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[Random number] things to know about _Words And Pictures_

Dammit Janet - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 13:03
So on $2.50 Tuesday at a local second-run movie theatre, since I was in the vicinity to dispatch some banking business, I decided to go watch something.

_Words And Pictures_ seemed moderately interesting: Australian director Fred Schepisi; Juliette Binoche and Clive Owen in lead roles.

Unfortunately it is set in the USA, yet shot in British Columbia passing for New England.  Thus it gets the Vegas treatment rather than a quieter, gentler interpretation of an intriguing narrative.

Consequently Owen reprises the Hemingway bombast he perfected in an earlier role.  He plays Jack Marcus: a charming, erudite, passionate, verbose and inspiring high school teacher who is also a deceitful, enraged alcoholic.

Binoche is allowed to develop multiple dimensions of her character Dina Delsanto; she is also a painter (in real life!) and it is her work that she produces that is featured in the movie.  It provides the script with some modicum of authenticity.

The students in this expensive, carefully groomed and pruned prep school are of "all sorts" though judiciously selected for their good looks; a vast palette of ethnic ancestries, all Benetton photo op-ready. 

Yet it's ironic how it happens that the de-rigueur bully character - also a creepy nascent sexual sadist - turns out to be NOT the typical privileged WASP but a cocky young man who may be the only student that might be considered "semitic" (though not overtly identified as such) at the snooty private school. 

He attempts to evade responsibility for his sexual harassment and stalking actions by framing a Black classmate for this particular vicious and vile prank.  The denials and protests that he utters, claiming he's done nothing wrong sound EXACTLY like the excuses and justifications proffered by Cody Boast.



Boast is the frat boy of pallour on the right.  He has received four convictions to date for his criminal actions.  He is a serial predator; unless all the women who have been the target of his abuse and rage speak up, nobody knows the exact number of victims upon whom he has inflicted his vindictiveness and spleen.

The psychiatrist claims that if Boast continues with his treatment it would be unlikely that he will re-offend.

I disagree. He supplied an obligatory proof of *remorse* with regard to the harm he inflicted up one ex-girlfriend and her family, at the same time he had started a campaign of intimidation and cyber-bullying against another prey.  He's learned much from these experiences; when his violent behaviour escalates, he will likely select new targets who won't have as much resources to push back as previous trophies did, and he will be much more efficient in disposing of evidence to avoid being caught.

But I digress.  Here's my list (I can hear my co-blogger FH groaning) of things that ruined _Words and Pictures_ for me.

  • Over-the-top dialogue. Less is more. The writer could learn a thing or two by watching films scripted by Noel Coward.
  • Mediocre or atrocious lighting and cinematography. Scenes shot on some sets are fine, but otherwise, ugh. There's one scene in bright sunlight, outside Dina's studio that looks so amateurish for an Australian director of photography that makes me suspect he delegated it to a gaffer.
  • Owen's hammy performance should have been reined in; he's capable of nuanced and powerful characterization. _Croupier_ and many more.
  • Actors cast in secondary character roles are excellent but sadly they are given crummy, cliché lines to spout. 
  • Inconsistencies and implausible details that make you go ... what?  For example: a chi-chi private school that can afford to hire an art instructor whose paintings command stellar prices has only a cramped, ill-equipped studio for honours students?  The spiteful pornographic caricatures produced by the criminally-stalkerish student are briefly flashed upon the screen and appear to be devoid of genitalia.  

There's more, but those are the highlights of points that undermined the movie's credibility and otherwise high-end qualities.

On balance, it's a better-than-average movie, if one is not vulnerable to the situations depicted. I found that parts of it were painful to watch; it could be extremely triggering for women who have experienced intimate relationships with alcoholics and/or men afflicted with entitlement delusions: expecting and wanting their emotional needs and sexual demands to be met.

There's been a flurry of excellent resources that have been suggested, with regard to this phenomenon: "A deeply disturbing portrait of male entitlement", "Nice guys, the friend zone and sexual entitlement" and "Men aren't entitled to women's time or affection" are some good items to read on the topic.

Very near to the point of no return

Dawg's Blawg - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 10:18
Der Spiegel’s online English edition has an interview with former Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin, which is unsurprisingly written from the perspective of one who supports Israel, but nevertheless sees the danger in the current situation and Israeli choices... Mandos http://politblogo.typepad.com/

New column day

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 07:58
Here, looking at the sad similarities between Regina and Detroit, and noting that the crucial step we should take to avoid the latter's humanitarian tragedy is to fund our commitments to workers and residents while we have the means to do so.

