Posts from our progressive community

RCMP union--solidarity forever?

Dawg's Blawg - Sat, 01/17/2015 - 08:21
The Supreme Court of Canada has spoken: RCMP officers have the right to form a union. My brothers and sisters in the labour movement are overjoyed. But I cannot join in the celebrations. No right is abstract and universal: all... Dr.Dawg

Saturday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sat, 01/17/2015 - 07:47
Miscellaneous material for your weekend reading.

- Gerald Caplan writes that we all bear some responsibility for growing inequality - and how we'll need to use our electoral power to reverse it:
(S)elf-sacrifice is not going to be the key to reducing inequality, with all the great damage it inflicts on society. Government needs to act, and Mr. Mackenzie offers perfectly realistic policies to any party that is seriously committed to greater equality. For example, the tax break on stock options generously provided by our government is worth a cool half-trillion to the top 100 – a nice day’s “work,” for sure. And since federal corporate taxes, an affordable 29 per cent only 15 years ago, now stand at 15 per cent, we can expect Mr. Mackenzie to report even higher rewards for his hearty band next January.

Anyone who dabbles in the field for even a moment knows there are lots of ideas for reducing inequality. Some are political non-starters but others are quite simple and workable. Knowing what to do is not the issue. The issue, as usual, is the political will to attack the problem frontally. The NDP is so far proposing a distinctly modest increase in corporate taxes, which is more than its opponents. As of now, with an election less than a year away, the big winner once again, and still champion, is inequality.- Marc Lee rightly challenges the theory that any steps to deal with climate change should exacerbate inequality by being revenue-neutral.

- But Susana Mas reports that the Cons are once again refusing to consider any increases in revenue, and using their failed bet on an oil-dependent economy as an excuse to cut even further into Canada's public services.

- Karl Nerenberg notes that in addition to having the only plan to combat inequality, the NDP is also the only one party is willing to treat voters like adults. But it's worth noting that the NDP isn't the only party with a relatively detailed policy document: the difference is that the NDP has enough respect for members and the public alike to make its policy work readily accessible, while the Cons force non-members to go on a scavenger hunt (or at least search their site from the outside) to find theirs.

- Finally, Stephen Maher recognizes that the greatest threat we face from acts of terror lies in the people who would use the excuse to crack down on civil rights and freedoms.

Election Law? What Election Law?

Northern Reflections - Sat, 01/17/2015 - 07:38

There has been lots of speculation recently about whether Stephen Harper will break his own fixed date election law -- for the second time. It's remarkable, Andrew Coyne writes, that a man who insisted on the law should have such little regard for it. What is even more remarkable is that Canadians -- in general -- also have little respect for the law:

Not only does he not feel bound by it, but neither do the rest of us seem inclined to insist that he should. We have all somehow come to accept that it is perfectly normal, even acceptable, for the government — the government! — to disobey the law if it feels like it, as if the laws that are binding upon the rest of us were not binding upon the governments that pass them. This is surely an astonishing state of affairs, in a democracy, a measure not only of the corrupting effects of power but of how the rest of us have been corrupted along with it.
It is, indeed, an astonishing state of affairs. But it's worth remembering that, for Stephen Harper, "contempt of Parliament" was merely a matter of being out voted. And, given the fact that he won the election that contempt triggered, Canadians seem to believe that contempt comes down to votes.

Coyne correctly observes that:

We should not have to wonder whether the laws Parliament passes are of any worth or meaning, or whether the government we elect will seek refuge in fine print and Clintonian wordplay to wriggle out of them. We should not have to worry that our government is trying to con us. We are entitled to some expectation of good faith, and if we have lost even that then the implications are a lot worse than an untimely election call.
We are in deep trouble.

More On The Amanda Lang Imbroglio

Politics and its Discontents - Sat, 01/17/2015 - 05:46
The Star's John Semley offers his thoughts on the inadequacy and ineptitude of the CBC's response to the Amanda Lang scandal:

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Stephen Harper and the Issue that Will Destroy Him

Montreal Simon - Sat, 01/17/2015 - 03:50

Gosh. What a difference a day makes. Yesterday I wrote about that nightmarish Ipsos Reid poll that suggested that Stephen Harper had risen from his political grave, and was heading for another majority.

And I said that I couldn't wait for another poll, to see if the numbers were more encouraging.

And whether the sagging economy might take him down with it.

