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Our Rogue Government. Justin and Jody Are Above the Law.

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 08/12/2016 - 11:15

As the Trudeau government sees it, the per curiam decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Carter case, the one that establishes the framework of the assisted dying right, is no longer applicable.

Now that there is a new law — which allows assisted dying only for incurably ill adults who are already close to a natural death — the government says those findings are no longer necessarily true.

"The defendant does not admit that these findings remain true today or that they are applicable in the present case," the government argues in a document filed in the Supreme Court of British Columbia.

Among the f
acts that the government suggests are no longer true are the top court’s findings that:

— Denying assistance in dying for people with grievous and irremediable medical conditions may condemn them to a life of severe and intolerable suffering.

— Such a person faces a "cruel choice": take his or her own life prematurely or suffer until natural death.

— A permissive approach to assisted dying would not put Canada on a "slippery slope" in which disabled and other vulnerable Canadians are pressured to end their lives.

The government’s argument is in response to a court challenge launched by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and Julia Lamb, a wheelchair−bound 25−year−old who suffers from spinal muscular atrophy, a degenerative disease that she fears will eventually consign her to years of intolerable suffering. Lamb and the BCCLA contend the new law is unconstitutional and not compliant with the Carter decision because it would not allow an assisted death for people, like Lamb, who are suffering but not near death.

In a terse reply to the government’s document, Joseph Arvay, lawyer for the plaintiffs, says the government "is estopped from disputing the factual findings made in Carter ... and to do so is an abuse of process."

Grace Pastine, the BCCLA’s litigation director, said the government is essentially saying, "’We’ve crafted a brand new law and so now this is a brand new issue and you have to re−litigate and re−argue every issue related to physician−assisted dying all over again.’"

The legal fight that culminated in the Carter ruling took four years and cost millions, she noted, adding that the government is creating "a real barrier to justice" by maintaining that battle must be fought all over again.

"If ordinary Canadians and public interest groups and pro−bono lawyers have to recreate the wheel every time they challenge an unconstitutional law, they’re seriously disadvantaged against the bottomless pockets of the federal government," Pastine said in an interview.

Trudeau and justice minister Jody remind us, yet again, of the bad old days of the Harper regime. When it suits them they can be every bit as despicable, just as authoritarian, as the scoundrels they replaced. Just like Harper they see themselves as above the law.

Friday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 08/12/2016 - 08:40
Assorted content to end your week.

- Owen Jones interviews Ha-Joon Chang about the foreseeable harm caused by the UK's austerity, as well as the false claims used to push it.

- The Stoney Creek News rightly argues that Canada Post should move toward posting banking in large part due to the potential to improve the level of service available for vulnerable groups. But Dean Beeby notes that Employment Insurance administration is just one of the many areas where the idea of actually assisting the public has been lost in favour of automation and corporatization.

- The Canadian Labour Congress points out a few of the policies which could offer much-needed opportunities and security for younger workers. And Jared Bernstein writes that an improved minimum wage (one of the CLC's recommendations) has worked exactly as hoped in Seattle, increasing workers' pay and length of employment without any of the threatened side effects.

- Mound of Sound highlights how Justin Trudeau has chosen to make Stephen Harper's industry-dominated National Energy Board his own, while Kai Nagata points out Trudeau's broken promises to put a credible review system in place before ramming through more project approvals. And Christopher Adams examines CAUT's investigation into the dubiously cozy relationship between the University of Calgary and oil-sector funders. 

- Finally, Murray Brewster exposes a Canadian-owned firm's sale of troop carriers for use in the ongoing war in South Sudan. And Don Pittis rightly notes that we should be less concerned with the nationality of a corporation's official ownership than with its actual behaviour.

Why A Tax On Financial Transactions Makes Sense

Politics and its Discontents - Fri, 08/12/2016 - 08:10
Robert Reich, for whom I have a great deal of respect, offers this succinct explanation:

You can read more about this issue, also often referred to as the Tobin tax, here.Recommend this Post

What's Wrong With Democrats

Northern Reflections - Fri, 08/12/2016 - 05:46

Like Chris Hedges, Thomas Frank has been analyzing what has gone wrong with the Democratic Party over the last fifty years. Don Lenihan writes that, if you really want to understand what's going on in this year's presidential election, you should read Frank's latest book, Listen, Liberal:

As part of the American left, Frank regards Roosevelt’s New Deal as the high-water mark for the Democratic Party—a concerted effort to use the power of the state to defend working people’s interests in the face of economic calamity.

