Posts from our progressive community

The Harperian Concept Of Justice

Politics and its Discontents - Mon, 10/27/2014 - 08:10
I don't especially feel like writing today, so I offer you this from Walt Heinzie:



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Monday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Mon, 10/27/2014 - 07:06
Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Erika Shaker points out how condescending attitudes toward public benefits are both making it unduly difficult to develop new programs which would benefit everybody, and threatening existing social safety net. Sean McElwee writes that inequality only figures to grow as an issue as the wealthy try to disassociate themselves from everybody else. And Scott Santens discusses how the U.S.' social benefits are needlessly costly and difficult to access because they're designed more to exclude than to include:
As citizens, we are doing everything we can. Some of us are even tragically dying in our attempts to struggle on, while over 10,000 others have already grown too tired of the struggle to even continue living. As long as wages continue to not rise, and as long as jobs continue to be eliminated due to advances in technology, we have nowhere else to turn but our own safety nets. It is for this reason, it will only become ever more increasingly important for us to look with open eyes and minds at our system of public assistance and how it functions for all of us, poor and rich alike.

If so many of us are already driving on our spare tires, and we recognize the road ahead is only going to get bumpier and more dangerous, then we must together make sure that we either make it quick and painless for us all to get right back on the road when we need assistance, or finally guarantee that no matter what, there will always be another spare tire for all of us.- Angella MacEwen debates Ben Eisen about the importance of public child care. Ron Waller takes a closer look at the numbers behind Quebec's universal daycare program to show how it produces strong progressive outcomes.

- Justine Hunter reports on how B.C. workers are suffering from the combination of underregulation which caused a sawmill explosion, and a compensation system which is punishing them for being injured. And lest there be any doubt, that's exactly the type of corporatist policy Brad Wall is looking to smuggle into Saskatchewan in the guise of "harmonizing" standards. (Though of course there's still far too much reason for concern about worker safety here even before that process plays out.)

- Finally, Kjell Anderson commits some sociology in exploring how individuals come to be "radicalized". Michael Harris and Glenn Greenwald both weigh in on the Cons' immediate inclination to respond to last week's shootings with an all-out assault on civil rights. And Chris Selley asks that we at least stop short of trying to exile Canadians, while Michael Spratt and Chelsea Moore modestly suggest that policing thoughts might not be the best idea either.

Tragedy Must Bring Out The Best In All Of Us

Politics and its Discontents - Mon, 10/27/2014 - 05:44


That is the sentiment expressed by Craig Wellington of Brampton in this fine lead letter from this morning's Star:

Let’s tone down the hate rhetoric. A tragedy occurred Wednesday and a good man, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo lost his life. Let us use that as a catalyst to illuminate the best, not the worst of us.

Much of the U.S. media and political pundits have shamelessly exploited this tragedy to use as a launchpad for a stream of bigoted, vicious, rhetoric based on innuendo to feed an ongoing narrative of hate. Their apparent delight at this tragedy is disturbing.

CNN and FoxNews have filled their round-the-clock coverage with conjecture and inflammatory innuendo. Bill Maher continued his tireless “us against the Muslims” crusade by tweeting: “Turns out the attacker was Islamic — what are the odds, huh?” Sadly, this type of knee-jerk bigotry, posing as considered, intellectual punditry is far too common. And the public is increasingly unable to discern the difference between considered journalism (disappearing faster than the northern white rhino) and reckless conjecture.

In April of this year, Ft. Hood Army Base in the U.S. was attacked by an armed gunman and multiple servicemen lost their lives. What religion was the shooter? In the mass shooting at Sandy Hook school in which 20 children and six teachers lost their lives, what religion was the shooter? When congressman Gabby Gifford was shot, what religion was the shooter? What about the shooter who fired an assault weapon in a U.S. movie theatre in 2012, killing over 20 people? Timothy McVeigh?

Armed gunmen attacked Capitol Hill in 1998 (killing two police officers) and 2008. What religion were they? What religion was the man who shot Ronald Reagan? Some 84 U.S. policemen have been killed in the line of duty thus far this year. What was the religion of the perpetrators? We don’t know. It wasn’t relevant. The only thing we do know, is they werent Muslim, because if they were, it would have been the headline.

