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Why Not Try Socialism?

Northern Reflections - Tue, 08/16/2016 - 05:23

The NDP is having a really hard time these days. They don't seem to know who they are -- and Canadians don't know who they are either. Rick Salutin  writes that perhaps its time for the party to return to its roots -- not because returning to the past is a good idea, but because socialism is making a comeback:

Maybe it’s time to go back to Coke Classic, by which I mean socialism. I don’t say this out of nostalgia, it’s sheer opportunism based on empirical evidence. Because, consider the recent, shocking revival of the term:
Bernie. He says he’s a democratic socialist and always was. It should’ve sunk him when he ran for mayor in Vermont in 1981, but he went on to Congress, the Senate, then hijacked this year’s Democratic presidential race and exacted a partly “socialist” platform in return for supporting Hillary.
Corbyn. Very old-fashioned leftist, without Bernie’s personal appeal. (God, I miss him.) Corbyn’s a postwar Atlee or Nye Bevan British socialist. But he’s moved his party and many beyond it. Even for a clear relic, “socialism” has been a plus.
Hillary. Hold the guffaws. Her sole contribution to political jargon has been, “It takes a village.” It’s not her coinage but she adopted it. That sounds to me like another way to say socialism.
 But the really persuasive evidence can be found in the young:

The young today know the economy may never let them own a detached home, or even a car, and they’re making peace with that. When you turn 16 now, you don’t immediately run to get your learner’s permit. That’s a sea change from earlier times.
What do they care passionately about? Connectivity. If they had to choose between a house (and car) or the Internet, there’d be no hesitation. I’m not restating the messianic claims made 25 years ago about some revolutionary transformation of human nature due to the Internet. But I do think there’s been an anthropological shift in the baseline of what counts as normal, day-to-day human experience.
Till now – since forever – one of the ongoing, always underlying human states of being was aloneness, out of which you stepped often into social contact and then back again. Society was never absent but you weren’t surprised to slide in and out of solitude. I don’t mean anything romantic; just nobody around at the moment and that’s fine.
Now the default state is connectivity. People don’t disconnect as they move from home to work or just dart out to the store. They, especially the young, are always connected. They wake in the middle of the night and check where their friends are. They don’t panic if they go offline (adults more so than youth, I’ve found) but what’s normal is connectedness.

Perhaps Mr. Salutin has a point.

Benjamin Perrin and the Murky Case of Jason Kenney

Montreal Simon - Mon, 08/15/2016 - 21:13

You may remember Benjamin Perrin, the PMO lawyer who worked for Stephen Harper at the height of the Duffy Affair.

But who later turned against the Con regime declaring that it had lost the moral authority to govern.

Well now he's taking aim at one of that regimes most infamous members.

Read more »

Monday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Mon, 08/15/2016 - 08:01
Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Branko Milanovic points out how the commodification of our interactions may create an incentive for short-term exploitation:
Commodification of what was hitherto a non-commercial resource makes each of us do many jobs and even, as in the renting of apartments, capitalists. But saying that I work many jobs is the same thing as saying that workers do not hold durably individual jobs and that the labor market is fully “flexible” with people getting in and out of jobs at a very high rate. Thus workers indeed become, from the point of view of the employer, fully interchangeable “agents”. Each of then stays in a job a few weeks or months: everyone is equally good or bad as everyone else. We are indeed coming close to the dream world of neoclassical economics where individuals, with their true characteristics, no longer exists because they have been replaced by “agents”.

The problem with this kind of commodification and flexibilization is that it undermines human relations and trust that are needed for the smooth functioning of an economy. When there are repeated games we try to establish relationships of trust with people with whom we interact. But if we move from one place to another with high frequency, change jobs every couple of weeks, and everybody else does the same, then there are no repeated games because we do not interact with the same people. If there are no repeated games, our behavior adjusts to expecting to play just a single game, a single interaction. And this new behavior is very different.
Increasing commodification of many activities, the gig economy and flexibilization of labor market are just a part of the same change; they should be seen as a movement toward a more rational, but ultimately more depersonalized, economy where most of interactions will be one-shot contacts. Holding of many jobs and the shortness of interactions make investing in cooperative behavior prohibitively expensive. This Is the key reason why I am less optimistic than others that we are moving toward a society with a more collective, or “nicer” ethos. Actually, I think we are moving in the opposite direction. - Sandro Contenta and Jim Rankin report on new research showing how poverty, race and other factors influence the removal of children from their families by Ontario's Child Services. And Jake Johnson discusses the place of race in the U.S.' ongoing class war.