However, Democrats have ceased to be the party of working people, at least according to Frank. Under Bill Clinton and now Barack Obama, the party has begun catering to a new and very different class of people, which he calls professionals.

And the evidence is in. Professionals have done very well under the Democrats. Working people have not:

Income inequality is the smoking gun. From the middle of the Great Depression up to 1980, Frank reports, the lower 90 percent of the population took home 70 percent of the growth in the country’s income. Look at the same numbers between 1997 and today and the same group pocketed none—zero, he notes emphatically.

Readers should pause to consider what an inconvenient fact this is for Democrats. They like to portray themselves as fighting to protect the middle class. They focus on the bank CEOs and captains of industry—the notorious 1%—who’ve profited so nicely from the New Economy. It turns out, however, that the professional class has also done very well.

While Frank is appalled that this wealth has come at the expense of the middle class, in his mind, the bigger scandal lies elsewhere. There is no evidence this gap is going to close again. The professional class is not, as Clinton promised, a rebirth of the middle class, but the birth of a new elite. Indeed, Frank’s real point is that the interests of the new professional class are profoundly at odds with working people.
It's absolutely true that Donald Trump is unfit for the presidency. But a vote for Hillary should not be interpreted as approval or acceptance of Democratic Party policy since Bill Clinton. Roosevelt used to tell his supporters that if they wanted him to adopt policy, they had to push him in that direction.

Hillary needs to know that support for her comes at a price:

Working people are furious about what’s been happening to them. (Brexit provides further evidence of the unrest.) And Frank makes a convincing case that real debate over the causes has been stifled by group think for a quarter century.

 Bill Clinton’s new New Deal sells politics short. Globalization and the digital economy may be forces that no one ultimately controls, but there are all kinds of things that presidents (and prime ministers) can and should be doing to shield working people from the worst effects. And that should command their full attention.

Justin Trudeau and the Pornography of the Cons

Montreal Simon - Thu, 08/11/2016 - 20:45

As you know I am up in the north of Scotland, where it has been too wet and too windy to take off my shirt.

But even here I heard about this story.

And how the Cons are trying to exploit it.
Read more »

NYT Magazine - One Issue, One Issue

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 08/11/2016 - 18:19

It's a first for the New York Times magazine. An entire issue devoted to just one story - how the Bush/Cheney/Blair invasion of Iraq proved to be the undoing of the Arab world in the years that followed.

"More than a decade of war, terror and revolution has left a trail of ruin in the Arab world. This is the story of how a region came apart, seen through the eyes of six people whose lives were changed forever."

"This is a story unlike any we have previously published. It is much longer than the typical New York Times Magazine feature story; in print, it occupies an entire issue. The product of some 18 months of reporting, it tells the story of the catastrophe that has fractured the Arab world since the invasion of Iraq 13 years ago, leading to the rise of ISIS and the global refugee crisis. The geography of this catastrophe is broad and its causes are many, but its consequences — war and uncertainty throughout the world — are familiar to us all.

"It is unprecedented for us to focus so much energy and attention on a single story, and to ask our readers to do the same. We would not do so were we not convinced that what follows is one of the most clear-eyed, powerful and human explanations of what has gone wrong in this region that you will ever read."