Canada has recently agreed to join the U.S. in a war in the Middle East, a region now rife with sectarian conflict. There is blame all around for that. It’s no coincidence that the epicentre, Iraq, is the country in which the U.S., under the pretense of non-existent weapons of mass destruction, removed Saddam Hussein (a former ally of the U.S. who was armed and funded by them) who was keeping these sectarian forces in check.

Years later, with over 500,000 Iraqis and thousands of U.S. servicemen killed, the area is far more of a global threat than it ever was under Saddam. That has nothing to do with a religion. That’s a convenient excuse and criminal obfuscation.

At the time of the Iraq invasion, Canada refused the U.S.’s call to join them because we did not think it was wise and did not believe the allegations of WMDs and the link to 9/11. Now after the poop has hit the fan, Canada is being asked to help the U.S. clean up their mess. But we are there and not turning back now.

There are potential ramifications to Canada’s joining this war, for Canadian citizens. When England and Germany were at war, both nations anticipated rightly that their heads of state would be assassination targets for agents or sympathizers of the other. That evil is a consequence of war. You send bombs to kill people, some of them are likely to respond.

The Canadian Harper Prime Minister has been asked numerous times in the house to outline the extent of what we have committed to, the duration, the objective of the mission, and the implications in terms of security for Canadians. He has refused to do so.

Clearly there are consequences in terms of our security, especially for Canadians traveling to certain regions, and clearly for our government officials. Wednesday’s incident outlines that not enough steps have been taken to ensure such protection is in place. That needs to change and the Prime Minister needs to have an honest dialogue with Canadians.
But what cannot change is that Canadians cannot devolve from the tolerant, socially progressive nation to a segregated society rife with paranoia, bigotry, finger pointing and hatred as is fast becoming the U.S.’s brand.

Let us honour our fallen soldier by honouring what he served and fought for — a free, open and tolerant society. #Canada
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Stephen Harper's Terror Story and the Lies the Media Told Us

Montreal Simon - Mon, 10/27/2014 - 03:38


You think you know the story. You've seen the pictures on TV a million times. Over and over again.

You've seen how the media have tried to explain what happened, and how they've framed the narrative, complete with more heroes than you can count.

You know what Stephen Harper wants you to believe, and why. 

You've seen how many Canadians have reacted, with an explosion of grief and emotion... 



You think you know the story, until it starts to unravel.
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Follow-up

Cathie from Canada - Mon, 10/27/2014 - 00:51
Just to follow up on my previous post, Annie Laurie provides links to discuss the Terrorist or Head Case? question.
She notes this article from The New Yorker The Line Between Terrorism and Mental Illness
In a world where “clash of civilizations” rhetoric is pervasive, it is possible that radical Islam offers the same appeal to some unstable individuals that anarchism had for Leon Czolgosz, who killed President William McKinley in 1901, and that Marxism had for Lee Harvey Oswald. If you are alienated from the existing social order, the possibility of joining, even as a “lone wolf” killer, any larger social movement that promises to overturn that society may be attractive. For a person radicalized in this manner, the fantasy of political violence is a chance to gain agency, make history, and be part of something larger.She also posts some off-the-wall opinions from, who else, The War Nerd.
These guys are surplus, after all, surplus males in an era doing some fairly frantic tinkering with that whole concept. The best way to deal with them is let them take one for the team they’ve talked themselves into joining. ...
Islamic State is such a perfect organ for draining the surplus reactionary-male rage from a certain demographic of the secular West ... a sort of global kidney, drawing in and filtering out a pool of potentially troublesome young males. And all done far away, in the bowels of Syria. But only if places like Canada have enough cold-blooded sense to let this piece of luck keep doing its job. And that means only one thing: business class upgrades for every male under 25 with a record of jihadist rants and a one-way ticket to Istanbul.And by the way, we're going on holidays this week, so I won't be able to post anything or even check on the blog until next weekend. Happy Halloween!

A British Celebrity Russell Brand's Reaction To Stephen Harper's Handling Of Ottawa Attack

LeDaro - Sun, 10/26/2014 - 12:02
TORONTO - A British celebrity isn't wowed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's handling of the aftermath of the shooting of an honour guard at the National War Memorial.

The video below is worth watching.



