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Anon Poses Some Questions

Politics and its Discontents - Tue, 07/21/2015 - 06:21

I received the following as a comment in my previous post, but decided to feature it here, as I suspect the writer would like readers to offer their answers to the questions posed:

I have two questions and an observation:

I do not understand the statement that the Child Tax Benefit, benefits the rich more than the rest of us. For example, in families with a three old child, do the families not receive the same amount regardless of their income bracket? Is it because the benefit is tax free and there is no claw back?

I would like to understand why it is that when a private citizen has a mortgage taken out or the purchase of goods is made using their stolen identity, the police do nothing and say it is a private or a financial matter between the citizen and the bank or credit company.

Ashley Madison has its client accounts stolen and Anonymous threatens to reveal the names if they do not cease to operate. The police begin an immediate investigation. Is it because of the threatened demise of the legal corporate entity or do the clients have more political power or sway over the police?

Please "Square the Corners" for me.

Those are good questions, Anon, but I think I can answer the first one. A story in today's Star reveals that the child benefit payments are taxable and will, in fact, be clawed back from many of the recipients:
The benefit is taxable on the lower income earner in every household. Canadians who received the payments can expect to see some of it taxed next April unless their income is so low that they don’t pay income taxes.Of course, that begs the question of why the cheques are being sent out to everyone who has applied, no matter their income level. The answer, I fear, is too obvious - to get the most political bang for the buck three months from the election. Says David Macdonald, senior economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives:
“You get a cheque and it’s tangible. You have no idea what you’re going to pay back at the end of the year”.At the end of the year - well after the election.

I invite readers to weigh in here.Recommend this Post

Strong And Stupid

Northern Reflections - Tue, 07/21/2015 - 05:40

Joe Oliver has informed Kathleen Wynne that the Harperites will do absolutely nothing to help set up the Ontario Pension Plan -- which is essentially an expansion of the Canada Pension Plan. At the same time, he says that he is "consulting" Canadians about  "voluntary" contributions to the CPP -- an idea which his predecessor, Jim Flaherty, said wouldn't work.

Alan Freeman writes that the CPP works very well:

The CPP has been fabulously successful. When it ran into funding difficulties in the 1990s, the federal government at the time (Liberals, again), in cooperation with the provinces and backed by a strong public service, fixed the plan and created the CPP Investment Board, now one of the world’s most respected pension fund managers.

Faced with longer life spans, the erosion of traditional employer-based pension plans and the uncertainty of investment returns from the contributory plans that have replaced them, Canadians like the idea of a modest expansion of the CPP. The provinces are generally on side as well. But the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), the country’s most influential lobby group, is firmly opposed.
And, in  Harperland, the CFIB calls the shots:

The CFIB (which seems at times to have more influence on government policy than the Department of Finance) feels no responsibility to the millions of low-salary, non-unionized workers whom its members employ — the very people who would benefit most from an expanded CPP. For the CFIB, an expanded CPP is “a job-killing payroll tax” — a phrase Mr. Oliver tends to parrot whenever asked. Calling the CPP premiums a payroll tax is disingenuous to say the least. Unlike income tax, CPP contributions don’t disappear from paycheques into government coffers. The money goes into the pension plan and every cent that an employee contributes results in credit for a future pension. Better still, every employee dollar is matched by an employer contribution. It may be forced savings but it’s not a payroll tax — and Canadians know it.
Beyond the CFIB, the reason the Harperites are opposed to an expansion of the CPP is that the pension plan was a Liberal idea:

 It was created by a Liberal government in the 1960s — which makes it, to Harper’s way of thinking, intrinsically bad, like peacekeeping, support for the United Nations or the Maple Leaf flag. Making it worse is the fact that the CPP is a social program that is based on the idea that government, employees and their employers have a joint responsibility to help Canadians of all incomes save for their retirement. For Tories of the Harper ilk who believe that government exists to cut taxes and support the armed forces — and little else — this is anathema.
Obviously, Mr. Harper is a man of strong -- and let's be frank -- stupid opinions.