Dear Elizabeth May

Creekside - Thu, 08/11/2016 - 11:59
Letter to Elizabeth May from the former Green Party dcomm :
I served as Director of Communications for the Green Party of Canada during the 2011 election. Here is the letter I just sent to Elizabeth May:Dear Elizabeth,Since leaving the employ of the Party in 2011, I have kept quiet, avoiding commenting on or becoming involved in party activities and policies.I do feel compelled to comment now, however, in the light of the laudable news that the party has passed a motion supporting BDS activities against Israel, and the far less laudable news that you are so upset about this motion that you are considering resigning.Supporting BDS is the right move, just as it was the right move when you were the sole voice to oppose the "mission creep" in Libya in 2011. This is why.As you may recall, when I came to work communications for the Greens in 2001, I came from internationally-respected aid NGO CARE. CARE is one of the major aid NGOs operating in the Occupied Territories. But perhaps I did not mention that I was working for CARE during Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009. I never told you about how one of CARE's Gaza workers was killed along with 40 of his family and neighbours when the Israeli army forced 100 people at gunpoint into a building, barred the doors, and then shelled the building with artillery. I never told you about how one of CARE's warehouses, full of harmless aid supplies like blankets, was burned to the ground by illegal Israeli white phosphorous bombs. Israel falsely tried to claim that militants had occupied the building, to cover up for their crime. And there were many other, lesser crimes committed by Israel that I heard about directly from our workers on the ground in Gaza.Today, Israel continues to commit crimes - bulldozing homes, building illegal settlements. In fact, Israel has violated more different international laws than just about any nation in the world today, including, but not limited to: illegal use of inhumane white phosphorous munitions; violation of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty; use of collective punishment against civilians; expropriation of property from an occupied territory; claiming sovereignty over land in an occupied territory; extrajudicial executions; torture; deliberate military targeting of emergency medical first response personnel and vehicles; deliberate targeting of civilians; denial of humanitarian aid to a civilian population; use of civilians as human shields by military personnel. Many of these are explicitly war crimes under International Law.The Government of Israel is also currently engaged in the undemocratic harassment and suppression of NGOS - the exact same kinds of activities you condemned when they were committed by Stephen Harper.In supporting BDS, the Green Party of Canada has stepped to the right side of history. Which side will you stand on?Sincerely,
Kieran Green.

Dear Elizabeth May

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 08/11/2016 - 08:48
The world is watching Israel's slide into right wing radicalism. The Conservatives and the Liberals look the other way. The Green Party membership won't. Your party passed a moderate resolution calling for a peaceful settlement of the Palestinian question and supporting the Boycott Divest and Sanction movement to help achieve it.

Just so there's no doubt about where Canada stands, and with whom, Alison at Creekside, has reproduced this General Assembly vote on the recent resolution.

Seven nations opposed it - Israel, the United States, Canada and the bought and paid for Palau, Marshall Islands, Nauru and Micronesia. Seven votes, four of them stooge ballots. Look at the other side, the 155 nations voting in support - Britain, France, Germany, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Belgium, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Finland, Estonia, Portugal, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein, Italy and Ireland - the whole bloody European Union - plus the nations of Africa, South and Central America, and Asia Pacific.

It's an apartheid regime and the world knows it. You say you oppose BDS but offer not one damned thing that might work in its stead. Where are you going to draw your line, ethnic cleansing? There are a lot of voices in Israel brazenly calling for that now and most of them support Netanyahu. They've been doing it incrementally for half a century to the point that now the West Bank looks like this. That's what dialogue has achieved. Mind you, this is a full decade out of date. There's less, much less remaining of the Palestinian homeland now.

Canada, Liz, is in a bad way. We, Israel and the U.S. stand alone against the rest of the nations that can no longer look the other way. Censuring BDS has to be denounced for what it is - one more effort to stifle dissent and that's about as undemocratic as it gets. Wait, in Canada, it gets way more undemocratic than a mere censure motion. Speaking out can cost you your job.

Wake up Liz. Netanyahu's former second in command, then defence minister, Moshe Yallon, resigned in protest saying his country had been taken over by extremists. Former Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak, has warned that Netanyahu has planted the seeds of fascism. Netanyahu appointed Russian-born thug, Avigdor Lieberman, to serve as defence minister, effectively making him czar of all captive Palestinians. Here's just a glimpse at this thug:

Lieberman has called to redraw the border between Israel and the West Bank so that Israel would include large Jewish settlement blocs and the Palestinian state would include large Arab-Israeli population centers. He proposed that Israel's citizens should sign a loyalty oath or lose their right to vote.