Read more here

rotd: this changes everything

we move to canada - Sun, 10/26/2014 - 11:00
Revolutionary thought of the day:
...if there is a reason for social movements to exist, it is not to accept dominant values as fixed and unchangeable but to offer other ways to live - to wage, and win, a battle of cultural worldviews. That means laying out a vision of the world that competes directly with the one on harrowing display at the Heartland conference and in so many other parts of our culture, one that resonates with the majority of the people on the planet because it is true: That we are not apart from nature but of it. That acting collectively for a great good is not suspect, and that such common projects of mutual aid are responsible for our species' greatest accomplishments. That greed must be disciplined and tempered by both rule and example. That poverty amidst plenty is unconscionable.

It also means defending those parts of our societies that already express these values outside of capitalism, whether it's an embattled library, a public park, a student movement demanding free university tuition, or an immigrant rights movement fighting for dignity and more open borders. And most of all, it means continually drawing connections among these seemingly disparate struggles - asserting, more instance, that the logic that would cut pensions, food stamps, and health care before increasing taxes on the rich is the same logic and would blast the bedrock of the earth to get the last vapors of gas the last drops of oil before making the shift to renewable energy.

Naomi Klein, from This Changes Everything

Purity was never

Dawg's Blawg - Sun, 10/26/2014 - 10:46
Just as an aside, but I’ve been meaning to post a link to this wonderful “Medieval Persons of Colour” blog since forever. This blog travels extensively though art to point out that even in the “typical” medieval European periods... Mandos http://politblogo.typepad.com/

On taboos

accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 10/26/2014 - 09:13

Regular readers will know that I've spent plenty of time discussing all kinds of plans for multi-party pre-electoral cooperation - and that I've been highly skeptical about whether the ones we've seen in Canadian politics can be either justified in principle, or made effective in practice. And I'll readily acknowledge that those questions are worth some serious attention any time somebody raises the issue.



But can we at least agree that the mere act of talking about cooperation across party lines shouldn't be treated as a scandal?

Sunday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 10/26/2014 - 08:04
This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Tony Burman comments on the increasing recognition of the dangers of inequality even among corporate and financial elites:
(I)t is significant that the policy debate among many decision-makers seems to be changing. Rather than the nonsense about “the makers versus the takers,” there is increasing focus on the notion that income inequality could be a key factor in why overall economic growth has been sluggish in recent years.

There has always been a “common sense’ element to this argument. The wealthy tend to save a larger percentage of their income because they are able to. In contrast, middle- and lower-income people spend virtually all of what they earn because they have to. If the rich have more to save and the rest have less to spend, is it surprising that the current economy has remain stalled?

But a glimmer of hope can be seen in these latest appeals from Yellen and Carney. Their message to the business and political class was not only that the increase of inequality was morally wrong. But, perhaps more convincing with this crowd, they are arguing that it is dumb economics.

If the vaunted rulers of our flawed economic system can finally get their heads around this simple truth, the world may miraculously escape another recession. - And the Observer weighs in on the desperate need for the corporate sector to start paying its fair share rather than evading any social responsibility:
Companies such as Facebook and Google earn enormous sums of money from UK consumers – and then avoid paying tax on that revenue by processing the sale in Ireland.

They benefit in myriad ways from the UK’s infrastructure, culture and rule of law and yet do everything in their considerable power to cheat the British exchequer out of monies that would help sustain those virtues of British life. It is no wonder that the cool and edgy ambience that once surrounded tech companies has dulled. And not content with the Irish tax swerve, many technology companies that do business in the UK also drive down their tax rate further – below 5% in some cases – by holding key intellectual property in tax havens such as Luxembourg.  Royalty payments for the use of intellectual property (IP) are sent to a company that is in Ireland but has its headquarters in a tax haven.

Tax avoidance that allows multinationals to grow ever richer also damages the fabric of democracy. In the US, as the midterm elections approach, the tech companies are spending billions of dollars to protect their interests, exercising undue influence on legislators. Last year, Google spent more money on political donations in America than Goldman Sachs. There was a time when we believed that the cultures of a Google differed considerably from that of a Goldman Sachs. Not any more. Don’t be evil? Don’t be gullible, more like.

But there is a wider, more fundamental point. The perception, particularly in America, that Congress is overly influenced by major business interests that can bend legislation in their favour, erodes trust in an already enfeebled political institution.
...
Taxes matter.  They build schools, hospitals and roads and finance public services.  They also indicate a  society’s commitment to fairness. As Sandel writes in What Money Can’t Buy: “Democracy does not require perfect equality but it does require that citizens share in a common life… for this is how we come to care for the common good.” - Meanwhile, Murray Mandryk notes that Brad Wall's obsession with forcing a corporate mindset on Saskatchewan's public health care system is proving disastrous.

