Posts from our progressive community

Peddling Snake Oil

Northern Reflections - Tue, 10/14/2014 - 07:43


 Stephen Harper has been traveling the country, announcing tax breaks. So you know the election campaign is on. But the real proof that Mr. Harper is in campaign mode, Michael Harris writes, is that the three cornerstone's of Harperism are now firmly in place - fable, fear and smear:

Fables are comforting tales with few details. And, if there is one thing Mr. Harper doesn't want Canadians to look at, it's the devil in the details:

With the Canada-Europe CETA deal — which remains a work in progress, no matter how many press releases they’ve issued — we’re told that Canada’s GDP will go up 32 per cent. No mention in that bald prediction of who will benefit, or what it will cost. How many subsidies will the federal government have to pay to people like cheese producers? How much will seniors end up paying for their pharmaceuticals if the Europeans get their way? Judging from his past performance, Harper’s deals will be good for the five-carat wedding ring set. For lesser mortals, it will come down to a chicken-wing in every pot.
Then, of course, there is Harper's newly minted war in Iraq, which is being fueled by fear:

That same mainstream media (with notable individual exceptions, including the intrepid Canadian Press) is endorsing Harper’s view that Canadians are in imminent danger of being beheaded at the outlet mall by Islamic State. Man-eating pythons rising up from the toilet bowl pose more of a direct threat.
And, finally there is the attempt to smear Justin Trudeau -- which has apparently been outsourced to Jason Kenny:

Jason Kenney is apparently spending 20 per cent of his time whipping the shiny new pony on Twitter. Kenney’s staff is in on the act but the minister assures us they do the work on their personal time. (They would never kick the pony during working hours because that would be … well, that would be dirty pool, right?)
The whole idea is to sow seeds of doubt about Trudeau's judgment. But, that tactic could well backfire. It might cause voters to take a second look at Harper's judgment:

As for trashing Justin Trudeau for being inexperienced or having poor judgement — does Harper really want to go there? A debate about judgement? Does he really want to revisit all his least statesmanlike moments — from recruiting his staff from the ranks of guys who have done time to turning Libya into Thunderdome?
It's the tried and true Harperian formula. The question is: After almost a decade, do Canadians know a snake oil peddler when they see one?

The Globe And Mail: Same Old, Same Old

Politics and its Discontents - Tue, 10/14/2014 - 07:08

We are currently receiving a three-month free subscription to The Globe and Mail, a paper I supported for many years until it returned to its largely right-wing nature after vanquishing its putative competition, The National Post, and jettisoning many of its finer writers. At least getting it free for this period allows me unimpeded access to the front section of my paper of choice, The Toronto Star, since my wife very generously reads the Globe at the breakfast table.

When the free subscription period ends, I shall not continue with the Globe, as my wife and I are clearly not part of its intended audience. I was reminded of that fact this morning as I read what was essentially a two-part editorial on tarsands oil.

Part 1, entitled Canadian oil scores a well-deserved win overseas, begins on a note of triumph:
It’s encouraging that Canada was able to exert “immense” pressure (in the words of a European Commission official) so as to moderate the terms of a proposed EU fuel quality directive that would have discriminated against Canadian exports of bitumen from the oil sands. Canadian persistence has been admirable, and no doubt the successful Canada-EU trade negotiations helped.The piece than appears to dampen its enthusiasm by broaching the subject of those pesky carbon emissions, but then the basis of the paper's concern becomes evident:
Even so, Jim Prentice, the Premier of Alberta, is right to warn that, though this is “positive news for Alberta, and for all of Canada,” this country cannot afford to appear to be a reluctant foot-dragger on the environmental front.

For example, the stalling of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline is a result of immense pressure from the environmental movement, which harms Canada’s legitimate economic interests. (italics mine)
Which leads us to Part 11, Carbon policy: lagging on the home front. Intially, it appears to be offering a counterbalance to Part 1, faulting the Harper government for its sluggish pace and vague policies on reducing carbon emissions:
The government’s plans for limiting carbon emissions are vague and incomplete. Even at that, the work is lagging behind schedule. There is no clear path forward. And much of whatever progress Canada has made on these matters has been accomplished by the provincial governments, not Ottawa.However, it emerges very clearly that it is the optics of this delay, not the ongoing environmental and climate degradation, that is The Globe's true concern:
Such silence and delay give Canada and Canadian oil a bad name, not least in the U.S. They amount to damaging weapons in the hands of the American opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline, a project that would benefit both Canada and the U.S. So it is clear that nothing has changed at The Globe since I cancelled my subscription. The self-named newspaper of record continues to see the world through the bifurcated lens of business imperatives and those who oppose or challenge those interests; the paper clearly continues to subscribe to the notion that anything wrong with our version of capitalism can be fixed with a little tinkering around the edges and some effective spin.

