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Monday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Mon, 04/18/2016 - 07:38
Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Robert Frank discusses the essential role of luck in determining the opportunities we have - and how the advantages of a strong social fabric are too often ignored by the people who benefit the most from them:
(C)hance plays a far larger role in life outcomes than most people realize. And yet, the luckiest among us appear especially unlikely to appreciate our good fortune. According to the Pew Research Center, people in higher income brackets are much more likely than those with lower incomes to say that individuals get rich primarily because they work hard. Other surveys bear this out: Wealthy people overwhelmingly attribute their own success to hard work rather than to factors like luck or being in the right place at the right time.

That’s troubling, because a growing body of evidence suggests that seeing ourselves as self-made—rather than as talented, hardworking, and lucky—leads us to be less generous and public-spirited. It may even make the lucky less likely to support the conditions (such as high-quality public infrastructure and education) that made their own success possible.
...
Being born in a favorable environment is an enormous stroke of luck. But maintaining such an environment requires high levels of public investment in everything from infrastructure to education—something Americans have lately been unwilling to support. Many factors have contributed to this reticence, but one in particular stands out: budget deficits resulting from a long-term decline in the United States’ top marginal tax rate.

A recent study by the political scientists Benjamin Page, Larry Bartels, and Jason Seawright found that the top 1 percent of U.S. wealth-holders are “extremely active politically” and are much more likely than the rest of the American public to resist taxation, regulation, and government spending. Given that the wealthiest Americans believe their prosperity is due, above all else, to their own talent and hard work, is this any wonder? Surely it’s a short hop from overlooking luck’s role in success to feeling entitled to keep the lion’s share of your income—and to being reluctant to sustain the public investments that let you succeed in the first place.- Brennan Leffler exposes how employers are all too often able to brazenly flout legal protection for workers due to a lack of enforcement. Sara Mojtehedzadeh and Geoffrey Vendeville report on the multiple disadvantages facing women in the retail sector, while Mary Cornish studies the broader gender gap. And Teuila Fuatai surveys how some workers have been fighting for a fair minimum wage across Canada.

- The Economist examines the plunging cost of solar energy which figures to radically reshape our energy choices based on comparative costs alone, while Rebecca Penty reports that tar sands operators are well past believing it's worth developing new megaprojects. Daniel Oberhaus notes that with a political push, we could end our reliance on fossil fuels within a decade. And Chris D'Angelo writes that the oil industry has gone far out of its way to make sure decisions about our energy options aren't based on facts.

- Finally, Michael Butler weighs in on the Libs' failure to move ahead with a national pharmacare plan. And the McMaster Health Forum looks to the UK's experience to argue for pharmacare in Canada.

Not An Obsession

Politics and its Discontents - Mon, 04/18/2016 - 07:14


Looking at the sidebar that lists the tags on my blog posts, I see I have written well over 100 entries on the police, most of them dealing with their abuse of authority; some of those abuses include the murder of unarmed or barely armed people, others the senseless beating of people. All of them attest to a constabulary, whether Canadian or American, out of control and contemptuous of any efforts to bring them to accountability of justice.

Some might say I am obsessed with the topic, but they would be wrong. What I think I am obsessed with is the desire for fairness and justice and an utter and complete contempt for those who abuse their power and authority.

Here in Ontario, that abuse is rampant, and true accountability is rare. The responsibility for such a sad state of affairs resides largely with the provincial government.

Governments seem loathe to incur the ill-will of those sworn to protect and serve us. With their 'us against them mentality,' the police have proven to be formidable forces to fear when politicians and other prominent people incur their wrath.

Legislators are failing us, and it has to change.

Consider, for example, the secrecy that surrounds SIU investigations of police actions. When their investigations are complete and they exonerate, as they almost always do, police officers who have either beaten, shot or killed a person, the public is not allowed to know the basis for exoneration, the names of the officers involved, or anything else that might provide an inkling of how the investigatory body reached its conclusion. What I didn't know until the other day is that such secrecy is not mandated under the Police Services Act.