- Ian Mulgrew writes about how Michael Zehaf-Bibeau's known mental health issues - and the lack of treatment even when they were pointed out - contributed to last week's tragic shootings:
Wednesday’s tragedy exposed not so much a failure of our security forces as the gaping holes in our appallingly frayed social safety net.

Homeless and troubled, Montreal-born Michael Zehaf-Bibeau knew he wasn’t coping, sought assistance, begged from the sounds of it; no one listened closely enough.

During his adult life, we spent a small fortune in two provinces providing the 32-year-old with plenty of “due process” and stretches of free room and board at Her Majesty’s motels.

But we didn’t help him and, if anything, the legal system only exacerbated his frustrations.

The vast amount of tax money devoted to his petty crimes would have been far better spent providing him with appropriate psychiatric and social care.
...
We can change our approach and begin to help [people like Zehaf-Bibeau] or we can curtail civil liberties and invest in more cops, metal detectors, fences and listening equipment.

I know which approach would make me feel safer, what I would call real security measures: a social safety net that caught those in obvious need before they went postal, people like Zehaf-Bibeau.- Mitchell Anderson expands on the same point. Doug Saunders discusses the interplay between ideology (of whatever origin) and pathology in cases like Zehaf-Bibeau's. And Stephen Walt proposes what would make for the most reasonable response to the tragedy - while worrying that Stephen Harper is pushing in exactly the wrong direction by looking to meet futile and misdirected violence with futile and misdirected violence.

- Finally, digby highlights yet another step in the right's attempt to demonize participatory politics, as even simple encouragement to get people out to the polls is now being labeled as "fraud" by a Republican party which prefers to see as few people as possible having a say in elections.

Harper's War and the Delusions of Salvation

Montreal Simon - Sun, 10/26/2014 - 06:44


It was a balmy 17 degrees, and my little corner of Canada looked very much like it always does at this time of the year.

But the flags flying at half mast to honour our two murdered soldiers reminded me that this is no ordinary fall.

We're at the beginning of Harper's War, we've just suffered our first casualties, Great Strong Leader wants us to believe that we have been attacked by the Caliphate hordes, instead of by two mental patients.

And that only he can save us...
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"Something's Not Right, Mr. Harper"

Politics and its Discontents - Sun, 10/26/2014 - 06:12
While Mr. Harper would have us all believe he is working to make Canada safe from terrorism, there is a far more insidious problem that he is choosing to ignore. Watch as 12-year-old Tori Metcalf rebukes the Prime Minister for his negligence:

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kevin vickers, nathan cirillo, and canada's response to recent acts of violence

we move to canada - Sun, 10/26/2014 - 05:00
I've been thinking a lot about Kevin Vickers. By now the world knows Vickers' name: he is the sergeant-at-arms of the Parliament of Canada, and his quick thinking and courage undoubtedly saved lives. Vickers shot killed Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, who had already killed one person and appeared intent on killing others.

Vickers is a hero. But my thoughts of him are filled not with adulation, but with sorrow. Imagine going to work one day, a day like any other, and by the time the day is done, you have taken a human life. You have killed a man at close range. What could that be like? It would not be surprising if Vickers will grapple with flashbacks, night terrors, or other forms of PTSD. Despite Vickers' courage and his new celebrity, I'd bet that few of us would want to stand in his shoes.

I've also been thinking of Nathan Cirillo, because it's impossible not to. Although I consume very little mainstream media, a short dip into my Facebook feed is enough: the dog Cirillo left behind, the outpouring of public grief, the obligatory "Highway of Heroes" photos.

Cirillo was a victim, and he did nothing to deserve such a fate. I feel for those who knew and loved him. But what makes Cirillo a hero? Guarding a war memorial surely is not an act of heroism. Is simply putting on a uniform a heroic act? Cirillo's death was senseless and tragic, but it was not heroic.

Of course, hero is a word that's lost all meaning, joining ironic, obviously, and traumatized on the ever-growing list of words that are used so carelessly and so often as to lose all meaning. Hero just might claim pride of place at the very top of that list. But the hero-worship of anyone in uniform is part of the creeping militarization of our society.