For further reading...
- Tom McKay and Wallace Turbeville each discuss how the decision to run Detroit under corporate principles made a bad financial situation far worse.
- Jon Swaine reports on the recent move to shut off water for up to 100,000 residents. Monica Davey writes about the vote to slash already-meager pensions. And Dominic Rushe reports on the city's new arena costs, while Bill Bradley highlights the absurdity of a bankrupt city nonetheless finding a way to shovel free money toward a billionaire sports team owner. 
- Finally, CBC reports on the threatened termination of the City of Regina's pension plan. And the Leader-Post weighs in on the need to actually address the issue - though its contrast between workers and beneficiaries and the "longsuffering taxpayer" (who was apparently supposed to fund a new stadium without having that suffering taken into account) seems to me to signal the wrong desired outcome.

Harper's Reign of Terror - Part Three

Politics and its Discontents - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 07:39


The prospect of being hanged focuses the mind wonderfully.
- Samuel Johnson

While I doubt that many within the Harper regime are literary types or schooled in the humanities, I suspect the above quotation or variants thereof represents the underlying spirit of their relentless attacks on nonprofits that oppose the government's ruthless agenda.

And now there are indications that the noose is tightening, that the focus of those attacks is widening, with the purpose not only of cowing advocacy groups into silence lest they lose their charitable status, but also their supporters.

Today's Star offers this chilling lead:

Canadian charities would have to turn over lists of their donors’ identities to the Canada Revenue Agency under a proposal being floated by the Conservative government.

The cover story being offered by the regime is that it would better equip the CRA to detect charity-receipt fraud, inasmuch as the majority of Canadians now file their tax returns online, where actual receipts are not required. By having a list of donors and the amounts given, the revenue agency could easily ferret out fraud.

On the surface, such a proposal would seem to have merit, simply a measure reflecting sound fiscal management. However, as with almost everything the Harper cabal offers, there is a nefarious side to such a measure, as

... some charities are wary of the administrative burden — and the potential close surveillance of groups that criticize government policies.

Revenue Minister Kerry-Lynne Findlay made the suggestion behind closed doors this spring to charities officials in Ottawa as the government seeks ways to tighten regulation of Canada’s charitable sector.

Findlay asked officials of the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Canadian Cancer Society and others for their input, as well as their reaction to a proposal to standardize the format, size and colour of official income-tax receipts for charitable donations.

The consultation took place before a March 26 media event at which Findlay and Kevin Sorenson, minister of state for finance, boasted about the government’s achievements in reducing red tape for charities.


So how did those who attended the meeting react? Understandably, given the justifiable fear of regime repercussions, few want to comment publicly. One attendee, who requested anonymity, said that it was initially met with “stunned silence”.

“You can imagine why neither of these proposals would reduce red tape for charities — and why, given the current climate, there would be significant concern about the intent,” said the source.

And what might that intent be? In addition to the existing audits being directed against those who offer criticism of its reactionary agenda, the regime would have another cudgel (increased administrative costs) with which to threaten nonprofits, as well as one to wield selectively against their supporters.

Think about it. Is there really a leap in logic to suggest that the long arm of the Harper-directed CRA could now reach punitively into the lives of supporters of targeted nonprofits? Could those in accord with the goals of nonprofits that criticize government policy find themselves, once their donor information was in the hands of officials, suddenly receiving notification of impending tax audits?

Can you imagine how pervasive the chill would become? Can you imagine how crippling the effect would be on targeted nonprofit support?

There was a time when I would have dismissed my above thoughts as the manifestation of an unhinged conspiracy enthusiast. Sadly for our country, that time has long since passed.Recommend this Post

Thursday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 07:04
This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Linda McQuaig criticizes the Cons' use of the tax system to try to silence charities who don't match their political message:
PEN now joins Amnesty International, the David Suzuki Foundation, Canada Without Poverty, the United Church and other groups that, having criticized an array of Harper policies, have been obliged to devote precious resources to defending themselves from a special probe of charities ordered by the Harper government.

This beefing-up of tax audits of charities is particularly striking when compared to Harper’s laid-back approach to auditing the real bad guys: corporations and citizens using offshore tax havens to cheat the government out of billions of dollars in revenue.

Indeed, the allocation of an extra $13 million to carry out audits of charities has taken place even as the government slashes the overall Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) budget by $250 million over three years and lays off hundreds of auditors.
...
Internal CRA documents, obtained under access-to-information by Sen. Percy Downe, reveal that an infusion of $30 million by Ottawa in 2005 to counter “aggressive international tax planning” resulted in the collection of an extra $2.5 billion over four years.

