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Dawgtion: Five Great Reasons to Jump in for the Home Stretch!

Dawg's Blawg - Tue, 04/14/2015 - 08:14
We’re in the home stretch for the auction to support Dr. Dawg; bidding closes on at 3:00 p.m., Wednesday, April 15th. Here are five indisputable arguments for getting your bid in. REASON 1: BECAUSE IT WAS EASTER ONLY A WEEK... Balbulican

Springtime in Harperland and the Battle to Take Canada Back

Montreal Simon - Tue, 04/14/2015 - 07:34

Well Spring has finally arrived in the little corner of Canada where I live. 

The hockey goals have been fished out of the once frozen canal where they sank after the ice melted.

And biking season is here at last...

Which would be perfect if I didn't live in Harperland, where winter never really ends.

And you can still be hit by this kind of icy chill.
Read more »

Tuesday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Tue, 04/14/2015 - 07:05
This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Paul Krugman highlights the policy areas where we need to look to the public sector for leadership - including those such as health care and income security where we all have a strong interest in making sure that nobody's left behind. And Andre Picard reminds us of one of the major gaps in Canada's health care system, as expensive prescription drugs can make for a devastating barrier to needed care.

- Meanwhile, Paul Buchheit duly criticizes the combination of increasing wealth for the lucky few in the U.S., and increasing poverty at the bottom of the income scale.

- Warren Bell looks back at the years of deliberate attacks on environmental protection that led to the English Bay oil spill crisis, while Tim Harper argues that Canada's federal government would be a great place to start cleaning up the mess. Kai Nagata notes that public outcry over exactly the types of issues raised by English Bay may have succeeded in stopping the Northern Gateway pipeline. And Andrew Leach rightly makes the point that Stephen Harper bears personal responsibility for Canada's pattern of delay and denial on greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas sector:
Over the course of the prime minister’s time in office, oil prices have gone from the $50s to the $140s, down to the $30s, back above $100, back to the $40s and sit around $50 today. We’ve had proposals for regulations, cap-and-trade, and regulations again, but it seems that no policy which would restrict GHG emissions from the oil sands can get to the finish line. Why? It’s not prices, and it’s not the oil and gas lobby. It’s one thing – a prime minister who, to use MacDougall’s words, hasn’t seen fit to instruct, “the entire team (to put) its shoulder to the wheel until victory is achieved,” and a policy is imposed.

Stephen Harper is happy to see these difficult policy choices pushed to a later date and, in so doing, will have us make exactly the mistakes he said we wouldn’t make again – promising aggressive action and not delivering it. When the world meets in Paris in late 2015, Canada will still likely not have policies imposed on its oil sands sector and, despite the oil price crash, will still expect emissions to increase far beyond our Copenhagen commitment. Will the world, again, be willing to take the word of a prime minister, whoever it may be, who says we won’t make the same mistake three times?- Scott Clark and Peter DeVries see the Cons' false balanced budget legislation as being absolutely hilarious in light of their track record of fiscal mismanagement. But Rick Smith notes that the Cons' anti-labour zealotry is rather less amusing - particularly as C-377 gets pushed through the legislative process yet again (minus the amendments which would have made it at least somewhat less toxic).

- Finally, Brent Patterson offers yet another example of how trade agreements can severely limit democratic decision-making, as Argentina stands to lose hundreds of millions of dollars for prioritizing usable water above a profiteer's revenue stream.

The Vindication Of Thomas Mulcair

Politics and its Discontents - Tue, 04/14/2015 - 06:14
Some will remember the abuse heaped upon NDP leader Thomas Mulcair back in 2012 when he said that Canada was suffering from the same Dutch disease that afflicted the Netherlands after natural gas fields boosting that nation's currency reduced the competitiveness of its exports back in the 1970s. The culprit in Canada was the unrestrained exploitation of its oil fields, leading at one point to our dollar being valued higher than the American one. Exports suffered, manufacturing continued to decline, and the Harper regime gleefully denigrated the NDP leader for an inconvenient truth.

It would seem that Mulcair's analysis has been validated by both statistics and analysis.

Says Bank of America Merrill Lynch economist Emanuella Enenajor,
"The currency's appreciation of almost 60 per cent over the last 15 years has really hurt the manufacturing sector".The fact that oil prices have now dropped is not having the salutary effects one might hope for:
Just because low oil prices are reducing transportation and energy costs, and the floundering loonie is making Canadian exports attractive again — it doesn't mean the sector will bounce back immediately.

