Posts from our progressive community

What Needs To Be Said About The CBC Scandals

Montreal Simon - Sun, 01/18/2015 - 23:46

Ever since the CBC was hit by the Ghomeishi scandal, and now the Amanda Lang Affair, the CBC haters in this country have been having a ball.

Trying to use the scandals as just another excuse to kill the corporation. For those Cons hate it so much with a zealotry that borders on insanity.

But what I find even more disturbing is that some progressive bloggers have been throwing up their hands and declaring that the CBC is beyond saving, and should simply be scrapped. Just like that.

I won't mention their names for I have no desire to publicly embarrass them. But I do think they need to be reminded that the CBC, flawed as it may be, is still a precious Canadian institution that should not be destroyed that casually. 
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two random observations arising from watching a tv show from my childhood

we move to canada - Sun, 01/18/2015 - 16:00
In September, I blogged about watching "Bewitched" on Netflix as my "comedy before sleep" show. I'm still watching it, sometimes taking as many as three nights to get through one episode, so potent is this sleep aid. I want to share two random observations based on Bewitched.

People on TV have whiter teeth now.

I always notice teeth and smiles, and it was immediately apparent that the teeth of every actor on Bewitched is dull and off-white, compared to the gleaming white teeth seen on TV shows today.

This is obviously down to tooth-whitening technology. But it must mean that everyone on TV now is having their teeth whitened, that tooth-whitening has become one more appearance enhancer that is expected of actors and aspiring actors - one more way that TV does not reflect reality.

The difference is quite striking. No one with the kind of teeth I see on Bewitched would be allowed on TV today, except as guests on a Jerry Springer-esque show.

The other observation is about the two Darrins. Bewitched fans know there is the original Darrin, played by Dick York, and "the other Darrin," an expression now synonymous with casting failure, played by Dick Sargent.

As I've been plowing through Bewitched episodes, I've been awaiting the appearance of Darrin II. I purposely didn't look up when the switch occurred, wanting to be surprised. I noticed in Season 5 that Darrin was getting less screen time, and sometimes disappeared for entire episodes, "in Chicago" on business. I assumed this was a bad omen for Darren the First.

Then one day, in the cold open, Samantha calls to her husband, he turns around to face the camera... and there he is: the other Darrin. It's the first episode of Season 6. Elizabeth Montgomery has new, above-the-title billing, David White (Larry Tate) has Endora-style billing in the opening credits, and the theme song has been shortened. (Attention spans were dropping, even back then.) Thus begins Darrin the Second.

It now strikes me as very strange that a show would cast a new actor in a major supporting role, rather than write the character out of the show. I was wondering if any contemporary shows have done this, and found this: 25 Casting Fails on TV that They Expected Us Not to Notice. Many of these examples are character voicings, and many mark the disappearance of a minor character. A few are actual casting changes. But none, to my knowledge, are as major a character as Darrin was on Bewitched.

These casting changes used to happen on daytime soaps all the time, and perhaps still do. (I haven't watched daytime soaps since high school.) A voice would intone, "The part of Joe Smith is now being played by Jamie Joe-White," a new actor would enter the scene, and that would be that. The most famous instance I can think of was on a nighttime soap: when Barbara Bel Geddes was replaced by Donna Reed on "Dallas". This was an unmitigated disaster; the network was forced to concede a better contract to Bel Geddes and put her back on the show.

Does this happen anymore for major characters? On Seinfeld, Jerry's father was originally played by a different actor, as was Pam's mother on The Office. But both were minor roles. I'm wondering if any contemporary sitcoms have changed the actor playing a major role, rather than getting rid of the character.

I'm also wondering if people who watched Bewitched in real time would have known that Dick York was being replaced by Dick Sargent. Would it have been reported in some entertainment media - not in a trade publication like Variety, but in the entertainment section of local newspapers? Or did everyone just turn on their TVs and experience the shock of The Other Darrin?

Anti-Choice Should Support Approval of RU486

Dammit Janet - Sun, 01/18/2015 - 14:01
Many questions are being raised over the delay in Health Canada's expected announcement on mifepristone, aka RU486.

While we and others remain confident that the overwhelming evidence of its safety and efficacy will convince scientists (!) at Health Canada to approve it, some are wondering about the politics and secrecy of the process.