Climate change

Metaneos - Tue, 07/21/2015 - 05:16
The climate is changing.
We, too, should be changing. Our hearts, our minds. It should all change.
The world tomorrow will not be the same as the world today. Today's world has little similarity with yesterday's.
We can look to the past, and see what has all happened, but to see the future, we need to turn ourselves around.
All we do is watch the past. We know nothing but the past. Since we know the past so intimately, shouldn't we then know the future?
We do know it, though. Its form, its voice. We know it. We should know it.
We know the world is going to be a difficult place to survive as today's events continually pile upon one another to give the future world its shape. We know.
What the hell do we do, then?
We are faced with dire prospects. We are in danger.
Extinction is probably not merely a prospect any longer, but something more definite.
For nearly a century, the human world faced annihilation from nuclear war. We are in the same danger, again, from mismanagement of our world's free resources. We should preparing to fight this danger, but instead, we're averting our attention, casting our gaze toward superfluous possessions and frivolous ideas.
We are ignoring what we should be facing.
To face the danger of climate change, today, however, is a revolutionary act. It would drive proponents directly into ridicule and ostracization. Into legal trouble, and possibly danger from violence.
To propose the change that is needed will force one into great difficulty. However, the coming future, the predictable future, will be much worse.

I was told a story by my brother. He'd mentioned hearing of an old belief of my people's elders.
The world's history can be divided into three ages. The age of the people eaters. The age of the animals. And the coming age: the age of humans.
In many ways did this belief shape my people's relationship with our mother Earth. We understood, at least intuitively, that life on this world was finite, fragile. We people were given great, grave power over this world, and we did not understand it in full. Or even in part.
The animals were to teach us how to use this power. However, we have forgotten many of these lessons. And our relationship with the animals has atrophied. We can no longer learn the same lessons our forebears did, as we cannot understand the animals as we once did. We have become distant, alien from the old world.
The coming age of humans. I cannot see us surviving for long in such a world, unless we take drastic measures. And even then, these measures won't save this current world. We are done, now. We must change, in order to survive the change that is coming right at us.

Why Stephen Harper's Porky Plan to Buy the Election Won't Work

Montreal Simon - Tue, 07/21/2015 - 04:27

Well there was Stephen Harper yesterday, looking and sounding like a sleazy used car salesman, declaring it was Christmas in July, and feverishly trying to buy an election.

And in all the years of writing about him and his corrupt, morally depraved regime, I don't think I've ever seen a more disgusting spectacle.

Two days ago in this letter marked "confidential" he was urging his caucus to look like Con Santas, and lie like thieves.

Let me be perfectly clear: if Justin Trudeau and Tom Mulcair form the next government, they will take these benefits away from families, raise taxes, and put Canada back in a cycle of spiralling deficits. We only have to look at Greece to see where that plan leads.

And yesterday, in a what was called a "special message" by his propaganda machine, there he was in all his greasy glory...
Read more »

Newly-Obtained Cosby Deposition Sheds Light on Sex Assault Allegation -NBC

LeDaro - Mon, 07/20/2015 - 12:09
Crazy and a predator describes his life.

Monday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Mon, 07/20/2015 - 09:18
Miscellaneous material for your Monday reading.

- Anna Leventhal warns against the danger that even the best-intentioned of charity drives might be seen as replacing the need for social supports:
Now campaigns are ubiquitous, and range from book tours to pet surgeries to basic subsistence for marginalized people in crisis. But with crowdfunding increasingly called on to plug the holes left by funding cuts (consider that in 2014 Canadians pledged over $27 million to Kickstarter alone, and that from 2013 to 2014 the amount crowdfunded globally jumped from US$6.1 billion to US$16.2 billion), the stakes are getting higher and the trouble with putting this support to the free market is becoming clear.

