Posts from our progressive community

The TPP - a casino where the house always wins

Creekside - Thu, 02/04/2016 - 17:39

The best part of International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland signing the U.S. corporate rights agreement TPP - the Trans-Pacific Partnership - in Aukland NZ yesterday was that it was done here in this gambling casino, and a casino is where the house always wins.

In her 2012 book, Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else, Freeland explains :
"Trying to slant the rules of the game in your favour isn't an aberration, it is what all businesses seek to do. The difference isn't between having virtuous and villainous business people, it is about whether your society has the right rules and policing able to enforce them."Of course this 'enforcement' would first entail our government not ditching those 'right rules' or 'policing' just because transnational corporations and their revolving-door crony capitalists within government find them inconvenient.

Justin Trudeau on the campaign trail, October 5 2015 :
“The Trans-Pacific Partnership stands to remove trade barriers, widely expand free trade for Canada, and increase opportunities for our middle class and those working hard to join it.... The government has an obligation to be open and honest about the negotiation process ..."Then in mid-January Freeland told us :
“The negotiations are finished and for Canadians it’s important to understand that it’s a decision of yes or no..." All countries have two years to ratify it, but the treaty comes into force if the United States, Japan and four other countries give their approval.  “It’s important for us to understand that we don’t have a veto.”Yesterday she said : "There is a big difference between signing and ratifying", promising negotiations and parliamentary committees and round tables etc, all of which are very nice but none of which are legally binding on the Liberal caucus
Now that we've signed off on it however, we are all supposed to pin our hopes on those.

Flashback to the Liberal Convention of 2014 two years ago. 
Guest speaker and TPP advocate, former US Secretary of the Treasury Lawrence Summers is interviewed on stage by Freeland, who introduces him as "a dear friend, teacher, and probably the smartest person I know". Summers, she explains, is there to give the Libs "some great ideas about how to transform Canada and in so doing transform the world." 

Now most of us probably remember Larry Summers as the US bank deregulator - a prominent architect alongside Alan Greenspan and Robert Rubin in reversing the 1933 US Glass-Steagall Act, that Depression-era legislation which prevented US banks from turning into the high-risk hedge-fund casinos making wild bets against their own depositors' money they became in the late 2000's. Or we remember him as the $5M hedge fund advisor who made millions in speaking fees from the hedge funds he later helped regulate while advocating tax cuts and no ceiling on CEO pay for stimulus recipients. Or as a Bilderberg Group Steering Committee member.


What I wish is that rather than continue to parrot all that "all middle-class liberals together" shmooze that Summers was selling the Libs two years ago, including airily blowing off the casino bank crisis he helped precipitate, better the Liberals should instead try out what Summers, still a strident TPP advocate, is saying now : 
"First, the era of agreements that achieve freer trade in the classic sense is essentially over. The world’s remaining tariff and quota barriers are small and, where present, less reflections of the triumph of protectionist interests and more a result of deep cultural values. What we call trade agreements are in fact agreements on the protection of investments and the achievement of regulatory harmonization...Concerns that trade agreements may be a means to circumvent traditional procedures for taking up issues ranging from immigration to financial regulation must be taken seriously.Being pressed down everywhere are middle classes who lack the wherewithal to take advantage of new global markets and do not want to compete with low-cost foreign labor. Our challenge now is less to increase globalization than to make the globalization we have work for our citizens."
Try to keep up with your own hedge fund heroes rhetoric here, Libs. 

Thursday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 02/04/2016 - 05:52
This and that for your Thursday reading.

- PressProgress weighs in on the OECD's findings that Canada's income inequality is significantly worse than previously assumed. Didier Jacobs argues that our current economic system is anything but meritocratic. And Paul Morrison points out how a poorly-designed tax system forces low-income workers to pay massive effective taxes on work income.

- Andrew Prokop finds that a majority of Americans agree with Bernie Sanders' message of a "political revolution" to ensure a more fair distribution of wealth, while Michal Rozworski and Derrick O'Keefe discuss the significance of Sanders' presidential campaign.

- The Broadbent Institute makes its suggestions for a more fair and progressive federal budget. And Thomas Piketty outlines a "New Deal for Europe" to address the concurrent problems of inequality, economic stagnation and public debt.

- James Wood reports that Alberta's NDP government is making a major move in the area of affordable housing, while a group of academics calls for Rachel Notley to follow up by introducing a sales tax to ensure there's enough revenue to address social needs.

