Politics and its Discontents

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Reflections, Observations, and Analyses Pertaining to the Canadian Political Scene
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Massaging The Message: How A Republican Has Helped Israel Justify Its Invasion Of Gaza

lun, 07/28/2014 - 12:52


The Independent reports on how an American Republican pollster and political strategist has helped Israel sell its recent invasion of Gaza, drawing upon a

playbook [that] is a professional, well-researched and confidential study on how to influence the media and public opinion in America and Europe. Written by the expert Republican pollster and political strategist Dr Frank Luntz, the study was commissioned five years ago by a group called The Israel Project, with offices in the US and Israel, for use by those "who are on the front lines of fighting the media war for Israel".

The strategy, which relies heavily upon an understanding of psychology, advises tailoring one's message according to one's audience. Among the gems is this:

For example, the study says that "Americans agree that Israel 'has a right to defensible borders'. But it does you no good to define exactly what those borders should be. Avoid talking about borders in terms of pre- or post-1967, because it only serves to remind Americans of Israel's military history. Particularly on the left this does you harm.

For the pesky journalist who asks uncomfortable questions, such as those involving the right of return for Palestinian refugees who were expelled or fled in 1948 and in the following years, and who are not allowed to go back to their homes, the person being question should respond this way:

They should call it a "demand", on the grounds that Americans don't like people who make demands. "Then say 'Palestinians aren't content with their own state. Now they're demanding territory inside Israel'."

An in situations where widespread destruction and loss of life results, as in the current situation:

Dr Luntz says that Israeli spokesmen or political leaders must never, ever justify "the deliberate slaughter of innocent women and children" and they must aggressively challenge those who accuse Israel of such a crime. Israeli spokesmen struggled to be true to this prescription when 16 Palestinians were killed in a UN shelter in Gaza last Thursday.

To show empathy, Luntz advises this "effective Israeli sound bite":

"I particularly want to reach out to Palestinian mothers who have lost their children. No parent should have to bury their child."

As the article suggests, the 112-page booklet should be must-reading for all journalists and, I would think, anyone else interested in truth over propaganda and public relations.Recommend this Post

The Climate Change Debate Lives On

lun, 07/28/2014 - 05:30


The science on the theory of climate change is not settled. There is a powerful, scientific consensus that anthropogenic or man-made climate change is real, here now and worsening. There is a powerful, scientific consensus that man-made climate change is already triggering natural feedback mechanisms that eventually can become "tipping points" beyond which we will have runaway global warming. Runaway as in all the king's horses and all the king's men won't be able to stop it.

For all of that, the science isn't settled. That much is obvious from the tsunami of research studies that keep pouring in from a broad spectrum of scientific disciplines such as geology, glaciology, hydrology, oceanography, atmospherics, physics and chemistry, biology and marine biology, epidemiology, botany, meteorology, climatology and others. The science isn't settled because we're constantly uncovering new information, new pieces of a puzzle that give us a clearer picture of what we're up against. It may not be good news and it usually isn't but it's all important information that we ignore at our increasing peril.

Now, having said that, what about this climate change "debate"? It does exist but the important point is not that it exists but where it exists. It lingers on amidst the far right in magazines such as Forbes, in papers such as the Washington Post and Times, on TV networks like FOX and on open-mouth radio shows that appeal to the slack jawed, tea party crowd such as Limbaugh. It exists within any media outlet owned by Aussie news mogul, reptilian Rupert Murdoch.

What they're debating, however, isn't the reality of anthropogenic global warming. They can read the science as well as anyone or at least they can pay people to give them that information. What they're debating is the question of how much longer they can get away with sowing doubt and outright denialism before their pants burst into flame and their audience walks.

And then there's the debate among the political crowd, the sort-termer "Friends of Rupert Society." That would be people like Stephen Harper, Tony Abbott and David Cameron, most of the Republican caucus and an unseemly segment of the Democrats too, and camp followers such as Sarah Palin. Yeah, that's right. Sarah Palin and Steve Harper are on the same page. These types debate how much longer they can fudge and obscure and block any meaningful action.

Maybe the worst, though, are the pols who say they accept the reality of global warming but continue to act as though the debate was real and the science wasn't settled. Here I'm talking about the closet neoliberals who lead our opposition parties - Trudeau and Mulcair. Just like Harper, they're all for ramping up bitumen production and export. They're merely quibbling about transportation options which creates the false impression that there are any good options. They'll cajole you out of your vote on the promise that they'll be "less worse" than Harper and they'll dress up that claim with a tweaked policy here and there and then, if they convince enough of you to let them in, it'll be business pretty much as usual.

How can you tell they're closet neoliberals? Easy. Just like anyone else in a closet, unwilling to reveal themselves for who they are, they tread very lightly. They avoid getting drawn into certain conversations and they're adept at distraction. They bob and weave away from discussions that link things like the highest carbon oil on the planet and climate change tipping points. Much as Harper is vulnerable on it, they won't attack him for establishing Canada as a global pariah on climate change lest they find themselves hoisted on the petard of their own hypocrisy.

