and fantasize about engaging the system outside of electoral politics somehow. This is part of why conservatives have been successful in moving the country to right.

I've brought these points up again and again. Politicians don't care about people who don't vote, and the Tea Party gets coddled because they actually vote in primaries and Democrats tend not to.

But, of course, Democratic politicians also bear a lot of the blame. It's awfully hard to get motivated to vote when you know that not much is going to change regardless of the outcome.

Even so, you can't lay the entire blame for the problem at the feet of centrist corporate Democrats. The trend toward lower turnout started in 1970, hardly the heyday of the DLC. Yes, Democratic politicians need to do a better job of advancing progressive priorities and building base enthusiasm. But progressive voters also need to come out and actually vote, too.

this year's mini garden and a mini pupdate

we move to canada - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 06:00
This year's garden-ette is completely out of control! In a very good way. Here's June.



And here's today.





No idea what I'm going to do with all the zucchini. Neither of us bakes, so zucchini bread and muffins are not an option. Guess I'd better start Googling...


This eggplant is tiny right now, but I suppose soon I'll need those recipes, too.

Random Diego pic.


And because you're never too old to be a puppy, Tala recently fell in love with an empty peanut butter jar. No idea why.





There's Only One Word For It -- Tyranny

Northern Reflections - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 05:42
                                                       http://tenthamendmentcenter.com/

In the wake of the news that the Harper government has directed the CRA to audit PEN Canada, Linda McQuaig asks,"Why is Harper punishing charities while letting tax cheats off the hook?"

This beefing-up of tax audits of charities is particularly striking when compared to Harper’s laid-back approach to auditing the real bad guys: corporations and citizens using offshore tax havens to cheat the government out of billions of dollars in revenue.

Indeed, the allocation of an extra $13 million to carry out audits of charities has taken place even as the government slashes the overall Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) budget by $250 million over three years and lays off hundreds of auditors.

Meanwhile, as worldwide pressure has grown for a clampdown on tax havens, Ottawa announced last year that it was ramping up its efforts to investigate offshore tax evasion. But it only allocated $15 million — over five years — a piddling amount, given the existing departmental cuts and the sheer scope of the offshore problem.
A CRA auditor provides value for money:

In Canada, an experienced international tax auditor typically costs Ottawa about $100,000 a year, but brings in ten times that amount in revenue, according to sources.

Internal CRA documents, obtained under access-to-information by Sen. Percy Downe, reveal that an infusion of $30 million by Ottawa in 2005 to counter “aggressive international tax planning” resulted in the collection of an extra $2.5 billion over four years.

Presumably, that is why the auditors have been sent in to monitor an organization with an annual budget of  $240,000 -- while "the illegal caching of money offshore by Canadian companies and individuals results in an annual revenue loss to Canadian governments (provincial and federal) of about $7.8 billion, according to Dennis Howlett, executive director of the Ottawa-based Canadians for Tax Fairness."

The problem is that PEN had the audacity "to criticize the government for muzzling scientists in the civil service, and for spying on Canadian citizens alongside U.S. intelligence agencies."

There is only one word for it -- tyranny. 


happy blogiversary to wmtc

we move to canada - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 05:30
This month - July 11, 2014 - I have been blogging for 10 years. Ten years!

I clearly remember telling Allan I was considering beginning a blog about emigrating to Canada. He thought it was a great idea.

July 11, 2004. I was working weekends at my (incredibly easy, wildly overpaid) job at Most Evil Corporate Law Firm. Our applications had been submitted, and we were waiting.

August 30, 2015 will be the 10-year anniversary of our move to Canada, but I felt the 10-year anniversary of wmtc was worth a mention. Thanks for being part of what I love* about blogging.


* Or hate, in some cases

Wednesday Evening Links

accidentaldeliberations - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 19:03
Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Vineeth Sekharan debunks the myth that a job represents a reliable path out of poverty, while reminding us that there's one policy choice which could eradicate poverty altogether:
A job alone does not guarantee freedom from poverty. In fact, in 2012, at least one member of the household was employed in a staggering 44% of all poor households. Even in situations where an individual is employed, there may still be the need for income supplements, as well as educational and employment supports.

This is partially because of the monumental changes that have occurred in the Canadian marketplace. The growing trend that continues to emerge is precarious employment: a decline in the number of well-paid jobs, and an increase in both lower-paying jobs and temporary employment. The infographic provides an example of how an individual working part-time, at minimum wage, falls below the poverty line. Temporary employment, by its very nature, often results in incomes that are unpredictable, making households more prone to suffering from fluctuations in income. In households where families and individuals are living paycheque to paycheque, these trends are direct contributors to family poverty.

