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Corrupting Civil Society

Northern Reflections - Wed, 07/16/2014 - 06:13

                                                                                  http://buzznigeria.com/


The government has always had the power to revoke an organization's charitable status. But it didn't happen very often; and, Carol Goar writes, the rules were clear:

They siphoned donations into their founders’ own pockets, they provided a front for shadowy groups or they used most of their funds for administration. 
But things changed with the advent of Stephen Harper:

The Conservative government, angered that environmentalists were tying up pipeline projects in the West, tightened the regulation of charities. It required them to provide a detailed account of their political activities, imposed tough penalties on those that spent more than 10 per cent of their funds on advocacy and gave CRA $8 million to conduct a special audit.

The announcement sent a ripple of unease through the non-profit sector, but there was no wholesale panic. Most charities assumed the government would target a handful of prominent environmental organizations and leave the rest alone. That was a reasonable interpretation of the signals Stephen Harper and his colleagues were sending at the time. Joe Oliver, then natural resources minister, had lashed out at “radical environmental groups” for undermining the economy. Former environment minister Peter Kent had accused of them of “laundering offshore funds for inappropriate use.” But over time the scope of the blitz widened. CRA is now auditing churches, human rights organizations, animal welfare groups and anti-poverty coalitions. There are fears the two-year crackdown will be extended, putting non-profit organizations under an indefinite regime of increased surveillance.
The reason was simple. Charities almost invariably are opposed to Harper's agenda. And, like the man he more and more resembles -- Richard Nixon -- Harper has turned to government agencies to harass and dispose of his enemies.

The effect on charities has been devastating. Gareth Kirby writes in a recent paper:

I find that an advocacy chill is affecting charitable organizations that advocate on public policy issues though it varies in intensity and extent from organization to organization. I find that there is evidence in the data that the government is attempting, with some successes, to narrow society’s important policy conversations. Finally I find the data suggest that the current federal government is corrupting Canada’s democratic processes by treating as political enemies these civil-society organizations whose contributions to public policy conversations differ from government priorities.”
That's what Harper is all about: corrupting civil society.

 

Did She Really Say That?

Politics and its Discontents - Wed, 07/16/2014 - 05:54
I have a measure of sympathy for Irene Hubar, who reportedly spent over $1 million to refurbish a building in Hamilton's downtown core, only to encounter difficulty in leasing it out to commercial interests. In her view, the problem is with the 'street people' who loiter outside, scaring away potential tenants that she is trying to attract.

However, her outrageous assertion to a city hall task force, which you will hear at the beginning of the following clip, goes far beyond anything a democratic and free society could ever countenance, but it is one, I suspect, that the corporate agenda would wholeheartedly embrace:



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The Con Apocalypse and the Humbling of Stephen Harper

Montreal Simon - Wed, 07/16/2014 - 03:35


As you may remember, I was deeply troubled by Stephen Harper's wild diatribe at the Calgary Stampede BBQ almost two weeks ago.

I couldn't decide whether he had inhaled the fumes of his own propaganda, like Rob Ford sucks on a crack pipe.

Or was lying compulsively. Again.

Or whether inflamed by the sight of all those cowboy hats, he had finally gone off the deep end. 
Read more »

Tuesday Afternoon Links

accidentaldeliberations - Tue, 07/15/2014 - 15:49
This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Paul Boothe responds to the C.D. Howe Institute's unwarranted bias against public-sector investment:
Is the public sector holding back provincial growth rates by crowding out private sector investment?  That’s the contention of a recent C.D. Howe paper by Philip Cross.  The paper provides a great case study of the danger of confusing correlation with causality.

Let’s begin with the simple arithmetic.  Gross domestic product (GDP) is the sum of spending on consumption, investment, government services and net exports.  Whether the investment spending is initiated by the private sector or the public sector makes no difference to the GDP accountants at Statistics Canada. Both contribute in the same way to measured GDP and a boom in either private or public sector investment will boost economic growth. The simple arithmetic gives us no reason to prefer one kind of investment over the other.
...