- Finally, Matthew Coon Come writes that it's long past time to end the underfunding of First Nations services whether or not it's seen as a legal obligation.

The Oily Madness of the Con Queen Rona Ambrose

Montreal Simon - Thu, 02/04/2016 - 05:50

If Rona Ambrose doesn't stop viewing her job as both interim Con Queen AND the new chief spokeswoman for Big Oil, sooner or later somebody is going to tell her she should go pump gas for them.

Because every Question Period, no matter what's happening in the country and the world, she leads off with some kind of oily question. 

One day she's flogging the Energy East pipeline, the next day she's raving about a carbon tax. 

And the problem for Rona and her Cons is that she isn't very good at it. Or good at anything.
Read more »

New column day

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 02/04/2016 - 05:38
Here, on how Regina City Council's embarrassing heel-dragging in response to the David Suzuki Foundation's Blue Dot Declaration on environmental rights contrasts against the spread of trade agreements with virtually no scrutiny.

For further reading...
- Shawn Fraser both introduced the motion supporting the Blue Dot Declaration, and discussed it here. And the list of cities who have already signed on is here
- Meanwhile, CBC reported on Council's demurral. And Paul Dechene was duly outraged here.

Another Vessel

Northern Reflections - Thu, 02/04/2016 - 05:27

This week, in answer to a Conservative question about why the Liberal government was taking its time to examine its role in the war against ISIS, Defence Minister Harjit Sajan told the House of Commons, “I want to make sure we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past. Because every single time we make these mistakes as political leaders, we send our men and women into harm’s way for no reason.”

That brought a request from Canada's pudgy former defence minister, Jason Kenny, to have an English to English translation of what Sajan said. It was a typically nasty response from Kenny. But, Tom Walkom points out, things have gotten worse in the Middle East:

Slowly, inexorably, the war against the Islamic State is widening.It has moved into Afghanistan, where both the U.S. and the Taliban are taking on ISIS militants.
It is moving into Libya. There, the U.S. is reportedly contemplating airstrikes. Italy is said to be looking at the eventual dispatch of ground troops.
In Iraq, the U.S. has already found itself enmeshed in ground combat — in spite of President Barack Obama’s stated aversion to the notion.
American special forces have also been sent into Syria
Mr. Sajan was a soldier Afghanistan. Mr. Kenny and his equally pudgy former boss have only played soldier.

Ten years have proven that the Harper government was a ship of fools. We would be wise to book passage on another vessel.

The Greatest 60s Cover Band?

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 02/04/2016 - 01:40

Twin sisters, Mona and Lisa. Austrian girls now living in Liverpool. They went public at the age of 13. I've never heard anything quite like them. Now I think I'm hooked.

Justin Trudeau and the Politics of Empathy

Montreal Simon - Thu, 02/04/2016 - 01:30

I thought Justin Trudeau's question and answer session with ten so-called ordinary Canadians the other night on the CBC, was a pretty decent little TV show.

Another pleasant sign that our country is starting to look like Canada again, after the muzzled darkness of the Harper years.

And I certainly didn't think that it would offend anybody.

But then I hadn't counted on the Con media, or the outrage of Tasha Kheirridin.
Read more »

Are You Really Going to Bank on Justin and Christia When It Comes to the TPP? Elizabeth Warren Has Some Insights You Might Find Helpful.

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 02/03/2016 - 15:47

Justin Trudeau and his international trade minister, Christia Freeland, are non-committal when asked whether Canada should sign onto the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. They tell us they're going to mull it over.

Fortunately others, such as Joe Stiglitz, Robert Reich and American senator Elizabeth Warren have already done a load of mulling and they're not pulling any punches about what the deal means. Here are some thoughts from senator Warren:

"I urge my colleagues to reject the TPP and stop an agreement that would tilt the playing field even more in favor of big multinational corporations and against working families," Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)said on the U.S. Senate floor on Tuesday. Noting that "most of the TPP's 30 chapters don't even deal with traditional trade issues," she argued, "most of TPP is about letting multinational corporations rig the rules on everything from patent protection to food safety standards—all to benefit themselves."