I'll take The Star's social agenda and citizens lens over that any and every day of the week.
Recommend this Post

Stephen Harper and the Murderous Con War on Drugs

Montreal Simon - Tue, 10/14/2014 - 03:19

As you know, I can't criticize and denounce enough what Stephen Harper and his foul Con regime are doing to this country. 

Just like I can't praise our Supreme Court enough for standing up to those beastly bullies, and defending our Canadian values.

And today I get to do both at the same time. By pointing out that if the court hadn't stopped the Cons three years ago from closing down Vancouver's Insite Clinic. 

Sixteen people could have died yesterday.
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On gleeful destruction

accidentaldeliberations - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 14:27
Others have pointed out Stephen Harper's remarkably joyful mood at the prospect of getting into another Iraq war. But lest we let the moment pass without some photographic and Photoshop memory, I'll offer up the following...

Some notes on privilege

Feminist Christian - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 14:24
Privilege. No one likes admitting that they benefit from it. Many with it won't admit they have it. And there are different kinds of privilege, all of which people like to pit against each other.

Luna, wtf are you talking about?

Good question, me. I'm a little bit jumbled about on this topic and can't seem to make my brain create the words to describe what I want to say about it. I'm only going to talk about white privilege and class privilege for this. And that's barely scratching the surface. There's also gender, sex, thin/fat, ability, and any number of other issues.

Maybe we should do this by question and answer? First of all, wtf do you mean by privilege?

Sure. Why not? Go for the hard question first. Privilege: When something inherent about a person grants them special "rights" (i.e. privileges) and makes things easier for them. A certain awesome author and blogger described it in terms of the video game of life, where privilege gives you an easier difficulty setting. Straight, white male = easiest difficulty setting. You can fuck it up, you can still lose, but when all else is equal it was easier for you. There are other random variables that can make the game harder, like addiction, abuse, poverty (which I'll come back to), but in general straight white cis male = least amount of difficulty navigating the game.

But surely wealth and class is also privilege! Poor white folks have it as bad as black people and first nations, right?

Yes, class privilege is real. No, it is not the only privilege out there. Being poor and white has plenty of advantages over being poor and black. Or poor and Cree. Or poor and any visible minority. Seriously. Yes, I know cops are shitheads to people who look poor. But if you're poor and white, you're not as likely to end up on a Starlight Tour than if you're poor and aboriginal. And when was the last time a white person was mistaken for a burglar in his own house?

You say class privilege is real, but then don't describe it. You're not very good at this, are you?

No. And that's why you're asking the questions. Of course, it's a huge advantage to have lots of money. And POC who are also wealthy also have class privilege. They have access to the circles of power that poor people of any colour do not have. Telling white people who are dirt poor and wondering where they'll get their next rent cheque from to organize the white people, to change things within the white power structure is patently ludicrous. They have no power. A rich black guy has way more pull in the power classes than a poor white guy. And a poor black guy has even less. And is more likely to get put in prison for trying.

Are you suggesting that there's a privilege hierarchy? So rich + white > rich + colour > poor + white > poor + colour?

Um, yes and no? Yes, in some circles. No, in others. That hierarchy is likely true in cases of "trying to effect change within a power structure" and completely untrue in "trying not to get killed at a traffic stop". In the former, money = power. That's why Barack Obama can be president of the USA and Oprah is one of the most powerful women on earth but white privilege is still very real and being black is a disadvantage. Just try shopping while black or native. Do ask Forest Whitaker about that. Rich black guy accused of shoplifting. When was the last time that happened to a rich, white guy? Right?

I was watching people argue about this on Twitter last night, and someone said that white people can do it just by going down to goodwill and buying a suit. They'll get in to places black people won't. Um, bullshit. I'm sorry, but bullshit. No. First of all, a goodwill suit will barely get you through a job interview. Ask any poor person trying to get a job - if you don't look the part already, you don't get the job, and people know the difference between a goodwill suit and an Armani.

Another example: When was the last time a poor person was elected to anything? Never. You cannot get elected without a lot of money. That's just how it works. And I mean a LOT of money. I do pretty well, and I wouldn't be able to afford to run for provincial politics. Municipal even. Oh yeah, I could run for mayor, put up my signs, go door to door, and have no hope whatsoever, because the incumbent has MONEY. Money he spreads around everywhere. Unless that guy is caught... I don't even know what would take him down. He's white. Drinking and driving? Nope, that got Gordon Campbell an ambassadorship to the UK. Even though it was rumoured he had a second family on the side (girlfriend and kid in Hawaii, is what I heard). Gay scandal? Nope, wouldn't matter in BC (and that's a good thing). Fucking the babysitter? Nope. See Vic Toews. Stealing from other rich white guys? THAT might do it. Because money and the knowledge of how to use it = power.