(T)he four provinces with relatively high private sector investment ratios that Mr. Cross highlights are all energy producers, while the ones with relatively low private sector investment ratios are not.  A simpler alternate hypothesis, dismissed out of hand by Mr. Cross, is that the differences in private sector investment ratios are mainly due to the energy boom.  In fact, when one compares the rates of public sector investment per capita in Alberta and Ontario in 2012, it turns out that they are roughly comparable. Alberta actually has greater public sector investment per capita when one accounts for investment by utilities in the same way across provinces.

Scottish poet Andrew Lang warned about the misuse of statistics, remarking that they are sometime used like a drunk uses a lamppost, more for support than illumination.  The recent CD Howe paper by Philip Cross may tell us more about the author’s political ideology than the determinants of private sector investment.- And speaking of ideological preferences for corporate wealth over the public interest, PressProgress contrasts the CRA's Con-ordered crackdown on progressive charities against its minimal action to deal with high-wealth tax evaders. And John Oliver neatly illustrates how the U.S.' economic system is rigged to favour those who already have the most:


- Meanwhile, David MacDonald examines the effect of EI, and finds that Canada's main employment income support has such restrictive entry requirements that it actually directs money away from the poor:
In fact, the group the most likely to be EI recipients is the middle 20% of the income spectrum (prior to layoff). They are the most likely to have surmounted the almost six months of constant work required to qualify for EI.

The other disturbing implication of the above results is that any group that represents less than 20% of the beneficiaries is in essence subsidizing the system. The lowest income group only receives around 16% of the benefits depending on the year. The poor pay into EI while working, but they are less likely to collect benefits if they’re laid off.

While we may consider EI a strong social support system, its current construction makes it particularly regressive for Canada’s lowest income families.

The easiest way to redress this inequality is to reduce the number of hours required to qualify for EI thereby letting in those with precarious employment resulting in more frequent bouts of EI.  - Derek Thompson offers a reminder of the high cost of being poor. And Adam Carter reports on the effect of poverty on health for urban aboriginals in particular.

- Finally, Alison once again has all the background information you need to know on an astroturf group looking to brand any questioning of oil barons as unpatriotic.

Do they Not Get Any Canadian News In Peru?

Politics and its Discontents - Tue, 07/15/2014 - 13:49
I had to wonder after reading this story and watching the video below. After all, asserting to be Mike Duffy's daughter is not something that most people would claim, given the porcine senator's domestic notoriety:


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Victorian C36, sex work and the CPC god-and-pony show

Dammit Janet - Tue, 07/15/2014 - 11:42
If last week's opportunistic display by the Harper government Con MPs at the special Justice Committee's hearings about C36 wasn't enough, today's rightwing fundamentalist religious histrionic zealotry given voice by CPC useful idiot Bob "Douchert" Dechert amply illustrates Poe's Law.

The collective CPC and its individual MPs' squalid, Christian Taliban-like beliefs about sexwork are deeply gynophobic, cruel and oppressive as well as redolent of 19th century England hypocrisy.  Not only is Bill C36 unlikely to survive a Supreme Court of Canada challenge, it expresses the worst of Harper Cons base support's most vile attitudes towards women as victims and sex as inherently evil unless redeemed by holy marriage.

It brings to mind this sexist joke, an artefact of 1950s assumptions, that first-year law students may still hear from a creaky member of the Old White Boys' Club:
Having been propositioned by a well defined and uptown prostitute one evening, a successful single gentleman agreed to have consensual sex with the young lady for the sum of $500.00. After the evening ended the gentleman handed the young lady $250.00. The prostitute immediately demanded the balance and threatened to sue if she didn't get it. "That's a laugh!" the man stated, "I'd like to see you try." A few days later the man was surprised to receive a summons ordering him to appear in court as a defendant in a lawsuit. The man hurried to his lawyer's office and explained the details of the case. His lawyer said, "She can't possibly get a judgment against you on such grounds, but it will be interesting to see how she presents her case." After the usual preliminaries, the parties appeared in court ready for trial.