Now maybe you think that free trade is still "a thing." You might imagine that free trade remains the Ark of the Covenant of free market fundamentalism, the economic mantle of neoliberalism warmly wrapped in the cloak of globalization. After all, free trade is the rising tide that lifts all boats and promises our children an ever better tomorrow, right?
There are some who argue that you've not just had a drink of the KoolAid, you've swallowed the whole bucket.  Among these are John Ralston Saul who, for a decade now, has been convincingly arguing that it's all a put-on. He believes globalization is dead. He sees the entire neoliberal movement as a hollow ideology bordering on a religion replete with idols and High Priests. To Ralston Saul, you've been conned and you're still being conned.
A similar refrain can be had from political economist James K. Galbraith, son of the legendary John K.G.  He contends even the High Priests stopped believing in market fundamentalism long ago. They know it doesn't work. They also know, claims Galbraith, that the public has been adequately conditioned to believe in free trade - despite all the evidence to the contrary of its painful failings - that it remains a very useful and effective means of advancing corporatism and, eventually, illiberal democracy. This dovetails neatly with Warren's timely observation that the TPP "is about letting multinational corporations rig the rules on everything from patent protection to food safety standards - all to benefit themselves."
Recently I decided it would be useful to post random passages from James Galbraith's recent book, "The Predator State, How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too." Here's the first instalment, taken from the preface. Galbraith begins by exploring parallels between the Soviet failure in the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and America's failure in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
...where the Soviet creed was of central planning, ours was its polar opposite, a cult of the free market. And as I charted my way through this book, I came to realize that the relationship between actual policy in the United States and the doctrines of policy is not simple. In uncanny ways, this relationship has come to resemble its counterpart in the old Soviet Union" actual policies were (and are) in no principled way governed by official doctrine. Rather, the doctrine serves as a kind of legitimating myth, something to be repeated to schoolchildren but hardly taken seriously by those on the inside.
What is the purpose of the myth? It serves here, as it did there, mainly as a device for corralling the opposition, restricting the flow of thought, shrinking the sphere of admissible debate. Just as even a lapsed believer kneels in church, respectable opposition demonstrates fealty to the system by asserting allegiance to the governing myth.
...The early Reaganites performed an important service to intellectual history by distilling their ideas into four major bodies of economic law: monetarism, supply-side economics, balanced budgets, and free trade.
A governing myth hides an underlying reality, and any attempt to govern through myth is bound to be short-lived. So it was with Reagan. ...If we do not actually live in a world made by Reagan, just as the Soviets did not actually live in a world made by Marx, what is the true nature of our actual existing world?
...the fundamental public institutions of American economic life were those created by public action in an earlier generation - by Franklin D. Roosevelt in the New Deal and World War II, by London Johnson in the Great Society, and to a degree by Richard Nixon - and that those institutions have, to a large extent, survived to the present day.
But if they have survived, obviously they have not survived undamaged. The catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina pointed to two types of damage. One was an erosion of capability, evinced in this case by the failure by the Army Corps of Engineers to maintain the levees protecting New Orleans. ...This kind of erosion presupposes nothing about intent. It can and does happen simply because of resource constraints, misjudgments, accidents of politics, and history...
But Katrina, and especially the aftermath of the disaster, also illustrated a second and more serious sort of rot in the system. This I will call predation: the systematic abuse of public institutions for private profit, or equivalently, the systemic undermining of public protections for the benefit of private clients. The deformation of the Federal Emergency Management Agency into a dumping ground for cronies under the government of George W. Bush - "Heckuva job, Brownie" - captured the essence of this phenomenon. But so too does the practice of turning regulatory agencies over to business lobbies, the privatization of national security and the attempted privatization of Social Security, the design of initiatives in Medicare to benefit drug companies, and trade agreements to benefit corporate agriculture at the expense of subsistence farmers in the Third World. In each case, what we see is not, in fact, a principled conservative's drive to minimize the state. It is a predator's drive to divert public resources to clients and friends.
The predation of which Galbraith writes is well advanced in the United States. We lag behind but not far enough and we are trending in the same direction. Corporatism does have a powerful hold in Canada and that's something that needs to be beaten back. Embracing the TPP may, and probably will, make that essential, vital task all but impossible. It's our children's Canada we'll be giving away. Nobody, certainly not some guy with a false majority, has the right to do that to us.

David Suzuki: Stephen Harper Should Be Jailed

Montreal Simon - Wed, 02/03/2016 - 14:33

As you know I've long believed that Stephen Harper has got away with murder, and should be put on trial for his many crimes against Canada.