- Tom Parkin examines how Justin Trudeau is falling far short of his promises of reconciliation with First Nations. And Jason Warick highlights the racist assumptions behind much of the institutional response to Colten Boushie's shooting, while John Baglow exposes the virtual lynch mob that has formed to try to justify the killing. 

- Finally, Ian Millhiser examines how fines and fees imposed by the criminal justice system can trap an already-poor family in a further cycle of debt. And Michael Powell writes about the Rio Olympics as a painful example of billions being spent on an elite vanity project while people living in poverty are forced to do without necessities.

Racism in NWT health system claims a life

Dawg's Blawg - Mon, 08/15/2016 - 07:20
One might have thought that Canadian health administrations would have learned something from the horrific death by neglect of Brian Sinclair in 2008. He had a treatable bladder infection, but was left for 34 hours to die in a Winnipeg... Dr.Dawg

Guest Commentary On Trump's Supporters

Politics and its Discontents - Mon, 08/15/2016 - 06:17

Receiving and responding to the comments of thoughtful and well-informed people is one of the reasons I maintain this blog. Yesterday I put up a post entitled, How Stupid Are Trump Supporters? It featured a Hulu show in which a convener pretends to be conducting a focus group study into the effectiveness of ads Trump is considering for his campaign. In light of comments from The Mound of Sound and Pamela MacNeil, I realize that mine was a superficial effort at best. I am therefore taking the liberty of reposting their insights, and my responses to them, here.

First, The Mound of Sound:
I think, Lorne, that a large segment of any people fed a constant diet of half-truths and outright falsehoods will eventually succumb.

I regularly write how the corporate media cartel has gone from watchdog of government to government's lap dog, especially when the government is right wing. Here's an example. When Dion and Layton were toying with the idea of a coalition majority government to displace a Harper minority, Canada's corporate media cartel spread the idea that this would be a constitutional coup d'etat, fiendish, the end of democracy. It was an outright lie. In fact that was how Harper's then BFF, John Howard, formed his government. As this utter lie circulated I was surprised at how many people I spoke with believed it.

Years ago 60 Minutes ran a segment about the Republican misinformation machine. Two key Repugs behind it openly described the system used to gain public acceptance of complete falsehood. It progressed through three stages.

The first stage was the open mouth radio shows - Limbaugh and others. They would float a rumour such as the stories about John Kerry's service in VietNam. From there it would be picked up by cable news - FOX in particular, first on their opinion shows (Hannity/O'Reilly) before migrating to the news department. Eventually it worked its way through the cable news milieu.

What began with the Limbaugh-bottom dwellers achieved a critical mass as it became established in cable news. From there it reached a point where the mainstream media - NYT,WaPo - could no longer ignore it and had to run the story or appear out of it. This was the formula used for the effective SwiftBoating of John Kerry.

The public, meanwhile, kept hearing the same lie over and over through progressively credible news services until they were getting it from the gold standard news outlets at the very top. Naturally many of them were conditioned to believe it.

The whole process is an insult to democracy, one that can quickly fester into something far worse.

Lies and half-truths are powerful weapons the unscrupulous wield invariably against their own. They use it to set the hook with those somewhat disposed to support them. Invariably they bait their hooks with generous amounts of fear and appeals to their prey's basest instincts. Harper did it. It works. We had a decade to see that in action.My response:
Thanks for your in-depth analysis here, Mound. The failure of the media is manifest. In Dan Rather's memoir, he recounts something very similar happening around the time that he incurred right-wing wrath over calling out George Bush's military record. There was irrefutable proof that Bush was AWOL for a year, but the fledgling Internet quoted an early blogger (who was, in fact, a Republican operative) focusing on a particular document that must have been false because, he alleged, proportional spacing did not exist on the typewriters of that time. Proportional spacing did, in fact, exist, but once this blogger's words were in the air, it became a 'fact' that the document was false. The proof? The blogger's allegation and nothing more. It took off from there, ultimately resulting in Rather's dismissal from CBS.Now, Pamela MacNeil:
No presidential candidate in any past campaign has ever intentionally focused on these people. Whether it was democrats or Republicans these people were not even a thought in the minds of either candidates.Trump has given them life and continues to manipulate them under the disguise of fighting for them.

Trump has made them believe, many for the first time in their lives ,that what they think and what they have to say matters.
They are not aware that now that they are visible, we are witnessing how pathetic they really are.Stupid yes, but pathetically so.

I almost feel sorry for them when I see them responding to the attention they get from Trump and his team. Something they have lived their whole lives without.

These guys have been ignored and dismissed politically, socially and culturally their whole lives. Now their being asked what they think. Living at the bottom of the intellectual ladder, this a moment where they think they can shine in an all too dreary life.