Look at it this way. Their foreign policy is neoliberal. Their policy on Israel is neoliberal. Their energy policy is neoliberal. Their economic policy is neoliberal. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck and waddles like a duck and lays duck eggs - it's a f__king duck! Makes no difference if it's labeled Liberal or New Democrat. Names simply don't mean much any more. They're false flags.

And now understand this. Fighting climate change is progressivism at its very best. Fighting inequality lies at the heart of progressivism. Leaving a better world for our grandkids is progressivism. Neoliberalism, however, is antithetical to progressivism. Neoliberalism is the grease on which corporatism quietly slides into our lives. Neoliberalism, no matter what sort of happy face you slap on it, eventually smothers progressivism.

It could be fairly argued that the 2015 general election will actually be a referendum on what form of neoliberalism we prefer. Some like it hot, hard and spicy. Most of us just hold our noses and swallow, hoping we don't gag. As for me, I'll be voting progressive and in this fetid milieu that can mean only one party, Green.


MoS, the Disaffected Lib








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It Wasn't Hamas - And Israel Knew That From the Get-Go.

dim, 07/27/2014 - 16:31


We all know that Israel used the kidnapping/murder of three Israeli teens, that it blamed squarely on Hamas, to whip up support for its brutal invasion of Gaza. It's been claimed that Israeli intelligence knew the teens had been killed shortly after they were kidnapped but withheld the information to stoke anti-Hamas sentiment.

Now, with over 1,000 Palestinians dead at Israeli hands, word is out that Israel knew Hamas had nothing to do with those three murders. An Israeli police spokesman is said to have confirmed to BBC reporter, Jon Donnison, that the killings were not the work of Hamas but a "lone cell."

This suggests that the west, especially our own Harper and Baird, were duped by Netanyahu. No need going at length into what this does to Justin's praise of Israel for its "commitment to peace."

MoS, the Disaffected LibRecommend this Post

But Then Again ...

dim, 07/27/2014 - 11:31
S.E Cupp does not agree with the New York Times recommendation that the federal ban on marijuana be ended:

Recommend this Post

End Prohibition - The New York Times

dim, 07/27/2014 - 09:31


The editorial board of America's "newspaper of record" has called for Washington to repeal federal laws prohibiting marijuana. The New York Times says it's time to end America's second prohibition:

It took 13 years for the United States to come to its senses and end Prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking, otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates arose and flourished. It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.

The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana.

There are no perfect answers to people’s legitimate concerns about marijuana use. But neither are there such answers about tobacco or alcohol, and we believe that on every level — health effects, the impact on society and law-and-order issues — the balance falls squarely on the side of national legalization. That will put decisions on whether to allow recreational or medicinal production and use where it belongs — at the state level.


MoS, the Disaffected LibRecommend this Post

Our Monochromatic Political Leadership

dim, 07/27/2014 - 06:55


The images are graphic and heartbreaking - buildings reduced to rubble, maimed and dead children strewn among that rubble, families fractured, lives broken beyond repair. Were it not for the distancing effect that television news inevitably brings, the pictures would be overwhelming, leaving room for nothing but despair.

Thus is the reality of the ongoing Israeli assault on Gaza, a seemingly insoluble situation aided and abetted by a West that offers nothing but the staunch bromide of Israeli's 'right to defend itself,' an assertion with which few would disagree.

And therein lies the problem. That reflexive cliche whenever Israeli 'excesses' make the news relies on an uninformed and unsophisticated mode of thinking that sees the world only in terms of absolutes, where things are right or wrong, where you either stand with Israel wholeheartedly and unequivocally, or you are an anti-Semite who stands with the terrorists.

This is certainly the position of the Harper regime, and it is one held by Thomas Mulcair as far back as 2008, and by Justin Trudeau as well, as noted by The Mound of Sound on this blog.

Taking, as they say, a more 'nuanced' public position takes courage for the political risk it entails, and all three leaders of the major parties have shown themselves extraordinarily risk-averse. Unfortunately, their decision to play a safe and defensive game carries with it stakes far greater than their own political ambitions.

It is that cowardice that invites a withering assessment by Haroon Siddiqui in this morning's Toronto Star:

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and, to a lesser extent, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair have fallen in line with Stephen Harper’s support of the Israeli onslaught on Gaza.

None question the Israeli killing and maiming of hundreds of civilians, including women and children.

All echo the formulation that, given the barrage of (ineffective) Hamas rockets, Israel has a right to retaliate (bombing by air, shelling from the sea, mounting a ground invasion, levelling houses, hitting hospitals, mosques and schools run by the United Nations, and disrupting electricity, water and sewage systems).