By contrast, putting extra resources into auditing charities will almost certainly produce no additional revenue.
...
(W)hile there aren’t enough auditors to go after many of the wealthy Canadian corporations and individuals hiding money offshore, the government managed to find two auditors to spend three days this week at PEN’s little Toronto office — the beginning of an audit that will go on for many months. The Harperites may be inept at using audits to collect vast sums of revenue hidden by the rich — but they sure know how to beat up on defenceless groups trying to promote the public good.- And Dean Beeby breaks the news that the Cons aren't satisfied going after charitable organizations, and instead want to be able to compile their own list of individual donors as well. But there is some push for disclosure where it's actually needed as a check on undue institutional influence, as MoveOn is calling for corporate spending in U.S. politics to be subject to public scrutiny.

- Bill Curry reports on the C.D. Howe Institute's recommendation that the federal government focus on economic development rather than deficit scolding - with Joe Oliver naturally responding that he has no interest in job creation if it might conflict with his political goals. And Rick Goldman comments on the futility of using austerity policies in the name of fighting deficits when they ultimately cause more harm than good even by that measure.

- Steven Chase discusses the latest application of the Baird Doctrine that bluster matters more than action in foreign policy - as a much-trumpeted aid announcement for the Ukraine four months ago has led to zero actual contribution from Canada.

- Finally, David Atkins connects the U.S.' drift to the right with participation in party primaries - as the Tea Party and other right-wing groups have driven Republican turnout (and thus policy oriented toward its base) while Democrats have been increasingly staying on the sidelines over the past 40 years:
When conservatives don't get what they want, they tend to double down at the ballot box. When progressives don't get what they want, many of us tend to storm away and fantasize about engaging the system outside of electoral politics somehow. This is part of why conservatives have been successful in moving the country to right.

I've brought these points up again and again. Politicians don't care about people who don't vote, and the Tea Party gets coddled because they actually vote in primaries and Democrats tend not to.

But, of course, Democratic politicians also bear a lot of the blame. It's awfully hard to get motivated to vote when you know that not much is going to change regardless of the outcome.

Even so, you can't lay the entire blame for the problem at the feet of centrist corporate Democrats. The trend toward lower turnout started in 1970, hardly the heyday of the DLC. Yes, Democratic politicians need to do a better job of advancing progressive priorities and building base enthusiasm. But progressive voters also need to come out and actually vote, too.

this year's mini garden and a mini pupdate

we move to canada - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 06:00
This year's garden-ette is completely out of control! In a very good way. Here's June.



And here's today.





No idea what I'm going to do with all the zucchini. Neither of us bakes, so zucchini bread and muffins are not an option. Guess I'd better start Googling...


This eggplant is tiny right now, but I suppose soon I'll need those recipes, too.

Random Diego pic.


And because you're never too old to be a puppy, Tala recently fell in love with an empty peanut butter jar. No idea why.





There's Only One Word For It -- Tyranny

Northern Reflections - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 05:42
                                                       http://tenthamendmentcenter.com/

In the wake of the news that the Harper government has directed the CRA to audit PEN Canada, Linda McQuaig asks,"Why is Harper punishing charities while letting tax cheats off the hook?"

This beefing-up of tax audits of charities is particularly striking when compared to Harper’s laid-back approach to auditing the real bad guys: corporations and citizens using offshore tax havens to cheat the government out of billions of dollars in revenue.

Indeed, the allocation of an extra $13 million to carry out audits of charities has taken place even as the government slashes the overall Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) budget by $250 million over three years and lays off hundreds of auditors.

Meanwhile, as worldwide pressure has grown for a clampdown on tax havens, Ottawa announced last year that it was ramping up its efforts to investigate offshore tax evasion. But it only allocated $15 million — over five years — a piddling amount, given the existing departmental cuts and the sheer scope of the offshore problem.
A CRA auditor provides value for money:

In Canada, an experienced international tax auditor typically costs Ottawa about $100,000 a year, but brings in ten times that amount in revenue, according to sources.

Internal CRA documents, obtained under access-to-information by Sen. Percy Downe, reveal that an infusion of $30 million by Ottawa in 2005 to counter “aggressive international tax planning” resulted in the collection of an extra $2.5 billion over four years.

Presumably, that is why the auditors have been sent in to monitor an organization with an annual budget of  $240,000 -- while "the illegal caching of money offshore by Canadian companies and individuals results in an annual revenue loss to Canadian governments (provincial and federal) of about $7.8 billion, according to Dennis Howlett, executive director of the Ottawa-based Canadians for Tax Fairness."