I've also been thinking about violence, and how we choose to respond to violence. After the attacks of September 11, 2001, the US government constantly invoked fear in order to advance its agenda: war on people who had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks, repression of domestic dissent, spying on US citizens.

That response also included the widespread use of torture, and a concentration camp that, more than a decade later, still exists. Even if one believes, despite all facts and evidence, that the people of Iraq and Afghanistan were somehow responsible for the 9/11 attacks, the US's response was something like killing a mosquito with a hand grenade. By now it should be clear that the US government had its own agenda, and 9/11 provided the excuse.

Norway, on the other hand, chose a different path: it answered hate with love. After 77 people were massacred on Utøya island, the Norwegian government affirmed the open nature of Norwegian society and pursued charges against the perpetrator within the boundaries of Norwegian law.
These are the originals for the memorials which, from the 22 July anniversary, will be sent out to more than 50 counties across Norway, to commemorate the 77 people massacred by Anders Breivik, the far-right extremist who goes on trial this week.

On each of them, words have been carved from a poem by the Norwegian writer Laes Saabye Christensen that was recited at the memorial concert for the victims. This poem, with its message of peace, followed the tone set by prime minister Jens Stoltenberg in his address at the memorial service in Oslo cathedral two days after the tragedy.

"We are still shocked by what has happened, but we will never give up our values," Stoltenberg said. "Our response is more democracy, more openness, and more humanity." Norway, he suggested, would not seek vengeance as America had done after the 9/11 attacks." We will answer hatred with love," he said.

"It's a clear case where a politician strikes a chord," said Frank Aarebrot, a professor of politics at the University of Bergen. "The prime minister struck almost a Churchillian note in that speech. People were jubilant."

Norway has granted every legal right to Breivik, despite hearing in gruesome detail of how he coldly executed 56 of his victims with shots to the head, after attacking a Labour party youth camp on the island of Utøya, near Oslo.Canada has a choice.

On one side stands fear, suspicion, bigotry, and repression, a society where people are feared and attacked because of their appearance and surnames, where people are afraid to exercise their right to criticize the government. On that side, too, stands war: the death and destruction of innocent people, citizens turned into shells of themselves because of what they've witnessed and what they've been asked to do.

On the other side stands democracy, freedom of expression, pluralism, inclusion, human rights, and peace.

What kind of country do we want Canada to be?

Do we want the Harper Government to decide that for us?

Stephen Harper and the Great War on the Internet

Montreal Simon - Sun, 10/26/2014 - 01:42


Well he may have had some anxious moments, cowering in a broom closet, while his faithful cult members prepared to defend him with home made spears.

And a mentally ill gunman was being gunned down by the heroic Kevin Vickers, and...um... others. 

And it certainly wasn't his finest hour.

But I see not so Great Warrior Leader did manage to salvage some advantage out of the situation by declaring war on the internet.
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Reaction to the Tragedies in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Ottawa

Anti-Racist Canada - Sat, 10/25/2014 - 18:50
Well I'm back.

Did I miss anything?

There are a lot of stories I would like to get to eventually. For example I've been digging up some information on a Winnipeg misanthrope posting on Stormfront as "vikingwarlord14" named Jonathan (and trust us when we note that the online moniker is yet another example of a delusion of grandeur). And god knows that Paulie's photos deserve more attention. Well, that's a poor choice of words. Dear god! Even when this writer takes some time off I'm subjected to a horror that so living soul should be subjected to. Paul Fromm. In a leather bondage thong. That's an image that, once seen, can never be unseen.

But I really think I would remiss if I didn't first make mention of the tragedies of the past week in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Ottawa.

I'm not going to belabor the basics that we all already know, though I will provide a brief background. Patrice Vincent and Nathan Cirillo were murdered in two distinct attacks. The two accused, also dead, were Canadian-born recent converts to Islam who have been described as having been radicalized. Neither man appears to have known the other and the second attack in Ottawa appears to have been a copycat attack inspired by the events in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu. At least one of the men had a long, troubled, history before his conversion to Islam and had been tossed out of a mosque as a result of his extremist views. The other had attempted to travel to Turkey in order to hook up with ISIS (a particularly evil, fascistic, Islamic movement in Syria and Iraq responsible for countless atrocities) but was prevented from doing so by the authorities; numerous people, including his parents and Imam, tried to steer him away from radical views but were sadly not successful. Both men may or may not have been inspired by ISIS' call for those supporting them to engage in attacks on targets overseas, though it appears likely there was no direct connection. Both may or may not have been mentally ill.