Siddiqui suggests there is great room for a genuine discussion that all three 'leaders' have no interest in initiating:

Our federal leaders do not ask whether there could have been a less lethal response to the rockets than a wholesale war on Gaza, the third in six years.

Indeed, they hew closely to the official narrative, refusing to allow facts to interfere with expediency:

They studiously avoid mentioning the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, now in its 47th year. They never mention the Israeli blockade of Gaza that entered its eighth year last month, leaving its 1.7 million inhabitants destitute.

Nor is the writer impressed by their blanket absolution of Israel for the mass destruction its actions have wrought:

All three suggest that Israel bears little or no responsibility for what’s happening. It’s all the fault of Hamas, the terrorist entity. They ignore a parallel narrative that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu provoked this war in order to derail a recent unity agreement between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, an accord that he saw as a threat to the status quo that he prefers.

Siddiqui disabuses those who hold out hope for change under young Justin Trudeau:

Trudeau issued a statement July 15 that “Israel has the right to defend itself and its people. Hamas is a terrorist organization and must cease its rocket attacks immediately.” He made no commensurate call for Israel to show restraint.

He condemned Hamas for rejecting an Egyptian ceasefire proposal and commended Israel for accepting it “and demonstrating its commitment to peace.” He did not say that the Egyptian military junta is not a neutral party, that it considers Hamas an extension of the banned Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood whose elected president Mohammed Morsi the army toppled in a coup last year. Hamas’ conditions for a ceasefire were rejected. It wanted, among other things, an end to the siege of Gaza.

There is much more in Siddiqui's column that merits reading, including the pushback from 500 prominent Canadians condemning the Harper regime for its uncritical stance on Israel, and condemnation by Canadians For Justice And Peace In The Middle East of all three federal parties because they have betrayed Canadian values.

All in all, much to disturb our Sunday equanimity.



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How To Stop Stephen Harper's Use of The CRA As An Instrument Of Terror: The Beginnings Of A Plan

sam, 07/26/2014 - 09:11


Lately I have been writing some posts on Stephen Harper's reign of terror, his relentless attacks on charities that oppose his agenda. Groups as diverse as the United Church of Canada, Oxfam, and PEN Canada have fallen victim to this vindictive miscreant, undergoing audits thanks to the Prime Minister's misuse of the CRA as his chief weapon. The more I read and learn about this egregious and contemptible misuse of power, the more upset and angry I become, given that this strikes at the heart of one of our most treasured freedoms, the right of free speech. I have been thinking about ways to try to combat this reign, but that is perhaps the subject of another post.

For now, let me direct you to a piece written by Professor Edward Jackson of Carleton University. Entitled Why The CRA Is No Longer An Effective Instrument of Public, the essay offers an effective overview of the arrant hypocrisy of the regime that claims to be ensuring the sanctity of taxpayer dollars through its zealous mission of ferreting out 'abuse' by nonprofits holding charitable status:

Its campaign of vexatious audits of the political activities of progressive charities has created a chill in political dissent, and is a new low even for the Conservative regime.

At the same time, CRA's Minister is musing about requiring charities to provide lists of their donors (in fact, this information is already available in the system, but you get the drift of the political messaging here). And there are even reports that, under the cover of the courts, the CRA can't qualify poverty reduction as a charitable objective. At a time of high unemployment in many parts of the country, rising income inequality and more, what could be more preposterous than disqualifying poverty reduction?


But that's not all.

Around the time of the ramping up of the campaign against the NGOs, the CRA actually cut hundreds of auditors who had been working on criminal investigations, special enforcement and voluntary disclosure programs.


What encourages me about Professor Jackson's article is that he goes on to suggest some specific measures we can all participate in before this hateful and vindictive regime is ousted:

1) Express solidarity with the charities that are targeted for political audits by taking out memberships and making donations.

2) Support the building of a coalition against the political audits and for a court challenge to the government.

3) Prepare questions for the Minister and leadership of the CRA as to who made the critical decisions over the past few years, and why -- on the charities issue, and also on the criminal investigations issue.

4) Develop a plan for completely overhauling the unit that deals with charities.

5) And work with the opposition parties on a detailed, post-2015 plan for rebuilding Canada's tax agency into an institution of which Canadians, including its own staff, will once again be proud.


As he says, at least it is a start, and we can well imagine that with the participation of enough Canadians of goodwill and passion, it could well gain momentum just in time for Harper's rendezvous with the electorate next year.Recommend this Post

Your Saturday Smile

sam, 07/26/2014 - 06:07
A bit of a busy morning ahead, so for now, enjoy:

Recommend this Post

Apologize, You Sleazy Bastard

ven, 07/25/2014 - 13:12


The Geneva-based, International Commision of Jurists, has issued a written demand that Sideshow Steve Harper and his supposed justice minister, Peter MacKay, apologize to Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin for the drive-by smear job they tried to pull on her following the failure of their bid to seat Marc Nadon on the Supreme Court of Canada.