The knowledge of how to use it? What? 

Yeah, it's not enough to be filthy, stinkin' rich if you want to be powerful. If you want to change the power structures from the inside. Even rich and white isn't enough. Suppose you won $50M and your goal was to raise awareness of disability issues in the public schools, effecting change in a way that would make public schools more accessible to people with a disability. How do you even start? You don't have the connections of someone born to it. You don't have the knowledge of the system passed down to you from your parents. And you may not even have much of an education. The latter can be bought. The other two? Not so much.

Remember the example of the Armani suit? Even if you're lucky enough to score an Armani (ha!) that fits (HA!), the second you open your poor, lower class mouth, you're out. They know you're not one of them the first second you speak if you don't have the education to speak in their register.
Now, again, you're not likely to be arrested, beaten or killed for it if you're white. Not as good of odds if you're a POC. And that leads us back to the race problem. "Oh, he's so well-spoken!" = "Huh. I expected AAVE! [as if there's something inherently wrong with AAVE] He managed to speak a whole two minutes without saying motherfucker! Good, good black man!" Being black and educated enough to speak the upper class register is treated with suspicion, disbelief, and amusement. At least until that guy proves himself well enough. It's bullshit. And a perfect example of white privilege. A poor person can't get access and a rich person with an education can. But a rich black person with an education has a shitload of prejudice to wade through. And that shitload might be too thick for a whole lot of people.

Class != Money. Class is inherent, something you're born to. It's evident the second you open your mouth. Unfortunately, if you're a POC, you may not get the chance to open your mouth.

So what was your point again? Give us the TL;DR version!

My point is that white privilege doesn't trump class privilege in all cases. And class privilege doesn't trump white privilege in all cases. And we really need to stop fighting amongst ourselves about this. Poor white people have obstacles. Poor people of colour have more obstacles. Class is privilege. White is privilege. Education is privilege. None of these alone will grant a person magical access to the world of power and control. Telling poor white people to just change things within their communities is not ever going to work. They have no power. Oh sure, white people get weaker sentences in the criminal justice system, better jobs, and a whole lot of freebies. But they have no more ability to change society than a poor black person. Okay. Slightly more. Like how a canoe has a better chance of getting across the ocean than a dinghy does, because the people shooting at them can't sink the canoe like they can sink the dinghy.

You're rambling again. I said I wanted the TL;DR version, dammit!

Take D&D. If you have a strength of 18 and dex of 17, that'll get you a long way in fights. But if your charisma is 2, good luck getting a deal on the sword you want.

It's not linear. Class privilege gets you farther in some parts of society than white privilege does. White privilege gets you farther in society than class privilege does. And that's just if you're a straight cis male. If not? Good luck, sister!

October 2014 Bits and Bites: Thanksgiving Edition

Anti-Racist Canada - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 10:28
As today is a day where people will be getting together to spend time with their loved ones, we thought we would give some attention to those bonehead, who will be spending this day alone, perhaps eating a can of corned beef over the sink while blaming the Jews for their social isolation.

Our first lonely shut-in is Tomasz Winnicki of London who has been mentioned on a number of occasions on this blog.Truth be told, we think he likes the attention since he frequently tries to get our attention. His efforts are usually for naught and that sort of frustrates him a little bit, however we do throw him a bone sometimes. For example, here is one of his comments concerning our posts on the Southern Ontario "Skinheads":

Yeah, in case it's unclear Tomasz is suggesting that he is the worthy opponent we should be engaging. Have we mentioned that he has a very high opinion of his intellect?

Okay, will give you a shot Tom. Call it an audition for the position of our foil. We'll take a look at one of the comments you made on "The London Free Press" concerning the recent election in Sweden to determine if you are a worthy opponent:

Read more »

Monday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 08:42
Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- The Star points out what the Cons have destroyed - including public assets and program spending - in order to chip away at the federal deficit caused in the first place by their reckless tax slashing. And Thomas Walkom discusses how their latest "job" scheme does nothing but handing free money to businesses, while Angella MacEwen notes that Canada as a whole is hundreds of thousands of jobs short of reaching its pre-recession employment rate.

- Meanwhile, Bruce Cheadle writes that the Cons' attempt to build an economy solely around resource exploitation has proven to be an utter flop for everybody but their corporate backers.