The problem is that PEN had the audacity "to criticize the government for muzzling scientists in the civil service, and for spying on Canadian citizens alongside U.S. intelligence agencies."

There is only one word for it -- tyranny. 


happy blogiversary to wmtc

we move to canada - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 05:30
This month - July 11, 2014 - I have been blogging for 10 years. Ten years!

I clearly remember telling Allan I was considering beginning a blog about emigrating to Canada. He thought it was a great idea.

July 11, 2004. I was working weekends at my (incredibly easy, wildly overpaid) job at Most Evil Corporate Law Firm. Our applications had been submitted, and we were waiting.

August 30, 2015 will be the 10-year anniversary of our move to Canada, but I felt the 10-year anniversary of wmtc was worth a mention. Thanks for being part of what I love* about blogging.


* Or hate, in some cases

Wednesday Evening Links

accidentaldeliberations - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 19:03
Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Vineeth Sekharan debunks the myth that a job represents a reliable path out of poverty, while reminding us that there's one policy choice which could eradicate poverty altogether:
A job alone does not guarantee freedom from poverty. In fact, in 2012, at least one member of the household was employed in a staggering 44% of all poor households. Even in situations where an individual is employed, there may still be the need for income supplements, as well as educational and employment supports.

This is partially because of the monumental changes that have occurred in the Canadian marketplace. The growing trend that continues to emerge is precarious employment: a decline in the number of well-paid jobs, and an increase in both lower-paying jobs and temporary employment. The infographic provides an example of how an individual working part-time, at minimum wage, falls below the poverty line. Temporary employment, by its very nature, often results in incomes that are unpredictable, making households more prone to suffering from fluctuations in income. In households where families and individuals are living paycheque to paycheque, these trends are direct contributors to family poverty.

Income supplements are essential to lifting families above the poverty line. While the idea of implementing guaranteed annual incomes (GAIs) has been around for decades, it has recently resurged as a result of the rising costs associated with dealing with the symptoms of poverty rather than its causes. GAI refers to various proposals that look to implement a guaranteed minimum income for Canadians, related to the concept of a negative income tax. GAIs will provide struggling Canadians with some security from income shock. - Meanwhile, Bryce Covert points out that there's no correlation between lavish CEO pay and business performance.

- The CLC makes the case for more paid vacation time (one of the areas where Saskatchewan can be proud to be ahead of Canada's other jurisdictions) - while pointing out that workers can often win that through collective bargaining even if governments can't be bothered:
If you think you don't get enough vacation, you're right. Canada is in the bottom three of the world’s richest countries for the minimum number of paid vacation days employees are entitled to receive under the law. Every major industrialized country in the world – Sweden, Germany, the United Kingdom, Norway, Denmark just to name a few – all have legislation giving workers at least four weeks paid vacation time. The International Labour Organization (ILO) recommends that the period of paid vacation shouldn't be less than three weeks for one year of service.

For unionized workers, negotiations have helped the majority achieve at least the ILO recommended minimum. The great majority of unionized workers get at least three weeks of paid vacation time, and 70% get four weeks after a longer period of service. One in three unionized workers gets five weeks of paid vacation but that is typically received only after 15 years of service.- Mike de Souza reports on the Cons' attempt to suppress internal documentation showing the Canadian Environmental Network to be a valuable public resource before it was summarily axed by the Harper government - presumably for the crime of doing good work on environmental issues. And PressProgress discusses how the Cons worked to manipulate Canadians into accepting tax baubles they didn't otherwise want.

- Finally, Scott Sinclair highlights the problems with investor-state dispute settlement which takes trade dispute out of fair and transparent court systems, and argues that such mechanisms should be eliminated from trade agreements involving the EU.

Yet Another Desperate and Despicable Ploy: More Harper Narrowcasting

Politics and its Discontents - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 12:51

The politics have a look of desperation about them. As they see their electoral chances diminishing among the wider Canadian public with each new sordid revelation, it looks like the Harper crowd is doubling down with its base, a strategy that I questioned in my earlier post today.

Steven Blaney, who could only be considered a Public Safety Minister in a Canada that has grown decidedly Orwellian, has announced a plan that will erode public safety but perhaps fire up the base. CBC News reports the regime minion has announced the Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act which would make life easier for many Canadian gun owners.

Currently, gun owners in Ontario, Quebec and P.E.I. have to apply to each province's chief firearms officer when they want to transport a restricted or prohibited weapon. Under the new rules, gun owners in all provinces would get permission to transport weapons as a condition of their licence.

But wait! There's more!

The government also plans to allow a grace period for gun owners with expired permits.