The prostitute's lawyer addressed the court first, "Your Honor, my client, this lady here, is the owner of a piece of property, a garden spot surrounded by a profuse growth of shrubbery, which property she agreed to rent to the defendant for a specific length of time for the sum of $500.00. The defendant obtained exclusive possession of the property, using it extensively for the purpose for which it was rented. However, upon evacuating the premises, he paid only one-half of the amount agreed upon. The rent was not excessive since it is restricted and exclusive property and we ask that judgment be granted for plaintiff and against defendant in the amount of $250.00.

The defendant's lawyer, thrown back by what he had just heard, pondered the opening remarks for a moment and stood to present his off-the-cuff version of the case, "Your Honor, my client agrees that the young lady has a fine piece of property, and that he rented such property for a period of time, and that he even derived a degree of pleasure from the transaction. However, my client found a well on the property upon which he placed his own stones, sunk a shaft, and erected a pump. All equipment belonging to my client and all labor being performed by him. We allege that these improvements to the property were sufficient to effect an offset of the unpaid portion of rent and further allege that the plaintiff was adequately compensated for the fair market rental value of such property. We, therefore, ask that judgment not be granted for plaintiff and that the defendant be awarded his attorney's fees and costs incurred in the defense of this frivolous action."

The prostitute's lawyer replied, "If it pleases the court your Honor, my client agrees that the defendant did find a well on the property, and that he made the improvements to the property as alleged. However, had the defendant not known the well existed, he would have never rented the property. Furthermore, upon evacuating the premises, the defendant removed the stones, pulled out the shaft, and took the pump with him. In doing so, he not only dragged his equipment through the well-manicured shrubbery, but left the well with a hole much larger than it was prior to his occupancy, making it easily accessible to small children, thereby creating a possible danger to the health and general welfare of the public. We, therefore, ask that judgment be granted as requested in the complaint.

Judgment for the plaintiff in the amount of $250.00!
Imagine it being told by the chortling, snorting, oinking CPC MP Robert Goguen, whilst MP Joy Smith supplies demure gasps in the background.

If you want to hear a *good* joke, read this brilliant parody of the slut-shaming "Rescue Rhetoric".

nadine gordimer, 1923-2014

we move to canada - Tue, 07/15/2014 - 08:30


Nadine Gordimer was a great writer, and a steadfast voice for justice.

Gordimer, a white South African, was a member of the African National Congress when the organization itself was illegal. Several of her novels, which explored the affects of apartheid on those who lived it, were similarly banned.

Gordimer was a courageous woman, an outspoken intellectual, and a writer for whom art and politics became inseparable. She lived life on her own terms, and died at the old age of 90. Despite that, her passing feels like a great loss to the world.

Nadine Gordimer's obituary in The Guardian, and The New York Times.


tommy ramone, and how can it be the ramones are gone from this world?

we move to canada - Tue, 07/15/2014 - 08:00
Back-to-back obituaries again. Obits are taking up a large percentage of wmtc real estate these days, yet another indication of how little I'm writing.

The passing of Thomas Erdelyi this week, better known as Tommy Ramone, brings an uncomfortable reminder of mortality for people my age and younger: the last surviving original Ramone.

Like a lot of people, I discovered the Ramones in a kind of backwards fashion, through the Clash and other great British punk and new wave bands. No matter how many times I've read and heard that these guys from Queens were a heavy influence on British punk, to me it always seemed the other way around.

The Ramones, perhaps more than any other band, embodied the true spirit of punk. So strange that they are gone.


Tommy Ramone, 1949-2014


Debiting His Credit

Northern Reflections - Tue, 07/15/2014 - 06:20
                                                                                     http://www.cbc.ca/

Stephen Harper has a habit of taking credit for what others have done -- or for just pure dumb luck. In 2008, he took credit for the solidity of Canadian banks, even though it was Paul Martin who beefed up capital requirements for the banks, while Harper -- as the Leader of the Opposition -- insisted that Canadian banks should follow the model of their American cousins.

And recently, at the Calgary Stampede, he took credit for the "gradual decline in Quebec separatist sentiment." Celine Cooper writes:

If support for sovereignty in Quebec is on the wane, it is in spite of his party’s governance, not because of it.