- Joseph Stiglitz looks at new data on the U.S.' age of vulnerability and downward mobility. And Danielle Kurtzleben observes that people who recognize that risk have become increasingly willing to help others - while the detached rich are only becoming more selfish:
Even during the downturn and recovery, the poorest Americans upped their charitable giving. Meanwhile, the highest-income people gave less and less, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reported this week.
The rich also give to charity differently than the poor: compared to lower-income Americans, the rich's charitable giving places a far lower emphasis on helping their disadvantaged peers. When the poor and rich are (figuratively and literally) moving farther apart, an empathy gap naturally opens up between the upper and lower classes — after all, if I can't see you, I'm less likely to help you.

Taken together, the trends paint a disturbing picture for the future of both the American economy and philanthropy: as the rich get richer and more removed from the daily lives of the poor, the bulk of charitable giving is also likely to become further removed from the needs of the poor.- L. Hunter Lovins reminds us that we shouldn't confuse possessions with prosperity, while noting that a shift toward a sharing economy can drastically improve the latter while limiting how much effort we put into pursuing the former. And Ben Chu argues that a mansion tax makes for both a fair and efficient means of increasing public revenues.

 - Finally, Jeremy Brecher, Joe Uehlein and Ron Blackwell argue that now is the time for the labour movement to unite behind a strong plan to fight climate change:
(C)riticizing the weaknesses in mainstream climate policy proposals is not a strategy for combating climate change. Labor needs to propose a climate protection strategy of its own—one that realistically protects the livelihood and well-being of working people and helps reverse America’s trend toward greater inequality while reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at the speed scientists say is necessary to reduce climate catastrophe. A strategy designed to provide full employment and rising living standards by putting millions of people to work on the transition to a climate-safe economy could transform the politics of climate by shattering the “jobs versus the environment” frame. And it could provide a common platform around which climate protection advocates at every level of the labor movement could rally.
There are three main approaches to GHG reduction. The first, which has dominated climate legislation and treaty negotiation, consists of “putting a price on carbon emissions” to discourage GHGs through taxation, fees, cap-and-trade systems with markets for emission quotas, or similar means. The second, which is widely discussed and frequently implemented on a small scale, consists of local, often community-based initiatives designed to produce renewable energy and reduce energy consumption on a decentralized basis. The third, perhaps less often delineated by proponents than excoriated by opponents, consists of a government-led approach based on economic planning, public investment, resource mobilization, and direct government intervention in economic decisions. Although rapid reduction of GHG emissions will undoubtedly require all three, labor should lead the breakout from neoliberalism and propose a government-led plan—drawing on the example of mobilization during World War II—to put our people to work converting to a climate-safe economy.

When The Righteous Are In Charge

Northern Reflections - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 06:47

The IMF recently released a report warning that the world economy is once again tipping towards recession. Why? Paul Krugman writes in today's New York Times:

The proximate answer lies in a series of policy mistakes: Austerity when economies needed stimulus, paranoia about inflation when the real risk is deflation, and so on. But why do governments keep making these mistakes? In particular, why do they keep making the same mistakes, year after year?The answer, I’d suggest, is an excess of virtue. Righteousness is killing the world economy.
The righteous believe that ordinary folks -- who are drowning in debt -- will have to pay for their sins. They also believe that those who led them there bear no responsibility for the mess they helped create. Put simply, the righteous believe in punishment, but not forgiveness:
As I said, it’s about righteousness — the sense that any kind of debt forgiveness would involve rewarding bad behavior. In America, the famous Rick Santelli rant that gave birth to the Tea Party wasn’t about taxes or spending — it was a furious denunciation of proposals to help troubled homeowners. In Europe, austerity policies have been driven less by economic analysis than by Germany’s moral indignation over the notion that irresponsible borrowers might not face the full consequences of their actions.
So the policy response to a crisis of excessive debt has, in effect, been a demand that debtors pay off their debts in full. What does history say about that strategy? That’s easy: It doesn’t work. Whatever progress debtors make through suffering and saving is more than offset through depression and deflation. That is, for example, what happened to Britain after World War I, when it tried to pay off its debt with huge budget surpluses while returning to the gold standard: Despite years of sacrifice, it made almost no progress in bringing down the ratio of debt to G.D.P.
It's obvious where the Harperites stand. Whether it's the economy, or justice, or international affairs, they stand four square for punishment. God, you see, is on their side.

Fighting The Darkness

Politics and its Discontents - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 06:41

Knowledge is power, and withholding knowledge is crippling.