And even more ominously, this cryptic observation:

The new rules would also give the federal government more say in decisions previously made by each province's chief firearms officer.

Finally, you may recall this dandy little weapon that the RCMP banned earlier this year:


The national police force changed the Swiss Arm rifle from restricted to prohibited, the main reason being that the guns could be easily converted to be fully automatic. Automatic weapons, which shoot a spray of bullets with one trigger pull, are illegal in Canada.

In March, the government said it was troubled by the decision, and gave gun owners permission to keep the weapons, via a two-year amnesty.

Under the new plan, gun owners would also be allowed to use the weapons, in essence restoring them to their previous status.


Indeed, there is much to chew upon here for a segment of the Canadian population.Recommend this Post

Harper CONs campaigning over dead bodies

The Winnipeg RAG Review - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 08:30
Israeli Defense Force attacks against Gaza - over Hamas rocket fire - are making headlines here in Canada. This is rightly so as it's a tremendously important situation - especially given the one-sided approach the Canadian Government is taking on the international stage.

I seldom talk about foreign policy issues here, but I have to make an exception now.

This Truth Mashup clip details how the Harper CONs have been using this tragedy in the Levant to their advantage. It also provides some background to the tragedy.


That grossly distasteful Conservative "action movie" trailer was released on July 18, 2014 ... as strikes, fighting and death were happening in Gaza. 

Really, what the fuck is the matter with the Harper CONs? Couldn't they at least wait a few weeks for the dead bodies to grow colder before shamelessly politicking over this issue for domestic gain?

There's ordinary, cynical politics and then there's gross, craven nihilism that ought to be out of question for any mainstream politician in Canada. Sadly, it seems that the Harper CONs' PR machine is okay with crossing that line.

King Stephen And The Law Of Diminishing Returns

Politics and its Discontents - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 08:20


Last evening I wrote a brief post on how the Harper regime is exploiting the tragedy in Gaza for political gain.

Anon responded with the following:

It is worse than no shame. It is disgusting. Over 630 people have died, including 30 Israelis and over 600 Palestinians, mostly non combatants and civilians including children. And he uses it as an opportunity to fundraise? And Cons supporters are OK with it? No wonder they are called the Nasty Party by pundits (e,g, Hebert, Coyne).

That comment got me thinking about the much-vaunted Tory base, which, perhaps, is beginning to show some cracks.

I replied to Anon:

I wonder if, in ramping up the rhetoric about its unequivocal support for Israel, the Harper regime has fallen into an almost stereotypical notion of its supporters. Rarely, if ever, are such supporters homogeneous. Perhaps Dear Leader will find, especially with the terrible imagery emerging from Gaza, that he has overplayed his hand and that many of the true blue will simply stay at home in the next election rather than endorse such extremism.

And that base, which has also been witness to a host of broken promises revolving around integrity, accountability, and transparency, now has even more reason to question their loyalty to a leader and party that has betrayed them and the rest of Canada in their monomaniacal obsession with the retention of power at any cost.

Today's National Post reports the following:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper does not intend to testify in the trial of suspended senator Mike Duffy because he doesn’t have any useful information to offer, his office said Tuesday.

Harper's director of communications, Jason Macdonald, offered the following:

“We have responded fully and freely to every request for assistance from the RCMP”.

“The RCMP have noted this and, after a thorough investigation, have made it clear who they believe is guilty of wrongdoing: Mike Duffy. They have also made clear that they do not believe the Prime Minister had any knowledge of Mr. Duffy’s wrongdoing. Given this, it is difficult to imagine that the Prime Minister would have any information that could be relevant to Mr. Duffy’s defence.”


So there we have it - an arrogant Prime Minister now so drunk on his own power and ego that he has declared himself above the law.

I rest my case.Recommend this Post

The Real Battle Has Begun

Northern Reflections - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 06:39
                                                      http://www.fordefables.co.uk/

The Prime Minister's Office announced yesterday that Stephen Harper on the witness stand is an unlikely prospect. The Canadian Press reports:

Stephen Harper's office says it's "difficult to imagine" the prime minister would have any relevant information to share in the trial of Sen. Mike Duffy.

Spokesman Jason MacDonald says in an email that the PMO has responded "fully and freely" to requests for assistance from RCMP investigators.

He adds the Mounties have made it clear they don't believe Harper has any knowledge of Duffy's alleged wrongdoing and that there would be no reason for the prime minister to be involved should Duffy's defence team attempt to have him testify.
So we can expect that Stephen Harper will do everything he can to avoid being questioned in court by Donald Bayne, Duffy's attorney. Bayne would destroy the prime minister's shifting narrative and -- worse still -- the myth  that Stephen Harper is the smartest guy in the room.