As revealed in The Star,
the report prepared by the director of the SIU, the agency that probes deaths, serious injuries and allegations of sexual assault involving police in Ontario, goes straight to the desk of the Attorney General — and nowhere else.

The Police Services Act, the law that governs the SIU, says the watchdog’s director must report the results of investigations to the Attorney General. It doesn’t state the reports cannot be sent elsewhere or made public.So what is stopping a wider release of SIU reports?
The spokesperson for Attorney General Madeleine Meilleur [says] the reports contain information protected under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, “including information relating to affected persons (e.g. persons seriously injured), witnesses and officers under investigation.”According to Brian Beamish, Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner, this is a bit of an evasion:
“While the name of a police officer who has been the subject of an investigation by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) would likely be personal information, there may be circumstances of significant public interest where the SIU may disclose the name or other information associated with its completed investigations for the purposes of fostering accountability and public confidence in police services, and ensuring transparency in its operations,” Beamish told the Star in a statement.While public consultations will soon be announced by the Wynne government into Ontario's police oversight mechanisms, there really is nothing that exists in current legislation to either encourage or prevent much greater public accountability and scrutiny right now.

The bright light of public scrutiny is something the police themselves seem to fear, and while our political 'leaders' allow themselves to be bullied by our public 'protectors,' horrible situations like the killing of Rodrigo Gonzalez at the hands of police will continue:



Clearly, the dire situation demands strong, unambiguous and immediate remediation.Recommend this Post

In Praise Of The Supreme Court

Northern Reflections - Mon, 04/18/2016 - 05:34


Last week, The Supreme Court issued three more landmark decisions. The first two decisions struck down more of Stephen Harper's tough on crime agenda. Tom Walkom writes:

On Friday, the court unanimously swept aside provisions of the former Conservative government’s Truth in Sentencing Act that limited a judge’s ability to give credit for time served in pretrial detention.In a second decision that same day, the majority struck down another Conservative law that required a minimum sentence of at least one year for previously convicted drug traffickers.In both cases, the top court said, restrictions on judicial discretion were so broad as to be unconstitutional.
Mr. Harper ordered his Ministry of Justice to stop asking whether his legislation could pass constitutional muster. The result has been an array of decisions that should have reminded Harper -- and all Canadians -- that a prime minister is not above the law. Since Mr. Harper has all but disappeared, it's hard to know if the lesson has sunk in.

The far more important court decision came Thursday. That’s when the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Métis and non-status Indians are Ottawa’s responsibility and must be treated as “Indians” under the constitution.
Among other things, that makes members of the two groups eligible for certain kinds of health care and tax exemptions available now only to the Inuit and residents of First Nations communities.
But the court also confirmed, in an almost casual manner, that Ottawa has a constitutional duty to consult meaningfully with representatives of the Métis and non-status Indians before doing anything that might impinge on their rights.
The justices said they didn’t have to formally restate that obligation in their decision because it was already settled law.But it will act at the very least as a reminder to Ottawa, which has not always been anxious to include Métis and non-status Indians in its talks.
Canada's Metis peoples have lived in limbo since 1867. The Court reminded us that all God's children have a place in the choir -- and that it is a source of wisdom.

Image: clarkelaw.ca

How Justin Trudeau Disarmed and Conquered His Enemies

Montreal Simon - Mon, 04/18/2016 - 05:18


It's a strange world. Yesterday I wrote about how the Con media had underestimated Justin Trudeau.

Only to end up badly, or end up looking ridiculous.

Now one of those Harper spear chuckers, Michael Den Tandt, has been forced to admit   that they weren't the only ones to underestimate Trudeau.
Read more »

Brian Pallister is Caught Stretching the Truth. Again.

Montreal Simon - Sun, 04/17/2016 - 17:47


Two days ago I told you how Brian Pallister, the PC leader of Manitoba, had been found to be spending a LOT of time in sunny Costa Rica.

And had lied about where he was during the height of the 2014 flood.

Well now it turns out that he wasn't entirely honest about his holdings in that Central American country.