Many pro-science/pro-choice people have a very dim view of the Harper government's dismissal of science and evidence and its repeated meddling in supposedly arm's-length agencies, so it's rather odd to see Official Fetus Freakdom speculating on political interference.
The timing of the delay is noteworthy. Making a decision prior to the upcoming federal election could have drastic consequences for the reigning Conservatives. An approval of the drug could potentially result in the party alienating itself from its natural base of people who respect life and think it wrong for a mother to end the life of her pre-born child. Denying the drug, however, could potentially give left-leaning institutions, politicians, and especially mainstream media added firepower to accuse it of being against ‘reproductive rights,’ and ultimately against women.
We know why the Freaks are dead set against medical abortion *cough* privacy/access/cost/end of clinic harassment *cough* but really, they should welcome it.

For the past few months, they've been trumpeting a new "pro-life" treatment that can "reverse" medical abortions.

And look at the new opportunities it offers them.

Gerard Nadal, Ph.D., a pro-life scientist, breaks down the process further.

“Unlike surgical abortions which are immediately lethal, RU-486 (mifepristone) works over a period of 36-72 hours,” he notes.So, if they can get their hands on someone part-way through the procedure, they have the chance to make another "save" as they call it and interfere with the right to abortion. Again.

Wheeee! Wot fun! More manipulation! More guilt-tripping! More martyrgasms!

Oh. Wait. They'd have to be able to identify people who are partway through a medical abortion in order to intervene. I wonder how they'd do that?

Maybe by launching another anti-choice mole willing to breach patient privacy by snooping into hospital records.

Seriously, we're glad this treatment exists. It represents everything we stand for. Choice above all. If a person is having second thoughts, by all means, stop and reconsider.

Who knew that anti-choice was really so pro-choice?

Fox Apologizes?

Politics and its Discontents - Sun, 01/18/2015 - 13:36
Surely the end is nigh.

In case you have the interest and the stomach, this is what the apologies were all about:

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Jumpin' Jehovah

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 01/18/2015 - 11:04

"Gott Mit Uns", the motto that was stamped on the belt buckle of every soldier in the Nazi Wehrmacht in WWII as they did their decidedly ungodly work.  Now it seems the US military's turn to invoke the god link and it's causing quite a stir.

It's hard to imagine exactly what has been achieved for god by the US military over the past 15-years or ever.  Somehow I don't think any god, as we're given to understand the deity, would see American soldiers as on some divine mission.

Yet, as former US army commander turned professor, Andrew J. Bacevich, notes in "The New American Militarism", fundamentalist Christianity has become deeply embedded within the US military.  Harper's magazine also dealt with this in a 2009 article, "Jesus Killed Mohammed."

Meanwhile, in other wingnuttery news, Reptilian Rupert Murdoch has groveled to apologize to Israel and prime minister Benjy Netanyahu for a cartoon published in the Sunday Times depicting an obviously bloody Netanyahu building a wall using Palestinian bodies.

According to the Times of Israel, the cartoon has so outraged Israelis that the country's ambassador to Britain has demanded an apology.
In a meeting Monday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Tony Blair, the representative of the Middle East quartet who’s also a former British premier, deplored the caricature, noting the timing of its publication on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, according to a press release from the Prime Minister’s Office.

Good to see Tony hasn't lost any of his brown nosing, butt sniffing skills.  

And Speaking Of Ethics

Politics and its Discontents - Sun, 01/18/2015 - 10:18
Or, more accurately, the lack of them at the CBC, letter-writer John Page of Toronto offers this thought:
Re: Minimal mindset of CBC managers, Jan. 16

As a faithful listener and hard-core supporter of the CBC for over 42 years, I recently changed the channel — literally. The story on the conduct of Amanda Lang and CBC management brings home the reality of the decline and likely extinction of the CBC.

Maybe I am naive to think that Harry Brown, Joe Cote, Barbara Frum, and Knowlton Nash would have ever placed themselves in the ethically grey areas that your article touches.

Hoping the Star and other media can do some more investigation and reporting on this important subject.