Listening and watching them is cringe worthy. Now they have been able collectively as Trump supporters to come together as a force. They are also an example of Mounds posting the other day on authoritarianism existing with the people not just their politicians, even when they are the mindless and the powerless.

I wonder what their numbers are.My response:
Thanks for your thoughtful response, Pamela. I think you have identified a very important reason for Trump's support. While I have reacted largely with contempt to his acolytes, seeing them simply as responding to the racism he regularly appeals to, you have looked for a deeper underlying motivation.Recommend this Post

He'd Never Blame Himself

Northern Reflections - Mon, 08/15/2016 - 05:03

Last week, Donald Trump blamed the "disgusting and corrupt media" for not covering him "honestly" and for putting "false meaning into the words I say." Philip Bump, of the Washington Post, writes:

Donald Trump has the same ability as any other candidate to say precisely what he wants to any voter in any state: By advertising. He can buy ads in swing states and run 30- or 60-second spots making whatever case he wants in any language he chooses. He can send mail, he can knock on doors. He can, in other words, run a campaign. But he’s not.

He isn’t running any ads, spending zero dollars on television (and getting outspent by the Green Party and Libertarian candidates). He isn’t contacting voters on doors or on phones, and has hardly any field offices. He isn’t sending mail. He’s tweeting and he’s holding rallies, and not much else.
And he’s holding rallies in places like Connecticut, where he was on Saturday. He told the crowd there that he was going to make a “big play” for the state, which one has to assume isn’t true. Trump won’t win Connecticut, a heavily Democratic state. There’s no point in his wasting campaign resources on the state (in the event he starts expending resources anywhere) since it only holds a couple of electoral votes anyway. It’s simply baffling that he would hold a public event there at all, even if he’s not serious about carrying the state.
Trump trumpets his management expertise. But, given his many failed ventures and serial bankruptcies -- and now his floundering campaign -- it appears that he couldn't manage a two car funeral. 
As a manager, he believes his prime function is to assign blame. Of course, he'd never blame himself.

How Justin Trudeau Is Winning the Battle For The Future

Montreal Simon - Mon, 08/15/2016 - 01:44

Well there he was yesterday, marching in Montreal's gay pride parade, just like he did in Toronto and Vancouver.

And no doubt winning tens of thousands of new supporters.

But what's just as significant is the way Trudeau is going after the votes of young Canadians.

Read more »

The lynching of Colten Boushie

Dawg's Blawg - Sun, 08/14/2016 - 20:19
I’m going to stretch a point here in my use of the word “lynching,” which refers to an extrajudicial killing by a mob. Only one person actually shot 22-year-old Colten Boushie. But we know that even in the deep South,... Dr.Dawg

Aviation Photo of the Day

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 08/14/2016 - 19:26
What's going through his mind?

Donald Trump and the Monstrous War on Children

Montreal Simon - Sun, 08/14/2016 - 19:03

With every day that passes Donald Trump looks more like a loser, and less like the next American president.

As he now spends most of his time blaming the media for his sagging polls. 

As only a loser could.

But tragically even when he does go down in flames, his monstrous legacy will almost certainly live on.

Read more »

ACTION: Stop the cuts to supports for people living with disabilities

The Regina Mom - Sun, 08/14/2016 - 15:29
The Preamble:

thereginamom is more than a little angry about the Wall government’s attack on people with disabilities by cutting the Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability program.  So, she wrote and sent a letter at the request of a friend.  You, dear Reader, are free to write your own or to copy-paste this one or parts of it into a message and send it.  Just please do something.

The Letter:

Mr. Premier, MLAs, and Editors:

I write because my friend, B., an elder in our community and the mother of an adult daughter who has lived her entire life with a disability, asked me to do so.  I worked alongside her daughter at a community agency a number of years ago.  That B. is concerned about the cuts to financial support for people with disabilities in the province, especially the Saskatchewan Assured Income Disability (SAID) program, does not surprise me.  She loves her daughter.  Many Saskatchewan residents rely on SAID in addition to what work, if any, they can find.  People with disabilities, as well as people without, have every right to expect to live and thrive as functioning members of our communities and we pay our taxes so that our governments see to that.

This impacts our friends and neighbours, family members and coworkers who already live every single day of their lives at a significant disadvantage.  They will most definitely suffer, in very real ways, as a result.  It’s a dangerous decision for the Province, one that’s on a slippery slope lending credence to the theory that this administration honestly does not care what happens to people with disabilities.