Since the attacks, Muslim Canadians have denounced the murders loudly and unambiguously:

Winnipeg Muslims condemn soldier attacks, fear backlash

Canadian Muslim group calls Ottawa attacks ‘repulsive’

Ottawa shooting: Canadian Muslims denounce attacks


While condemning the murder of Vincent and Cirillo is admirable, one might be troubled by what appears to be the assigning of group guilt to Muslim-Canadians. If there was not a condemnation of the attacks by Muslims, they would be accused of secretly supporting those attacks. I can't recall Roman Catholics in Canada being required to condemn the actions of the IRA, for example, or be suspected of implicitly supporting sectarian violence in Ireland.

But regardless of how many times our fellow Canadians denounce violence carried out by extremists, there seem to be those who will ignore those denunciations and still tar all Muslims as extremists, as our friend Ed Kennedy (formerly of the currently defunct Free Dominion) proves once again:


Not surprisingly, the boneheads we cover here on the blog also jumped into the mix. The irony of some of their comments given some of their criminal backgrounds (keep in mind that "Freedom Fighter" is Kyle McKee) appears lost on them:

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New column day

accidentaldeliberations - Sat, 10/25/2014 - 10:37
Here, on how precarity is a serious concern in far more areas than the workplace alone - and how we should think about public policy as a means of eliminating precarity (whether it be in work, housing, food or other necessities of life) wherever possible.

For further reading...
- Once again, there's been plenty of discussion about the hazards of precarious work. But for a few examples see pieces from Emily Fister (interviewing Andrew Longhurst), Margaret Simms, and Nora Loreto.
- And it's also been well documented that other aspects of poverty also cause enormous and avoidable personal stress - with the commentary linked here offering some examples.
- But Janelle Vandergrift observes that food banks and other supposed charitable stopgaps have instead turned into permanent fixtures due to our failure to address the root causes of poverty. And the Housing First program looks to be a far-too-rare case of our starting to change that pattern.
- Finally, Joan Bryden reports that rather than trying to develop more stable lives for Canadians (and particularly those who need it most), the Cons are instead continuing to punch down at Canada's most vulnerable residents - this time by eliminating social supports for refugees.

Saturday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sat, 10/25/2014 - 09:26
This and that for your weekend reading.

- Geoff Stiles writes that instead of providing massive subsidies to dirty energy industries which don't need them (and which will only have more incentive to cause environmental damage as a result), we should be investing in a sustainable renewable energy plan:
(W)hereas countries such as Norway have gradually reduced...subsidies as their oil industry matured, at the same time maintaining one of the highest royalty rates in the world, Canada has allowed its subsidies to remain at a relatively high level while many provinces have actually decreased royalties on oil company profits.

There is a clear need to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies. But this is only the first step. A second step is to develop comparable subsidies and incentive programs for renewable energy and energy efficiency, to stimulate development of innovative green technologies.
...
There are relatively few examples of true subsidies for green technologies or industries in Canada at the federal level. There is an accelerated capital cost allowance (ACCA), which in addition to covering fossil fuel technologies, also covers “investments that produce heat for use in an industrial process or electricity by using fossil fuel efficiently or by using renewable energy sources”; and there is a tax benefit enabling use of flow-through shares, by which expenses incurred during the development and start-up of renewable energy and energy conservation projects can be fully deducted or financed. Current federal policy, however, is to gradually phase out ACCA for all energy forms.

Several federal subsidy programs that supported clean energy investments have actually been discontinued by the Harper government. The popular ecoENERGY program that provided grants to homeowners towards energy efficient retrofits was discontinued in 2011, and the EcoEnergy for Renewable Power program that provided per kWh supplements for wind energy systems was ended in 2013.

Restoring these subsidies is crucial if producers of low-carbon technologies and energy are to compete in a nascent market and offer consumers a fair choice of energy sources.

There are plenty of ways to incentivize a green transition. Increasing innovation-focused grants to research institutions, universities and manufacturers in the green technology field through Sustainable Technology Development Canada for example; or expanding the use of green technologies and green power in government buildings, using weighted scoring systems which favour green options over conventional fossil fuel options in government supply contracts.