And sadly for him, he appears to have been caught stretching the truth. Again.
Read more »

#YEG2016 Followup Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 04/17/2016 - 16:53
While there's been plenty of ill-informed commentary since the NDP's convention last weekend, I'll take a moment to highlight a few of the followup points which deserve a read.

- Joshua Keep rightly recognizes the new leadership election as an opportunity for renewal, but no guarantee of improvement. Gerard Di Trolio focuses particularly on the prospects of an unabashedly left-wing leadership campaign. And Selina Chignall offers a look at what the NDP may be looking for in its next leader, while Samantha Power examines some of the competing forces within the party (though we shouldn't overstate the differences, particularly given that there was little apparent problem keeping all sides of any of the issues in the fold just an election cycle earlier).

- Gerald Caplan asks the question of whether the NDP's main problem has to do with its ability to be seen as a viable government. But I'd note in response that at least over the last two elections, the issue has been one of winning first-choice support rather than being in the consideration set of enough voters to contend for power.

- Nicholas Ellan offers a look at some of the tactics which worked for the Leap and Renewal movements at the NDP's convention - while discussing how they should inform the party's own work in the time to come. 

- Finally, Crawford Kilian points out that the most extreme response to the Leap Manifesto resolution amounts to an attempt to deny the glaringly obvious. And lest anybody think the issue is at all new based on the development of the Leap Manifesto itself, see my earlier discussion in this post and column.

Speaking About the Panama Papers...

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 04/17/2016 - 16:32

Never doubt that most Western governments are in the bag for their most affluent citizens.

George w. Bush didn't even attempt to avoid it when he acknowledged the richest of the rich, calling them, "my base."



Some things, as they say, never change.



They Never Fail to Disappoint

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 04/17/2016 - 12:43



British Columbia is effectively a one-party province. We have the very conservative B.C. Liberal government - and that's about it. There's a party that claims to be the opposition, a government in waiting, but it's the B.C. NDP and, well, you know what that means.

Like their Ontario and federal counterparts, the B.C. NDP are adept at clutching defeat out of the jaws of victory. Let's just call it the "NDP Mange." Voters get up close, take a good look at them, and say, "Oh, fu_k no!"

Out in LotusLand, our last election was the NDP's to lose. They went in pushing on an open door. Even I was calling the Crispy Clark the "outgoing premier" in eager anticipation of an impending political liberation. But NDP leader, Adrian Dix, was having none of it. Clark would not be toppled so long as Dix was opposition leader - and she wasn't.

In May, 2014, John Horgan was acclaimed (hadn't they ever heard of Ignatieff?) the new leader of the provincial NDP. Horgan has tried hard to raise his profile but to most of the people I know he's a wet paste sort of guy.

Earlier this week, outspoken radio host/pundit Rafe Mair tore a strip off Hogan for flip-flopping on a major LNG project.

Apparently, according to Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and BC NDP leader John Horgan, we have a new doctrine in Canada which essentially says that Jobs Come Ahead Of Crisis When A Powerful Union Leader Says So.
Now Horgan has again joined Notley in opposition to the Leap Manifesto.
"In total collectively it doesn't reflect the values of British Columbians. Our past and our future will be dependent on the development of natural resources," said Horgan.
Horgan and Notley have company. New Brunswick NDP leader Dominic Cardy has wiped his boots on Leap calling it "something dreamed up in a downtown Toronto coffee shop."
It's becoming hard to see how, barring a deep split between the federal and provincial NDP, the feds will have much chance of establishing themselves as the green alternative to the Libs or Tories.

Really, the Republicans Want This Dick Head for President? Really?

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 04/17/2016 - 12:06



This isn't about Donald Trump. It's about Ted Cruz and how he sees the world. A good place to begin might be to take a look at what Cruz thinks of the venerable - wait for it - dildo.

Ted Cruz and dildos have some history that goes back to his days as Texas solicitor general when Ted summoned the full power of the Lone Star State to ban the sale of dildos.