Do we back campaigns based on the perceived worthiness or importance of the project? The neediness of the asker? How well we know the asker and how bad we're likely to feel if their project can't be realized? Is it OK that we're being given the right, and the responsibility, to make these kinds of calls? Should the artist with the most Facebook friends win? Should the person to get support for a disability be the one with the best Twitter game? Letting the invisible hand guide these decisions seems not only flawed but dangerous.
Frustrated citizens who care about the community's well-being can skip the arduous process of engaging with the federal government and trying to convince it that First Nations communities are worth caring about, and just give directly to the cause. Such a move seems part resourceful community-mindedness and part Band-Aid-over-metastasized-cancer. As Chief Edwin Resky is quoted as saying on the campaign's page, “While we appreciate your intentions, at the same time we wonder what kind of country Canada is when safe access to essential services, when our right to clean drinking water, when access to basic economic opportunity, must depend on the kindness of strangers?” - Meanwhile, Ryan Meili reminds us of the dangers posed by a growing income gap. PressProgress exposes a few of the most appalling right-wing excuses for the continued underpayment of women in the workplace, while Tom Boggioni tells the story of how Laura Browder's attempt to find work as a single mother (in the absence of reasonable social supports and child care options) led to her arrest.

- Steve Barnes discusses the Wellesley Institute's latest study on the connection between insufficient incomes and a lack of access to prescription drugs. 

- Mychalo Prystupa reports that First Nations are rightly concerned that Nexen's recent oil spill is just a small part of a larger pattern of environmental degradation. And Gemma Karstens-Smith notes that long after the English Bay oil spill was proclaimed to have been fully contained, evidence is surfacing of contamination in areas up to 12 kilometres from the site of the spill.

- Finally, Bruce Johnstone asks what comes next now that Canada is facing a recession. And Konrad Yakabuski writes that the response to the latest downturn represents a rare point of contrast between Stephen Harper and Tony Abbott - as even the Cons' Australian cousins aren't so blinkered as to push through more cuts as the economy falters.

Is Secrecy The New Canadian Norm?

Politics and its Discontents - Mon, 07/20/2015 - 06:39

The Harper regime is notorious for its virtual embargo on information. Muzzling of scientists, heavily-redacted Freedom of Information documents, regular obstruction of Parliamentary officers have become the norm. In light of these profoundly anti-democratic traits, one has to ask whether the paranoid control that obsesses the regime has filtered down to other levels of government and institutions?

'Privacy rights' have become the default position of far too many. The Harper regime uses it regularly whenever it wishes to avoid answering uncomfortable questions. One of the latest examples of this deplorable tactic is to be found in the case of Bashir Makhtal,
a 46-year-old who lived and worked in Toronto, [who] has been languishing in an Ethiopian jail in Addis Ababa since he was convicted of terrorism in 2009. He has always denied the charges.

Makhtal was arrested on the border of Kenya and Somalia in 2006 after fleeing Mogadishu and the fall of the Islamic Courts Union.Initially refusing a deal for a prison-transfer back to Canada because he claimed he was innocent, last year he accepted it, but the federal government has done nothing to faciliate that transfer, says his cousin.

The Canadian government response to these allegations?
François Lasalle, a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs, told the Star that “to protect the privacy of the individual concerned, further details on this case cannot be released.”

Similarly, Zarah Malik, a spokesperson for Public Safety Canada, told the Star that “the Privacy Act prevents federal government officials from discussing the specifics of an offender’s case.”Other institutions inspired by this 'sterling' example include the RCMP, which now is refusing to divulge the identities of car accident victims and other such tragedies, even homicides.

Says lawyer David Fraser,
"Not disclosing the information very likely makes their jobs easier, and not having to ask the next of kin or the family to disclose whether they can disclose this information, it's one less thing that they have to do," he said.

"It's always easier — we see this across government — to just point to the privacy legislation as a reason to not do something … to not provide information to the media."
This cone of silence is given critical scrutiny by The Toronto Star:
Until this year the RCMP released the names of victims with their consent or the permission of their surviving relatives. Now it says it must comply with Privacy Act, regardless of the wishes of bereaved families.

“I wanted people to know my sons,” said Mary Anne MacIntyre of Judique, a small Cape Breton Community where 19-year-old Morgan MacIntyre and his 17-year-old brother Jordan were killed in a car crash two years ago. “Being Victim A or Victim B is just, to me, feels so cold.”
So even with the family's permission, the RCMP is obdurately hiding behind the privacy justification.