Not only was there no wrongdoing on the part of Justice McLachlin, they opined, but the Harper-MacKay tag team was an assault on the independence of our highest court.

“The ICJ considers that the criticism was not well-founded and amounted to an encroachment upon the independence of the judiciary and integrity of the Chief Justice,” the commission said in a letter from its headquarters in Geneva to Gerald Heckman, a University of Manitoba law professor who spearheaded the complaint.

It accepted Chief Justice McLachlin’s explanation, as expressed in a public reply from her office to the allegations of impropriety first made in April by the Prime Minister’s Office, that she had spoken to Mr. MacKay and her office had spoken to the Prime Minister's chief of staff, Ray Novak, only to alert them to a potential legal issue.


Unfortunately, the ICJ's stinging rebuke arrived in the midst of Canada's national nap time, the middle of the summer recess. Of course with a regime that regularly places itself above or at least outside the law the independence of the judiciary and integrity of the Chief Justice are of no great moment. Besides in the dark recesses of Harper’s mind, what actually happened is what he believes to have happened, not some foreigners’ opinions.


MoS, the Disaffected LibRecommend this Post

Justin, You Need to Read This

ven, 07/25/2014 - 09:03


While Justin Trudeau's pandering Liberal Party may praise Israel's "commitment to peace," Israeli society is displaying a darker, brutal face.

Lisa Goldman, director of the Israel-Palestine Initiative at the Washington think tank, New America, writes of an Israel utterly at odds with Trudeau the Lesser's obsequious drivel.

Goldman writes of, "a series of events that were marked by violence and incitement against the Arab population, from the government to the street. One member of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, called for a war against the Palestinian people on her Facebook page. Another called an Arab legislator a “terrorist” during a parliamentary committee session, while still another, the leader of an ostensibly centrist party, submitted a proposal to ban an established Arab nationalist party with sitting members of the Knesset. The editor of a right-wing newspaper suggested that now was the time to transfer the Arab population out of the occupied West Bank. In Jerusalem, mobs of hyper nationalist youth rampaged through the cafe-lined downtown streets chanting “death to Arabs,” assaulting random passersby because they looked or sounded Palestinian. Most horrifically of all, a 17 year-old Palestinian boy from East Jerusalem was abducted from the street by six young Jewish men, three of them minors. The police found Mohammed Abu Khdeir’s corpse in the nearby Jerusalem Forest shortly after CCTV cameras recorded some young men forcing him into a car. He had been doused with gasoline and burned alive. Three of the six boys confessed to the crime and re-enacted it for the police.

This orgy of internecine violence was sparked by the mid-June abduction of three Jewish teenage boys – Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaer and and Eyal Yifrah – who were hitchhiking in the West Bank. The army carried out a massive three-week manhunt for the boys, that included pre-dawn raids and dozens of arrests; it ended with the discovery of three corpses buried in a field near Hebron. And while the men who committed the crime were almost certainly Palestinian, Hamas has vociferously denied involvement even as the Israeli government continues to accuse them of masterminding the abduction and murder as an act of terrorism.

After the nationally televised funerals for the boys, with moving eulogies delivered by their mothers, the country seemed to explode. Ultra nationalists openly organized anti-Arab demonstrations via Facebook groups.

Something has broken down in Israeli society. Friends who always said they would never leave because they were too deeply rooted in the place, its language and their families are deeply worried and even despairing over the radical rightward shift of the mainstream political discourse. Several have said they were looking for opportunities abroad because they couldn’t see themselves raising their children in a country where dissent was slowly but surely being suppressed even as the national discourse hardened rightward.

Israel has always been a flawed democracy with many festering internal divisions. Its policies toward the Arab minority reflect the unresolved tension of a conflicted identity: Should Israel aspire to be a liberal democracy or a democracy for Jews? But in the five years since Benjamin Netanyahu was elected prime minister and formed a governing coalition composed of far-right, racist and anti-democratic parties, something very fundamental has changed in Israeli society. It feels as though the majority is willing to suspend essential elements of democracy in favor of Jewish nationalism. There doesn’t seem to be a place for dissent anymore.


The reduction of Gaza is an Israeli work in progress that has been going on for years. Within five years, ten at the outside, Gaza's dwindling fresh water supply should be exhausted, the groundwater rendered unfit for human consumption due to the engineered inundation of sea water. Meanwhile Israel continues building illegal settlements across the West Bank that render the very notion of an independent Palestinian state unachievable. This isn't a state of apartheid, it's a programme of incremental ethnic cleansing.

As for Trudeau and the neo-Liberal Party of Canada, their true colours are now completely beyond disguise.

MoS, the Disaffected Lib


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Possibly The Most Important 60-Minutes You've Spent In A Good, Long While

ven, 07/25/2014 - 06:02


Guardian enviro-scribe, George Monbiot, delivers a stark warning and a call to arms in this year’s Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute address. Monbiot warns that we’re about to feed the environment into the gaping maw of the financial sector so responsible for its current degradation.