As research conducted by Université de Montréal sociology professor Claire Durand indicates, support for sovereignty has been receding among young francophones for close to 15 years.

In other words, support started to slide while the federal Liberals were still in power.

Beyond keeping their nose out of Quebec’s internal politics (the “don’t poke the bear” approach), neither the ebbing of sovereignist sentiment nor the PQ’s truncated tenure should be directly attributed to Harper’s governance. It is disingenuous for him to suggest otherwise.
Cooper suggests that, in the next election, the Conservatives will be off the Quebec radar screen -- because they concluded a long time ago that they can win a majority without any real presence in la belle province:

When the Conservatives won 10 Quebec seats in 2006, one of the reasons was because the Liberals had been in power for so long and were flailing in the aftermath of the Liberal sponsorship scandal and the Gomery commission. But after realizing they could win a majority without Quebec, Harper more or less retreated from the province.
However, the prime minister has never let facts stop him from taking credit for what he sees as his monumental achievements. The truth is that there is nothing monumental about what he has done.

And it's time to debit his credit.


A Mound Of Sound Guest Post: Climate Change By The Numbers

Politics and its Discontents - Tue, 07/15/2014 - 05:02
One of the great malignancies of the 20th century was the spread of neo-classical economics. the macro- and micro-stuff that you probably had to learn in university.

I did a good bit of fraud work in my legal career. One of the key ways to unravel a well-crafted fraud was to ferret out the inconsistencies, the gaps, the irreconcilable contradictions. Neo-classical economics, being a work of fraud, also is replete with inconsistencies, illogic and irreconcilable contradictions, but it bundles them all up and jettisons them under the category of “externalities.” It’s sort of like your teenager shoving all the dirt and debris under the bed before proclaiming his room ‘clean’ before demanding the keys to the family car.

The use of externality is a dandy way of keeping incidental costs off the balance sheet. Carbon emissions? An externality. Impacts on climate change, ditto. Deaths in the hundreds of thousands? That too.

In yesterday’s Guardian there’s an item that reveals the face of climate change since the 1970s in 8 charts. It’s taken from a UN study.

What is most telling are two bar graphs toward the end of the article. One of these is titled, “Disasters ranked by reported deaths (1970-2012)”. The countries that dominate that list are Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Mozambique – essentially the Third World. The other is entitled, “Disasters ranked by economic losses (1970-2012)”. Here the top players are Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, Andrew and Ike along with flooding in China and Thailand.






What this reveals is that for the Third World, climate change is a matter of life and death. For the developed and developing countries, it’s an economic problem. Economic challenges are approached from a “cost/benefit” basis. That’s where externalities, such as all those Third World deaths and suffering, come into play. Even though the industrialized world is responsible for almost all of the greenhouse gas emissions since the Industrial Revolution that are wreaking death and suffering in the Third World, we externalize that. We keep it off our books. It’s not relevant.

What have we become? Recommend this Post

Stephen Harper's Hugely Embarrassing Economic Problem

Montreal Simon - Tue, 07/15/2014 - 04:46


Well we all know how Stephen Harper likes to portray himself as a Great Economist Leader.

The brilliant leader with the best job record in the G7, or the best growth record since Jesus took five loaves and two fish, and fed five thousand.

And the ENVY of the world.

But sadly for him, Harper's story is also starting to smell a little fishy. 

Or just plain fraudulent. 
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Beggars Can't Be Choosers

Dammit Janet - Mon, 07/14/2014 - 23:29
In poetry, the word 'thousand' has represented not only an actual mathematical number of distict properties, but also a metaphor for infinity or without end; for example, 'never in a thousand years', 'one picture is worth a thousand words' and so on.

As I write this tonight, the fundraising effort to keep the Morgentaler clinic for women's health services in New Brunswick up and running has taken an optimistic turn.  With 17 days to go on the deadline for fundraising, the requested funds of $100,000CAN has sprouted to over 63% of the way.  It wasn't looking so hopeful last night when it was still below $19,000CAN, which at least, was higher than it looked last Friday.