And for his crimes against the planet.

So I'm really happy to see that David Suzuki also believes that Harper should be jailed 
Read more »

Rick's Rona Rant

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 02/03/2016 - 14:19
From last evening's RMR

 I take the piss out of Ambrose, referring to her as "Mona," but Mercer has a habit of calling her "Ronna" as in Donna. Charming.

Guerrill-Anne: A Beautiful Corrective

Dammit Janet - Wed, 02/03/2016 - 10:57

This is genius, taken both at face (heh) value and a little deeper.

In an article titled "Anne-tagonizing posters connect icon to P.E.I. abortion debate," The Guardian says:

P.E.I.'s most famous fictional character has become part of the province's ongoing abortion debate.
The next paragraph refers to Anne of Green Gables.

But the anonymous person or group, who goes by the handle Karats, has made no such claim. I find it interesting that probably only in PEI (and maybe Japan) would such an image be assumed to be the "feisty" red-haired character created by Lucy Maud Montgomery.

In fact, a commenter called "J" at the Guardian link says: "Who said it's Anne? Maybe it's Wendy? LOL."

Here is Karats's manifesto, if it is such:
Karats is the voice of a community calling for justice.

Karats sees the effects that the lack of abortion access has across PEI, in particular for low income individuals, and other vulnerable populations.

She sees the denial of access and upholding of barriers to abortion services by the PEI government as putting the kibosh on an opportunity for gender equality across our province.

Karats is trying to generate conversation on the topic and encourage the Premier and the government to enthusiastically concede the pending court case brought forward by AANPEI and LEAF. [link added]

“#HeyWade - Take this opportunity to not only bring access to the Island but to proudly show you support Island women gaining control over their health and lives. Be the Premier who brings PEI into the 21st century!”

For more information, please contact:
Twitter- @iamkarats
The guerill-Anne asks that people look for the poster and snap photos to be sent to an Instagram account. If you visit the site, you'll see that Karats gets around a bit.

Posters started appearing on January 28, the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision, R v Morgentaler, striking down Canada's existing abortion law in 1988.

The upcoming court case in the manifesto was announced on January 5, by the newly formed group, Abortion Access Now PEI.
Abortion Access Now PEI says it is taking the province to court to force it to provide full and unrestricted access to publicly funded abortion services on the Island.

The group says it has filed a notice of application in the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island against the P.E.I. government. Under the Crown Proceedings Act, any group filing a lawsuit against the province is required to provide notice of 90 days.

"For over two decades, we have advocated for on-Island, safe, legal access to abortion," Ann Wheatley, co-chair of Abortion Access Now PEI, said in a news release.DAMMIT JANET! has been covering this stupid situation for years. Some background can be found here.

Of course, the fetus freak reaction was completely predictable. In an article that starts off "Yuck!" LieShite misrepresents the character's background (ooo, lying again???) to make its glurgey point, stating that Anne was "unwanted," adopted, yet "life-loving." So, according to "pro-life logic," all unwanted, adopted children will grow up to star in famous fictional series.

(Anne was not "unwanted," by the way. She was orphaned because her biological parents died.)

In addition to the photos at Instagram, the campaign has generated lots of interest. Here's Karats responding to a question about the bandana.

Hey! @DaybirdElyse No significance to the design on my bandana. I just wear it to stay fresh while I kick up a stink. ✊

— Karats (@iamkarats) February 1, 2016

When the analysis gets literary, it gets even more interesting.

(Full disclosure: I was not a great Anne-fan. My mother was, and that was perhaps enough to turn me off.)

At Vocative, Tracy Moore quotes a fetus freak calling the choice of Anne ironic "because she’s the epitome of the unexpected blessings of choosing life even in challenging and non-idyllic circumstances," and continues:
But literature professors who focus on children’s lit and are familiar with the series and character say it’s not quite so obvious. “Yes, she had a pretty tough childhood,” says English professor Philip Nel at Kansas State University, who has taught the books. “She’s orphaned when she’s young; her parents die, and she ends up having some bad early experiences. She initially works for people who exploit her and use her to raise other kids.”

But, he adds, there are a lot of ways you could use her as a feminist icon for your cause, also. “She’s outspoken, she’s independent, she competes with Gilbert Blythe in school and is very smart.”