I can’t help but wonder if this government would rather see people with disabilities medicated and locked away in mental hospitals and prisons than see them live and work in their communities.  That would, I suppose, help this administration’s friends in the pharmaceutical and prison industries, wouldn’t it?  So, we really shouldn’t be surprised by this attack on vulnerable people, should we?

Yes, I can get cynical.  However, my elderly friend also suggested that we challenge our MLAs to cut their collective salaries enough to fill the gap.  Though I don’t believe it’s the correct solution, it is, in fact, a solution.  And so, until this administration comes up with a better solution, I join her call.

Will you support a motion to reduce the salaries of all Members in the Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly so that those who live with disabilities in Saskatchewan and rely on the SAID program need not see theirs reduced?


Bernadette Wagner
Author, Editor, Community Organizer

The Request:

We challenge all elected members of the Legislature to vote to cut their own salaries in order to sufficiently fund the level of maintenance promised to persons with disabilities.

Premier Brad Wall:
Donna Harpauer:
Carla Beck:
Kevin Doherty:
Mark Docherty:
Muhammad Fiaz:
Gene Makowsky:
Warren McCall:
Tina Beaudry-Mellor:
Laura Ross:
Nicole Sarauer:
Warren Steinley:
Christine Tell:
Trent Wotherspoon:

To learn more about cuts to the SAID program, google “Sask party cuts to SAID program.”

The Addendum

To find more addresses for MLAs, go here.  Please act now.

How Stupid Are Trump Supporters?

Politics and its Discontents - Sun, 08/14/2016 - 11:37
If you watch this, the answer should become abundantly clear in about three minutes:

Recommend this Post

Dear Liz and Andy

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 08/14/2016 - 11:27

As leaders of the federal and BC Green Parties respectively you've both slammed the BDS movement that has been repeatedly supported by the Green Party membership.

You both complain that BDS is a movement of extremists. Yes, nothing says "extremist" like the United Church of Canada and the Quakers. You can never tell what those terrorist motherfuckers will get up to next.

But wait, there's more. If you don't find the United Church and the Quakers to your taste, how about Lutherans?

In the U.S., the leading Lutheran outfit, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, has passed two resolutions, by a margin of 82% at that, calling for the American government to cut off all funding to Israel and to recognize the state of Palestine. Here are the resolutions:

[8.] To urge this church’s members, congregations, synods, agencies and presiding bishop to call on their U.S. Representatives, Senators and the Administration to take action requiring that, to continue receiving U.S. financial and military aid, Israel must comply with internationally recognized human rights standards as specified in existing U.S. law, stop settlement building and the expansion of existing settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, end its occupation of Palestinian territory, and enable an independent Palestinian state; and

[9.] To encourage this church’s members, congregations, synods, and agencies to call on the U.S. President to recognize the State of Palestine and not prevent the application of the State of Palestine for full membership in the United Nations.

You see, Liz and Andy, this is not just about minding our own business any longer. Israel has descended into right wing extremism. You say you don't want to point fingers but not pointing fingers at the apartheid state, not pointing fingers after all these decades of oppression, looking the other way - well that's nothing short of complicity. You can be as morally vacuous as you like. Just don't expect the Green Party membership to diminish themselves as you would yourselves.
And just to put a fine point on your hypocrisy. If this was South Africa 25-years ago neither of you would hesitate to condemn that country's apartheid state. For reasons you carefully keep to yourselves, you choose to give Israel a pass.

Candidate for the President of the United States

LeDaro - Sun, 08/14/2016 - 10:58
Campaign slogan - Make America Great Again.


accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 08/14/2016 - 10:19
Shorter Tim Naumetz on the NDP's consistent stance opposing Bill C-51, a position supported by 17% of respondents in a recent poll (with plenty more undecided):
Boy, it's weird that a political party would take stand on a policy issue despite the public being less than fully on board at the moment. Shorter Tim Naumetz on the Cons' position refusing to countenance any criticism of or change to Bill C-51, a view supported by 19% of the public in the exact same poll:

Sunday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 08/14/2016 - 10:08
This and that for your Sunday reading.

- James Stewart examines how Donald Trump could be paying zero taxes using shelters designed specifically to enrich real estate developers while serving no social purpose. And Alexandra Thornton and Brendan Duke point out the "pass-through" loophole being exploited more and more by U.S. corporations.

- Daniel Tencer reports that the Libs' plan to make it easier for employers to exploit foreign workers comes at a time when any labour shortage is coming to an end. Scott Vrooman discusses how the media is being distracted by Justin Trudeau's PR stunts when it should be calling attention to issues like the Libs' willingness to arm human rights abusers.