 That outcome must be avoided at all costs. And, so, the real battle has begun.


Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

accidentaldeliberations - Tue, 07/22/2014 - 19:37
Expressive cats.



No Shame, No Shame At All

Politics and its Discontents - Tue, 07/22/2014 - 16:46
There is no situation, however tragic, that Harper and his regime won't exploit for political advantage. I guess that comes as no surprise to anyone:



Be sure to check out the Conservative Party website for more evidence, as well as Alison's caricature at Creekside.Recommend this Post

Harper's Reign Of Terror - Part 2

Politics and its Discontents - Tue, 07/22/2014 - 10:40

Yesterday I wrote a post on the war being conducted by Stephen Harper and his cadre against dissent in Canada. Specifically, the Prime Minister is diverting CRA resources and taxpayer monies to investigate those non-profits not on board with his agenda. Environmental groups have been especially hard hit.

Today comes word that the scope of Harper repression is expanding. As reported in The Toronto Star, the knock at the door has happened at PEN Canada.

The Canada Revenue Agency has launched a political-activities audit of PEN Canada, a small charity promoting freedom of expression that has criticized the Harper government in the past.

Two tax auditors showed up Monday morning at the tiny Toronto offices of PEN Canada, asking to see a wide range of internal documents.


If you visit their website, you will see the following principles advocated by PEN:

PEN Canada envisions a world where
writers are free to write,
readers are free to read,
and freedom of expression prevails


That the organization advocates for freedoms that are synonymous with healthy societies, of course, makes them the perfect target for Harper retribution, given Dear Leader's demonstrated disdain for such principles.

And a visit to the news section of PEN's website will make abundantly clear why the Harper cabal has sicced the CRA on them:

Privacy Could Vanish if Cyber-Bullying Act Became Law

Groups Seek Human Rights Protections in Canada-Honduras Free Trade Agreement

How Transparent are Canada’s ISPs?

Stephen Harper Must Address Online Surveillance in Canada, says PEN Canada

One can only hope that Pen International will take up the cause. Presumably it is beyond the reach of the cowardly intimidation tactics of our national government.Recommend this Post

Tuesday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Tue, 07/22/2014 - 08:16
This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Sarah Jaffe examines the "bad business fee" proposal which would require employers who pay wages below public assistance levels - receiving work while forcing the public to subsidize their employees' livelihood - to at least make up the difference:
As inequality has become a hot-button issue, the solutions on offer tend to focus either on taxing the extremely wealthy or on raising workers’ wages. What makes the bad business fee particularly attractive is that it does both of those things. It makes the connection conceptually between the low wages at the bottom of the work chain and the outsized incomes at the top, and sets out both to punish companies that keep wages low, and to create value out of that punishment for the people struggling on low incomes.

In that way, the fee is win-win. If companies seek to avoid it, they end up doing something just as good for their employees, or even better. Martin says, “For me in particular, the better part is my boss may be thinking, ‘Well, I should just pay my employees better. I should just pay a living wage. I should just give Cliff some benefits.’”

To Liz Ryan Murray, policy director at NPA, the bad business fee bridges the issues of workers’ rights and taxpayers’ rights. Often conversations around public benefits get mired down in arguments about deficits and the cost to the taxpayer, ignoring the value of the programs to the people who depend on them and rarely conceiving of “the taxpayer” as a low-wage worker herself. But, Murray notes, on this issue there’s no way to split them apart — the taxpayer and the worker have the same interest in seeing big companies pay their fair share.- And Truthout notes that corporate bureaucracy tends to be far more harmful than anything found in the public sector - as a similar tendency toward complexity is paired with both a lack of accountability, and a profit motive which can be at odds with any attempt to actually meet the the needs of customers:
If I had had a problem with a government bureaucracy, like the Veterans Administration or the Social Security Administration, I could have called my senator or my congressman and they would have given hell to those agencies on behalf of me. I could lobby Congress to change the way they do things, the way vets are today successfully lobbying for changes in the VA.

But if I had stood outside of my cell phone company's headquarters and protested, they could have had me arrested for trespassing.

That's the difference between government bureaucracies and corporate bureaucracies.

Government bureaucracies are ultimately answerable to "We the People" and our elected representatives. It's called "the American system of government."

Corporate bureaucracies, on the other hand, are ultimately only answerable to their shareholders, who don't give a rat's patootie if the company they own screws their customers because that means more money in their pockets.- Adrien Schless-Meier points out that grocery stores are among the worst offenders both in paying poverty-level wages, and relying on public subsidies for employees. 