Another professor of children’s literature on the East Coast who didn’t wish to be identified [????] said it depends on the interpretation of both the books and the abortion issue. Even though Anne is orphaned in the book and taken to live with the Cuthberts, her background doesn’t figure as tragically as it sounds, nor does she fit a standard narrative of the unwanted child typically presented as a candidate for abortion in the language used by the debates.

“Her parents die of an accidental illness, but they weren’t impoverished or indigent,” he said. “Eventually in the series, she finds their house and some of their things, and discovers they were a loving couple with a home, and she was wanted and loved.”

He says a so-called militant feminist interpretation of Anne isn’t off the map, though. “Anne makes her own choices. She puts off marriage. There’s a romance plot, but she spends a lot of time putting it off to pursue things she’s interested in—education, friendships, work, writing. No, she’s not radical about it, but she’s very self possessed and very self-assured.”At BookRiot, Brenna Clarke Gray says:
First, while Anne exists in a world before feminism, she’s a strong proponent of women having agency in their own lives. Her decisions — to be educated, to teach, to write, and to marry — are all her own choices, made freely. And Anne loved babies and cherished her own children, to be sure, but she also knew what it was to be unloved, unwanted, and abandoned. She knew pain and tragedy and she sought to limit both in the lives of people around her. Her face makes perfect sense in a campaign that, at its core, seeks to do the same thing.

Second, as scholars such as Herb Wylie have pointed out, PEI (and Atlantic Canada as a whole) is trapped by the expectations that narratives like Anne of Green Gables create: when tourism depends on a version of yourself that is trapped in a quaintly backwards time, social progress becomes undesirable. To co-opt an image like Anne that has been tied to one particular version of what PEI can be, and to use it to agitate for a more progressive society, is a beautiful corrective.
As I said at the start, the campaign is genius.

Simple enough to get fetus freak knickers in knots.

But nuanced and rich in more intelligent interpretation.

May it succeed and prove "a brilliant corrective" to an idiotic situation.

A Page from Vancouver Island's Maritime History - the BCP45

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 02/03/2016 - 10:02

It's a bit of Vancouver Island history. The seiner, BCP45, came out of the Burrard drydocks in 1927 and plied the coastal waters for salmon until 1994. It changed hands frequently but spent much of the latter half of its service life operated by First Nations crews from Quadra Island.

In 1958, a documentary crew caught a picture of BCP45 at work in the Seymour Narrows near Campbell River.

That photo landed BCP45 a place on the reverse of Canada's $5 bill from 1972 to 1986.

Today she sits, safely restored, at the Maritime Heritage Centre in Campbell River.

Well, There's One Rona That's Not a Dead Loss

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 02/03/2016 - 09:11
No, I'm not talking about Mona Ambrose, erstwhile nursemaid to the wallowing wounded remains of the Conservative Party. She definitely is a dead loss.

It's the other Rona, the hardware chain, that's doing fine. That's thanks to what appears to be a successful takeover bid by American giant, Lowe's. It seems that Lowe's wants to go head to head with that other American giant, Home Despot, up here north of the 49th (sorry, Leamington).

Curious that. Mona, Rona - they both remind me of garden tools.

C'Mon, Don't Say It Never Crossed Your Mind.

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 02/03/2016 - 07:47

David Suzuki says Shifty Steve Harper deserves a double helping of the ol' mandatory minimum in the Greybar Hotel for his years of 'wilful blindness' over the environment.

But the Rolling Stone interview didn't mark the first time that the activist has suggested jail time for political leaders who don't act on climate change.

In a 2008 speech at McGill University, Suzuki called on students to look for legal avenues through which to put politicians in prison if they ignore climate science, The McGill Daily reported.

Referring to Harper and then-Alberta premier Ed Stelmach, he said, "It is an intergenerational crime that in the face of the work of scientists over the last 20 years, they keep dithering as they are."

There are actual legal minds at work on the theory that nations and their leaders who recklessly endanger the global environment are guilty of crimes against humanity for which they should be visited with legal penalties. Another effort seeks to have the major emitters found liable to compensate the low-emissions Third World for the impacts of climate change they endure.
Climate change becomes a much different issue when viewed from the global perspective. It's when you see it from the perspective of the peoples of the sub Saharan Sahel, Bangladesh, Vanuatu and so many other 'have not' states that the deaths, suffering and displacement caused, in large part, by the developed world's relentless greenhouse gas emissions becomes tangible and, someday, it could be fully actionable.

the great weed of 2016: the results are in

we move to canada - Wed, 02/03/2016 - 07:00
A while back, I announced that Allan and I were going to try weeding our books and CD collection. A few months passed until we could find the time, but we've done it. Seven boxes of books and three boxes of CDs will be leaving our lives.