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Sunday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 01/18/2015 - 09:46
This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Tasini at Daily Kos discusses the Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy's finding that every single U.S. state has a regressive tax structure in the taxes imposed at the state and local level. And John Cassidy examines the Center for American Progress' proposals for more inclusive prosperity:
Based on a retelling of recent economic history that should by now be familiar, the report argues that more aggressive measures are needed to tackle wage stagnation and rising inequality. In the U.S. case, the report’s recommendations include raising the minimum wage, encouraging the growth of trades unions, providing wage subsidies to those on moderate incomes, investing in infrastructure and education, boosting home ownership, making the personal tax system more progressive, closing corporate tax loopholes, and making the financial system more stable.

While none of these proposals is new, taken together they constitute a broad agenda designed to reverse, or at least alleviate, the alarming underlying trends. “Our report is about embracing the new economic opportunities of the 21st century by finding ways to ensure they serve the vast majority of society,” the authors write. “Just as it took the New Deal and the European social welfare state to make the Industrial Revolution work for the many and not the few during the 20th century, we need new social and political institutions to make 21st century capitalism work for the many and not the few.”

Despite this language, the report isn’t exactly a radical document. You won’t find anywhere in it an endorsement of Thomas Piketty’s call for a global wealth tax; or of the suggestion, from Peter Diamond and Emmanuel Saez, that the optimal rate of income tax on top earners may be as high as seventy per cent; or of the proposal, from Anat Admati and others, to break up the big banks. In an age of rising populism, the report is clearly intended to occupy the center ground of progressive politics. But its contents also demonstrate how the center ground has shifted.- And Robert Reich explains why improved raw job numbers and unemployment rates in the U.S. aren't leading to wage growth:
(T)oday’s workers are less economically secure than workers have been since World War II. Nearly one out of every five is in a part-time job.

Insecure workers don’t demand higher wages when unemployment drops. They’re grateful simply to have a job.

To make things worse, a majority of Americans have no savings to draw upon if they lose their job. Two-thirds of all workers are living paycheck to paycheck. They won’t risk losing a job by asking for higher pay.

Insecurity is now baked into every aspect of the employment relationship. Workers can be fired for any reason, or no reason. And benefits are disappearing. The portion of workers with any pension connected to their job has fallen from over half in 1979 to under 35 percent in today.

Workers used to be represented by trade unions that utilized tight labor markets to bargain for higher pay. In the 1950s, more than a third of all private-sector workers belonged to a union. Today, though, fewer than 7 percent of private-sector workers are unionized.

None of these changes has been accidental. The growing use of outsourcing abroad and of labor-replacing technologies, the large reserve of hidden unemployed, the mounting economic insecurities, and the demise of labor unions have been actively pursued by corporations and encouraged by Wall Street. - Marianne Geoffrion reports on Julius Grey's take on inequality and the Cons' austerity. And the Star argues that the Cons' choice to bull forward with an income-splitting giveaway - which means borrowing money to hand to the rich - shows how irresponsible they are with our public finances.

- Finally, Voices points out that in addition to doing nothing to actually make child care available for Canadian families, the Cons have also gone out of their way to silence the groups working toward that goal.

Of chills and shills

Trapped In a Whirlpool - Sun, 01/18/2015 - 08:45
My Councillor at work repping those he truly serves.
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we like lists: things we learn from tv detective and murder mystery shows

we move to canada - Sun, 01/18/2015 - 08:00
If you enjoy detective shows, murder mysteries, and legal dramas, you learn a lot of things that don't necessarily reflect reality. Here are some things you may learn from these shows.

1. Women are crazy and kill people.

I have already blogged about and disproportionate percentage of female murderers on TV detective shows.

In reality, about 90% of homicides are committed by men. I don't know what percent of TV murderers are women, but on some shows it's well over half.

2. Defense lawyers are all scum.

On quality police and legal dramas, most categories of people are portrayed as both good and bad. There are honest prosecutors and corrupt prosecutors. There are valiant feminist crusaders and wacko women schemers. But only one character is uniformly and consistently portrayed in a negative light: the defense attorney. On TV, there are no honest defense lawyers. They are all evil magicians who use the law - often dismissed as "a technicality" - to subvert justice.

In the modern justice system, everyone is entitled to a defense. The revelation of scores of wrongful convictions points to the need for such a system. Yet in the world of TV detective shows, when a suspect "lawyers up," she is practically admitting guilt.