- Meanwhile, Jonathan Timm writes that employer orders not to talk about salaries tend to serve only to drive them down (while also preserving historical inequalities in the workplace). And that fits all too well with the apparent link between CEO pay disclosure and soaring executive salaries.

- Dr. Dawg discusses how the Cons are treating the CRA - like the bully pulpit that comes with power - as a tool to attack charities which dare to speak about issues which don't fit their political agenda. And the CP's list of charities facing audits seems to confirm that only progressive voices are being singled out for scrutiny.

- Finally, Daniel Tencer highlights the age-based wealth gap in Canada - as younger Canadians won't see the benefit of past increases in stock and housing values, but will instead face higher prices to try to save anything at all.

More And Worse Conflict

Northern Reflections - Tue, 07/22/2014 - 05:47
                                                                          http://en.wikipedia.org/

Michael den Tandt writes that Stephen Harper's foreign policy will outlive Harper:

It is axiomatic for Harper’s critics, certainly for those who churn out talking points for the Dippers, Grits and Greens, that this prime minister is a ham-fisted and embarrassingly unsubtle foreign-policy actor. The prima facie evidence is his notorious letter to the Wall Street Journal in 2003, penned with Stockwell Day, lamenting Canada’s refusal to participate in George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq.
Never mind that mistake, writes den Tandt:

But here’s the thing: Harper and Baird’s basic positions have been borne out by events — both in the conflict with Hamas, and in Ukraine, since the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 by a rocket attack, killing all 298 people aboard.
Really? Could it be that his minor error on Iraq has helped destabilise the entire Middle East? And could Harper's support of Israel -- while completely ignoring its occupation of Gaza  -- not have something to do with the increased rocket technology which Hamas has now aimed at Israel?

Jonathan Kay wrote a short time ago that the Harper regime is populated by punitive moral absolutists. They have tried to legislate their values into Canadian law. And they are convinced that, by exporting their philosophy to the rest of the world, they will make it a safer place.

We are approaching the one hundredth anniversary of the Guns of August. If Harper knew anything about history -- and the treaty which ended World War I -- he'd know that punitive moral absolutism simply guarantees more -- and worse -- conflict.


israel slaughters palestinians, pays for online propaganda, and north americans gobble up the bait

we move to canada - Tue, 07/22/2014 - 05:00
I've been trying to write about Israel's latest slaughter of Palestinian people ever since the hideous spectacle began, without results. I post little bits of horror and disgust on Facebook, but can't sustain anything worth posting here. Because... what is there to say?

A mighty military power unleashes deadly force against a civilian population. Some people within that population have dared to use violence to resist their own oppression. Therefore the entire population must be terrorized, hundreds murdered, thousands maimed, lives destroyed.

Another great military power and a second-tier military wannabe* rush to the defense of the military power, and anyone who speaks out against it is accused of bigotry. People who normally would recoil at such warmongering are silent, or, incredibly, call the slaughter defense.

It's a topsy-turvy world.

In the US, if you don't blindly support, without question, every single military action perpetrated by the government, you are accused of being unpatriotic, not "supporting the troops", even of siding with "the enemy". If you don't do the same about Israel's military actions, you are accused of being anti-Semitic.

The parallels are not surprising. What I do find astonishing is how many normally progressive American Jews fall for this bullshit. "Both sides are wrong," they whine. "Hamas used rockets." Rockets?? You see an equivalence between a hand-fired rocket and the force of the second-largest military on the planet? When black South Africans threw rocks at the riot-shielded apartheid army, did you say "both sides are wrong"?

"Israel has a right to defend itself," they say. "It cannot tolerate terrorism." I wonder, do you support retaliation for all victims of terrorism? If the Iraqi people, if the Afghan people, could somehow launch air strikes against your town, would you shrug your shoulders and say, "Well, the US started it. Iraq has a right to defend itself."?

Or are you still hiding behind accusations of anti-Semitism? You've heard anti-Semitic statements! Oh my! Keep defending the slaughter of civilians. That will help.

I don't see or hear anti-Semitism in anti-Israeli activism. But if there is anti-Semitic rhetoric coming from some pro-Palestinian people, can you rightly tell me that such words justify slaughter? Will you continue to support the murder of civilians, because someone has said words that offend you?