- Jhumka Gupta and Reginald Tucker-Seeley discuss the connection between prejudice and social health. And Paul Wells points out that the Libs' interest in social policy seems to be limited to its ability to attract and benefit big money from abroad.

- Rob Ferguson examines how the Ontario Libs' election financing legislation is set up to benefit nobody but themselves. And it still amazes me that a review process started as a response to a government pay-for-access scandal is clamping down on other parties' activities while doing nothing about that issue.

- Finally, Katharine Hayhoe lists just a few of the ways in which climate change stands to affect our health.

fight for 15 and fairness: brampton forum for decent work

we move to canada - Sun, 08/14/2016 - 09:00
After our members returned to work, but while I was still on staycation, I attended a community event organized by labour activists in Peel Region. It was a beautifully planned event, with music and food and lots of opportunities for participation.

In Ontario, the Fight for $15 & Fairness
is focused on the Ontario Ministry of Labour's
Changing Workplaces Review.Each of the three keynote speakers was brilliant and revelatory. First, Gurjeet Sran, an economist from York University, blasted through the myth that raising the minimum wage hurts the economy. (In fact, raising the minimum wage actually helps the economy.) Sran also spoke about the pressing need to raise the corporate tax rate. Even though most people in the room were familiar with these arguments, it's always good to brush up on facts and strengthen your knowledge.

Next, Monica Avero spoke about the fight for justice for workers at Toronto Pearson Airport. Avero is a Unifor member and belongs to the Toronto Airport Workers’ Council, an alliance of unionized and non-union airport workers. The conditions at Pearson -- Canada's largest workplace -- are nothing short of shocking. Minimum wage pay, constant on-call hours, inhumane shift scheduling, and no guarantee of hours are the norm. Wage theft abounds. Workers frequently sleep in the airport for a few hours in between shifts, not leaving the airport for days at a time in order to get more shifts.

If a worker can stick it out long enough to earn more than $13/hour, their contract is terminated. The work is either offered to someone else, or the same person can apply for the job at an even lower wage. Last year, hundreds of workers in the airport's refuelling, wheelchair assistance, and de-icing services were laid off and forced to reapply for jobs at much lower pay rates. At least 200 of these workers were never rehired. The previous year, parking attendants were targeted. Avero herself has been working at Pearson for 18 years; she still earns minimum wage. Welcome to the world of deregulation and privatization.

If the conditions at Pearson are shocking, the conditions for temp workers around Ontario are off the charts. Navi Aujla, a graduate student, followed in Barbara Ehrenreich's footsteps, working for temp agencies in the Toronto area. The agencies employ mainly new immigrants from racialized communities, and mostly women. As a rule, they pay less than minimum wage, expect round-the-clock availability, and are in constant violation of almost every clause in the Employment Standards Act. Many major companies use agency workers for the majority of their workforce. The agencies are completely unregulated, and what regulations there are, are not enforced.

After the main spearkers, a member of the audience took the mic to talk about his situation. A Somali man, he was a successful lawyer in his home country. In Canada, his degree was not recognized (an extremely common situation), so he went back to school and became a qualified accountant. He sent his resume to 500 accounting firms and did not receive as much as a phone call. Why would that be? His name is Abdul, and this was in early 2002.

The man took many different jobs, earning whatever wage he could. After many years, he finally worked for a company paying $14-$18/hour. . . until everyone was fired and rehired at $11.25/hour. That's when he joined the Workers Action Centre and became active in working for change.

With the event just days after CUPE 1989's ratification vote, the organizers asked me to speak as well. It was exciting to report on a win, and to talk about how our strike energized and activated our members.

But the best part of the event, for me, was that two random 1989 members attended, on their own -- and one even spoke a bit, during the open mic portion. I don't know if either of these members had ever attended a union meeting before, and here they were at a community organizing event in Brampton. That might be the biggest win of all.

Food Security: A Comforting Delusion

Politics and its Discontents - Sun, 08/14/2016 - 06:33
Here in the eastern part of Canada, especially at this time of year, we delight in seasonal produce, especially that which can be purchased locally. Living close to the Niagara area, we enjoy such seasonal treats as cherries, strawberries, cantaloupe and corn. And despite some years of scarcity due to bad weather, we tend, I think, to take our largesse for granted. In some ways, it is as if we believe that our food grows in supermarkets.

This is not, however, a time for smugness. The fact that we Canadians take the security of our food supply as a given does not make it so. Climate change and the terrible volatility and variability that it entails should make us all the more humble and determined to do what we can to abate the worst, but there is no sign of this happening.

Watch the following and see if it doesn't shake your confidence. Start at the 7:55 mark:

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