And in that regard the news couldn't be better. 
Read more »

Stephen Harper and his Ghastly Boyfriends in Saudi Arabia

Montreal Simon - Sat, 01/17/2015 - 00:36

In the latest chapter of the grotesque love story between Stephen Harper and the backward rulers of Saudi Arabia, today I have both good news and bad news.

The good news is that the brutish flogging of the blogger Raif Badawi has been at least temporarily postponed. 

The case of a Saudi blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes has been referred to the Supreme Court by the king's office, the BBC has learned. Blogger Raif Badawi's wife said the referral, made before he was flogged 50 times last Friday, gave him hope that officials would end his punishment. A second round of lashings was postponed for medical reasons.

And the bad news? Saudi Arabia is still the same barbarous country. 
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Musical interlude

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 01/16/2015 - 18:59
Kaskade & Adam K - Raining

Friday Evening Links

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 01/16/2015 - 15:39
Assorted content to end your week.

- Oliver Milman reports on research showing how humanity is destroying its own environmental life support systems. And our appetite for exploitation is proving a failure even from the standpoint of the pursuit of shortsighted greed, as David Dayen considers how the recent drop in oil prices - and consequent market forces limiting further production - may affect a financial sector relying on constant expansion.

- Michael Harris offers another look at the real Stephen Harper to counter the barrage of selective imaging we'll see throughout the year. And Bob Hepburn discusses the need to make sure that neither Harper nor a successor runs roughshod over Canada's democracy.

- Rebecca Rolfers interviews Angus Deaton about the connection between corporatism, inequality and poor health:
Q. In your latest book, you take the unusual approach of combining health and income inequality into well-being. Most economists deal with them separately; how do health and income inequality combined relate to economic and social progress?

I think it’s important to recognize that progress is an engine of inequality, and a key fact about progress is that it opens up gaps between people who lead the progress — and therefore benefit from it — and the rest. The principle [sic] criterion for concern about inequality is whether there is a natural spread of the benefits of progress, so that eventually, everyone is better off, or whether the benefits are and remain concentrated among a privileged few. In the realm of health, innovation and social health practices (e.g., avoiding germs, quitting smoking) generally spread in ways that improve life expectancy. I view the greater risk to economic, social and even political welfare to be income inequality.

Q. Can you explain some of the similarities and distinctions between health and income inequality?

Some health inequalities are due to improvements in health technology and knowledge. If those things first go to the better-off and the better-educated and later spread to others, then that is a temporary inequality and not a problem. It’s like the green shoot in the garden: it means spring will come and everything will be green. But if that shoot is just one plant and nothing else ever grows, that is a problem. The same is true of health inequality. If the benefits of health innovation and access never spread, we wouldn’t be very happy about it. Progress tends to come at the price of inequality, at least initially; but eventually we expect that progress to be broadly shared.- David Climenhaga points out that Alberta's oil development has resulted in nothing of the sort, to the point where the province is now effectively giving its resources away to keep corporate profits up. And CBC reports on research showing the high levels of poverty in Alberta long before resource prices started to fall.

- Finally, Michael Geist weighs in on how the Cons' copyright law has been turned into a distribution mechanism for fraudulent corporate trolling. And even the National Post's editorial board sees that preference for rent-seeking over consumer rights as a bridge too far.

Accountability, Whither Thou Goest?

Politics and its Discontents - Fri, 01/16/2015 - 07:01

If there is one good thing to be said about the Leslie Roberts scandal, it is that privately owned Global Television has acted with dispatch both in its investigation of the newsman/PR firm co-owner's terrible breach of ethics, and its subsequent actions. While the official 'story' is that Roberts has resigned, there is little doubt in my mind that he was given that option by management lest he be unceremoniously turfed.

This decisive behaviour stands in sharp contrast to the inaction of other media outlets. Perhaps the most notorious example of patently unethical choices is Margaret Wente's much-reported serial plagiarism which the Globe and Mail treated as some form of pecadillo that merited exactly what? All we know is that the editor at the time, John Stackhouse, said she had been disciplined; the terms of that discipline were private.

More recently, of course, we have had the sad spectacle of the CBC's Amanda Lang who, it is alleged, tried to stop a story exposing the RBC's use of the Temporary Foreign Workers Program to train and replace permanent employees; Lang's was a clear conflict-of-interest violation given the nature of her relationship with an RBC board member and the fact that she has accepted paying gigs from the bank.