In November 2006, Lieberman, who described Arab members of the Knesset that meet with Hamas as "terror collaborators", called for their execution: "World War II ended with theNuremberg Trials. The heads of the Nazi regime, along with their collaborators, were executed. I hope this will be the fate of the collaborators in [the Knesset]."[79]

The comment was attacked as racist by Eitan Cabel, a Labor party representative, and Ahmad Tibi, leader of the Arab party Ta'al and one-time advisor to Yasser Arafat, who demanded that "a criminal investigation be initiated against Lieberman for violating the law against incitement and racism".[79][80] Tibi strongly objected to Lieberman's ministerial appointment, describing him as "a racist and a fascist". Labour minister Ophir Pines-Paz, who resigned over Lieberman's appointment, echoed Tibi's remarks, saying that Lieberman was tainted "by racist declarations and declarations that harm the democratic character of Israel".[81]

In remarks in the Knesset in March 2008, shortly after the 6 March attack at Jerusalem's Mercaz HaRav yeshiva, Lieberman commented that "yesterday's attack can not be disconnected from the Arab MKs incitement, which we hear daily in the Knesset."[82] Directing his comments at Arab MKs whose comments Lieberman describes as anti-Israel incitement, he added that "a new administration will be established and then we will take care of you."[83]

Or you might dwell on the warning of the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Israeli Army, general Ya'ir Golan:
“If there is something that frightens me about the memories of the Holocaust, it is the knowledge of the awful processes which happened in Europe in general, and in Germany in particular, 70, 80, 90 years ago, and finding traces of them here in our midst, today, in 2016.”
General Golan knows the reality of fascism. A German Jew, his parents managed to flee Hitler's Germany in the nick of time. As a boy he saw fascism take hold and spread in his homeland.
"Things happening in Israel, especially since the last election, bear a frightening similarity to those events. True, the process is quite different. German fascism arose from the humiliation of surrender in World War I, the occupation of the Ruhr by France and Belgium from 1923-25, the terrible economic crisis of 1929, the misery of millions of unemployed. Israel is victorious in its frequent military actions, we live comfortable lives. The dangers threatening us are of a quite different nature. They stem from our victories, not from our defeats."

"The discrimination against the Palestinians in practically all spheres of life can be compared to the treatment of the Jews in the first phase of Nazi Germany. (The oppression of the Palestinians in the occupied territories resembles more the treatment of the Czechs in the “protectorate” after the Munich betrayal.)

"The rain of racist bills in the Knesset, those already adopted and those in the works, strongly resembles the laws adopted by the Reichstag in the early days of the Nazi regime."

Here's Fareed Zakaria's take on Lieberman:
As fiercely as he denounces the Palestinian militants of Hamas and Hizbullah, his No. 1 target is Israel's Arab minority, which he has called a worse threat than Hamas. He has proposed the effective expulsion of several hundred thousand Arab citizens by unilaterally redesignating some northern Israeli towns as parts of the Palestinian West Bank. Another group of several hundred thousand could expect to be stripped of citizenship for failing to meet requirements such as loyalty oaths or mandatory military service (from which Israel's Arabs are currently exempt). The New Republic's Martin Peretz, a passionate Zionist and critic of the peace movement, calls Lieberman a "neo-fascist ... a certified gangster ... the Israeli equivalent of [Austria's] Jörg Haider." No liberal democracy I know of since World War II has disenfranchised or expelled its own citizens.

As for the Boycott Divest Sanction movement that has your knickers in such a bunch, Lizzie, listen to Murray Dobbin who notes that the ghost of Stephen Harper lives on in Parliament, including now it seems, in the office of the leader of the Green Party.
That the Liberal government is so in alignment with Israel lobby groups raises a number of questions: Just who actually makes Canadian policy towards Israel? Did Trudeau think this through at all -- such as, is this in Canada's interests? But perhaps more to the point, is it even in Israel's interests? Does the Trudeau government have some brilliant ideas about how to get Israel to the bargaining table? Or does it believe the current situation doesn't need resolving? It makes me feel like Stephen Harper still rules the day on this critical foreign policy issue. Indeed the resolution smacks of Harper's declaration that criticism of Israel's government is the "new anti-Semitism."

