Posts from our progressive community

New column day

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 07/17/2014 - 08:08
Here, on how the recent spate of Saskatchewan women being fired for getting pregnant represents only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to gender inequality.

For further reading...
- The Leader-Post reported on the increase in pregnancy-related firings here. And its editorial board weighs in here.
- Oxfam's report referenced in the column is here (PDF). And again, Shannon Gormley's column on how we project to be a lifetime away from wage equality is worth read.
- Finally, Clive Crook discusses the need for early and consistent social support to end inequality of opportunity.

upcycling with teens at the library

we move to canada - Thu, 07/17/2014 - 07:30
My summer youth programs have been going really well. Attendance has increased with each program - first 7, then 13, then 15 - and yesterday we hit the jackpot with 23 teens. We actually had to turn away three kids without tickets, as our program room was so packed with people and materials.

I wasn't planning on blogging about individual programs, but there seems to be some interest. Plus, since I regularly Google for ideas for programs and displays, I'm happy to give back by adding to the ideas out there.

Upcycling was a huge hit! For those not familiar with the term, upcycling is an expression for taking an item that would normally be thrown in the trash or in the recycling bin and creating something useful or decorative from it - moving it "up," figuratively, in the lifecycle of the product.

I like to begin programs with a bit of context, and to immediately get the teens engaged. This is not difficult to do: I structure a brief introduction in the form of questions.

First, I asked if someone could explain what "upcycling" means. I got exactly the definition I wrote above.

Next, I said that I could think of two ways that upcycling is good for the environment and for the earth. Can someone tell me one way? One of the teens said, "It removes something from the waste stream, so all the energy that it would take to recycle the item - to break it down and re-form it - isn't used. Or if the thing is not recyclable, it keeps it out of landfill." Exactly!

And lastly, I asked if anyone could think of another way upcycling is good for the environment. A third teen said, "It helps us consume less. Instead of buying something new, we re-use something we already have." Smart kids, eh?

So after that little intro, we showed some samples made by an artistic colleague of mine who worked on this program with me: a milk carton change pouch, tin-can caddies, and pen or pencil holders made from plastic tubes. (The tubes are the rollers inside the paper that library slips are printed on. We generate zillions of them.)

I had a few YouTube videos and some Pinterest pages cued up on the projector, and we watched some of the ideas in action. I told the teens that I found all these ideas online, I didn't think of them myself.

I also tell them that I'm not very artistic or crafty. I just like to try new things and to create something. I always emphasize that whatever they make today doesn't have to win a prize or look like something you would see in a store, because the only way to learn how to do something is to fool around and learn what works.

Then I give a few ground rules, something like... If you haven't done a DIY program with me before, here's how it works. There are lots and lots of different materials at various stations around the room. Help yourselves to anything you see, and if you think of something you could use that you don't see, ask us, we might be able to get it for you from our craft supplies. You are free to create anything you wish, using any combination of materials. The samples are examples - you can re-create those, or add to them, or do something entirely different. I say a few words about safety - wear gloves when using hot-glue guns, no more than two people at a glue gun station at a time - and we're off.

It was a huge success. We practically had to kick them out of the room to clean up. Here's how I know for sure that it worked: several teens asked if there were other programs like this, and could they come back for more.

Here are some pics of the kinds of things we made.







A Darwin Award Contender?

Politics and its Discontents - Thu, 07/17/2014 - 07:06
Given that we are in the midst of summer, a little change of pace seems in order. Read this story and watch the accompanying video to see if the developer of a rather unusual homemade pesticide solution merits consideration for a Darwin Award nomination.