So states scientist Sarah Otto, in an op-ed piece in today's Star. Sadly, when we apply that truth to the Canadian reality, it becomes apparent that all of us are confined to metaphorical wheelchairs.

Referring to a report released last week by Evidence for Democracy, Otto laments the sad state of ignorance fostered by our repressive federal overlords:
Overall, we earned only a 55-per-cent grade, on average, for the openness of communication policies for federal scientists here in Canada. Compare that with the U.S., where the average grade using the same methods was 74 per cent in 2013.A few specific examples, only the tip of the iceberg according to Otto, attest to our government's contempt for openness:
- Scott Dalimore, a geoscientist at Natural Resources Canada, was prevented from doing media interviews about his research on a 13,000-year-old flood.

- Kristi Miller, a scientist at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, was prevented from publicly discussing work she published on salmon.

- David Tarasick, an environmental scientist at Environment Canada, was prevented from speaking publicly about his research on the ozone layer.And this statistic should be quite sobering to all citizens:
A recent survey was conducted by the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, a union representing scientists in 40 federal departments. It found 90 per cent of scientists felt that they cannot speak freely to the media about the work they do.Otto, who was asked by government scientists to speak up for them, learned some other facts about their muzzling that should outrage all Canadians:
I have been told, in confidence, about important results being held up from publication in scientific journals, waiting for approval, about missed opportunities to inform the public about research, and about cases where scientists were asked not to publish, chillingly because “we want the public to forget” about this issue.While she ends her article with some specific suggestions to remediate this deplorable state of affairs, longtime observers will conclude there really is only one viable fix, the opportunity for which comes next year when, I hope, sufficient numbers of informed Canadians go to the polls to cast judgement on the current cabal.Recommend this Post

more art and culture in the suburbs: indian art activism and the baps mandir

we move to canada - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 06:00
In September my mother was here for her annual visit. I always plan some art or cultural attraction for us to take in. This time she was recovering from some knee surgery, so major walking in Toronto was out. On a previous visit, we had already done most of the cultural attractions in Mississauga - or so we thought. I'm pleased to say that the west-end suburbs was up to the challenge.

At the Art Gallery of Mississauga, we saw a fascinating exhibit on the Sahmat Collective, a group of artists in India who use street art to challenge religious and sectarian intolerance. The AGM itself is a small but lovely space housed in City Hall. 
A colleague suggested a fibre-art show at the Art Gallery of Burlington. My mom loves any kind of craft or handwork, so this was a great fit. The Burlington space has an excellent street presence near the waterfront, something the poor AGM can only dream of. 
The highlight of our cultural tour was a visit to the enormous mandir, or Hindu temple, that sits on the border of Toronto and Mississauga, full name BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Toronto. Like everyone else, we've seen the giant white wedding-cake of a building from the highway, but had never thought of visiting before.
The building is extraordinary. It was built from 24,000 pieces of sandstone, carved in India, then assembled in Canada like a giant jigsaw puzzle, without a single screw, bolt, or nail. The temple portion is elaborately carved sandstone, and the adjacent community centre is equally elaborately carved wood. It is the largest temple of its kind, by far, in North America.
The mandir's unfortunate location near several major highways and the airport must ensure that the gleaming white stone is usually blackened, and in constant need of cleaning. It was being cleaned while we were there.

No photography is allowed inside, but there is an interesting video describing how the building was designed and constructed, and documenting its celebrated opening in 2007. Unfortunately, that last part includes Stephen Harper.

The unexpected Indian theme - both the AGM exhibit and the mandir - seemed fortuitous. The following week, one of our nieces was visiting, and she has lived and traveled extensively in India. With her, though, we went for dim sum, took the dogs to the beach, and wandered around the University of Toronto (St. George) campus.

With much of my family now living on the west coast, we're no longer having the big family gatherings for US Thanksgiving, and I rarely see my nieces and nephews. This would be the case even if we still lived in New York City. I don't miss the 11-hour drive, but I do miss seeing everyone.

The Abominable Horror of Harper Night in Canada

Montreal Simon - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 04:47

I haven't been a regular viewer of Hockey Night in Canada for a long time. 

The thuggish goons, the concussion casualties, the grotesque Don Cherry, as well as the sad fact that a Canadian team hasn't won the Stanley Cup for more than twenty years, having gradually turned me off the game.

So I didn't watch the new Rogers version of the show with George Stroumboulopolos the other night.

But after reading what happened on the broadcast, I think I can safely say that I will NEVER watch Hockey Night in Canada again.
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rest in peace, canine with a brave rebel heart

we move to canada - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 04:00

When I blogged about him a few years back, he was called Kanellos, the Greek rebel dog. Somewhere along the way, English-language media dubbed him Riot Dog. He was also called Louk, short for Loukanikos. Louk, Kanellos, and also Thodoris may or may not have been the same dog.