The federal behaviour is now infecting local police forces as well. This past February, two men were shot and killed by an armed security guard in a Toronto McDonald's restaurant. And that is about all we are ever likely to know, since it was announced this week that the guard will not be charged.
“Investigators consulted Senior Crown Attorneys and provided an overview of the circumstances surrounding the deaths,” police said in a statement issued Wednesday. “It was determined that there would be no reasonable prospect of conviction, therefore no criminal charges would be laid.”Here is what columnist Edward Keenan had to say:
Two men were shot and killed, in public, in February. Police know who did it, but they will not tell us. They say no charges should be laid in the case, but they will not tell us why, or give us the information they uncovered in their investigation. Police have security-camera video of the incident, but they will not show it to us.

Two people are dead, and the Toronto Police Service’s response, after four months of investigation, boils down to: Nothing to see here. Trust us. Move along.This is police state stuff.Make no mistake about it; there are many unanswered question that call into question the administration of justice here:
Was it a clear-cut case of self-defence? I could imagine a hundred scenarios in which that’s possible, but we don’t know.

Why was this security guard armed in a restaurant? We don’t know. What kind of work was he doing nearby? We don’t know. Was his life in danger? Was he being robbed? Was he defending other people?

We don’t know.People who live in dictatorships are used to being kept in the dark. They have very low expectations. We still live in a democracy, albeit one under steady attack by repressive forces from within. As Canadians approach the October election, one of the many questions they will have to ask themselves is whether or not they are comfortable being treated as children excluded from the conversations at the 'adult table'. If they are not, they would be wise to choose a government that sets a tone of transparency, not obfuscation, for its citizens.Recommend this Post

He Says He's Doing It For The Kids

Northern Reflections - Mon, 07/20/2015 - 05:35

Nothing the Harper government does anymore is surprising. The National Post reports:

Number-crunching based on the last census shows that many of the ridings in line to get the biggest cheques from the newly increased Universal Child Care Benefit are in suburban Alberta and the all-important ridings that surround Toronto — and they usually have a history of tilting Tory.

Only two of the top 20 destinations for the enriched UCCB payments landing on July 20 are locations where the opposition NDP would be considered the favourite; and one more in the top 20 would be considered a Liberal seat.
The increased payments are retroactive to the start of the year, meaning the payments this month will be higher than any before: up to $520 for children under six, and up to $420 for every child six to 17.
The government doesn’t decide where in the country the money will go; it does get to decide who should receive the money.

To get a more detailed picture of where those families live, The Canadian Press used census data from Statistics Canada to plot the location of children under age 18 in each of Canada’s 338 ridings, and then calculated how much each riding would receive in new monthly child care benefit spending.

The analysis then used an Elections Canada study that transposed the outcome in each of those 338 ridings based on the poll-by-poll breakdown of votes from the 2011 campaign. (In 2011, there were just 308 ridings, so Elections Canada has done number-crunching to figure out who would have won if the 338 ridings had exited in 2011.)

The analysis showed that the highest grossing ridings are most likely to be in the 905-belt around Toronto, as well as the suburban areas of Calgary that supported the Conservatives in 2011.

And who is beating the bushes for the Universal Child Care Benefit? That Master of Democratic Reform and Fair Elections -- Pierre Poilievre:

"Families have supported the Conservative party because the Conservative government has supported families,” Poilievre said.
Brazen self interest. And Poilievre says he's doing it for the kids.

Pierre Poilievre and the Con Christmas in July

Montreal Simon - Mon, 07/20/2015 - 02:52

I don't think I've ever seen such a scary tricycle scene since the famous one in the horror movie The Shining.

You know this one.

Pierre Polievre aka Mini Harper or Dickhead, pedalling furiously all over Canada pretending he's Santa Claus.

And that it's Christmas in July.
Read more »

The Best Campaign Ad - Ever?

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 07/19/2015 - 23:32
C 'mon, sure he's Republican but you'd give him your vote, wouldn't you?

It Does Smell Fishy.

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 07/19/2015 - 19:25
I'm not very active on Facebook but I was surprised when, a week ago,  I got a notice, purportedly from two of my Facebook "friends", that was a campaign pitch for the Tories. The message said they were backing prime minister Harper and hoped I would too.

It turns out that neither one of these guys is supporting the Tories nor had they any idea of how their names (including profile pix) got onto the message I received.

