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Thursday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 09/15/2016 - 07:15
This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Graham Lowe and Frank Graves examine the state of Canada's labour market, and find a strong desire among workers for an activist government to ensure improved pay equality and social supports. Oxfam reaches similar conclusions in studying workers and employers in Scotland. And Emma Teitel reports on Niki Ashton's work in reaching out to Canadian millenials to ensure their needs and expectations are taking into account.

- Meanwhile, Suzanne McGee writes that while the U.S.' national economic picture is improving slightly, any rising tide has left behind an increasing number of people living in poverty. And David MacDonald notes that we shouldn't overstate any progress from the new Canada Child Benefit - which seems to have been designed primarily to generate lower estimates of child poverty to based on unclear assumptions.

- Carimah Townes discusses how mass incarceration imposes unconscionable costs on the U.S.' economy in general, and vulnerable classes of citizens in particular.

- Jerry Dias points out that the federal government's internal report on the Trans-Pacific Partnership conspicuously omits well-documented costs from any cost-benefit analysis.

- Finally, Dennis Howlett comments on Google's elaborate web of tax avoidance schemes - and the need for Canada (like other countries) to ensure that it pays its fair share. And Ed Pilkington examines Scott Walker's fight against a recall election as a stark example as to how corporate money controls American politics.

Had a weird dream last night…

Trashy's World - Thu, 09/15/2016 - 06:34
I haven’t posted for a while, but I had this weird dream last night that involved: being attacked by a black bear and my gut was ripped open by it in a gravel pit me killing the bear with my bare hands both the bear and yours truly turning into zombies but I was a good […]

Do You Know You May Be Under Surveillance?

Politics and its Discontents - Thu, 09/15/2016 - 06:05

Last month I wrote a post on the increasing appetite of police departments to use mass surveillance techniques that make their job easier but represent yet another threat to the privacy rights of citizens. That post revolved primarily around a device called a Stingray, which indiscriminately surveils any cellphone within its multi-kilometre range, and it appears that authorities' appetite for snooping is growing insatiable.

A report, commissioned by the Telecom Transparency Project and the Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic and released to The Globe and Mail, explores the use of what are known as ISMI catchers.
An “IMSI,” which stands for “international mobile subscriber identity,” is a unique serial number now affixed to every smartphone’s chip set. It is one of several digital identifiers that police build modern investigations around if they can tie a specific number to a specific suspect.A major problem is that our government does not seem eager to make such technology part of a consultation with Canadians on security issues. Last week, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale announced
he is soliciting the public’s views on the powers of police and spy agencies.

Mr. Goodale’s department posted a backgrounder stating that police are frustrated by criminals’ anonymous use of computers and phones. Unfortunately that background, which provides context for the consultation, makes no mention of exploring the use of IMSI devices.
[M]ention of the technological equalizers that allow police to bypass corporate gatekeepers have been left out of the government’s consultation exercise. For some pro-privacy advocates, this is the conversation Canadians should be having.“IMSI catchers pose a particularly insidious threat to real-world anonymity,” write Mr. Parsons and Mr. Israel, who are part of digital-research labs at the Universities of Toronto and Ottawa respectively. Their paper, which is titled “Gone Opaque,” points out that corporations that manufacture IMSI catchers often swear police to non-disclosure agreements.

They suggest the scope of IMSI catchers is currently limited only by the imaginations of government agents who use them. “They can be deployed to geolocate and identify individuals in private homes, to see who visits a medical clinic or a religious meeting, or to identify travelling companions,” the research paper says. “They can be deployed permanently at border crossings, airports or bus depots, or distributed at various points of a city so that movement becomes effectively impossible without a record of it being created.”Like one of the commentators on this article, many will blithely suggest that if we have nothing to hide, why worry?
Can anyone provide the name of a law-abiding person, or non-terrorist sympathising individual in Canada who has been harmed by the use of IMSI devices?

If we are to be kept safe from both domestic and international terrorists and cyber-criminals, the government needs adequate tools.Such a stance betrays a naivete that I find intellectually insulting, so narrowly focused as it is on a particular tree that it fails to see the forest.

Unless we are willing to give carte blanche to our government and the security forces that up to now were supposed to operate within confined and constitutional limits, unless we are willing to give absolute trust to those that have so much power over us, I suggest that all of us should be very, very concerned about our rights and freedoms which, as other countries will readily attest, are never truly secure unless citizens are very, very vigilant and engaged.