What we are short on is not ideas of how to transition to a green economy, but the political will to make it happen. - Carlo Fanelli points out how Ontario's provincial government - like many others - has forced municipalities into costly and ineffective privatization schemes. And Ryan Meili contrasts the availability of MRIs in Saskatchewan and Alberta, and questions why Brad Wall would be eager to triple the wait times patients currently face in Saskatchewan just to allow profiteers to make more money.

- James Baxter and Rick Salutin both have serious doubts about the claim that Canada lost any innocence based on this week's tragic shootings in Ottawa.

- Meanwhile, CBC highlights the role that Michael Zehaf-Bibeau's mental health issues played in the shootings. And Jon Woodward reports on Zehaf-Bibeau's own confused - and rebuffed - attempts to get treatment.

- Finally, Ricochet and Stuart Trew both comment on on the importance of taking a reasoned and thorough look at what can be done to prevent future incidents. But to nobody's surprise, the Cons are refusing to let our security policy be shaped by anything other than Stephen Harper's political whims. And Stephen Maher is rightly concerned about what that means:
(T)here is little reason to have confidence that the Harper government will strike the right balance between our safety and our freedom.

It’s likely that Harper, Blaney and the people around them want to find that balance, but we’re left to guess at that, because the government’s recent record — in particular with the online surveillance bill — is of misdirection and stealth, hiding behind a smokescreen of disingenuous talking points.

There is reason to worry about this lack of forthrightness, the government’s mixed feelings about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, its attacks on the courts and its flirtation with anti-Muslim messaging.

It would be comforting if new powers are coupled with new oversight, as they should be.
...
But the record of this government is of moving in the other direction, toward less oversight, not more.

We Could All Be Joseph K.

Politics and its Discontents - Sat, 10/25/2014 - 07:34


"Someone must have been telling lies about Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning."
- The opening sentence of Franz Kafka's The Trial

Having read The Trial many years ago, I remember being initially struck by the patent absurdity of the novel's premise, that a man could be under arrest, allowed to move about with certain restrictions, and yet never learn the nature of the charges against him. The story does not end well for Josepsh K.

After reading it, of course, I realized that it was a metaphor for the totalitarian state, a state in which the innocent are swept up by the state after a murky process by which they are identified as enemies of the country.

Without wishing to be melodramatic, we are clearly moving closer to that state.

After the events of last week, tragedies that at this point appear to have been perpetrated by mentally disturbed individuals and not organized terrorism, the Harper regime seems to be edging closer towards measures that would allow for a much wider definition of 'preventative arrests,' already toughened up last year, as well as a shielding of the identities of those who accuse others of being terrorists, neither of which would likely have prevented the deaths of two Canadian soldiers. Limits to freedom of speech, as noted yesterday, are also being considered.

Today, The Globe and Mail reports:
Measures now under consideration include changing the so-called threshold for preventative arrests and more closely tracking and monitoring people who may pose a threat, such as requiring them to check in with an officer regularly even without any charges against them. Being looked at, too, is potential legislation that would make it a crime to support terrorists’ acts online, says a senior government source.
Perhaps most ominously, a measure that brings us closer to the nightmare world of Joseph K., is the fact that
legislation giving the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) the ability to better hide the identities of its informants (italics mine)...is to be tabled in the House of Commons as early as Monday or Tuesday, according to a senior government source.
Warns security expert Wesley Wark:
“Let’s be sure we know everything that was done and everything that was missed before we come up with fixes.”

Mr. Wark said that he “would be very cautious about deciding that the real fix is in extending legal powers or the real fix is in let’s go and use those preventive arrest measures … I would hesitate to advocate for that until we know what really went wrong.”
Secret trials, anonymous accusers, mass surveillance: strange ways indeed to protect our sacred democracy.

I'll leave the final word to Star letter-writer Brigitte Nowak of Toronto:
The authorities have not yet stated whether the attack in Ottawa was made by one of the 90 or so “radicalized” persons under surveillance by authorities, but already, there are calls for “increased security.”

Average Canadians are already being videotaped wherever they go, subjected to demeaning scrutiny before accessing public buildings, airplanes, etc. Any more security, reduced freedom, additional surveillance, and the “jihadists,” bent on changing our way of life, will have won.Recommend this Post

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