Is this a new form of voter manipulation? Are the Tories hacking into Facebook accounts for info to send campaign messages?  Anybody else had this experience?

The Sad Saga of Mother Canada and Jesus Harper

Montreal Simon - Sun, 07/19/2015 - 18:19

As you may know a Toronto businessman wants to build a massive statue called Mother Canada in Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

And although it is a private initiative, the foundation he created is now looking for public money.

Even though polls show most Canadians hate the idea.

And most of the reviews have been brutal.
Read more »

Time to Hit the "Reset" Button

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 07/19/2015 - 11:00
With all this dreary crap about climate change, inequality, and corrupt, neoliberal government, watch people completely dissolve at the arrival of a new puppy.

Huffington Post Dumps Trump

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 07/19/2015 - 10:50

Republicans, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, may recognize Donald Trump as a candidate for their party's presidential nomination but Huffington Post thinks that's just crazy.

After watching and listening to Donald Trump since he announced his candidacy for president, we have decided we won't report on Trump's campaign as part of The Huffington Post's political coverage. Instead, we will cover his campaign as part of our Entertainment section. Our reason is simple: Trump's campaign is a sideshow. We won't take the bait. If you are interested in what The Donald has to say, you'll find it next to our stories on the Kardashians and The Bachelorette.

On governing alternatives

accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 07/19/2015 - 10:19
As David Climenhaga points out, Brad Wall has positioned himself as the heir to Stephen Harper's throne as the voice of the anti-democratic corporate elite. But let's note that Wall and his mindset aren't without some jarring approval within the media.

For example, I've already highlighted John Ibbitson's argument that the federal NDP should be concealing the fact that it's talking to people who can help with preparations in the event that voters choose to elect it. (As an aside, that theory is as politically inexplicable for a party focused on being "ready" for government as it is offensive to the concept of voting by an informed public - but let's stick with the latter point for now.)

But it isn't only the NDP that's being instructed that people should have neither knowledge of, nor input into, the parties running to govern them.

It would be one thing for L. Ian MacDonald to find reason for concern in the fact that one of Stephen Harper's cabinet ministers wasn't well enough connected with her riding to earn a nomination. It's quite another for him to explicitly ask "why wasn’t Yelich protected by the party?" against democratic processes - making the default position one in which members get no say in nominating the candidates who are to represent them.

All of which is to say that Climenhaga is right in pointing out the dichotomy between political actors dedicated to treating the public as a problem to be managed in the service of the wealthy (and their apologists pleading to be cut out of democratic processes themselves), and those who actually see value in serving the public:
Mr. Wall’s frustration reflects the opinion of many on the right, including his ideological fellow travellers in Ottawa, at the challenge mounted by Ms. Notley and Alberta’s new NDP government to their neoliberal approach to governance. No doubt they are particularly vexed by what this might mean for their attempts to eliminate the ability of citizens within the Canadian federation to control the energy industry in their own jurisdictions.

Mr. Wall and like-minded conservatives elsewhere in Canada, including here in Alberta, have long attempted to erect, if readers will forgive me, a Saskatchewan Wall between the public face of democracy and the ability of citizens to influence fundamental policies undertaken by their governments.

In other words, in the neoliberal worldview, democracy is only about the periodic selection of leaders expected to carry out economic policies already determined by an “expert” leadership consensus....
From Mr. Wall’s point of view, building pipelines to all points of the compass and catering to every whim of the energy industry is not just sound policy, it is simply non-negotiable. Asking other provinces – or, God forbid, their ordinary citizens – what they think about it must seem deeply subversive to someone who believes such perspectives ought to be irrelevant.

The idea Ms. Notley was seeking consensus to help Alberta apparently appeared so outrageous to Mr. Wall he let his mask of congeniality slip in public. Well, he wouldn’t be the first person to mistake Ms. Notley’s engaging manner for a lack of steel. This is a serious error, as some have discovered already.

Ms. Notley, by contrast, has a fundamentally different, much more traditional, view of democracy in which political parties are needed to act as brokers of conflicting ideas to build consensus on policies that a majority of voters can support.Which means in turn that this fall's election isn't only about electing a New Democratic government, but also a newly-democratic government. And in order to accomplish those goals, we'll need to push back hard against people who have no taste for either.