Monbiot says that neo-liberalism will complete the devastation of our already reeling environment. He points out, in words that ring true for Canada also, that we lack the political leadership we need so desperately to protect our environment.

“This is the horrendous mistake that New Labour here and the Democratic Party in the United States have made. ‘We’ve got to win the next election so we’ve got to appease people who don’t share our values, so we’re going to become like them. Instead of trying to assert our own values, we are going to go over to them and say, “Look, we’re not really red; we’re not scary at all. We are actually conservatives.” That was Tony Blair’s message. That was Bill Clinton’s message. That, I’m afraid, is Barack Obama’s message. ...We’ve ended up with a situation where there are effectively no political alternatives to neoliberalism being advanced by the ...government. In which the opposition is, in almost every case, failing to oppose. It is in this position because it has progressively neutralised itself by trying to appease people who do not share its values.”


Does that sound familiar? It does to me. Monbiot captures the abandonment of the Left and centre-left in Canada by New Democrats and Liberals alike. They’re all neoliberal petro-pols and, as such, richly deserving of our contempt and loathing. Monbiot warns of the darker side of neoliberal politics – the inability to support anything but neoliberal solutions to our environmental threats. Foremost of these, he warns, is the madness of “natural capital” – monetizing the environment, component by component.

“You are effectively pushing the natural world even further into the system that is eating it alive. Dieter Helm, the Chairman of the Natural Capital Committee, said, ‘The environment is part of the economy and needs to be properly integrated into it so that growth opportunities will not be missed.’

“There, ladies and gentlemen, you have what seems to me the government’s real agenda. This is not to protect the natural world from the depredations of the economy. It is to harness the world to the economic growth that has been destroying it. All the things which have been so damaging to the living planet are now being sold to us as its salvation: commodification, economic growth, financialization, abstraction. Now, we are told, these devastating processes will protect it.”

“It gets worse still when you look at the way in which this is being done. Look at the government’s Ecosystems Market Task Force, which was another of these exotic vehicles for chopping up nature and turning it into money. From the beginning it was pushing nature towards financialization. It talked of ‘harnessing City financial expertise to assess the ways that these blended revenue streams and securitizations enhance the return of investment of an environmental bond.’ This gives you an idea of what the agenda is...

“What we are talking about is giving the natural world to the City of London, the financial centre, to look after. What could possibly go wrong? Here we have a sector whose wealth is built on the creation of debt. That’s how it works, on stacking up future liabilities. Shafting the future in order to serve the present, that is the model. And then that debt is sliced up into collateralized debt obligations and all other marvellous devices that worked so well last time round.


“Now nature is to be captured and placed in the care of the financial sector, as that quote suggests. In order for the City to extract any value from it, the same Task Force says we need to ‘unbundle’ ecosystem services so that can be individually traded.

“That’s the only way in which it can work – this financialization and securitization and bond issuing and everything else they are talking about. Nature has to be unbundled. If there is one thing we know about ecosystems, and we know it more the more we discover about them, is that you cannot safgely disaggregate their functions without destroying the whole thing. Ecosystems function as coherent holistic systems, in which the different elements depend upon each other. The moment you start to unbundle them and to trade them separately you create a formula for disaster.”


Monbiot concludes that the only way to save our planet is to utterly reject neoliberalism, no matter the name of the party that embraces it. What he’s saying is that we have to reject not just the Conservatives but also the Liberals and the New Democrats. He says the message from these parties is “follow us and we’ll give you a slightly less worse government.” He’s right and that’s just what the Liberals and the New Democrats have on offer. They’ve already gone to the Dark Side, you just need to be honest with yourself and admit it.

MoS, the Disaffected LibRecommend this Post

Harper's Reign of Terror - Part Four

jeu, 07/24/2014 - 16:39


Except, that is, in Harperland. The latest Orwellian edict to come down from the Harper-directed CRA, reported by The Winnipeg Free Press, is as follows:

The Canada Revenue Agency has told a well-known charity that it can no longer try to prevent poverty around the world, it can only alleviate poverty — because preventing poverty might benefit people who are not already poor.

The bizarre bureaucratic brawl over a mission statement is yet more evidence of deteriorating relations between the Harper government and some parts of Canada's charitable sector.

The lexical scuffle began when Oxfam Canada filed papers with Industry Canada to renew its non-profit status, as required by Oct. 17 this year under a law passed in 2011.

Ottawa-based Oxfam initially submitted wording that its purpose as a charity is "to prevent and relieve poverty, vulnerability and suffering by improving the conditions of individuals whose lives, livelihood, security or well-being are at risk."

The international development group, founded in 1963, spends about $32 million each year on humanitarian relief and aid in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America, with a special emphasis on women's rights.