You can't just turn the lights back on in the factory and start sending the widgets out the door again.

When the energy sector started to lose steam, the old stalwarts of the economy weren't there to pick up the slack.

"The Dutch disease that Canada has experienced has been more than a decade in the making, and I think it has really hurt business confidence," added Enenajor.Of course, with an election in the offing, expect the Harper regime to give no quarter, evidenced by party stalwarts like the redoubtable, predictable and hyper partisan Pierre Poilivre:
"The leader of the NDP calls [the natural resources] sector a disease!" Pierre Poilievre sneered at Mulcair across the floor of the House of Commons last week.
Here is the interview with Emanuella Enenajor:

Recommend this Post

Another Ben Stein?

Northern Reflections - Tue, 04/14/2015 - 05:57


Joe Oliver's proposed balanced budget legislation is so inane it's hilarious. Like most Harperian legislation, the proposed bill leaves lots of unanswered questions. Scott Clark and Peter DeVries write:

In his speech, Mr. Oliver stated that the only deficit his balanced-budget law would consider acceptable would be one that results from a recession, or an extraordinary circumstance (like a war or natural disaster) with a cost exceeding $3 billion in a year. Within 30 days of a published deficit, the Finance minister would be required by law to testify before the Commons Finance committee and present a plan to return to balance. That plan would include an automatic freeze on operating spending and a five per cent cut in the salaries of cabinet ministers and deputy ministers until the budget is balanced again. Departments that helped create the deficit would see their budgets cut.

But recessions never end quite on schedule. The Harper government has posted deficits in every year since 2008-09. The deficits in 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11 were definitely due to the recession and the stimulus measures implemented. But what about the deficits recorded in the following years — when the economy was technically out of deficit but still too sickly to provide the kind of revenue growth that would have lifted Ottawa into the black?

Would those late-game deficits have to be offset by spending reductions under Mr. Oliver’s rule, despite the economy’s fragility? Would there be an automatic freeze on departmental operating budgets and salary reductions for ministers and their deputies? Who decides when a recession ends? Should only structural deficits be outlawed? If so, who decides if a deficit is caused by structural factors and by how much?

And what qualifies a circumstance as ‘extraordinary’? Wars, floods, tornadoes — those seem obvious enough. But what about another threat to central Canada’s automative sector? Would another $14 billion bailout qualify as a legitimate government response to an ‘extraordinary’ event?
Harperian policy has never been rooted in wisdom. It's always been about buying votes. And this legislation is aimed at Harper's base -- which is upset at a government that has never balanced the books.

Oliver presents his proposal with a straight face. And his deadpan delivery suggests that he has a future as a stand up comic. Perhaps he'll become another Ben Stein -- an economist who became famous for his flat, nasal droning in movies like Ferris Bueller's Day Off,  and Dave and in television shows like The Wonder Years.

Eduardo Galeano: ¡Presente!

Dawg's Blawg - Tue, 04/14/2015 - 05:40
The brilliant and beautiful Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano left us yesterday. Let others assemble the capsule biographies to mark his passing: there will be many such tributes. I can speak only personally about this loss. My loss. Excerpts from a... Dr.Dawg

Featured Today at the Dawgtion: "Journey Under Glass", Autographed First Edition

Dawg's Blawg - Tue, 04/14/2015 - 04:00
10th and final lot! “Journey Under Glass” (Penumbra Press, 2004). “If nothing is constant but change, then everything for the marvelling consciousness is a journey, a process of transformation in which we may choose to drift or, if we... Balbulican

More Con Lies: Vancouver Oil Spill Worse Than Estimated

Montreal Simon - Tue, 04/14/2015 - 03:16

As I'm sure you know by now, I never believed what Cons like James Moore and Greg Rickford had to say about that oil spill in Vancouver's English Bay.

Especially when they and the Harper Coast Guard said that only about 3,000 litres of toxic bunker had leaked out of that freighter, and that all but six litres had been recovered.

And sure enough it turns out that estimate was too CONservative. 
Read more »

Why Does Stephen Harper Want to Turn Us Into Bloody Amerika?

Montreal Simon - Tue, 04/14/2015 - 01:35

I try not to watch too much American TV news, because what's happening in this diseased Harperland is crazy enough.