Cruz's legal team asserted that "obscene devices do not implicate any liberty interest." And its brief added that "any alleged right associated with obscene devices" is not "deeply rooted in the Nation's history and traditions." In other words, Texans were free to use sex toys at home, but they did not have the right to buy them.

The brief insisted that Texas, in order to protect "public morals," had "police-power interests" in "discouraging prurient interests in sexual gratification, combating the commercial sale of sex, and protecting minors." There was a "government" interest, it maintained, in "discouraging…autonomous sex." The brief compared the use of sex toys to "hiring a willing prostitute or engaging in consensual bigamy," and it equated advertising these products with the commercial promotion of prostitution. In perhaps the most noticeable line of the brief, Cruz's office declared, "There is no substantive-due-process right to stimulate one's genitals for non-medical purposes unrelated to procreation or outside of an interpersonal relationship."

In an awkward split decision (split, really, there was a dissenting judge?) the Texas court of appeals sent Cruz and his dildo pogrom packing. The bigger point is that this is a pretty telling example of how this guy thinks, where his mind is. Suddenly Trump doesn't look quite as bad and both Hillary and Bernie seem to be with the angels.




Hell, Even Bill Likes Her That Much

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 04/17/2016 - 11:11



Hillary Clinton's numbers are in the crapper. A poll conducted by NBC and the Wall Street Journal finds Hillary's approval among registered voters comes in at 32% positive, 56% negative. That's the lowest her numbers have gone since she was first tracked in 2001.

Hell, even Bill Clinton likes Hillary that much.

Sanders, meanwhile is at plus 9 - 45% positive, 36% negative.

Duffy's Day of Reckoning - Thursday

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 04/17/2016 - 11:02

Ladies and gentlemen, place your bets. The Cavendish Cottager, senator for Prince Edward Island, Mike Duffy, has a date with the judge on Thursday, April 21, to receive the verdicts on 31 counts of fraud, breach of trust and bribery.

It seems the main count - the stupendous "immaculate bribery" charge - is going nowhere. The Crown pretty much ignored the matter in its closing arguments. Without that the case comes down mainly to alleged "hand in the cookie jar" offences. Did Duffy raid the senatorial petty cash? Are the rules just too vague and omission riddled to ground criminal liability?

I guess we'll have all the answers on Thursday.

a petition to exonerate ethel rosenberg

we move to canada - Sun, 04/17/2016 - 11:00
Of all the outrageously unjust moments in United States history - and dog knows there are many to choose from - the execution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg holds a special place in my political underpinnings. It was an event I learned about early on, one that came up in many different contexts throughout my childhood. That was partly because the Rosenbergs were Jewish, and their case was rife with anti-Semitism. It was partly because of my parents' thorough and utter disgust for McCarthyism. And it was partly because my parents had very clear memories of the case, the execution occurring in the early years of their marriage. They remembered the media frenzy, the protests attempting to save their lives, and finally, the Rosenbergs' deaths.

My mother always mentioned thousands of people packing into New York City's Union Square on the night of the execution, pleading with the government to stay the execution. My mother and I both read The Book of Daniel, E. L. Doctorow's fictional imaginings of the Rosenberg orphans, and my mother bought (and gave to others as gifts) We Are Your Sons, written by the Rosenbergs' children, Robert and Michael Meeropol.

In recent years, declassified information showed that Julius Rosenberg had spied for the Soviet Union. He did not, however, pass secrets about the atom bomb, the crime of which he was accused and convicted. And no similar evidence came to light about Ethel Rosenberg. Despite these details, the US media was only too happy to declare the case closed.

When I saw the subject line in my inbox Sign the petition: Exonerate Ethel Rosenberg, I was very interested. But I was also wary. If we want Ethel Rosenberg to be exonerated, does that mean we are condoning Julius' conviction? If we say, "Ethel was not a spy and her execution was wrongful," do we imply that the execution of Julius Rosenberg was justified? Or that some executions may be justified?

I care about the Rosenbergs. I care about government-led persecution and witchhunts. But I also care about the death penalty: I am against it, for any reason, ever. (Don't Godwin me. Any reason ever.) I've known about the Rosenbergs my entire life. I wanted to sign this petition, but I wasn't sure I should.