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Things Should Really Start To Get Interesting Now

Politics and its Discontents - Thu, 07/17/2014 - 05:58
As just reported by the CBC, the RCMP has decided to lay charges against disgraced Senator Mike Duffy. Let's hope the 'fat lady' sings loudly:


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They're Really Not Very Smart

Northern Reflections - Thu, 07/17/2014 - 05:33

                                                                         http://www.parl.gc.ca/

After several rebukes from the Supreme Court, the Harperites are feeling mean. Earlier this week, Conservative MP Larry Miller complained that the "courts are making laws." Andrew Coyne writes:

People who supposedly stand for limited government get surprisingly antsy, once in office, about having their own discretion circumscribed. That they profess to do so in the name of Parliament only compounds the incoherence. Who do they think passed the Charter?
And, of course, as always for these folks, Pierre Trudeau is the villain:

Mr. Miller does not disappoint. “Pierre Trudeau,” he said, “did this willfully and deliberately, taking rights away from the majority to protect the minority.” Can you believe it? Protecting the minority. I mean, who the hell elected him?
That's what winning a majority government was all about for the Conservatives -- banishing minority opinion. And, if they are concerned about the Court stomping on Parliament's perogatives, Coyne suggests that they look in the mirror:

As defenders of Parliament, they’d be a lot more convincing had they not spent the past many years meekly surrendering one ancient Parliamentary prerogative after another, not to the courts, but to a far more voracious usurper: the executive.
 There is a solution to their problem:

There’s a simple way to remove them from the equation: stop passing laws that are so clearly and flagrantly in violation of the Constitution (see, for example, the prostitution bill). Insist, as the political scientist Emmett Macfarlane has suggested, that ministers screen bills for Charter compatibility before introducing them in the House. Better yet, have committees of Parliament do the same.

But don't count on the Harperites hitting on that solution. The truth is, they're really not very smart.

Scottish Independence and the Search for the New Left

Montreal Simon - Thu, 07/17/2014 - 02:03


OK. So it's probably not the best time to leave Canada. Not in the middle of that tragically short warm period we call summer in the Great White North.

But politically it's the dead season here, or even deader than usual.

While in Scotland where I'm going, it's very much alive. 
Read more »

Of course its political!

Cathie from Canada - Wed, 07/16/2014 - 23:43
What's the point of being in power if you can't use government agencies to target and harass your enemies?
It's a time-honoured political tradition around the world, and now it's come to Canada.

The NDP is calling for an independent probe into the Canada Revenue Agency's targeting of some Canadian charities for their political activities.
In a letter Wednesday to Revenue Minister Kerry-Lynne Findlay, the party says the alleged misuse of tax agency audits against political opponents of the government is muzzling charities and draining them financially.
...A Canadian Press investigation reported that the tax agency has stepped up its probes of charities for their political activities, well beyond a first wave of audits of key environment groups that challenge the government's energy policies.
International aid groups, anti-poverty organizations and human-rights agencies have also been swept up in the net, with some 52 political-activity audits now in progress.
An initial budget of $8 million set out in the 2012 budget has grown to $13 million, and political-activity audits are being made a permanent part of the Canada Revenue Agency's work.
Asked for comment on the NDP letter Wednesday, Findlay's office provided a week-old statement that itself repeated the minister's talking points in the House of Commons: "CRA audits occur at arm's length from the government and are conducted free of any political interference."
Some charities report that the audits are driving up their legal bills, to more than $100,000 in one case, as they consult lawyers to represent their case to the tax agency. Some audits have dragged on for more than two years with no end in sight.Mere coincidence? Ha, ha, it is to laugh.
We all know that there's a long-standing conservative meme that environmental organizations, anti-poverty groups, social justice charities, international aid NGOs and welfare agencies are all just secret fronts for traitorous evil leftists -- being reality-based, of course these organizations have a liberal bias.
The Harper Cons already know how much of their own support at the polls is coming from conservative-aligned groups like the ethical oil, right-to-lifers and evangelical churches.  So it would also be an article of faith that the leftie organizations must be secretly abusing the nation's charity rules to shill for the Libs and the NDP and the Greens.
The Harper Cons would never believe that their opponents would play by the rules, because they don't themselves, as Carol Goar notes in the Toronto Star:
Many of the “political activity” audits launched by CRA since 2012 were triggered by complaints from Ethical Oil, a lobby group with strong ties to the Harper government and the petroleum sector. This is a departure for CRA. Unlike the random audits it has always conducted — approximately 900 a year — the new ones are susceptible to external direction, compromising the fairness and professionalism in which the tax department has always taken pride.It wouldn't surprise me if it turns out the whole strategy of targeting left-wing charities and dragging out audits was just another sleazy political tactic from the Harper PMO.

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