Whatever his name, he was brave, loyal, and handsome, and he stood on the side of the People. His health was diminished by tear gas, but he soldiered on. He died recently at the home of a person who cared for him. He was thought to be about ten years old.

Blurred lines: Harper and the f-word

Dawg's Blawg - Sun, 10/12/2014 - 09:35
“[T]he authority of the State must absolutely, I repeat absolutely, be re-established in Sicily. If the laws still in force hinder you, this will be no problem, as we will draw up new laws.” ~B. Mussolini I first realized how... Dr.Dawg

Sunday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 10/12/2014 - 08:30
This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Adam Lent highlights the strong majority of respondents in the UK who see the political system as serving the powerful rather than the public. And Elizabeth Warren explains why the same conclusion applies in the U.S., while making the case that there's room to improve matters simply by emphasizing the choices voters face:
The system is rigged. And now that I’ve been in Washington and seen it up close and personal, I just see new ways in which that happens. But we have to stop and back up, and you have to kind of get the right diagnosis of the problem, to see how it is that—it goes well beyond campaign contributions. That’s a huge part of it. But it’s more than that. It’s the armies of lobbyists and lawyers who are always at the table, who are always there to make sure that in every decision that gets made, their clients’ tender fannies are well protected. And when that happens — not just once, not just twice, but thousands of times a week — the system just gradually tilts further and further. There is no one at the table…I shouldn’t say there’s no one. I don’t want to overstate. You don’t have to go into hyperbole. But there are very few people at the decision-making table to argue for minimum-wage workers.
(W)e need to do a better job of talking about issues. And I know that sounds boring and dull as dishwater, but it’s true. The differences between voting for two candidates should be really clear to every voter and it should be clear in terms of, who votes to raise the minimum wage and who doesn’t. Who votes to lower the interest rate on student loans and who doesn’t. Who votes to make sure women can’t get fired for asking how much a guy is making for doing the same job, and who doesn’t. There are these core differences that are about equality and opportunity. It can’t be that we don’t make a clear distinction. If we fail to make that distinction, then shame on us. That is my bottom line on this.

You know, during the Senate race that I was in — I mean, I was a first-time candidate, I’d never done this before — the thing that scared me the most was that the race wouldn’t be about the core differences between my opponent and me. I wanted people to understand where I stood on investments in the future, investments in education and research that help us build a future. Where I stood on the minimum wage and equal pay. And where he stood on the other side. The point was not to blur the differences and to run to some mythical middle where we agreed with each other. The point was to say that, here are really big differences between the two of us. Voters have a chance to make a choice.- Meanwhile, Nikola Luksic and Tom Howell discuss the challenge in trying to encourage voters to make decisions based on something more than visceral impressions - particularly when party strategies are aimed squarely at exploiting those instantaneous reactions. And John Cruickshank argues that the perception among younger citizens that politics aren't worth their time will only make matters worse.

- Nora Loreto worries about the effect of privatizing our electoral system, while Karl Nerenberg discusses a needed challenge to the Cons' latest attempt to keep voters away from the polls. And Rick Mercer reminds us how the Cons - including their Parliamentary puppet Andrew Scheer - are going out of their way to make our political institutions ineffective.

- Finally, for those looking for issues where there's ample room for contrast and departure from past neglect, Jeffrey Simpson lambastes the Cons for their refusal to be anything but an obstacle in the battle against climate change:
Those who care about reducing carbon emissions have stated the truth repeatedly: Canada will not meet the reduction target so often proclaimed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government.

Against all evidence, including its own numbers, Ottawa has insisted that the country remains on track to reduce emissions by 17 per cent from 2005 to 2020.

It has been an alarming but not atypical performance: Look facts in the face and insist that black is white, presumably hoping or believing that citizens don’t know or care. And one wonders why the public is cynical about government.
Perhaps worst of all, but not surprising, is the commissioner’s finding that not only will the reduction targets not be met, but no serious plans exist within the federal government, alone or in conjunction with the provinces, to meet them.

This is hardly surprising, given the lack of interest in the file by this government – a lack of interest that arises from a political calculation that Conservative supporters are either opposed or indifferent to climate-change mitigation...The idea of Canada acting as a leader, or first mover, has no appeal for this government.

4am in a bar - the leaders of the *free world*

Creekside - Sun, 10/12/2014 - 07:37
Steve : Just say "I stand with Saudi Arabia" a bunch of times, wait for the press to repeat it, and there ya go. Canada! Fuck Yeah! Comin' again to save the motherfuckin' day, yeah ...