I wasn't alone. This was forwarded to me by an activist friend who received the petition before I did.
Many people who’ve signed the petition to exonerate my grandmother, Ethel Rosenberg, have asked why the campaign doesn’t include my grandfather, Julius. My father Robert Meeropol answers that question in a blog, here.

My dad’s outlook on life and his drive to create something positive from the terrible tragedy of his early years continues to be inspiring, both for those who are new to his story and for those of us who know his journey well.

As you can imagine, my father’s life was profoundly affected by his parents’ execution. He was three years old when they were arrested, and six years old when they were killed. He visited his parents in prison and still remembers what that felt like. He also remembers the executions, and the trauma of being bounced from home to home, and in and out of an orphanage. Relatives were too scared to take in him and my uncle. They were even thrown out of school in New Jersey where sympathetic friends of the family had tried to give them shelter.

Luckily my father and uncle were eventually adopted by Anne and Abel Meeropol. This loving couple, who were teachers and artists, provided a nurturing home and shielded them from the public. And thousands of people who had tried to save my grandparents donated funds to pay for my father and uncle’s education, therapy, art and drama programs, and other services to help them grow up healthy and happy.

Decades later, my father started the Rosenberg Fund for Children to assist kids in this country who are experiencing similar nightmares to what he endured. This organization I now lead aids the children of today’s targeted activists. Their parents are being attacked because they’re struggling to combat racism, wage peace, preserve civil liberties, safeguard the environment, organize on behalf of workers, prisoners, and LGBTQI people, and more. . . . Incidentally, the children of US war resister Kimberly Rivera received some assistance from The Rosenberg Fund for Children. I'm proud that some part of my life intersects with some part of the Rosenbergs'.

I signed the petition with a clear conscience and I hope you will, too.

If you are interested in both a progressive and factual reading of the executions, I recommend this long piece by Robert Wilbur, writing in Truthout: The True Crime of the Rosenberg Execution.
Federal District Judge Irving R. Kaufman was a pious man. He visited his synagogue to commune with whatever god he believed in before making up his mind to condemn Julius and Ethel Rosenberg to die in the electric chair, making orphans of their two young boys. That, however, was not the full reach of his piety. Under pressure from the Justice Department to end the Rosenberg case quickly, after two years of delays in the courts, Kaufman set their death for a Friday. This created an unanticipated complication, as Sam Roberts recounts in his grisly description of the execution in "The Brother": New York State traditionally carried out its executions at 11:00 PM. But this would mean the Rosenbergs would burn several hours into the Sabbath - the Jewish holy day. What to do? Kaufman sought the advice of a rabbi to ascertain the exact time when the Sabbath began, then ordered the executions moved up to a more comfortable hour.

The judge must have gotten satisfactory advice, for there were no complaints from organized Jewry in America. Julius died from the traditional three jolts of electricity; Ethel required an additional two jolts, perhaps the only shred of evidence that she was really the tougher member of the spying duo.

And, while the evidence remains much disputed, the preponderance suggests that spies they were. Eventually, even the Rosenberg's journalistic cheerleaders, Walter and Miriam Schneir, acknowledged that Julius Rosenberg was ringmaster of a busy espionage collective that was passing electronic and aeronautical intelligence to the Soviets during the Second World War. Julius himself - unlike the nerd depicted in photographs - was a brazen cowboy who scored a daring espionage coup by stealing the proximity fuse from its plant of manufacture piece by piece: this device uses an electromagnetic wave guide to identify a nearby aircraft, vastly increasing the efficacy of anti-aircraft batteries.

Schneir acknowledged that Julius was a spy - but not an atomic spy. And, so, the case has dragged on to this very day, and two important questions remain unanswered:

- Were the Rosenbergs framed to break up their spy ring in a distinctly conclusive manner (and, relatedly, what was Ethel's role in the ring)?

- If the death penalty is ever appropriate, was it called for in this case?

. . . .