But the submission to Industry Canada also needed the approval of the charities directorate of the Canada Revenue Agency, and that's where the trouble began.
Agency officials informed Oxfam that "preventing poverty" was not an acceptable goal.

"Relieving poverty is charitable, but preventing it is not," the group was warned. "Preventing poverty could mean providing for a class of beneficiaries that are not poor."

Oxfam Canada's executive director called the exchange an "absurd conversation."

I really have nothing to add to that assessment.

Recommend this Post

Harper's Reign of Terror - Part Three

jeu, 07/24/2014 - 07:39


The prospect of being hanged focuses the mind wonderfully.
- Samuel Johnson

While I doubt that many within the Harper regime are literary types or schooled in the humanities, I suspect the above quotation or variants thereof represents the underlying spirit of their relentless attacks on nonprofits that oppose the government's ruthless agenda.

And now there are indications that the noose is tightening, that the focus of those attacks is widening, with the purpose not only of cowing advocacy groups into silence lest they lose their charitable status, but also their supporters.

Today's Star offers this chilling lead:

Canadian charities would have to turn over lists of their donors’ identities to the Canada Revenue Agency under a proposal being floated by the Conservative government.

The cover story being offered by the regime is that it would better equip the CRA to detect charity-receipt fraud, inasmuch as the majority of Canadians now file their tax returns online, where actual receipts are not required. By having a list of donors and the amounts given, the revenue agency could easily ferret out fraud.

On the surface, such a proposal would seem to have merit, simply a measure reflecting sound fiscal management. However, as with almost everything the Harper cabal offers, there is a nefarious side to such a measure, as

... some charities are wary of the administrative burden — and the potential close surveillance of groups that criticize government policies.

Revenue Minister Kerry-Lynne Findlay made the suggestion behind closed doors this spring to charities officials in Ottawa as the government seeks ways to tighten regulation of Canada’s charitable sector.

Findlay asked officials of the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Canadian Cancer Society and others for their input, as well as their reaction to a proposal to standardize the format, size and colour of official income-tax receipts for charitable donations.

The consultation took place before a March 26 media event at which Findlay and Kevin Sorenson, minister of state for finance, boasted about the government’s achievements in reducing red tape for charities.


So how did those who attended the meeting react? Understandably, given the justifiable fear of regime repercussions, few want to comment publicly. One attendee, who requested anonymity, said that it was initially met with “stunned silence”.

“You can imagine why neither of these proposals would reduce red tape for charities — and why, given the current climate, there would be significant concern about the intent,” said the source.

And what might that intent be? In addition to the existing audits being directed against those who offer criticism of its reactionary agenda, the regime would have another cudgel (increased administrative costs) with which to threaten nonprofits, as well as one to wield selectively against their supporters.

Think about it. Is there really a leap in logic to suggest that the long arm of the Harper-directed CRA could now reach punitively into the lives of supporters of targeted nonprofits? Could those in accord with the goals of nonprofits that criticize government policy find themselves, once their donor information was in the hands of officials, suddenly receiving notification of impending tax audits?

Can you imagine how pervasive the chill would become? Can you imagine how crippling the effect would be on targeted nonprofit support?

There was a time when I would have dismissed my above thoughts as the manifestation of an unhinged conspiracy enthusiast. Sadly for our country, that time has long since passed.Recommend this Post

Yet Another Desperate and Despicable Ploy: More Harper Narrowcasting

mer, 07/23/2014 - 12:51

The politics have a look of desperation about them. As they see their electoral chances diminishing among the wider Canadian public with each new sordid revelation, it looks like the Harper crowd is doubling down with its base, a strategy that I questioned in my earlier post today.

Steven Blaney, who could only be considered a Public Safety Minister in a Canada that has grown decidedly Orwellian, has announced a plan that will erode public safety but perhaps fire up the base. CBC News reports the regime minion has announced the Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act which would make life easier for many Canadian gun owners.

Currently, gun owners in Ontario, Quebec and P.E.I. have to apply to each province's chief firearms officer when they want to transport a restricted or prohibited weapon. Under the new rules, gun owners in all provinces would get permission to transport weapons as a condition of their licence.

But wait! There's more!

The government also plans to allow a grace period for gun owners with expired permits.

And even more ominously, this cryptic observation:

The new rules would also give the federal government more say in decisions previously made by each province's chief firearms officer.

Finally, you may recall this dandy little weapon that the RCMP banned earlier this year:


The national police force changed the Swiss Arm rifle from restricted to prohibited, the main reason being that the guns could be easily converted to be fully automatic. Automatic weapons, which shoot a spray of bullets with one trigger pull, are illegal in Canada.

In March, the government said it was troubled by the decision, and gave gun owners permission to keep the weapons, via a two-year amnesty.

Under the new plan, gun owners would also be allowed to use the weapons, in essence restoring them to their previous status.