Barry, Tony, Dave: No. No. No.

Barry : Look, Steve, I know that 'I stand with whoever ' line works for you up there in Canada but picture me going home and saying : "You know that country that 15 out of 19 hijackers that bombed the WTO on 9/11 came from? Remember them? Well, funny thing - they've gone and got themselves into a bit of a jam by funding ISIS, another made-in-Al Qaeda group, so we're going to help them out here by going back into Iraq again to bomb their batshit out-of-control wahhabi-zombies before they start WWIII." 

Tony : You have to admit it would be pretty fucking awesome to put it out there like that.

Barry : Yeah, hi-larious. No, leave the Saudis out of this.

Dave : What we need is some kind of babies being thrown out of incubators onto the floor thing like we had for Kuwait.

Steve : Do they have to be brown babies again? Couldn't we use something bad happening  to white people this time? Kinda makes it more immediate for folks back home. Also we need reports of ISIS about to attack us at home. 

Barry : No problem - minor logistics. But we're also going to need heroes, people that our voters can really get behind and cheer for. 

Dave : What about hot chicks in camo with guns?

Tony, Steve : WTF? Get outta here.

Dave : No really. There's this battalion of guerrilla Kurd female fighters spanning Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria.  Some of them - very hot. Plus, the peshmerga commander of Kurdish forces in Kobani is a woman.

Barry : ... "The female fighters defying ISIS - mothers, wives, daughters - risking their lives every day to protect their homes and families" ...  Yeah, that could work.

Tony : I've heard of them. Didn't they evacuate thousands of Yazidis under attack from ISIS? - an operation I believe you took credit for, Barry. Fuckin' doomed now though, aren't they, eh? Pinned down defending Kobani for three weeks with their ammo running out and Kerry says meh to those hot peshmerga and PKK chicks. 

Steve : PKK? The Kurdistan Workers Party? Wait, aren't they ... terrorists? Aren't they Marxists?

Barry : Who gives a shit, Steve? It's not like they're going to win - we'll just drop some bombs on some empty buildings out in the desert and everybody goes home happy.

Dave : Speaking of going home ... I've got an early flight out of here in the morning - time to call it a night.

Steve : Already? We should really do this more often, guys. Hey, have any of you ever met a real Bilderburger - you know, one of the guys actually named Bilderburg?

Barry : Say goodnight, Steve.

And They Call That Brilliance

Northern Reflections - Sun, 10/12/2014 - 07:14


Last month, Finance Minister Joe Oliver announced the Conservatives job creation plan -- to cut Employment Insurance contributions to small businesses. Tom Walkom writes that the "plan" represented yet another attack on the Employment Insurance regime in Canada:

Under Oliver’s plan, small-business owners will see their employment insurance premiums cut by about 15 per cent over the next two years.
Lower payroll taxes, the finance minister said then, would encourage these small businesses to hire more workers.Oliver’s claims were supported by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, a lobbying group, which said the measure would create about 25,000 person-years of employment over an unspecified period.
This week the Parliamentary Budget Office released a cost-benefit analysis of Oliver's plan:

In a report released Thursday, it says that the two-year, $550-million tax break will produce only 800 net new jobs.That works out to $687,500 per job.
There was another way to use Employment Insurance to create jobs:

Instead of lowering EI premiums overall (which, according to the parliamentary budget office, would have created 10,000 net new jobs), the government made a bow to its key small-business constituency.
But, as always the stated aim of the policy was not its real aim. Oliver was buying the votes of small business, not creating jobs. Nothing illustrates the corporate juggernaut better than what has happened to Employment Insurance in the last 25 years:

During the 1990s, Jean Chrétien’s Liberals used the employment insurance surplus to pay down the deficit and offer tax breaks to corporations.

When he took power, Prime Minister Stephen Harper did much the same. In 2008, the EI fund’s $57.2 billion surplus was quietly absorbed into general government revenue. Even now, the Conservatives are reluctant to relinquish their hold on the EI windfall. The parliamentary budget office estimates that over the next three years, Ottawa will collect $6.4 billion more in EI premiums than it will spend on the unemployed.

That's because only 38% of Canadians are now eligible for Employment Insurance.

And they call that brilliance.

Why So Much Ignorance In This Age Of Technology?

Politics and its Discontents - Sun, 10/12/2014 - 07:11
I have always thought it ironic that in this age of interconnectedness, when we have almost unlimited sources of information at our disposal, so many of us are abysmally ignorant of the things that should matter. The level of civic disengagement in North America, for example, has facilitated the devolution of so many of our democratic institutions into mere channels of undue influence for the minority, ensuring that the needs of the many are subjugated to the wants of the few. Inaction on climate change, the ongoing degradation of ecosystems, the ever-widening disparity of incomes and the erosion of social programs are but the more egregious examples of this decline.