But when everything seems to be tied up in a neat package, Schneir has a quote from Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard law professor and one-time death penalty battler turned post-9/11 advocate of torture, citing a conversation with Rosenberg prosecutor and mob lawyer Roy Cohn:
"Roy Cohn ... proudly told me shortly before his death [in 1986] that the government had 'manufactured 'evidence against the Rosenbergs, because they knew Julius was the head of a spy ring. They had learned this from bugging a foreign embassy, but they could not disclose any information learned from the bug, so they made up some evidence in order to prove what they already knew. In the process, they also made up the case against Ethel Rosenberg." ["America on Trial" (NY: Warner Books,2004.p/323)]In right-wing quarters, especially those where "kike" and "yid" are words of currency, the Rosenberg case is still considered the crime of the century, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. . . .

So, while the Rosenbergs probably did break a law that was passed amid the hysteria of an earlier world war by passing non-atomic intelligence on to the Russians, the statesmen committed a monumental blunder in underestimating the Soviet Union's imperialistic intentions. The Rosenberg's crime was probably to break the 1917 Espionage Act; by far the greater crime was to kill husband and wife on June 19, 58 years ago. The execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg is the true crime of the century - an abomination that casts an ineradicable black mark on the American criminal justice system and on the presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower, whose own crime was a failure to grant mercy.This story on the World Socialist website sees the Rosenbergs' persecution clearly, through a present-day lens.
June 19 [2013] marks the 50th anniversary of the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg on charges of conspiracy to commit espionage on behalf of the Soviet Union.

Many of the Rosenbergs’ contemporaries, for whom their persecution and state murder was the most searing episode in one of the darkest chapters in US history, have passed from the scene. Yet still today, for millions of people around the world, the name of the young couple evokes the Cold War, the McCarthyite witch-hunt in the United States and all of the crimes associated with Washington’s global crusade against communism. The execution of the father and mother of two young children, residents of New York City’s Lower East Side — he 35 years old and she 37 at the time of their deaths — is testimony to the savagery of which the American ruling establishment is capable when it perceives its vital interests to be at stake.

Despite the passing of five decades, the issues surrounding the Rosenberg case are in many ways posed more sharply today than at any time since the execution itself. Once again, a US administration is seeking to terrorize the entire population as a means of suppressing dissent and exercising control on behalf of a wealthy elite. Under the guise of a global “war on terrorism,” it has rammed through the USA Patriot Act — modeled in part on the anti-communist McCarran Internal Security Act of 50 years ago — assuming vast unconstitutional powers to arrest without charges, detain without trial and conduct unrestricted police surveillance.

Today, as then, the government’s fear-mongering and attacks on democratic rights are aimed at suppressing widespread opposition to American military aggression abroad.You can sign a petition to exonerate Ethel Rosenberg here.

The Truth Is Out There - Or Could Soon Be

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 04/17/2016 - 10:46



A developing story that's been making the rounds of British newspapers has the Saudis scared sh-tless over the prospect that their government's ties to the 9/11 hijackers could soon surface.

In the wake of the World Trade Center/Pentagon attacks Congress launched an investigation that resulted in an 838 page report, 810 pages of which were made public. Missing from the published report is a 28-page chapter that remains locked in a vault in the basement of the Capital Building.

The redacted 28 pages are said to contain details of the links between prominent Saudis, including prince Bandar bin Sultan, and the 9/11 terrorists and assistance that was allegedly provided by the Saudi embassy in Washington and the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles.

It was all just simmering along, largely forgotten, until a bill hit the floor of the US Senate that would strip immunity from nations found culpable for terrorist attacks that kill Americans on US soil. It seems both parties have about had it to the gills with the Saudis.

The whole business has given the Saudis a royal brown hemorrhage. It's bad enough that the White House has intervened, trying to block the bill and warning of diplomatic and economic fallout if it goes ahead. Apparently the Saudis have told the White House that they'll liquidate some $750-billion of US Treasury securities and other assets if the bill goes ahead out of fear those assets could be frozen - or worse. Sounds as though the House of Saud is pretty worried.