The BDS campaign might not worry Netanyahu so much if it weren't for the fact that Israel now ranks near the bottom of pile when it comes to world opinion. A BBC poll in 2013 interviewed more than 26,000 people in 25 countries and found only 21 per cent of participants had a positive view of Israel, while 52 per cent viewed the country unfavourably. Only Iran, Pakistan and North Korea fared worse.

...If Justin Trudeau and his government believe they are doing Israel a favour by supporting the repugnant Conservative thought crime resolution, they could not be more mistaken. Every time a Western government turns a blind eye to Israeli apartheid it reinforces and extends that system by signalling to Netanyahu that he can do whatever he pleases.

New column day

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 08/11/2016 - 08:25
Here, on the Saskatchewan Party's decision to try to make up for its gross mismanagement by squeezing benefits out of people with disabilities.

For further reading...
- This year's provincial budget spin from the Ministry of Social Services is here, featuring the following:
Government’s next steps on the Saskatchewan Disability Strategy will focus on the Where to Start actions identified in the strategy, as well as six priority areas identified by community members:
  • accessible and safe transportation so people can participate in their communities;
  • respite to help families and caregivers get a break from their caregiving role;
  • accessibility legislation to create more inclusive communities;
  • residential services to help people live in their homes and communities;
  • service co-ordination and navigation so people can find disability services when they need them; and
  • awareness and understanding of the rights of people experiencing disabilities so all citizens have a greater understanding of and respect for their rights.
These initiatives have begun, and efforts are under way to establish measures, targets and public reporting on progress.- Jonathan Charlton and Peter Mills are among those who have reported on the cuts to disability benefit recipients, including individual stories as to how little people already have to survive on. (Speaking of which, a summary of the existing SAID benefits is here (PDF).)
- Finally, I'll once again point to the Advisory Group on Poverty Reduction's report (PDF) as an example of the type of compassionate and thoughtful policy which are utterly lacking from the Wall government.

Thursday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 08/11/2016 - 08:23
This and that for your Thursday reading.

- William G. Gale, Hilary Gelfond and Aaron Krupkin examine the evidence as to the effects of upper-class tax cuts, and find that they serve no purpose but to concentrate wealth and power in the hands of those who already have the most:
[Donald Trump's economic] plan won’t generate economic growth. We’ve been down this road before. For example, Reagan’s tax cuts did not boost the long-term growth rate, according to authorities like conservative economist Martin Feldstein, who was a Reagan appointee, and Douglas Elmendorf, former head of the Congressional Budget Office.

No one even proffers the suggestion that George Bush’s tax cuts – featuring lower income and estate taxes, like Trump’s plan– helped the growth rate, and for good reason. There is simply no evidence that it did.

Other countries have tried cutting top tax rates, too. The evidence shows that tax cuts for the rich help the rich accumulate more wealth, but don’t do anything much for economic growth.

Or, ask the people of Kansas how their income tax cuts have worked out. Listen to the stories about having to cut education and other spending and raise regressive taxes to make up for the absence of the promised growth miracle. Indeed, because of the massive rise in debt, Trump’s tax plan may actually hurt growth. - Chris Dillow argues that grossly excessive executive compensation should be seen as just as much of problem from the right as from the left. And Christopher Shell and Frank Stilwell highlight the spread of income inequality in Australia.

- Joanna Smith and Jordan Press report on the federal government's analysis of the need for proactive pay equity legislation rather than a system limited to addressing complaints.

- Crystal Warner comments on the federal government's own failure to pay our public servants due to the Phoenix pay system debacle. And Bob Barnetson tells the stories of workers fired due to a supposed lack of work after informing a major employer of serious health and safety concerns - only to see their jobs taken over by more pliable replacements.

- Finally, Franklin Warsh offers a useful example as to how the social determinants of health can manifest themselves in drastically different outcomes for people who seem on the surface to be in similar positions.

We Should All Be Outraged

Politics and its Discontents - Thu, 08/11/2016 - 06:10

My father lived to be almost 91 years of age. Should I enjoy such a long life, there are many things that I hope not to lose along the way. Near the top of the list is my capacity for outrage. This morning brought confirmation that at least for the time being, it is alive and well.