As one commentator on the article said,
You realize, right, that the aim of "terror" is to attack free societies to make them give up their freedoms. Democracy is not for sissies.
Recommend this Post

Confronting It Head On

Northern Reflections - Thu, 09/15/2016 - 05:29

Kellie Leitch has caused a great deal of controversy with her suggestion that we screen prospective immigrants for "Canadian values." Actually, she's touching a nerve which predates Confederation. Desmond Cole writes:

Many have criticized Leitch’s proposal by saying it is impractical, since no one person or group can define or determine Canadian values. That’s a nice idea, but in practice we know the values our politicians attempt to sell us are a reflection of our colonial, white, British, monarchical heritage. There are such things as Canadian values, and they explain how our politicians have been peddling a fear of foreigners for the last 150 years.
Suspicion of all immigrants who are not white, or are not members of the former British Empire, is a Canadian value. Canada’s founding prime minister, John A. Macdonald, argued that Chinese immigrants to Canada were unfit to vote because they exhibited “no British instincts or British feelings or aspirations.” Macdonald didn’t need to cloak the authority of the state in the language of wanting a “conversation” about immigrants, as Leitch does today. In his time, there was no conversation to be had.
That's an inconvenient truth which we would much rather forget:
Of course, all of this is only possible because of another fundamental Canadian value: erasure. Our modern mythology suggests that indigenous people were never here, or that if they were, their values and customs gave way to a superior British way of life. Our history books and our educational resources for prospective new Canadians have little to say about the values and traditions of indigenous people. British colonialism made outsiders of people who had been here for thousands of years, and cast their values aside.
That’s how a white man in a red coat who carries a weapon and patrols stolen land has come to symbolize the enforcement of Canadian values. We are taught to honour the force Mounties used to Anglicize this land, to view the guy in red as a symbol of honour and patriotism, no matter what despicable crimes he carries out. The values of dominance and separation enforced by the modern RCMP, and the Canadian Border Services Agency, are not universal or self-evident — they are steeped in centuries of racism, colonialism, and white supremacy.
Leitch is not allowing us to forget our past. The question is, "Do we have the courage to confront it head on?

Kellie Leitch and the Trumperisation of the Cons

Montreal Simon - Thu, 09/15/2016 - 04:17

I know it's hard to believe, but Kellie Leitch is still insisting she's not trying to be Canada's Donald Trump.

Even though she's not fooling anyone. 

“While the elites and most media harshly criticized even the mention of the discussion, you knew better,” wrote Leitch in the fundraising note. “Together we will stand up to those who don’t want to discuss Canadian values and whose politically correct elitism remains tone deaf to the views of most Canadians.”

For that one could have flown like a bat out of the cavernous orifice of the Angry Orange himself.

And to make matters worse this Trumperisation is spreading.
Read more »

Brace Yourself. It Has Come to This

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 09/14/2016 - 11:02
When journalism yields to pandering. The Washington Post. Same story, same day. Different take according to which party controls which state.

Have I ever mentioned my concerns about today's corporate media and the steady reduction of genuine democracy?

There's a Sickness In Our Parliament. If We Don't Cure It, We're Screwed.

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 09/14/2016 - 10:48

What we're facing is a contagion that has swept into the political apparatus of several Western nations with disastrous consequences. It's the disease of hyper-partisanship. In its advanced stage you may wind up with something as calamitous as the United States Congress. We're not there yet but we're on our way.

A healthy partisanship is essential to democracy. Team A presents ideas. Team B presents other ideas. We get to select A or B to govern.

Partisanship, however, can turn malignant. If it's not held in check it can dominate political institutions to the point it actually shuts them down, defeats them, prevents them from working. We've seen this in the States and it is scary. Hyper-partisanship is expressed in fear mongering, appeals to base instincts and wedge politics. For its own advancement it wilfully destroys social cohesion.

Unchecked partisanship becomes much scarier, perhaps even lethally so, when it comes to major issues of the day such as climate change or inequality, among others. On climate change, for example, we are today writing the fate of our grandchildren and our writing is indelible. Extreme partisanship ensures the worst outcomes.

A recent article in The Guardian illustrated the real Gordian Knot of climate change. The author, UK environmentalist, Andrew Simms, argues that Britain's only hope for dealing with climate change depends on a switch to progressive, pluralist politics.

Today, in our hyper-politicized world, climate change has been hijacked by the political process. It is - and should be - a scientific issue yet, because it invokes the need for urgent political intervention, it has been turned into a partisan point of contention, thus ensuring that little if anything effective can be accomplished as the clock runs down.

Progressivism, likewise, has been turned into a blood sacrifice to our skewed political apparatus. It's been denigrated as the lunacy of the Left, the slippery slope to socialism. Yet the foundations for progressivism are to be found in the writings of the father of conservatism, Edmund Burke. Adam Smith's 1776 classic, "The Wealth of Nations," while selectively quoted by the Right, actually contains a number of progressive cautions. Teddy Roosevelt's "Square Deal" speech embodies a virtual roadmap of progressive principles. Burke, Smith, Lincoln, Roosevelt all reveal that progressivism is not a partisan issue. All parties can and should embrace it. That is the key to the pluralism Simms champions.

