Posts from our progressive community

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.

Stephen Harper and the Harper Police

Montreal Simon - Wed, 07/01/2015 - 16:30

Well as you know, Stephen Harper has turned the RCMP into the Harper Police. 

And sadly the Musical Ride isn't what it once was. 

Is there no place now where Canadians can be spared the Conservative government’s jingoistic militaristic bleating with its conjured-up images of dangers lurking around every corner, nurturing the fear that “others” are out to rob us of our freedoms?”

But every now and then the Mounties still do get their man.
Read more »

Wednesday Afternoon Links

accidentaldeliberations - Wed, 07/01/2015 - 12:11
Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- The Star's editorial board writes that five years after police committed serious human rights violations at Toronto's G20 summit, nobody seems to have learned any lessons from the abuses. And David Lavallee tells his story of being interrogated for a "precursor to terrorist behaviour" based solely on his having filmed a pipeline for a documentary.

- Ian Gill argues that the impending federal election will may represent a last opportunity to take Canada off of a path toward environmental destruction. And Brian Kahn notes that the rest of the world is predictably shifting toward cleaner energy whether we're on board or not.

- Gillian Steward reports on Rachel Notley's precedent-setting participation in the UN's next climate-change conference (in contrast to past Alberta premiers who tried to fight climate action). And Dennis Howlett points out that to the extent there was any doubt, Saskatchewan is now Canada's worst climate laggard.

- Sara Mojtehedzadeh reports on widespread wage theft in Ontario, along with the distinct lack of enforcement mechanisms to reliably recoup what workers are owed.

- Finally, Robyn Benson highlights how the Cons had to break every rule in the book to force Bill C-377 through the Senate. And Bill Tieleman writes that the result is to impose exactly the type of useless red tape the Cons claim to oppose everywhere else on Canada's labour movement.

On half measures

accidentaldeliberations - Wed, 07/01/2015 - 10:51
Having written this column a couple of weeks back on electoral financing in Saskatchewan, I'll take a moment to address this letter to the editor in response from R. Curtis Mullen.

It's indeed true that Saskatchewan has spending limits which apply during an election campaign. But the Canada Elections Act does in fact regulate both donations and campaign spending, leaving little room for anybody to argue that it's an "either"/or situation.

More importantly, though, campaign spending limits fall short of addressing the principled basis for donation restrictions on two fronts.

First, they do nothing about the problem of concentrated donations.

However a party is limited in spending its money, it may still have a strong incentive to run its campaigns (and its other operations) to please donors who contribute a disproportionate share of their funding. And the combination of lax donation rules and limited spending could in fact make it all the more likely that a party would be bought at an affordable price by one or more wealthy donors.

And second, they do nothing about pre-campaign spending by a party.

That's been less an issue in Saskatchewan than on the federal scene as the advertising we currently see tends to be funded out of government or caucus coffers. But surely it's not hard to see how a gusher of unregulated funding could swamp our public discourse - leaving little room for other voices to push their way back into the mix during an election campaign.

It may well be worth also considering other options to improve our political system, such as regulations on third-party campaign advertising as suggested by Mullen. But that reality only signals that we should be having a conversation about the changes which ought to be made - not settling for matters as they stand as the Wall government seems inclined to do.

Happy Canada day

LeDaro - Wed, 07/01/2015 - 10:37
I wish you Happy Canada Day. I hope better days are ahead for Canada.  In the meantime it should not interfere with our celebrating the Canada Day.We are one of the best country in the world.

..... Canada Day

Politics and its Discontents - Wed, 07/01/2015 - 06:10
I wish that I could have inserted 'Happy' in front of today's title, but for reasons too obvious to discuss, I can't. However I will say this: may next year find all Canadians in circumstances whereby we can freely us that adjective in a heartfelt salutation to our country.

Meanwhile, allow me to offer the following to observe this day:

And my most heartfelt wish:

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Canada Day 2015

Northern Reflections - Wed, 07/01/2015 - 05:52

Yesterday, Greece defaulted on its creditors. We are in yet another financial crisis. Jim Stanford writes:

No one can predict how the European drama will unfold next. Or how other after-effects of the 2008-2009 crisis (such as the coming rise in U.S. interest rates) will shake still-fragile economies around the world. What is certain, however, is that globalized, financialized, polarized capitalism is incapable of finding the stable and efficient equilibrium fantasized by conventional neoclassical economists. Repeated outbreaks of credit-fuelled, speculative exuberance are inevitably followed by panic, retrenchment, and recession. This will keep happening. We don't know precisely when the next crisis will occur, nor its precise proximate cause. But we do know another crisis will occur, with 100 per cent certainty. And we do know that the 99 per cent of humanity who do not possess enough financial or business wealth to support themselves without actually working for a living, will be asked again to bear the brunt of the subsequent pain and dislocation.
On this Canada Day, we need to remember that those who presently hold the reins of power are manically devoted to the same neo-classical economics that has caused our recurring financial crises. And it doesn't have to be that way:

This pattern of repeating crisis and growing polarization is hard-wired into the DNA of modern capitalism: an economic system organized around the self-serving decisions of a surprisingly small and privileged segment of society. This crisis, no different from the last or the next, was not an unpredictable, unpreventable, one-off occurrence: a "black swan" event. Rather, it was the predictable, preventable result of an economy that puts the interests of financial wealth above the interests of the vast majority in working and supporting themselves. And it will happen again, unless and until we change the fundamental rules of the game.
Stanford writes that,  just as Naomi Klein suggested in The Shock Doctrine, these crises are organized for the benefit of the fabulously wealthy few:

She showed how ruling elites regularly take advantage of moments of fear and confusion, arising at moments of economic, social, or even natural disaster, to enforce painful changes that they were preparing for years -- but that most people would not tolerate under "normal" circumstances.
Today is a day to reflect on what we've become. And what we've become -- particularly in the last decade -- is an ongoing tragedy.

Canada Day in Harperland, Between Hope and Despair

Montreal Simon - Wed, 07/01/2015 - 03:56

It's Canada Day in Harperland in the grim year of 2015. And I must admit I'm finding it hard to find a reason to celebrate, or find words to express how I feel.

For it has been a grim year, and think I said what I wanted to say about Canada, in this post the other day.

How I once thought of this big beautiful country as a magical place. 

But now I don't recognize it.
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