And because every time I do watch it these days, it seems another black man is being killed by a white police officer for no sane reason.

And when I see someone handcuff a human being after shooting him six times in the back, as the South Carolina police officer Michael Slager did to Walter Scott, makes me almost physically ill... 

Because as I've said before, my heroes are healers not killers.

And this too could only happen in cruel, crazy, blood soaked Amerika. 
Read more »

So true

Cathie from Canada - Mon, 04/13/2015 - 22:08
A commenter on Christie Blatchford's latest Duffy story says:Duffy should have been put in charge of payments to veterans and thalidomide victims so efficient is he at getting the money out there.Yes, at least then Duffy's greediness would have done somebody some good.
And earlier I predicted that the Duffy trial wouldn't blow back on Harper. I'm now optimistic that I was wrong. As more and more sleaze is revealed, more Canadians will ask the greater question -- what kind of judgement did Harper show in appointing this man to the Senate in the first place?
As Montreal Simon observed last week:what's also now clear is that Duffy's lawyer is trying to join the two men at the hip. And while that may or may not save Duffy it will almost certainly damage Harper.

Attention, Young People: Here Is Why You Should Vote

Politics and its Discontents - Mon, 04/13/2015 - 12:04
This brief but powerful video should be viewed by all those who are politically disengaged, especially our young citizens:

H/t OperationMapleRecommend this Post

Monday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Mon, 04/13/2015 - 08:36
Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Lonnie Golden studies the harm done to workers by irregular schedules. And Matt Bruening comments on how Missouri, Kansas and other states are passing draconian restrictions on benefits by trying to get the middle class to envy the poor.

- Meanwhile, Scott Santens expands on the connection between increasing automation and a basic income which could ensure that people displaced from jobs by technological advancement aren't left without a livelihood. And Sara Mojtehedzadeh talks to Guy Standing about a basic income as a means of relieving against reliance on precarious work:
What is the “precariat”?

The precariat consists of a growing proportion of our total society. It is being habituated to accept a life of unstable labour and unstable living. Often they’re unable to say what their occupation is, because what they’re doing now might be quite different from what they were doing three months ago. (They) have to do a hell of a lot of work that doesn’t get counted (i.e. job training, travel time, job applications). People in the precariat find themselves in the situation where the level of their education and qualifications is almost always higher than the sort of labour that they’re going to be able to obtain. This is the first time in history when an emerging part of our citizens are losing rights. (With) many of the benefit cuts, there is no due process. I think that leaves scope for tremendous amounts of injustice.

You warn that the precariat is also very vulnerable to poverty traps.

People in the precariat rely very heavily on money wages. You cannot apply for benefits until two weeks after you’ve lost a job, for example.The gap between losing a job can be months, not weeks or days. Now, if you think about it, that means there’s very little incentive to take a low-paying job, especially as you could then subsequently be unemployed again.

For you, a big part of the answer is a guaranteed basic income for all. Why?

In terms of social justice you could say, look — everybody should receive a dividend from the investments of past generations to give us the security to develop our capabilities. But in addition, a basic income would be a modest way of redistributing income, because we’ve got chronically unequal societies. There is no other way in which the precariat could obtain basic security. - But Sunny Freeman notes that the Cons are in fact likely to push more Canadians into debt and other poverty traps if their false balanced budget law has any substantive effect. And Seth Klein warns against following the path toward a zombie policy whose harms are well known.

- Mike Blanchfield reports that the Cons have turned Canada into one of the most miserly countries in the world when it comes to supporting international development. And Michael Harris writes that despite hundreds of millions of dollars in ad spending trying to convince us otherwise, the Cons don't rate any better on competence than they do on ethics or values.

- Finally, Lauren Dobson-Hughes argues that an election campaign is the wrong time for civil society groups to try to influence public policy, while offering an alternate suggestion as to how the spotlight of a campaign can benefit social causes:
An election campaign should be *the* place for civil society organizations to engage. To shape public opinion, to highlight the problems we face, to represent their members, and to push candidates to prove they’re worthy our votes. It says something about the state of democracy that election campaigns are essentially, a policy discussion vacuum.

So where is the value in elections campaigns, for civil society? I’d suggest elections are a much better tool for invigorating your base, educating them and providing them with an outlet for their passions. They can attend all-candidates debates, write letters to the editor, host policy discussions amongst themselves, and identify potential champions of their issues. This is democracy in action. Its impact on political decision-making is debatable, but as a means of empowering Canadians to engage politically, it can be very effective.