The award for the most scummy TV defense attorney of all time goes to Maurice Levy (played by Michael Kostroff), who defends the Baltimore drug dealers and murderers who populate "The Wire". Levy is also the only Jewish character on the show.

3. CCTV is an important and useful law-enforcement tool.

The entire UK - and, of course, much of the US, Canada, and elsewhere - is now blanketed in surveillance cameras. Study after study shows that CCTV does very little to prevent crime, except in limited, closed environments such as parking lots or stores. You'd never know this from watching detective shows, in which CCTV is often a crucial link in apprehending very bad people who do very bad things. Yet another cultural trope to remind us that if you have nothing to hide, you have no reason to oppose surveillance - that is, to value your privacy.

Anything else?

thoughts arising from the death of a defender of free speech

we move to canada - Sun, 01/18/2015 - 07:00
This week's obituaries included the last living link to two landmark moments in the history of freedom of expression.

Al Bendich was just two years out of law school when he wrote the brief that is credited with the victory in the famous "Howl" obscenity case. In 1957, Lawrence Ferlinghetti published Allen Ginsberg's masterpiece "Howl" in book form and sold it in his City Lights bookstore (now a San Francisco institution). Ferlinghetti was arrested on obscenity charges; the story of his trial is tremendous. You can read a bit about it in Bendich's New York Times obituary; the movie "Howl" is also a good primer.

A few years later, Bendich would successfully defend the performer Lenny Bruce. Of the four court trials that Bruce would endure, the case that Bendich defended was the only one to end in acquittal.

* * * *

I noticed Bendich's obituary while the law - and its many uses and abuses - was on my mind. We had just seen the documentary "West of Memphis," about a horrendous injustice perpetrated by the justice [sic] and legal systems in the US state of Arkansas. (A feature film "Devil's Knot" was also made about this case. It is terrible. Skip it and go straight to "West of Memphis".)

"West of Memphis" is the story of how three teenage boys were convicted of a crime they did not commit, while the man who very likely did murder three young boys was never even arrested. Two of the teenagers were sentenced to life in prison; one received the death penalty. Only massive, sustained, unrelenting public pressure - and the involvement of several high-profile celebrities such as musical artist Eddie Vedder and director Peter Jackson - resulted in the release of the convicted men, but not before they served 18 years in prison and without exoneration.

The personal and specific stories of what happened to these young men is awful enough, but far more terrible is the knowledge that these wrongful convictions were not unusual. The only unusual part was the public spotlight and their eventual release.

As we've learned through the work of people like Barry Scheck and The Innocence Project, and Northwestern Law School's Center on Wrongful Convictions, wrongful convictions occur all the time. While they may happen for many reasons, most wrongful convictions have one root cause: political pressure. Prosecutors feel they must produce a suspect and get a conviction in order to retain public confidence in the criminal justice system, and ultimately, their jobs.

What kind of justice is that?

I can think of few things more awful - more frustrating, more anger-producing, more disillusioning - than a person serving time for a crime he did not commit. And I can think of few things more useless in terms of justice. Wingnuts who complain about the (supposedly) liberal fixation on wrongful conviction conveniently forget that each wrongful conviction represents a murderer and/or a rapist who is free to continue to terrorize and kill more victims.

* * * *

I used to refer to myself as a law-school refugee; when I was in university, I was under a fair bit of paternal pressure to take the LSATs, apply, and attend law school. The idea held a certain amount of appeal. (Me and my subconscious puns.) Through my early 20s, I still occasionally considered it, to get involved in constitutional law, as practiced by organizations like the Center for Constitutional Rights and other left-leaning public-interest groups.

"West of Memphis" left me thinking about the many paths lawyers may take. For a long time, I worked as support staff in law firms where wealthy lawyers help even more wealthy corporations make more profit, pay less taxes, destroy the environment, and buy legislation to do more of all three. They're on one end of a spectrum that ends, for me, with the legal warriors who work to overturn wrongful convictions, defend the environment, defend free speech, defend human rights and civil liberties.

So... thank you, Al Bendich!

Egg On His Car

Politics and its Discontents - Sun, 01/18/2015 - 06:05
... but not on his face. Yes, our peripatetic and staunch, uncritical supporter of all things Israeli, Foreign Minister John baird, was spared the ultimate humiliation during a visit to the West Bank city of Ramallah today to meet with Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki.