Obama is heading for Riyadh on Tuesday.

Sunday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 04/17/2016 - 09:07
This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Alexander Panetta reports on the G20's agreement on the need to crack down on tax evasion - as well as the steps Canada needs to take to get our own house in order:
The final communique warned of actions against countries that don't agree within a year to adopt bank-reporting standards being promoted by international agencies.
...
One section of the G20 communique applies to more countries, including Canada. It says countries must do a better job of tracking down the true owners of companies, specifically those who might be hiding behind strawmen.

Dennis Howlett says Canada is currently in non-compliance with that provision. The executive director of Canadians for Tax Fairness says oversight is especially weak in some provinces.

"Canada has a lot of work to do to comply with the international standards on transparency of beneficial ownership," he said.
...
A recent report by the group Transparency International said Canada runs afoul of multiple internationally-agreed standards set by the G20. It says Canadian law doesn't properly define beneficial ownership — the true identity of people drawing profit from a company. It also says authorities aren't required to track their identity, nor can they easily access their identity.- Steven Chase confirms that the Libs' choice to approve a massive arms deal with Saudi Arabia came long after they were aware of increasing human rights abuses. And Susana Mas highlights the Libs' limited and selective disclosure of the facts they're willing to share publicly even now.

- Raul Aldaz reviews Gianluca Passarelli's study of the presidentialization of political parties around the world. And in what looks to offer a prime example, Tim Naumetz points out Justin Trudeau's plan to take any remaining policy-making levers out of the hands of the Libs' membership.

- Duff Conacher suggests that we can look to Quebec for an example in taking big money out of party politics.

- Finally, Trish Kahle discusses the need and opportunity for the labour and environmental movements to develop shared goals, rather than allowing cynical corporate interests to pit them against each other:
Environmental politics must become generalized in the labor movement, and vice versa. The language of climate justice has already begun to infuse a sense of class politics into environmentalism, and green groups’ support for recent labor struggles is a promising step forward. Initiatives like the Labor Network for Sustainability, Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, and the BlueGreen Alliance are helping to connect the dots. But environmentalists must go further, acknowledging that there can be no real solution to the energy crisis without the input and leadership of the people who already do the work. Understanding the climate crisis as part of neoliberalism’s larger attack on public welfare and democracy (with the impacts, like all social failings in the United States, experienced more acutely by people of color and particularly by African Americans) can help expand the terrain on which both unions and climate activists struggle.

Ultimately, we live in the world we build. That world is both social and ecological, constantly made and remade through what sociologist Jason Moore has described as “the web of life.” If organized labor—and the climate—are to have a fighting chance, unions must offer real alternatives to the world of “shared sacrifice” and dead zones, of poisoning by austerity, of cheap fuels and cheap lives. What would it take for today’s coal-belt communities, channeling the Miners for Democracy, to fight not against EPA regulations but for jobs restoring lands destroyed by mountaintop removal mining? What would it take for union activists to have a meaningful say at the next international climate talks?

This work is just beginning. But with a shared vision to guide it, labor environmentalism can take us far. Its core demand is simple: to build a world that all of us, not just the rich or white, can actually live in.

Andrea's Damascene Moment

Politics and its Discontents - Sun, 04/17/2016 - 06:26


In the Book of Luke, Jesus is reported to have said the following:
I tell you that ... there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.In Acts of the Apostles, Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus is described:
As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”The pure of heart might indeed feel that those passages resonate when contemplating Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath's recent conversion to the belief that the minimum wage should be $15 per hour, latching on to a movement that has been gaining a great deal of traction over the past few years.

The more cynical might be inclined to see Ms. Horwath's new stance as rank political opportunism. Consider, for example, how she felt about such matters just two years ago:
"Well, look, I respect the work of the grassroots movements that have been calling for the $14 minimum wage, but I think that what our role is right now is to consult with families that are affected, as well as small business particularly that’s also affected”.At about the same time, Ms Horwath was calling for the Ontario minimum raise to rise only to $12 per hour in 2016.