As of this writing, the CBC continues to insist that Lang did nothing wrong, essentially the same approach that it took with conflict allegations against Peter Mansbridge and Rex Murphy.

These are hardly decisions that inspire confidence in the public broadcaster.

In his column today, Rick Salutin explores who is to blame for the sad state of affairs at the CBC (it is the managers, who cower in the shadows behind their “stars”) and remembers a time when when public institutions adhered to public values for the benefit of all:
Canada’s other main public cultural institution, the National Film Board, was built by John Grierson in the 1940s. He was a titan of global film. He acted imperiously. He recruited young Canadians and dazzled them with his ego and vision. One said, “A day never passed at the Board that Grierson didn’t remind us we were there to serve the people of Canada.”

Among his recruits was Sidney Newman. Newman went to the UK and worked in private TV, creating The Avengers. Then the (public) BBC hired him as head of drama. He revelled. He created Doctor Who, now in its 51st brilliant year. For the 50th anniversary, BBC did a film about Newman! He was its superhero.Today, we regularly read reports of the death of traditional media, reports that, if I may borrow from Mark Twain, seem greatly exaggerated. However, those media do themselves no favours by trying to rationalize and justify failures when they occur. We, the news-consuming public, deserve much better.

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To The Showers

Northern Reflections - Fri, 01/16/2015 - 05:39

An election is in the offing. And Stephen Harper has come to the plate swinging. But, Michael Harris writes, he already has three strikes against him.

Strike One is his record on the environment:

They have greedily championed oil and gas while doing nothing to protect air and water. Consider the piece of legislation with the Orwellian name — the Navigable Waters Protection Act. NDP house leader Nathan Cullen said it as well as anyone could:

“It means the removal of almost every lake and river we know from the Navigable Waters Protection Act. From one day to the next, we went from 2.5 million protected lakes and rivers in Canada to 159 lakes and rivers protected.”
Harper has done more than favour oil and gas companies. He's done nothing to reign in corporate corruption:

Canada now has more corrupt companies on the World Bank’s blacklist than any other country in the world. A stunning 115 of those companies are comprised of disgraced engineering giant SNC-Lavalin and its subsidiaries — the same company that the Harper government supported with an $800 million loan guarantee to build the dubious Muskrat Falls power development in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Strike Two is his failure to make government accountable to its citizens:

That is, after all, what got him elected in 2006 (that and a little cheating during the campaign). So it was beyond hypocritical this past week for the PM to portray himself as a champion of democracy and free speech after the dreadful killings in Paris. He even politicizes tragedy.

Here is the real man … the one who dedicated his entire communications effort to smothering free speech, who undermined access to information, the life-blood of any democracy, with endless delays in handing over government documents that belong to us. In some cases, his government has simply — and unconstitutionally — refused to fork them over. He has also mused about charging $200 per access request — which would certainly suppress the urge to ask.
Strike Three is that real man is not anything like the people he claims to represent:

Stephen Harper is not who we are.

Canadians don’t want to see medicare slowly reduced to a ghost of its former self by a prime minister who once headed an organization created to destroy it.

Despite the stunning selfishness of some of its stars, Canadians don’t want to see the CBC brought to its knees and “restructured” by a man who prefers public relations to journalism.

Finally, Canadians don’t want to save money on the backs of veterans who didn’t take to the closet in the face of clear and present danger — especially when Harper has so egregiously used the military for political gain. There has to be more for our soldiers than bullets and beans.
He claims that, this time out, he'll put one into the bleachers and cross home plate for the fourth time. If Canadians are wise, they'll send him to the showers.

Stephen Harper and My Horrible Majority Nightmare

Montreal Simon - Fri, 01/16/2015 - 04:41

It was a horrible nightmare. There was Stephen Harper in the musty basement of his House of Pain.

Chained to a chair by the young fanatics running the PMO, to prevent their beloved master from blowing apart at the seams, under the weight of all that bad economic news.

Or stumbling out into the street in the middle of the night, dressed only in his pyjamas, screaming: "I'm STILL a Great Economist Leader. And I'm not CRAZY !!#@!!

But then just as I'm thinking oh goody, at least he's restrained. And all that bad news will surely finish him off.

He cast off his chains, and came staggering towards me screaming "Come back here you commie rat, and gimme my juicy MAJORITY. !#@!! 
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