Indeed, there is much to chew upon here for a segment of the Canadian population.Recommend this Post

King Stephen And The Law Of Diminishing Returns

mer, 07/23/2014 - 08:20


Last evening I wrote a brief post on how the Harper regime is exploiting the tragedy in Gaza for political gain.

Anon responded with the following:

It is worse than no shame. It is disgusting. Over 630 people have died, including 30 Israelis and over 600 Palestinians, mostly non combatants and civilians including children. And he uses it as an opportunity to fundraise? And Cons supporters are OK with it? No wonder they are called the Nasty Party by pundits (e,g, Hebert, Coyne).

That comment got me thinking about the much-vaunted Tory base, which, perhaps, is beginning to show some cracks.

I replied to Anon:

I wonder if, in ramping up the rhetoric about its unequivocal support for Israel, the Harper regime has fallen into an almost stereotypical notion of its supporters. Rarely, if ever, are such supporters homogeneous. Perhaps Dear Leader will find, especially with the terrible imagery emerging from Gaza, that he has overplayed his hand and that many of the true blue will simply stay at home in the next election rather than endorse such extremism.

And that base, which has also been witness to a host of broken promises revolving around integrity, accountability, and transparency, now has even more reason to question their loyalty to a leader and party that has betrayed them and the rest of Canada in their monomaniacal obsession with the retention of power at any cost.

Today's National Post reports the following:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper does not intend to testify in the trial of suspended senator Mike Duffy because he doesn’t have any useful information to offer, his office said Tuesday.

Harper's director of communications, Jason Macdonald, offered the following:

“We have responded fully and freely to every request for assistance from the RCMP”.

“The RCMP have noted this and, after a thorough investigation, have made it clear who they believe is guilty of wrongdoing: Mike Duffy. They have also made clear that they do not believe the Prime Minister had any knowledge of Mr. Duffy’s wrongdoing. Given this, it is difficult to imagine that the Prime Minister would have any information that could be relevant to Mr. Duffy’s defence.”


So there we have it - an arrogant Prime Minister now so drunk on his own power and ego that he has declared himself above the law.

I rest my case.Recommend this Post

No Shame, No Shame At All

mar, 07/22/2014 - 16:46
There is no situation, however tragic, that Harper and his regime won't exploit for political advantage. I guess that comes as no surprise to anyone:



Be sure to check out the Conservative Party website for more evidence, as well as Alison's caricature at Creekside.Recommend this Post

Harper's Reign Of Terror - Part 2

mar, 07/22/2014 - 10:40

Yesterday I wrote a post on the war being conducted by Stephen Harper and his cadre against dissent in Canada. Specifically, the Prime Minister is diverting CRA resources and taxpayer monies to investigate those non-profits not on board with his agenda. Environmental groups have been especially hard hit.

Today comes word that the scope of Harper repression is expanding. As reported in The Toronto Star, the knock at the door has happened at PEN Canada.

The Canada Revenue Agency has launched a political-activities audit of PEN Canada, a small charity promoting freedom of expression that has criticized the Harper government in the past.

Two tax auditors showed up Monday morning at the tiny Toronto offices of PEN Canada, asking to see a wide range of internal documents.


If you visit their website, you will see the following principles advocated by PEN:

PEN Canada envisions a world where
writers are free to write,
readers are free to read,
and freedom of expression prevails


That the organization advocates for freedoms that are synonymous with healthy societies, of course, makes them the perfect target for Harper retribution, given Dear Leader's demonstrated disdain for such principles.

And a visit to the news section of PEN's website will make abundantly clear why the Harper cabal has sicced the CRA on them:

Privacy Could Vanish if Cyber-Bullying Act Became Law

Groups Seek Human Rights Protections in Canada-Honduras Free Trade Agreement

How Transparent are Canada’s ISPs?

Stephen Harper Must Address Online Surveillance in Canada, says PEN Canada

One can only hope that Pen International will take up the cause. Presumably it is beyond the reach of the cowardly intimidation tactics of our national government.Recommend this Post

When Israel Says It Isn't Out To Punish Innocent Palestinians, It's Lying - And We Don't Care

mar, 07/22/2014 - 04:56


Actions speak so much louder than words, especially when it comes to Israel attacking Palestinians.

The current invasion of Gaza demonstrates that Israel’s claims to be targeting Hamas but not the Gaza Palestinian population is an outright lie. That much is blatant from the weapons used.

What weapons? Try water. When you’re targeting the civilian population of an already water-stressed locale the simplest way to turn the screws is to attack their water and sewage infrastructure. Once you deprive them of fresh water and compound that with a collapse of their sewage system, nature will take care of the rest. Every bloodthirsty bastard who laid siege to a medieval castle or town knew that.

Gaza is a lot like one of those medieval towns. Its land borders are sealed by Israel and Egypt. At sea, the Israeli navy maintains an effective blockade. With the exception of a few tunnels, if you’re in Gaza you’re not going anywhere. You might as well be trapped behind stone walls and a portcullis.