Last September, I said this:
When I was in my 20s, I wanted to own every book I'd ever read. I was one of those people who believed that my personal library was a statement about myself. I needed to proudly display my politics and my tastes through my bookshelves and records. I loved seeing other people's libraries, and loved when people perused mine. I can recall that when we found ourselves in the home of a new friend, we would soon be looking through their books and music.

For many years, we loved amassing as large a music collection as we possibly could. . . .

The whole concept of a library being a personal statement has been erased by the digital age. Most people under a certain age have never owned a physical medium of music. The sharing ethos of the internet has led to things like BookCrossing, BookMooch, Read It Foward, and Little Free Libraries. . . .

I don't know if this is a function of working in a library and having ready access to so many books, or just a general change in my desires.So there we have it. I don't fully understand why I can now let go of things that I've packed up and moved from apartment to apartment to house to house more times that I want to count. But suddenly, it's fine.

We don't know what we're doing with all of it. Some we can donate to the annual giant book sale that benefits the Mississauga Symphony Orchestra. Allan thinks we might get some money for the CDs at BMV Books. I'm highly skeptical, but I'm willing to try.

We Can Do (And Be) Better Than This

Politics and its Discontents - Wed, 02/03/2016 - 06:53

While I continue to have a guarded optimism about our new government, there are troubling signs that suggest that it has some conspicuous blind spots. Not only are the Trudeau Liberals showing every sign of carrying through with the very contentious Saudi arms deal, but it appears now they are expanding their Middle East customer base.
The Canadian government is busy promoting Canada’s defence industry in Kuwait even as a United Nations report accuses a Saudi-led coalition, which includes Kuwait, of “widespread and systematic” bombing of civilians in Yemen.Essentially embroiled in a civil war between the Houthi and the elected government, Yemen has become part of a regional power struggle between Shia-ruled Iran and Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia, which shares a long border with Yemen. Unfortunately, that power struggle is costing many, many civilian lives.
A leaked UN panel report last week attributed 60 per cent, or 2,682, civilian deaths and injuries in the Yemen conflict to air-launched explosive weapons and said the Saudi-led coalition’s actions are a “grave violation of the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution” and violate international law.

Targets in Yemen, the UN report found, have included refugee camps; weddings; civilian vehicles, such as buses; homes; medical facilities; schools; mosques; factories and civilian infrastructure.Like many countries in the Middle East, Kuwait has a sorry human-rights record:
According to Amnesty International, even peaceful criticism of Islam and the emir, the ruling head of state, remains criminalized. The rights watchdog says human-rights activists and political reformers are among those targeted for arrest, detention and prosecution. Authorities have prosecuted and imprisoned critics who express dissent through social media and they have curtailed the right to public assembly, Amnesty says.Although sales to Kuwait at this point seem to be limited to a flight simulator, the problem is Canada's openness to other military sales to the country. The head of the business Council of Canada, John Manley,
cautioned that blocking trade with foreign countries is a decision that should not be made lightly.

“It’s grounds to have a conversation,” he said of the UN report, adding, however, that “you’re not going to get the next deal if you can’t be relied upon.”For its part, the Trudeau government is pleading both ignorance (the Foreign Affairs depart claims not to have read the UN report) and a historical relationship with Kuwait:
... department of Global Affairs spokeswoman Rachna Mishra said, “Kuwait has been a strategic partner for Canada in the Middle East for over 50 years, and we value our close relationship with them.”So there we have it: a bit of obfuscation, some corporate influence/pressure and a vague departmental justification - not exactly a recipe to inspire confidence in our new government.Recommend this Post

Back To Citizens

Northern Reflections - Wed, 02/03/2016 - 05:14

Susan Delacourt writes that, when Parliamentary reporters used to converge on Bob Rae to ask him how the issues of the day affected taxpayers, he used to correct them: “You mean citizens,” Rae would say.

 It's interesting to track the use of the word taxpayer:

Google has a little gadget called ‘Ngram Viewer’ (it really needs a better name) which allows you to track the popularity of words over the past couple of centuries. You put selected words into the search engine and it tracks how often they’ve been used in books written since 1800 (all the books Google has archived online, at least).