Ultimately, any meaningful - that is to say, effective - action on climate change depends as much on matters of principle such as equality, justice and fairness as it does on slashing greenhouse gas emissions. And we need to recognize that we have zero chance of that happening so long as our political caste enslaves climate change to partisan purposes instead of treating it as a scientific challenge that has risen to the level of an existential threat.

Today's hyper-partisanship has to be seen for what it is. It's not for the benefit of the nation. It's not for the benefit of the Canadian public. It's intended for one thing only, to improve the electoral prospects of our political parties in the next election. It is them, the political caste, placing their own partisan interests ahead of, even to the detriment of, the nation and the people. In some contexts it's a shameful but relatively harmless exercise. However, when it comes to an existential threat such as that posed by climate change, this obstructive hyper-partisanship takes on a truly sinister dimension.

How do we free ourselves of this anchor of partisanship before it drags us to the bottom? I haven't got a clue and yet I would gladly see the whole political apparatus scrapped if only so that we could start over again.

My Way or The Highway, Lizzie May. This Sounds Like a Purge.

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 09/14/2016 - 10:14

Green Party leader, Elizabeth May, sacked three of her top aides yesterday. Their sin? They stood with the solid majority of Green Party members on the Boycott/Divest/Sanction movement to protest Israel's half-century of occupation and theft of Palestinian land.

Let's call it what it is - a purge. It erases any notion that the Green Party is anything more than Lizzie's personal fiefdom.

Andrew Weaver, head of the BC Green Party and Ms. May's fellow traveller, is floating the idea of the party changing its name to distance itself from the "extremist fringe elements" he accuses of having hijacked the GPC.

Small Mercy: There Could Be More Fake Clinics in Canada

Dammit Janet - Wed, 09/14/2016 - 09:25
According to Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC), there are about 180 fake clinics, aka crisis pregnancy centres, in Canada.

DJ! is committed to exposing them as liars, manipulators, and cheats.

They exist solely to dissuade Canadians from excercising their constitutional right to bodily autonomy. They are discriminatory and seek to limit and stigmatize our legal right to abortion.

We will do everything we can to deny them public money and to force them to adhere to regulations on truth and confidentiality.

A sample of recent posts:

Yet again, we have proof that they lie about their services and about the risks of abortion.

We found evidence that they breach "client" confidentiality.

We've uncovered the fact that they apply for and receive public money from provincial gaming foundations in at least three provinces: Alberta, BC, and previously did in Ontario as well (snerk).

Most recently, we've been delving into government grants and found that several fake clinics get federal funding to train apprentice liars under the Canada Summer Jobs program.

Well, I suppose we should be grateful that we have only 180 of these outfits in Canada. There are more than 4,000 of them in the US. And yesterday, it was reported that in Texas a fake clinic will be getting state funds intended for women's health programs!!!!
The anti-abortion nonprofit set to receive a $1.6 million grant through the state’s new women’s health program plans to dole out funds to an anti-abortion pregnancy counseling center that currently offers no medical services.
As Canada is about one-tenth the size of the US, using the usual math, we should have one-tenth the number of fake clinics, or about 400 of them.

I was curious about the ratio of fake clinics to population and so had another look at ARCC's PDF of its recent study of their websites.

By province, here's where they are:
Alberta 20
British Columbia 27
Manitoba 6
New Brunswick 10
Newfoundland 1
Nova Scotia 4
Ontario 85
Quebec 17
Saskatchewan 6

What jumps out is that little New Brunswick, with a 2011 census population of just over 750,000 people, has TEN.

Guess what? If all of Canada had that ratio of lying liars to population, we'd have 446 fake clinics.

So, while there have been recent victories in New Brunswick, there's obviusly a lot more to do there.

And, as we work to make sure that Canada NEVER goes down the path of significant public funding for fake clinics, we can be quietly, Canadianly glad that we don't have nearly the number of nutters the US does.

"A Confused Follower Nation" - Trudeau Gets It

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 09/14/2016 - 08:18

Unfortunately it's Pierre Trudeau's other surviving son, Alexandre, not the one who springboarded off the family name to become prime minister.

"In recent times Canada has disappeared as an independent voice, as a country that makes its own decisions about things," Alexandre told host Rosemary Barton. "When's the last time you think: 'Well, Canada really has a position that is unlike any other?' We've kind of fallen into a confused follower nation."
Alexandre also got it right when he described his brother as Canada's "salesman in chief."

Wednesday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Wed, 09/14/2016 - 07:51
Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- George Monbiot observes that while few people would want to drive animals to extinction directly, we're all too often eager to settle for a consumerist culture which produces exactly that result.