$100,000 dollars.  An enormous, near infinite amount of money to most of us not living the life of the 1percenters.  When I was thinking about that, Friday night, I couldn't help but consider that progressive, fellow-feeling Canadians are in the position of literally begging for random donations to support legal medical services for cis-women and transgender men, because their provincial government had successfully fettered mandated services with administrative blockades that served no purpose beyond sectarian interpretations of morality.

Canadians in 2014. Begging. For. Funding of *legal* medical procedures. Potentially affecting 50percent+ of the national population. Begging. BEGGING IN THE STREETS for enough money to keep medical treatment safe.  BEGGING for the ability to help Canadians who practically have nowhere else to go, unless the State authorities deem them worthy of State mercy.

These State-imposed blockades deliberately and aggressively infantilize adult, taxpaying Canadians of sound mettle. Needful patients in the Canadian medical system must submit to the authoritarian, foot-dragging and subjective decisions of what is essentially a legally rejected 'in parens patriae' judgemental gauntlet of strangers that may or may not grant permission for access to safe, professional, *timely* and economically unfettered medical care.

That always works out well.

Canadians shouldn't have to beg on bended, humble knee to get necessary medical attention. The organizations opposing the ability of cis-women and transgender men to have timely and *dignified* access to pregnancy terminations and/or contraception are pleased to make a mockery of Canada's long standing Supreme Court human rights decision.

They're counting on lying, public shaming, and economic challenges as their weapons to force *other peoples'* unwanted pregnancies to term, no matter the human cost to the already living.  They're *happy* about such tactics.  They *want* begging.  They want social control in their hands, not the hands of individuals wanting lives of choice and personal respect.  They're well funded.

They shouldn't be the only ones so funded.

$100,000CAN.  Let's work for the New Brunswick clinic and its deadline but let's also look beyond its survival.  There are underserved urban and rural areas all across the country.  Maybe this is naive, or even repetitive, but let's run with that poetic number.  Why can't we take that $100,000 figure and break it down?

What about 1,000? 1,000 Canadians who believe access to legal, evidence-based abortion and contraception services are important.  1,000 pledges to provide $100.00CAN to a yearly project? We have 10 provinces and 3 territories. In their bounds, are there not 1,000 people willing to put up less than $9CAN per month equivalent?

1,000 pledges that could either seed money support for areas of Canada lacking in Abortion/contraceptive services or match extra funds raised.  1,000 pledges to say there aren't sluts or saints, only Canadians in need. 1,000 pledges that show political circles we're not going back to the way medical access was in this country before abortion and contraception services were legal.

Canadians shouldn't have to beg for their lives.

Not in a thousand years.

New Brunswick Activists Push Back, Canadians Respond Generously

Dammit Janet - Mon, 07/14/2014 - 15:52
I've been watching the fundraising efforts by Reproductive Justice New Brunswick. They are trying to raise $100,000 to secure the lease on the Fredericton Morgentaler Clinic, which is closing this week.

At about 8:30 this morning, the total stood at $18,400 with just 17 days left in the campaign.

Sometime soon after that, a piece in the Globe and Mail titled "Abortion in New Brunswick: The vise tightens, and activists push back" appeared.

By 11 a.m., the total had zoomed to more than $32,000 and as of just now (6:30 p.m.) it stands at more than $51,000.

As comments at the fundraising site and on the Globe article indicate, people across the country are shocked by the New Brunswick government's cavalier attitude towards women's rights. Canadians find it appalling that not all of us have equal access to healthcare. Some of us were under the impression that we'd fought this battle and won.

Surprise!

Donations are not the answer of course. This is merely a stop-gap.

The goal is to force the NB government to repeal its idiotic Regulation 84-20 so that women of the province can have medicare-funded, self-referred abortions like other Canadians.

And no, we haven't forgotten Prince Edward Island, where the attitude towards women's healthcare is similarly antediluvian.

If you can, please consider a donation and spread the word among your friends and networks.

For those who prefer to use cheques, you can mail them to Reproductive Justice New Brunswick at PO Box 761, Stn. A, Fredericton NB E3B 5B4.

Here's a tweet from one of the organizers today.