And perhaps therein lies the disconnect. Civil society wants to engage in elections. They feel they have (and should have) a crucial role to play. In many cases, they are deeply involved. And yet, their involvement appears entirely unconnected to any impact.

This sounds awfully cynical. And that’s not the intent. But if you’re going to engage as a civil society organisation, do it with your eyes open.

Oil Spills And The Harper Brand

Politics and its Discontents - Mon, 04/13/2015 - 06:38

Time for a brief follow-up to Elizabeth May's fine dissection of how Harper environmental cuts contributed to the slow response to Vancouver's English Bay oil spill. In today's Star, Tim Harper repeats and reflects upon the facts May addressed.

Denunciations are flying fast and furiously from the likes of May, B.C. Premier Christie Clark and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson. Of course, predictable denials of culpability are coming from the likes of Industry Minister James Moore (“Politicians piling on by spreading misinformation is unhelpful,’’) and Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford (“I won’t engage in speculation,’’ “it’s not helpful to finger point,” “I think we should all concentrate on the cleanup").

Here are the facts that set the rhetoric into perspective:
The Conservatives closed the Kitsilano Coast Guard station.

The city of Vancouver says it was not informed of the leak until 12 hours after it was detected, but the federal government disputes that.
It took six hours for the Coast Guard to get booms in place in response to the leak, but a former commander of the closed station, Fred Moxey, told the Vancouver Sun the response would have been six minutes if the station was still open.

The closed station was within hailing distance of this leak, something that should have been so easily contained, occurring in calm waters in an urban area.Conservatives also closed the Vancouver Environment Canada station of Environmental Emergencies and the Marine Mammal Contaminants Program within the department of fisheries and oceans.

Conservatives also closed regional offices of the emergency in Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal, Dartmouth, N.S., and St. John’s. It has been replaced by a 1-800 number which rings in Gatineau, Que., and Montreal, says Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.We can, of course, look forward to a full-court press from the Harper regime in order contain the damage to its brand the anemic and belated response is causing.

One can only assume that will take the usual form: vilification of all Harper critics, the only strategy this hateful regime seems to know.Recommend this Post

Featured Today at the Dawgtion: "Beluga and Narwhals", Original Drawing by Goo Pootoogook

Dawg's Blawg - Mon, 04/13/2015 - 04:00
Lot 9: “Beluga and Narwhals”, an original, signed drawing by Goo Pootoogook, Cape Dorset, Nunavut. Goo Pootoogook was born in a tent, in a camp near Cape Dorset 54 years ago. His family was resettled by the Canadian government... Balbulican

Incompetence Writ Large

Northern Reflections - Mon, 04/13/2015 - 03:21

There was an oil spill in English Bay last week. And we finally got a chance to see what Harperian austerity has accomplished. Michael Harris writes:

It should be noted that the oil spill, from a brand new ship on its maiden voyage, happened in calm waters. If Mother Nature had been having a bad hair day, things would have been much worse — two tonnes of toxic sludge sloshing hither and yon looking for ducks to coat and gills to clog.

Had it been bitumen, which sinks, as compared to bunker fuel that floats; had it been oozing from a ruptured tanker instead of a leaking grain ship; had it been the Burrard Inlet instead of English Bay, well, let’s just put it this way: it would have been way worse than Sharknado 3.

Six hours went by before skimming operations began. Nine more passed before encircling the leaking vessel with a boom. And while workers from other first responders showed up, Transport Canada and Environment Canada were apparently still looking for their gumboots ashore. As it was, it took 13 hours before local residents and municipal governments were even informed of the toxic spill. Thirty six hours later, it was all taken care of — except for 20 per cent of the oil that ‘must have evaporated.’
Nonetheless, Harper's acolytes took a bow:

Industry Minister James Moore thought the response was “very impressive.” More than that, fear-mongering about the event was misplaced.

“I think it’s irresponsible for people to dial up fear and anxiety,” said Moore. This from the government that made fear mongering a tactic in Canadian politics!