- Carol Linnitt reports on the Trudeau Libs' appointment of an oil industry cheerleader to review the federal environmental review process as yet another indication that they're not taking the fate of our planet seriously. And xkcd offers a must-see timeline of climate change to point out how radically the Earth's temperature is changing.

- Anahad O'Connor exposes how the sugar industry torqued health and nutrition research to avoid a known link to heart disease.

- Roswynne Jones notes that the gig economy is serving mostly to apply new labels to longstanding means of exploiting workers. And Alia Dharssi reports that restrictions on workers relying on the temporary foreign worker program seem positively designed to set up an underground economy where they have no means to stand up for themselves.

- Corey Hogan makes a strong case for a $15 per hour national minimum wage, while also offering some suggestions as to how to overcome jurisdictional questions to get there.

- Finally, Jerry Buckland writes that we shouldn't tolerate payday lending which traps people in a cycle of poverty.

Back to the Future?

Fat and Not Afraid - Wed, 09/14/2016 - 05:54

The poplar across the street has leaves as bright yellow as miniature suns; they remind me of the fabled trees of Lothlorien. I noticed a few peeking out a couple of weeks ago and may have cringed a bit. Ryan laughed and said "Why are you always surprised to see the leaves changing at the end of August? Every year you're caught off guard." In part it's because while I'm always actively on the search for signs of Spring in February, I'm denying the change to Fall in late August/September. Ryan loves fall; the cooler days and crisp nights, the gorgeous fall colours on the trees in our area (Northern Ontario puts on quite a display!) and back to school for the kids.

This is Kat's first year of school while Gabe is a pro headed into grade 5. The bus picks them up at the end of the driveway and drops them off the same; the girl next door is babysitting for us on days we're not home soon enough (which is most of them) so we don't have to futz around with the after-school program or anything. Both kids had excellent first days, though they were nervous about making friends and finding their way around. Katherine is 'sweet and adorable' according to the agenda I get, and Gabe's teacher told Nana that he's quite stubborn but bright. They're both off to a great start and I couldn't be happier.

This is a big change for me as last year there was a lot of taking the kids across town on city buses; my mornings are my own again and it's amazing. I have time to tidy and read or write, get my head in order before going to work. If this is what the rest of the year is going to be like, I'm 100% ok with this. Before I was a parent I had no idea how much work parenting was, how organized you have to be, how on top of everything. I struggle every day to feel like I've done My Best and done Enough to make sure the kids are ready to face the next day, nevermind the rest of their lives. Already, after only a few days, having the mornings back has helped me center and focus on what's important; being prepared and having a routine we can trust. This is next level Adulting for sure.

Words To The Wise

Northern Reflections - Wed, 09/14/2016 - 05:23

The Conservative Party, Lawrence Martin writes, is at a crossroads. But they seem to be tempted to offer more of the same:

Although they lost the last election, there are few indications our Conservatives are bent on major change. The leadership candidates who appear to have the upper hand are vigorous right-siders. Anyone thinking Tony Clement lacked hardline credentials need only look at his security platform laid out this week. Throw people considered to be potential terrorist threats behind bars without trial, he said, if they cannot be monitored 24/7.
The problem is that what they offer only appeals to their base -- which admittedly is unshakable. And party moderates don't seem to have strong voices:

Peter MacKay, who wasn’t really moderate to begin with, has backed away. Michael Chong has talent and integrity but is too mild-mannered to mount a strong charge. Deepak Obhrai is well-meaning but won’t get to first base in the balloting.The wets might consider Cape Breton, N.S., native Lisa Raitt one of their own. Now that Mr. MacKay is out, Ms. Raitt, who performed capably in cabinet, will enter the race. As a Maritimer she’s a more compassionate conservative and may be the best hope for change.
Certainly they need a change in tone. But they need more than that. Martin warns:

If they stay on the wide right flank, if they don’t make a concerted effort to broaden their appeal, they’re taking a big risk. With the New Democratic Party shipwrecked, the Liberals can draw on major support from the left. Leave them the centre as well and it’s game over.
Words to the wise.


Donald Trump and the Burning of America

Montreal Simon - Wed, 09/14/2016 - 01:34

I've been warning for a long time that the monstrous demagogue Donald Trump could end up setting his own country on fire.

Whether he wins or when he loses.

And sure enough while Trump complains about Hillary Clinton calling some of his supporters a "basket of deplorables."

Here's what the governor of Kentucky, a Trump supporter and rabid anti-gay bigot, had to say about what might happen if those deplorables are defeated:
Read more »

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

accidentaldeliberations - Tue, 09/13/2016 - 17:25
Flattened cats.


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