In my life, I have never felt more love in my heart than I do today. This adopted kid is forever grateful. #NBProchoice #SaveTheClinic

— Kathleen Pye (@KathleenCanada) July 14, 2014

Monday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Mon, 07/14/2014 - 08:38
Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Ralph Surette highlights the dangers of a pollution-based economy which fails to account for the damage we're doing to our planet and its ability to provide food for people:
This is something to behold. A more-or-less hurricane in early July. Has anyone ever seen such a thing?

This is climate change, and it's getting worse. And whereas the news of the day is about people with the power out, the long-term story is about the hit to agriculture, now and in future, here and worldwide -- keeping in mind that farming is more than an "economic sector." It's the food supply.
...
This is the story all over, as agriculture, always up and down, has become a wild, unpredictable ride through floods, droughts, storms, killing heatwaves, heat-related pest infestations and other hazards. In some places -- drought-ridden California being the prime example -- the scary question is whether agriculture there is simply finished for good.
...
What to do? As with our pollution-based economy generally, the answer is one we and our established systems resist ferociously: to change our ways. The experts point out that a third to half of food is actually wasted and mere increased efficiency, especially energy efficiency, in the food system -- from the farm to us -- would work wonders. Only 43 per cent of the world's grains are consumed directly by humans. The same applies to the other part of the food system, fisheries. A staggering figure in that regard is this: of the 110 to 130 million tonnes of fish caught worldwide annually, 30 million tonnes is discarded at sea -- the same amount as goes to fishmeal to feed farmed fish. Is this as impossible to change as it seems? - Meanwhile, Tavia Grant discusses the health effects of climate change.

- Laura Broadley reports that Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. is now grudgingly admitting that its in situ oil extraction may be contributing to ongoing and still-unexplained oil spills. (As a friendly reminder, that's exactly the type of oil exploitation the Cons have declared to be immune from environmental assessment.) And Jessica McDiarmid writes about Windsor's fight to be able to protect its citizens from hazardous goods being shipped by rail.

- Gloria Galloway reports on the threat to Canada's national parks from unfettered resource development and a woeful lack of public investment.

- David Climenhaga points out that the Cons' latest spin on TFWs seems designed to allow low-pay zones wherever an employer wants to avoid offering a fair wage to Canadian workers.

- Finally, Shannon Gormley rightfully questions why equal pay for women is still projected to be a lifetime away:
Seventy-five years. According to an Oxfam report released Sunday, that’s how long it will take until women in G20 countries can earn, stow away and waste as much as the men who, right now, probably sign their paycheques. In no G20 country does women’s pay reach 80 per cent of men’s.
Before we get into how to save time (and money) — listen. That sound you hear is the sound of conservatives everywhere uttering a secret hope masked as insight: “Progress is slow,” these anti-progressives say, with a smugly wizened intonation peculiar to the type of man who smokes a pipe and has another man shave him with a straight razor.
Of course, 75 years isn’t slow. Turtles are slow; 75 years is an actual, honest-to-God lifetime. Seventy-five years is longer than it took a large chunk of Germany to go from being fascist to communist to capitalist. Longer than it took people to go from using typewriters to computers the size of living rooms to computers they wear on their eyeballs. Longer than it took Americans to go to the moon and then back again and then decide they didn’t feel like going to the moon anymore. Seventy-five years are about as many years as most of us will ever have....(W)omen who ask for raises, promotions and other career opportunities aren’t just denied what they want, they’re punished for asking: whether they ask “nicely” or assertively, whether they ask in writing or in person and, most remarkably, whether the person they ask is a man or another woman. Women’s bias against other women is a particularly clear indication that we can’t wait for our subconscious minds to change. We need to change systems and structures and let our minds catch up.
That’s Oxfam’s answer. In Canada, where “progress has stalled to a halt over the past two decades,” and only 57 per cent of women have been employed full-time over the past five years compared to 76 per cent of men, change has to mean national low-fee day care, which has given Quebec more money than it has cost, and no more public service cuts, which disproportionately affect women. Globally, it must mean equal pay legislation, non-discriminatory taxation, and paid parental leave.