Some may remember a post I made in July about Nadia Shoufani, the Mississauga, Ontario Separate School Board teacher who participated in a rally protesting Israel's brutal abuse of the Palestinians and the occupation of their land. At the time, the Jewish lobby demanded her head, conflating her criticism of the Jewish State with antisemitism, as they are wont to do.

It appears their efforts have paid off.

The CBC reports the following:
A Greater Toronto Area elementary school teacher has been suspended following a school board investigation after she was criticized for appearing in and speaking at what advocacy groups have called an anti-Israel rally.

Nadia Shoufani, a teacher at St. Catherine of Siena school in Mississauga, Ont., has been suspended with pay pending further investigation by the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board, the board said in a statement.

The school board said concerns raised by the public about Shoufani's professional conduct have been referred to the Ontario College of Teachers for review.We should all be outraged over this craven capitulation of the Dufferin-Peel Board to the political pressure exerted by those who will brook no criticism of Israel, despite its well-documented record of human rights abuse and atrocities. Human Rights Watch notes the following:
Israel enforces severe and discriminatory restrictions on Palestinians’ human rights, and it builds and supports unlawful settlements in the occupied West Bank. Its security forces appear to use excessive force against Palestinian demonstrators and suspected attackers, raising the specter of extra-judicial killings. It has renewed the practice of punitive home demolitions. The Palestinian Authority has arrested students and activists allegedly for their political affiliation or because they expressed criticism. Hamas security forces also engage in torture and ill-treatment of people, including journalists. Israel’s closure of Gaza, supported by Egypt, amounts to collective punishment and has impeded reconstruction. Says Amnesty International:
In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Israeli forces committed unlawful killings of Palestinian civilians, including children, and detained thousands of Palestinians who protested against or otherwise opposed Israel’s continuing military occupation, holding hundreds in administrative detention. Torture and other ill-treatment remained rife and were committed with impunity.
The facts are not in dispute here, but thanks to those public officials working in Dufferin-Peel who have neither backbone nor a belief in freedom of speech, only the kind of cravenness seen in the worst of our politicians, Shoufani is being made an example of. That the board lacks even a scintilla of integrity is evidenced by their refusal to acknowledge they are succumbing to outside pressure, instead hiding behind another excuse for her suspension, as revealed by the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association (OECTA), which is representing the beleaguered teacher. They said,
the teacher wasn't suspended for her conduct, but instead for appearing to not comply with the investigation. However, OECTA said the teacher has provided all of the information the board has asked for and met its timelines.But not everyone is unhappy about this witch hunt:
Amanda Hohmann, the national director of B'nai Brith Canada's league for human rights, praised the board for suspending the teacher this week.

"It is heartening to see the school board treating this matter seriously," Hohmann said in a statement.While Hohmann and her group may be gratified by Shoufani's suspension, I expect and hope that fair-minded people everywhere will be appalled by this indefensible curtailment of one of our most valued Charter rights: freedom of expression. Recommend this Post

It's Hard To Say Goodbye

Northern Reflections - Thu, 08/11/2016 - 05:12

Stephen Harper has disappeared. Rumour had it that he was going to resign his seat in the House. Jason Fekete writes:

He has registered his own company with two longtime aides and has all but left politics, but questions persist about exactly when Stephen Harper will actually resign as a member of Parliament.

Even members of the board of directors of his Calgary Heritage Conservative riding association aren’t quite sure — they’re relying on media reports.

It is approaching three months since reports first surfaced, shortly before the Conservative party’s national convention in May, that Harper would resign his seat as Calgary Heritage MP before the fall sitting of Parliament, which begins Sept. 19.
He appears to be planning the next stage of his journey:

Harper, his former chief of staff Ray Novak, and Jeremy Hunt, another longtime trusted aide, are listed as directors of Harper & Associates Consulting Inc., a business incorporated in late 2015 with an Ottawa-based address.

And, of course, he's still earning his parliamentary salary of $170,400 a year. At those prices -- and with the memory of the fear in the eyes of his underlings still fresh -- it must be hard to say goodbye.

Or perhaps the consulting business isn't working out.



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