Apparently, however, she has some people fooled by her newfound allegiance to the working poor, as is evident from this Star reader's letter:
Raise the minimum wage, Letter April 11

At a recent speech for the Broadbent Institute, Andrea Horwath publicly demonstrated that her party has finally seen the light on a $15 living wage.

Her announcement is all the more noteworthy in a week when the North American Fight For $15 campaign had some rather momentous victories south of the border.

Governor Jerry Brown stared down the powerful business lobby within his own California Democratic Party to sign into law a path to $15 per hour. In New York Governor Andrew Cuomo stood up to Wall Street fear-mongering and signed the Empire State’s own $15 minimum wage law.

So the question for Ontarians, in a week awash in reforms and revelations, is whether any other party leader in Ontario will stand up to Bay Street bullies and bring Ontario standards into the 21st century by finally ending the shameful institution of government sanctioned working poverty.

If we can trade carbon with California can’t we also trade good ideas or will Ontario, California beat our Ontario to $15?

Mike Vorobej, OttawaI have never been a member of a political party. Perhaps if the day ever comes when I detect a leader acting out of principle and integrity instead of rank political expediency, I may join one.Recommend this Post

The Con Media's Fatal Underestimation of Justin Trudeau

Montreal Simon - Sun, 04/17/2016 - 04:46


As I've mentioned before, the tired, hapless hacks in our MSM underestimated Justin Trudeau from the time he decided to run for office.

For them and their Con masters Justin just wasn't ready.

And even though he rebuilt the shattered Liberal Party, won a crushing majority, and is at the present time the most popular Prime Minister in Canadian history, they're still singing the same tune.

Even if they have to change the words slightly, as our deathly Marie Antoinette Margaret Wente did yesterday.
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Spend It On The Kids

Northern Reflections - Sun, 04/17/2016 - 03:31

Jerry Diakiw has a terrific idea. If governments are looking for good infrastructure investments, he writes, focus on kids. That's not just a noble sentiment. There's lots of evidence to suggest that it's wise policy:

Our new federal government plans to spend billions of dollars on infrastructure projects. But according to James Heckman, Nobel laureate in the economics of human development, infrastructure spending only sees a rate of return of roughly 1 to 2 per cent — while investing in disadvantaged children before they start school has a proven record of yielding an 8 to 10 per cent rate of return.

 Children who participated in two early childhood projects run during the 1960 and 1970s — the Perry Preschool Project and the Abecedarian Project — have been studied intensively now for 40 years and the results have been both powerful and instructive. The findings show how narrowing the inequality gap and reducing child poverty makes economic sense. Early childhood intervention delivered to disadvantaged kids aged one to four, and their parents, promotes economic efficiencies and reduces lifetime inequalities.

The Abecedarian Project produced a phenomenal 10 per cent rate of return on the initial government investment. Compare that to a standard 5.8 per cent average rate of return on investments in stocks.
That's not to suggest that there aren't roads and bridges to be repaired. In Montreal, where I grew up, huge chunks of concrete have been falling on cars as they passed under overpasses. That's what happens when you neglect regular maintenance.

But while taxes have been lowered, the evidence has been accumulating:

These studies, and more recent ones from other countries, demonstrate that early intervention for kids in disadvantaged homes, focusing on these soft skills, has a direct and positive effect on wages, schooling, teenage pregnancy, smoking, crime and performance on achievement tests. The children who benefit from early intervention are healthier and make better lifestyle choices.
The legacy of neo-liberalism has been a rash of social pathologies. If we build new roads and bridges but are left with the pathologies, we will be no further ahead.

image: southernmuseum.org

Hillary Clinton and the Mystery of the Missing Transcripts

Montreal Simon - Sun, 04/17/2016 - 00:44


It's the greatest mystery of the Democratic race for the White House. The haunting question that won't go away.

Why won't Hillary Clinton release the transcripts of the speeches she gave to big banking institutions like Goldman Sachs?

She says she won't do that unless other candidates like Donald Trump do the same.

And since I find that answer singularly unpersuasive, I'm forced to believe this.

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