Sunday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 07/19/2015 - 08:55
This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Matthew Brown and Matt Volz report on the latest oil train derailment in North Dakota. Justin Giovannetti discusses how fracking is leading to regular earthquakes in previously-stable parts of Alberta - which looks doubly dangerous given the presence of pipelines in the affected area. Garret Ellison examines Enbridge's blithe disregard for the safety of 60-year-old pipelines which it wants to keep operating indefinitely. And Chris Mooney comments on the link between climate change and wildfires.

- All of which leads nicely to Tzeporah Berman's point that we need to start a real discussion of how to transition away from our addiction to oil.

- Julia Belluz interviews Amy Kapczynski about the TPP's impact on drug prices - which includes entrenching restrictions on the development of generic alternatives which even the U.S. wants to reverse in its domestic policy. And the Star's editorial board makes the case for a national pharmacare plan to tilt the balance in favour of citizens and the public purse.

- Wayne Kondro reports that the Cons' own hand-picked panel of health experts confirmed the need for federal leadership in health care - even in the face of direct pressure from the PMO to say otherwise.

- Finally, Jeremy Nuttall discusses the Cons' relationship with the media. (Though I'm not sure there's much more to it than simple projection on each side: the Cons believing the media to be every bit as biased as themselves, the media being surprised the Cons don't share any interest in talking about facts rather than spewing propaganda.) And Michael Harris follows up on #CPCJesus by comparing the Cons to their supposed inspiration.

Obsessed With His Enemies

Northern Reflections - Sun, 07/19/2015 - 04:56

Like Richard Nixon, Stephen Harper is obsessed with his enemies. That's why, Bob Hepburn writes, he continues to attack Justin Trudeau more than Tom Mulcair. Mulcair may be first in the polls. But Harper hates Trudeau because:

First, Prime Minister Stephen Harper hates Trudeau and the Liberals. It’s a personal hatred, dating back to the 1980s and to Justin’s father, the late prime minister Pierre Trudeau. Harper’s right-wing ideology was forged forever during Trudeau’s reign when the young Harper felt Justin’s father had a personal dislike for western Canada, and Alberta in particular. He felt the introduction of the National Energy Program and Trudeau’s focus on Quebec were the clearest proof of this anti-West attitude.
Second, Harper actually fears Trudeau more than he does Mulcair, despite what the polls are saying now.While the NDP has risen in popularity after the stunning victory by the New Democrats in the Alberta provincial election in May, Harper suspects the NDP surge isn’t the real thing, and that it will ease as the Oct. 19 election nears. 
Third, Harper is obsessed with totally destroying the Liberals as a national party. Ever the political strategist himself, Harper is playing the long game, looking beyond the October election which likely will end with a minority government of some sort. His aim is to set up the next election as a battle mainly between the NDP and the Conservatives. In basically a two-party race, Harper is convinced the Tories could trounce the NDP, with “blue Liberals” switching to the Conservatives, not the “leftist” NDP.
After the last federal election, Harper almost wiped the Liberals off the map. He won't be satisfied until he leaves the Liberal Party in the same state the Romans left Carthage.

Stephen Harper and the Great Con War on Pensions and Seniors

Montreal Simon - Sun, 07/19/2015 - 04:53

I've written a lot of posts about the Stephen Harper and his Great Con War on Pensions and Seniors for a couple of very simple reasons.

I like old people, I work and care for them all the time. I see far too many of them suffering the indignities of poverty in a country as rich as Canada. I will not remain quiet when so many are suffering in silence.

And of course I loathe and despise foul bullies like Jesus Harper with every bone in my body.

So now I'm writing another post, because as Martin Regg Cohn writes, his latest assault on pensions couldn't be more disgusting and reflexively destructive. 
Read more »

Stephen Harper and the Growing Anger of Canadians

Montreal Simon - Sat, 07/18/2015 - 21:52

I don't know why it's taken so long for many Canadians to be angered by Stephen Harper, considering what he has done to Canada.

But a new EKOS poll shows that anger is growing.

And it has a lot to do with the state of the economy. 
Read more »


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