My friend David C, who used to blog here, tells me that online comment sections have been deluged by wildly over-the-top accusations of anti-Semitism.
What is going on is just insane. Doctors without Borders had a Facebook post that simply called for Israel to show restraint and gets flooded with angry comments accusing the organization of politicizing the tragedy. Amnesty International calls both sides to calm down on its Facebook page and again got deluged with angry comments. The reason even though it was calling out both sides? Amnesty used a photo of a Palestinian woman wailing, not an Israeli. That apparently is tantamount to anti-Semitism.That flood of commentary is not coincidental, nor indicative of public opinion: it is organized propaganda.
Israel has announced it will pay university students to circulate pro-Israeli information on social media networks, without having to identify themselves as working for the government.

The move was publicised in a statement from Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office, the Associated Press reported. Students will receive scholarships to "engage international audiences online" and combat anti-Semitism and calls to boycott Israel, it was alleged.

In 2012, a Palestinian-run blog reported similar arrangements between the National Union of Israeli Students and the Israeli government. Students would be paid $2,000 to post pro-Israel messages online for five hours a week.

According to Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz, the most recent proposition is being spearheaded by Danny Seaman, who was slammed by the media for writing anti-Muslim messages on Facebook.

Students will be organised into units at each university, with a chief co-ordinator who receives a full scholarship, three desk co-ordinators for language, graphics and research who receive lesser scholarships and students termed “activists” who will receive a “minimal scholarship”, the Independent reported.See also: "Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda" (The Independent), and "Prime Minister's Office recruiting students to wage online hasbara battles; PMO and national student union to create covert units at universities to engage in diplomacy via social media; unit heads to receive full scholarships" (Haaretz). (Again, thanks to David C; I would have missed this.)

The latest war on Gaza has led me back to some old wmtc posts, and the interesting discussions that followed.

From 2013:

my journey to palestinian solidarity and the myth of the self-hating jew, part 1

my journey to palestinian solidarity and the myth of the self-hating jew, part 2

my journey to palestinian solidarity and the myth of the self-hating jew, part 3 and final

From 2010:

a simple lesson: how to tell the difference between hatred of a people and criticism of a nation's policies




* That's Canada, by the way.

When Israel Says It Isn't Out To Punish Innocent Palestinians, It's Lying - And We Don't Care

Politics and its Discontents - Tue, 07/22/2014 - 04:56


Actions speak so much louder than words, especially when it comes to Israel attacking Palestinians.

The current invasion of Gaza demonstrates that Israel’s claims to be targeting Hamas but not the Gaza Palestinian population is an outright lie. That much is blatant from the weapons used.

What weapons? Try water. When you’re targeting the civilian population of an already water-stressed locale the simplest way to turn the screws is to attack their water and sewage infrastructure. Once you deprive them of fresh water and compound that with a collapse of their sewage system, nature will take care of the rest. Every bloodthirsty bastard who laid siege to a medieval castle or town knew that.

Gaza is a lot like one of those medieval towns. Its land borders are sealed by Israel and Egypt. At sea, the Israeli navy maintains an effective blockade. With the exception of a few tunnels, if you’re in Gaza you’re not going anywhere. You might as well be trapped behind stone walls and a portcullis.

But what about the water? Years ago Israel constructed what are known as "trap wells" along the border with Gaza. These wells intercepted the natural flow of groundwater that Gazans relied upon. Worse yet, without that fresh water flow, sea water entered the Gazans groundwater supply leaving it heavily contaminated. As more sea water continues to enter the Gazan water resource it’s only a matter of time.

In the preliminary air strikes that preceded Israel’s ground invasion of Gaza, Israeli air force jets bombed Gaza’s water and sewage plants. That has rendered about 90% of Gaza’s already dwindling water supply unfit for human consumption.

Israel understands the power of the water weapon and its punitive effect on civilian populations. During its ill-fated invasion of southern Lebanon to attack Hezbollah, Israeli jets took out the water and sewage pumping plants of Beiruit, far removed from Hezbollah territory. That wasn’t targeted at Hezbollah. It was targeted at the Lebanese civilian population in a city largely opposed to Hezbollah. Israel likewise attacked and destroyed three Lebanese hospitals and on its way out of the country instituted a 72-hour cluster bomb barrage of the south ensuring a massive supply of bomblets for cattle and farmers and kids to stumble across for years to come.

If there was ever any doubt that Trudeau the Lesser is all Margaret and no Pierre, the proof came through in the Liberals’ stomach-churning praise of Israel for its “commitment to peace.” I really don’t know how you Liberals live with yourselves and that party or the pandering opportunist who trades on what once was a great name.

In a place like Gaza, taking down the water and sewage plants is a form of biological warfare. It’s just a matter of time until cholera sets in. Yeah, Justin, that’s some commitment to peace all right.

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