But what about the water? Years ago Israel constructed what are known as "trap wells" along the border with Gaza. These wells intercepted the natural flow of groundwater that Gazans relied upon. Worse yet, without that fresh water flow, sea water entered the Gazans groundwater supply leaving it heavily contaminated. As more sea water continues to enter the Gazan water resource it’s only a matter of time.

In the preliminary air strikes that preceded Israel’s ground invasion of Gaza, Israeli air force jets bombed Gaza’s water and sewage plants. That has rendered about 90% of Gaza’s already dwindling water supply unfit for human consumption.

Israel understands the power of the water weapon and its punitive effect on civilian populations. During its ill-fated invasion of southern Lebanon to attack Hezbollah, Israeli jets took out the water and sewage pumping plants of Beiruit, far removed from Hezbollah territory. That wasn’t targeted at Hezbollah. It was targeted at the Lebanese civilian population in a city largely opposed to Hezbollah. Israel likewise attacked and destroyed three Lebanese hospitals and on its way out of the country instituted a 72-hour cluster bomb barrage of the south ensuring a massive supply of bomblets for cattle and farmers and kids to stumble across for years to come.

If there was ever any doubt that Trudeau the Lesser is all Margaret and no Pierre, the proof came through in the Liberals’ stomach-churning praise of Israel for its “commitment to peace.” I really don’t know how you Liberals live with yourselves and that party or the pandering opportunist who trades on what once was a great name.

In a place like Gaza, taking down the water and sewage plants is a form of biological warfare. It’s just a matter of time until cholera sets in. Yeah, Justin, that’s some commitment to peace all right.

MoS, the Disaffected LibRecommend this Post

On Harper's Reign of Terror

lun, 07/21/2014 - 08:20


Last week, Owen wrote a post he entitled Corrupting Civil Society, a reflection on the Harper war on non-profits that stand in opposition to any of his regime's agenda. I recommend reading it for a good overview of the situation.

In yesterday's Star, three letters articulated three excellent perspectives on this shameful war:

Tories intimidate charities into silence. Who's next? Opinion July 16

One way to deal with the Harperites’ bullying of charities might be for all charitable organizations to renounce their charitable status. Personally, I make most of my donations to non-charities. I figure they are doing the most-needed advocacy work. The deduction I get on my income tax for charitable donations is hardly enough to bother.

Of course, for multi-millionaire Stephen Harper supporters, this would be anathema. They like donating a chunk of money, getting a massive tax rebate from you and me, and having their names in lights on some university or hospital.

It’s time this type of selfish “philanthropy” is stopped. It costs taxpayers huge sums of money, while allowing the 1 per cent to dictate how that money is spent. Let’s end this distortion, and return to real charity. And let’s make the 1 per cent pay their fair share of taxes, while we’re at it.

Kate Chung, Toronto

The Harper government suddenly detects rampant subversion of the charitable tax exemption. Oddly, the concern appears to be less about the extravagant lifestyle of religious charlatans or about politicians siphoning tax free dollars into their campaign chests than about organizations whose good works are not aligned with the government’s agenda. This, according to the government, is illegal political activity.

Wake up Stephen Harper! All charity is 100 per cent political. Charity is voluntary action by citizens to correct the failings of our society. Charities support the needy and disabled at home, fight disease and starvation abroad and work to free political prisoners precisely because government policy is not to act on these urgent social problems.

It is time to acknowledge that charities provide an immeasurable service by patching the policy holes in our social safety net which the government so cheerfully cuts.


Paul Collier, Toronto

Revenue Minister Kerry-Lynne Findlay trots out the old warhorse of “good stewardship over taxpayer dollars” to excuse the government’s latest crackdown on advocacy by charitable groups. “The CRA has a legal responsibility to ensure that charitable dollars, donated by charitable Canadians, are used for charitable purposes,” she says.

Whether we identify as “taxpayers” or “charitable Canadians” — and probably most of us are both — we can all figure out that it makes more economic sense to address the causes of poverty and injustice than to try to remedy the effects.

Susan Warden, Scarborough

As well, a Star editorial applauds the fact that the NDP is finally speaking up about this misuse of the CRA:

The New Democratic Party, worried that voluntary agencies are being silenced, sent a sharply-worded letter to Revenue Minister Kerry-Lynne Findlay this past week. “This program has the appearance of blatantly abusing CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) resources to target those who do not agree with government and compromises the very integrity of CRA,” wrote NDP revenue critic Murray Rankin and environment critic Megan Leslie.

They called for an independent, external review to determine whether the government is using the muscle of the tax department to crack down on human rights advocates, environmentalists and anti-poverty activists.


While this demand is likely to be met with the Harper cabal's usual disdainful disregard of opposing views, it is at least heartening that with both the press and some politicians speaking up, more of the general public will learn of the profoundly anti-democratic and cowardly nature of their national government.Recommend this Post

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