The protesters, who were waiting as Baird left Malki's office, were kept well back and Baird was not hit, authorities say. One media report says only one of the eggs landed on the roof of his car.

Protesters held signs reading: "Baird you are not welcome in Palestine."Here is some raw footage of the event, which many Canadians will look upon rather wistfully, I suspect, given that at home, members of the Harper regime have a far more nuanced relationship with the public, appearing only before carefully vetted, friendly groups:

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Stephen Harper and the Ghosts of Scandals Past

Montreal Simon - Sun, 01/18/2015 - 05:01

By proroguing the budget until April, and presumably cancelling any plans for an early election, Stephen Harper has guaranteed himself a visit from the Ghosts of Scandals Past.

And I'm not just talking about Mike Duffy, or Dean del Mastro who will be sentenced later this month.

Or his old friend Bruce Carson who will also have his day in court on corruption charges...

Or even a possible appearance by the ghost of Pamela Wallin.

Because now he's also facing the prospect of having to confront the ghost of Arthur Porter...
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Stephen Harper, Alberta, and the House of Saud

Montreal Simon - Sun, 01/18/2015 - 04:56

Well let's face it, it's not a great time to be an Albertan. Their Great Leader Stephen Harper's oily obsession with creating a Greater Albertonia his leading them to disaster.

Once they were living high off the bitumen, and lording it over the rest of us. Now the wheels are falling off their monster trucks, and they're heading for a recession. 

But when they look around for somebody to blame, maybe they should take a close look at their House of Harper and it's warm relationship with the House of Saud.

Because then they might ask themselves, as Jeffrey Simpson does, why are they supporting those who are destroying their economy?
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What He Says They Mean

Northern Reflections - Sun, 01/18/2015 - 03:29

Watching the Harper government serve up a pre-election budget has become a drama in the Theatre of the Absurd. That's because -- as Tim Harper wrote last week in the Toronto Star -- for Stephen Harper, politics trumps math:

The new Conservative math is political math.
There’s another name for it. It’s a shell game.
Finance Minister Joe Oliver appears ready to arbitrarily set a future oil price — one that neither he nor Prime Minister Stephen Harper can predict — that will allow him to proceed with voter-friendly promises in an election year.Even as he pushed the budget date into April, he told a Calgary audience Thursday that he will balance this budget, then run surpluses in the years to come, rising to over $13 billion by 2019-20.
The Harperites find themselves in this predicament because they predicted a surplus based on $81a barrel oil. And they spent the surplus before it materialised. Moreover, they've based their whole re-election strategy on a balanced budget and tax cuts from their non-existent surplus:

They have to balance the budget so they can make good on a promise Harper made on a chilly early April day in Vaughan almost four years ago — the doubling of the limit for Tax Free Savings Account contributions to $10,000, a vote-friendly initiative that was contingent on the deficit being eliminated.
In the short term, there is a cost. The finance department has estimated that the existing TFSA program, introduced in 2009, cost the government more than $400 million in foregone revenue in 2013.
But that figure will be in the tens of billions when accounts are drawn on in the years to come.Similarly, an adult tax fitness credit is tied to the balanced budget.Then there is the matter of other pre-election spending, such as money that should go to veterans and the ongoing costs of an air mission against Islamic State in northern Iraq.
There is an old adage about not counting your chickens before they hatch. The same rule applies to surpluses.

When former MP Bill Casey went to Harper to complain that he had altered the Atlantic Accord, Harper told him that the words in the accord "mean what I say they mean." The same rule seems to apply to budget numbers.

PSA, Life Hacks

Sister Sages Musings - Sat, 01/17/2015 - 22:44



I generally post about politics, but today, I’d like to share with you what has become known as a “life hack”.  That’s like a shortcut, for all you old codgers out there, who probably already know this.


I am of a certain age, as they say.  I like to keep my . . . → Read More: PSA, Life Hacks

The Great Pope Francis: Not as Good As Advertised

Montreal Simon - Sat, 01/17/2015 - 20:38

I did have such high hopes for him. He did seem to be the best Pope I have ever seen.

He did say some great things about capitalism and climate change. 

But it turns out Pope Francis is not as good as I thought. Just more of the same.

Or just another old reactionary.
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