It’s most useful for noting big trends in word usage. When you feed the word “taxpayer” into the Ngram gadget, it shows some fascinating peaks and valleys over the past 100 years. The graph moves steadily upward all through the first half of the 20th century, dips significantly in 1929 (the Great Depression), and then climbs again up to the 1960s. From then until the 1980s, the word seems to decline in common usage before taking another upward swing from the mid-1980s to the present.

Here’s an intriguing coincidence: The decline in the usage of “taxpayer” roughly matches the era when Trudeau’s father was in politics here in Canada, a time when politics worldwide was more preoccupied with social or identity issues. As politics turned more to economic questions in the 1980s, “taxpayer” started climbing back into fashion.
The website lists the ten MP's who  have used the word taxpayers most since 1994:

  • Former Conservative minister James Moore: 313 uses of the word
  • Treasury Board president Scott Brison: 312
  • NDP MP Charlie Angus: 305
  • Former Conservative MP Paul Calandra: 289
  • Former Conservative MP Ken Epp: 266
  • Former Reform/Canadian Alliance MP John Williams: 265
  • Former Conservative minister/MP Monte Solberg: 245
  • Conservative MP/former immigration and defence minister Jason Kenney: 242
  • Conservative MP and former minister Pierre Poilievre: 236
  • Former Liberal MP Keith Martin: 235

Remember Scott Brison and Keith Martin used to be Conservatives. How Charlie Angus wound up on the list is a bit of a mystery.

However, things seem to be shifting. Delacourt writes that, in a recent interview, Justin Trudeau told her,“The idea of ‘citizen’ involves both benefits and responsibilities, and I like that a bit better.”

Citizenship is a two way street. Not only do citizens receive, they give. It's a dynamic process that has more than one dimension.

Something Conservatives seem to have forgotten.

Wednesday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Wed, 02/03/2016 - 04:57
Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Ben Casselman and Andrew Flowers discuss Raj Chetty's research on the U.S.' glaring lack of social mobility and fair opportunities:
Children from poor families are much less likely to work in adulthood than children from middle-class families. Only about 60 percent of children from the poorest families are working at age 30, compared with 80 percent of children from median-income families.2 And the relationship extends beyond the very poor; the higher a person’s parents were on the earnings ladder, the more likely he or she is to work as an adult — at least until the very top, when employment rates dip again.
When the children of affluent families do work, they make a lot of money. The chart below shows how much 30-year-olds earn given their parents’ income. There’s a steady increase until the top few percentiles of parental income, when it spikes. The average man whose parents were in the 97th percentile earns about $60,000 at age 30; the average man who grew up in the richest 1 percent earns more than $80,000. (This measures only wage and salary earnings, so it doesn’t factor in any other advantages these young adults might have, such as trust funds, lower student debt, or parental help with housing or other expenses.) - Karen Jusko studies (PDF) the U.S.' social safety net and finds that it falls short of meeting even half of the needs of low-income individuals. 

- The Canadian Labour Congress points out the widespread dangers raised by the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And Brent Patterson reminds us how the TPP will enrich pharmaceutical multinationals at the expense of citizens and health care systems.

- Dennis Pilon refutes the claim that Canada is constitutionally trapped in an unrepresentative electoral system. And PressProgress highlights the unfairness of false majorities - no matter which party happens to benefit from one at a given time.

- Finally, Paul McLeod exposes examples of widespread abuses of power by the RCMP which typically don't get released to the public. And Jim Bronskill follows on the revelation that CSIS has wrongly collected tax data by reporting that the Canada Revenue Agency has no idea what information was improperly shared.

Groundhog Harper and the Latest Monstrous Con Scandal

Montreal Simon - Wed, 02/03/2016 - 01:42

It's just as well Stephen Harper didn't choose to emerge yesterday from the hole where he has been hiding for most of the winter.

For it was Groundhog Day, and he probably would have felt like all those other poor furry creatures awoken so rudely from their hibernation.

Blinking in the bright TV lights, and being asked to explain why his campaign prediction that sunny economic days were ahead, could have been so horribly wrong. 

Or even worse for Great Furry leader, having to answer questions about this act of Con bestiality.
Read more »

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

accidentaldeliberations - Tue, 02/02/2016 - 17:48
Surrounded cats.


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