They Say He's A Smart Guy

Northern Reflections - Mon, 07/14/2014 - 08:00


                                                                          http://www.globalresearch.ca/

Chris Hedges writes that there is a deep irony to what is currently happening in Gaza. It mirrors what happened to European Jews eighty years ago:

Raul Hilberg in his monumental work “The Destruction of the European Jews” chronicled a process of repression that at first was “relatively mild” but led, step by step, to the Holocaust. It started with legal discrimination and ended with mass murder. “The destructive process was a development that was begun with caution and ended without restraint,” Hilberg wrote.

The Palestinians over the past few decades have endured a similar “destructive process.” They have gradually been stripped of basic civil liberties, robbed of assets including much of their land and often their homes, have suffered from mounting restrictions on their physical movements, been blocked from trading and business, especially the selling of produce, and found themselves increasingly impoverished and finally trapped behind walls and security fences erected around Gaza and the West Bank.

“The process of destruction [of the European Jews] unfolded in a definite pattern,” Hilberg wrote. “It did not, however, proceed from a basic plan. No bureaucrat in 1933 could have predicted what kind of measures would be taken in 1938, nor was it possible in 1938 to foretell the configuration of the undertaking in 1942. The destructive process was a step-by-step operation, and the administrator could seldom see more than one step ahead.”
There is no halocaust. One hopes that history has taught us something. Nevertheless, it is a patten which is repeated over and over again:

The Palestinians in Gaza live in conditions that now replicate those first imposed on Jews by the Nazis in the ghettos set up throughout Eastern Europe. Palestinians cannot enter or leave Gaza. They are chronically short of food—the World Health Organization estimates that more than 50 percent of children in Gaza and the West Bank under 2 years old have iron deficiency anemia and reports that malnutrition and stunting in children under 5 are “not improving” and could actually be worsening. Palestinians often lack clean water. They are crammed into unsanitary hovels. They do not have access to basic medical care. They are stateless and lack passports or travel documents. There is massive unemployment. They are daily dehumanized in racist diatribes by their occupiers as criminals, terrorists and mortal enemies of the Jewish people.
No one seems to have brought these parallels to the attention of Stephen Harper -- or perhaps he has chosen to ignore them. For the prime minister there is always one side to any issue. Economics is about supply, not demand. The world is populated by "Us" and "Them."  Israeli policy is always right, never wrong.

And they say he's a smart guy.

Giving Credit Where It Is Due

Politics and its Discontents - Mon, 07/14/2014 - 07:11


Over the years on this blog, I have been deeply and justifiably critical of the excesses of unfettered capitalism. Degradation of the environment, activities contributing to widescale climate change, and exploitation of labour have been some common targets. Yet every so often, something comes along to show that not all businesses are based on such a rapacious and monolithic model.

In yesterday's business section, The Star reported on a number of enterprises that puncture the myth that paying ones's employees more than the minimum wage is a shortcut to bankruptcy, a favoured assertion of the right.

One of those enterprises is Coffee Pubs,

where the starting wage is 50 cents higher than Ontario’s $11 an hour minimum wage. Full-time staff can start earning an ownership share in the company after six months of service. The business has also expanded to include bartending and catering services. It has 16 employees; workers start at $11.50 an hour and qualify for medical and dental benefits after three months. Managers earn about $30,000, and the Cluleys, the husband and wife owners, say they pay themselves slightly more.

A small company with only two location, Coffee Pubs's decision to depart from the conventional pay model is a bold one, given that employee remuneration in a small operation is a much greater factor in overall costs than in large enterprises.

So why did they do it? Both serendipity and social conscience seem to have played roles.

Their first site, at Bloor and Bathurst in Toronto, is leased from The Centre for Social Innovation, which offers rents geared to revenue. Their second venue is at Artscape Youngplace, a collaborative public space in a former elementary school that’s home to artists’ studios, galleries and an Ontario Early Years Centre.

The Cluleys say that their advantage comes from the strong relationships they’ve forged with local vendors, tenants and walk-in customers from the surrounding neighbourhood. They estimate they have about 100 to 150 customers each day and about half of them work in the building.