Moore was not the only Conservative cabinet minister who thought the feds deserved a gold star on their homework. Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford bloviated about Canada’s “world-class” safety system.
They didn't mention, of course, that:

Since 2011, when Harper received his majority and no one could stop him anymore, he cut 10 Coast Guard stations. In places like Kitsilano, Comox, and Tofino, federal cutbacks weakened the ability of the Coast Guard to monitor and manage pollution offences. As former Canadian Coast Guard Captain Tony Toxopeus told CBC, the Kitsilano station could have been on the scene of the spill with a dedicated oil pollution response vessel and 300 metres of boom “within 15 minutes.”
What has Harper accomplished? He has destroyed a world class safety system. He is, Harris writes, simply incompetent.

Stephen Harper's Con Clown Circus Strikes Again

Montreal Simon - Mon, 04/13/2015 - 03:10

They were already the worst government Canada has ever known, a freakish horror show and a fascist circus. 

But as the economy heads south, and their desperation grows, Stephen Harper's Con clowns are sinking to new levels of depravity and incompetence.

Because everywhere you look they are making fools out of themselves...
Read more »

On projection

accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 04/12/2015 - 17:33
Shorter Leona Aglukkaq to Canada's provinces:
I'm very disappointed in all of you for my government's longstanding failings, and demand that you take responsibility immediately.

50,000 mexican farmworkers are on strike, and almost no one in north america knows about it

we move to canada - Sun, 04/12/2015 - 13:30
Did you know that 50,000 Mexican farmworkers are on strike?

If your answer is no, you have plenty of company. The Los Angeles Times is the only English-language mainstream media venue to regularly cover the strike. Canadian media, predictably, only wants to know how it will affect food prices.

These farmworkers harvest the fruits and vegetables that fill our supermarkets and our tables. They are paid $8 per day - that's right, not per hour, per day. They are gouged at company stores were they must purchase necessities, and see their pay routinely withheld without explanation. They are denied breaks and access to clean drinking water. They are not paid for overtime. Company housing is filthy and vermin-infested. Female workers are subjected to sexual harassment on a regular basis.

What decade, what century is this? The working class fights this battle again and again.

From Sonali Kolhatkar, writing in Truthdig:
Years ago the sparsely populated San Quintín area was converted into an industrial agricultural center by growers who imported indigenous workers from southern states such as Oaxaca. Bacon compared the dozen or so ranches in the area to the maquiladoras, or factories, that sprang up along the Mexican side of the U.S. border. He described the conditions of the labor camps where workers live as “really awful and terrible.”

Starting in the 1970s many of Baja California’s workers began to cross the U.S. border through California into the Central Valley, and even to states like Washington. “These are all connected communities,” maintained Bacon, which is why the San Quintín strike is big news among farmworker communities in the U.S. such as Washington’s Skagit County.

Sadly, it is not very big news elsewhere in the U.S. When the strike began last week, the Los Angeles Times was the only English-language media outlet in the country to initially cover it. (Since then, a week later, The Associated Press and others have begun to report on the strike.)The farmworkers work for hugely profitable agribusinesses, including Driscoll's, the most popular berry supplier in North America, and a company that enjoys a labour-friendly image.

I didn't find much about how we can support striking farmworkers. The United Farm Workers - the legendary union begun by the late great Cesar Chavez - has a petition: sign here.

[PS: If you are interested in Cesar Chavez, it appears you should skip the movie. See this one instead.]

I'm thrilled that Hillary is running for President and she's going to win, too!

Cathie from Canada - Sun, 04/12/2015 - 12:13
I think it is wonderful that Hillary Clinton is running again for president -- after her last experience, I had been concerned that she wouldn't try again. She came through Saskatoon a few weeks ago on a speaking tour and the auditorium was packed -- she was warm, intelligent, extremely knowledgeable, gutsy...what's not to like?
At Hullabaloo, Tom Sullivan writes:

The problem for the RNC is that, as with electing the first black president, voters might be eager to see the first woman become president and will want to take part in that historic election. Republican women included, especially given the all-male clown car that is the current Republican field.
No matter what punches conservatives have thrown at her for decades now, Hillary Clinton just will not go down. And that coldness Priebus wants to exploit could work in Clinton's favor. There is a bit of "Iron Lady" Margaret Thatcher to Hillary Clinton that might prove attractive to Republican women already inclined to vote for a women. Like Clinton or not, if there's one thing Republicans fear, respect, and vote for, it's strength.Yes indeed.
And cue the "she's not perfect so she's crap" critiques


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