Income supplements are essential to lifting families above the poverty line. While the idea of implementing guaranteed annual incomes (GAIs) has been around for decades, it has recently resurged as a result of the rising costs associated with dealing with the symptoms of poverty rather than its causes. GAI refers to various proposals that look to implement a guaranteed minimum income for Canadians, related to the concept of a negative income tax. GAIs will provide struggling Canadians with some security from income shock. - Meanwhile, Bryce Covert points out that there's no correlation between lavish CEO pay and business performance.

- The CLC makes the case for more paid vacation time (one of the areas where Saskatchewan can be proud to be ahead of Canada's other jurisdictions) - while pointing out that workers can often win that through collective bargaining even if governments can't be bothered:
If you think you don't get enough vacation, you're right. Canada is in the bottom three of the world’s richest countries for the minimum number of paid vacation days employees are entitled to receive under the law. Every major industrialized country in the world – Sweden, Germany, the United Kingdom, Norway, Denmark just to name a few – all have legislation giving workers at least four weeks paid vacation time. The International Labour Organization (ILO) recommends that the period of paid vacation shouldn't be less than three weeks for one year of service.

For unionized workers, negotiations have helped the majority achieve at least the ILO recommended minimum. The great majority of unionized workers get at least three weeks of paid vacation time, and 70% get four weeks after a longer period of service. One in three unionized workers gets five weeks of paid vacation but that is typically received only after 15 years of service.- Mike de Souza reports on the Cons' attempt to suppress internal documentation showing the Canadian Environmental Network to be a valuable public resource before it was summarily axed by the Harper government - presumably for the crime of doing good work on environmental issues. And PressProgress discusses how the Cons worked to manipulate Canadians into accepting tax baubles they didn't otherwise want.

- Finally, Scott Sinclair highlights the problems with investor-state dispute settlement which takes trade dispute out of fair and transparent court systems, and argues that such mechanisms should be eliminated from trade agreements involving the EU.

Yet Another Desperate and Despicable Ploy: More Harper Narrowcasting

Politics and its Discontents - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 12:51

The politics have a look of desperation about them. As they see their electoral chances diminishing among the wider Canadian public with each new sordid revelation, it looks like the Harper crowd is doubling down with its base, a strategy that I questioned in my earlier post today.

Steven Blaney, who could only be considered a Public Safety Minister in a Canada that has grown decidedly Orwellian, has announced a plan that will erode public safety but perhaps fire up the base. CBC News reports the regime minion has announced the Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act which would make life easier for many Canadian gun owners.

Currently, gun owners in Ontario, Quebec and P.E.I. have to apply to each province's chief firearms officer when they want to transport a restricted or prohibited weapon. Under the new rules, gun owners in all provinces would get permission to transport weapons as a condition of their licence.

But wait! There's more!

The government also plans to allow a grace period for gun owners with expired permits.

And even more ominously, this cryptic observation:

The new rules would also give the federal government more say in decisions previously made by each province's chief firearms officer.

Finally, you may recall this dandy little weapon that the RCMP banned earlier this year:


The national police force changed the Swiss Arm rifle from restricted to prohibited, the main reason being that the guns could be easily converted to be fully automatic. Automatic weapons, which shoot a spray of bullets with one trigger pull, are illegal in Canada.

In March, the government said it was troubled by the decision, and gave gun owners permission to keep the weapons, via a two-year amnesty.

Under the new plan, gun owners would also be allowed to use the weapons, in essence restoring them to their previous status.


Indeed, there is much to chew upon here for a segment of the Canadian population.Recommend this Post

Harper CONs campaigning over dead bodies

The Winnipeg RAG Review - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 08:30
Israeli Defense Force attacks against Gaza - over Hamas rocket fire - are making headlines here in Canada. This is rightly so as it's a tremendously important situation - especially given the one-sided approach the Canadian Government is taking on the international stage.

I seldom talk about foreign policy issues here, but I have to make an exception now.

This Truth Mashup clip details how the Harper CONs have been using this tragedy in the Levant to their advantage. It also provides some background to the tragedy.


That grossly distasteful Conservative "action movie" trailer was released on July 18, 2014 ... as strikes, fighting and death were happening in Gaza. 

Really, what the fuck is the matter with the Harper CONs? Couldn't they at least wait a few weeks for the dead bodies to grow colder before shamelessly politicking over this issue for domestic gain?

There's ordinary, cynical politics and then there's gross, craven nihilism that ought to be out of question for any mainstream politician in Canada. Sadly, it seems that the Harper CONs' PR machine is okay with crossing that line.

Pages

Subscribe to canadianprogressives.ca aggregator - Posts from our progressive community