John Cruickshank, the publisher of the Toronto Star, attributes this phenomenon to 'distraction.' In his paper, he writes about a recent Toronto Ted Talk (not yet available on the Ted site) in which he examined the problem through the lens of young people who, both in Canada and the United States, have a voter participation rate of about 40%. However, he points out that the lack of voter participation is merely the most obvious manifestation of the level of engagement:
Voting’s just the marker. More critical are civic interests, habits and knowledge: The debates in the lunchroom about taxes and spending or public meetings over a new airport or a mega-quarry. The less visible indicators of democracy’s vitality.

It’s no coincidence youth voting is so similar in the U.S. and Canada. It’s not a question of national culture. And don’t blame “the kids today.” It’s a decades-long shift. It spans generations and geography.

And it appears to be driven by the devices and content that now dominate and consume our waking lives — our smartphones and tablets, our laptops and PCs and, at least for a little while longer, our TV screens.All of these devices, while potentially quite useful, also have a tremendous power to distract. How many times, for example, will you be at the computer when the email signal rings and you switch immediately to it? Or how about a link or a popup in an article that takes you far away from your intended purpose? (I'll just take a minute to watch that footage of George Clooney going to his Venice wedding. Oh yeah, now what was I just doing?)

All of which is to say that news has a far more tenuous grip on us than in days of yore. For Cruickshank, it becomes a simple equation:
No news habit. No engagement.Those who have learned to pursue the news become politically active.
The drift away from substance actually began, he says, with the proliferation of cable channels that, for the less-than-committed consumer of news, offered a welcome alternative. Much Music, MTV, etc. had an allure that the nightly news didn't.
As soon as alternatives emerged, more and more younger people failed to learn news skills and habits.

They were looking for distraction, not information about the world.

But even if this population only reluctantly followed the news, their political behaviour was just like that of the most committed news junkies. They voted: 80 per cent of eligible voters went to the polls in the Canadian federal election of 1958 — the year the CBC television signal first went coast to coast.Canadian citizens aged 65 and older were still voting at the 80-per-cent level in the federal election of 2011. But the participation rate of each successive age group Boomers, X’ers and Millennials were lower by a greater and greater margin.

Mirroring their increasing failure to develop news skills.Cruickshank has some specific suggestions on how to reverse this terrible trend, which I will leave you to discover by reading his article.

You may also find these two brief videos about his Ted Talk of interest:

Recommend this Post

Stephen Harper and the Climate Change Charade

Montreal Simon - Sun, 10/12/2014 - 06:14

With every day that passes, the devastating consequences of climate change become more obvious and more alarming.

The galloping horsemen or signs of the impending apocalypse. 

Flooding, famine, disease and war to name but a few.

Only to be joined by the latest one: the fish are swimming towards the poles.
Read more »

Stephen Harper and the Big Business of War

Montreal Simon - Sun, 10/12/2014 - 03:09

In the fog of war there are some things about Stephen Harper's plan to use airstrikes to defeat the ISIS crazies that are already abundantly clear.

One, they make him look as if he's taking decisive action, even though so far they are proving notoriously ineffective. 

Two, they are REALLY expensive. 

In a crazy sort of way.

And three, so far the only clear winner is the U.S. military industrial complex, and Harper's really good friends at Lockheed Martin. 
Read more »

Something We Are Not Supposed To Think About In The War On ISIS

Politics and its Discontents - Sat, 10/11/2014 - 15:50

The Guardian reports the following:

Australian Super Hornets pulled out of an air strike on an Islamic State target in Iraq when the risk of killing civilians became too high, defence officials have revealed.

RAAF aircraft have carried out three missions in Iraq since joining the battle against Isis but have not fired on any targets, it was confirmed in a briefing given by the chief of the defence force, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, the chief of joint operations, Vice-Admiral David Johnston, and the officer commanding No 82 wing, Group Captain Micka Gray.

Johnston said an Australian combat “package” of F/A-18F Super Hornets had tracked a target on the first night of the missions, with plans to fire on it, but the risk of collateral damage was too high.

“They had identified a target which it was tracking, that particular target moved into an urban area where the risks of conducting a strike on that target increased to a point where it exceeded our expectations of the collateral damage so it discontinued the attack at that point,” he said.
This is clearly something that Harper Inc. et alia want us to pay no attention to.Recommend this Post


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