The other part of the equation is their philosophy:

“We could use cheaper ingredients and pay the staff less and make more money. We know that this way isn’t going to get us wealthy but we believe in the model,” Erin said.

“We believe if we are patient, we can make a big difference. We want to show there’s another way to run a business that’s not just profit for its own sake.”

The article includes reference and links to other organizations promoting similar values, but on a larger scale, such as B Corporation and Wagemark Foundation.

Like industry leaders including WestJet and Costco, more and companies are discovering that treating employees with dignity, respect and decent wages has tangible benefits:

They argue firms that create high-quality, well-paying jobs and treat their workers better will have a more loyal and engaged workforce, leading to better bottom lines, and better end results for everyone.

We can only hope that this model, which in many ways is the antithesis of the rapacious and unfettered capitalist one widely practised today, ultimately becomes the norm. We, of course, can do our own part by patronizing such enterprises and spreading the word about them with any means we have at our disposal.

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Insider tarsands astroturf - Power of Canada

Creekside - Mon, 07/14/2014 - 06:51
A month ago, former MP and Liberal leadership contender Martha Hall Findlay had a piece in the G&M : Northern Gateway : You don't build a nation by saying 'No" in which she echoed Tarsands Minister Joe Oliver in invoking pipelines as "nation-building" projects similar to building the "national railway and the St. Lawrence Seaway". 

Nation-building is apparently no longer about bringing people together in economic resilience but now consists of petrocorps getting their toxic unrefined bitumen to China as quickly and easily as possible. 

What you may not have known because the G&M failed to mention it is that MHF was writing as a member of an insiders corporate PR group spun off from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce called Partnership for Resource Trade and its website Power of Canada [powerofcanada.ca].  

If you want to hear even more about the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Saint Lawrence Seaway as precursors of nation-building pipelines and how the resource sector is the "front lines of environmentalism" - these are your go-to guys.

Power of Canada Advisory Council Members include Perrin Beatty, David Emerson, John Manley, Kevin Lynch, Ted Menzies, MHF of course, and reps from CAPP, TransCanada, Enbridge, Rio Tinto, Teck, Suncor, TransAlta, CD Howe, BMO, Asia-Pacific Foundation, Mining Association of Canada, Port Metro Vancouver, etc. etc.
  
While you're there you can sign up to pledge your support and add your sig to a petition to MPs : "I believe in the Power of Canada".

As the Canadian Chamber of Commerce put it in a letter to their local branches :
"Through the Partnership for Resource Trade, we want to recruit and empower local champions ... and add your voices and passion to the public debate. In coming days we will provide more tools that can help you and your members become involved in the dialogue.  I encourage you to visit the web site powerofcanada.ca."
Here's two local champions who took the pledge and signed up at Power of Canada :
Cody Battershill, Calgary, AB
Wyatt Webster, Surrey, BC

As I've mentioned before, Wyatt Webster co-wrote a pro-pipeline op ed in the Vancouver Sun with Christopher Wilson in June where they advised readers to check out their own grassroots website, Canada Action - "Support Northern Gateway", which in turn also signs up supporters - including Bruce Lounds of the pro-pipeline astroturf group British Columbians for Prosperity.

Sample Canada Action supporter comment :
"The Northern Gateway pipeline is a nation building project, every bit as important as building the St Lawrence Seaway"
  
Here Canada Action is seen staging, in Cody Battershill aka codyincalgary's words, an "Awesome Pro-Resource, Pro-Pipeline" counter-protest at the "No Enbridge" rally in Vancouver in May - with massive professional-looking banners and a special surprise visit from tarsands advocate Ezra Levant. 

Wilson and Webster state in their Vancouver Sun op ed : "Are we financially supported by a company, an association or a charitable foundation? No."

The first comment under the article is from Cody Battershill aka codyincalgary : 
"Why is Canada the only top oil reserve country targeted with such sophisticated, well financed and coordinated opposition?"Sigh. We're obviously going to have to massively redefine "grassroots" and "astroturf" before this is over.


h/t Waterbaby for Power of Canada link.
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