Politics and its Discontents

Souscrire à flux Politics and its Discontents
Reflections, Observations, and Analyses Pertaining to the Canadian Political Scene
Mis à jour : il y a 21 min 42 sec

Harper's Reign Of Terror - Part 2

il y a 3 heures 52 min

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

il y a 9 heures 36 min


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

Richard Dawkins Says "Mild Pedophilia" Does No Harm

lun, 07/21/2014 - 05:06


Scientist and atheist campaigner, Richard Dawkins, says it was “no harm, no foul” when a school master pulled young Dawkins onto his lap, shoved his hands down the boy’s pants and fondled him.

“Richard Dawkins attempted to defend what he called ‘mild pedophilia,’ which, he says, he personally experienced as a young child and does not believe causes ‘lasting harm.’

“Dawkins went on to say that one of his former school masters ‘pulled me on his knee and put his hand inside my shorts,’ and that to condemn this ‘mild touching up’ as sexual abuse today would somehow be unfair.

“’I am very conscious that you can’t condemn people of an earlier era by the standards of ours. Just as we don’t look back at the 18th and 19th centuries and condemn people for racism in the same way as we would condemn a modern person for racism. I look back a few decades to my childhood and see things like caning, like mild pedophilia, and can’t find it in me to condemn it by the same standards as I or anyone would today,’ he said.

“Plus, he added, though his other classmates also experienced abuse at the hands of this teacher, ‘I don’t think he did any of us lasting harm.’”



MoS, the Disaffected Lib
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A True Critical Thinker

dim, 07/20/2014 - 14:08
For many decades Noam Chomsky has been fearlessly fighting for truth. His capacity for incisive critical thinking and unwillingness to submit to the bluster of the right is much in evidence in this excerpt from a 1969 edition of William Buckley's Firing Line. Would that today's progressives were as tenacious.

Enjoy:



h/t The Knowledge MovementRecommend this Post

A Conspiracy Of One

dim, 07/20/2014 - 06:11

It’s not uncommon for an RCMP Commissioner to jump through hoops at Stephen Harper’s bequest.

We saw that when Zaccardelli gave Harper a leg up to victory by conjuring up an empty scandal about Ralph Goodale in mid-election campaign. Ominously for a country based on the rule of law, Zac refused to explain his actions afterwards, defying the demands of Parliament for answers.

Now we have Commish Paulson who seized the Duffy-Wright-Harper scandal at the outset with an iron fist. Paulson’s leaked e-mail in which he absolutely forbade his senior officers from having contact with opposition parliamentarians without his express prior consent pretty much established that the investigation and any eventual prosecutions were going to be decided from the top, no questions asked.

Then the circus began. First, RCMP investigators opined that the $90,000 ‘gifted’ by Nigel Wright to Mike Duffy was a bribe. Then they announced that Nigel Wright, who put up the money for the bribe, would not be charged. Then, after a suitable interval and in the middle of the summer recess (Stephen Harper’s preferred time for doing these things), it was announced that, while Wright was still off the hook, Mike Duffy would be charged with accepting a bribe.

Paulson hasn’t explained how he jumped through that hoop. It’s been left to others to speculate that investigators could not conclude that Wright had given Duffy the money with a “corrupt intent” but were satisfied that Duffy accepted the gift with a “corrupt intent.”

Wait a minute. On what possible basis did the Royal Conservative Mounted Police absolve Nigel Wright of any corrupt intent? They had to have done it by isolating all the surrounding circumstances. They excluded the other elements of the “deal” from the cash payment. We know what that deal was because Duffy was foolish enough to put it all in an e-mail to his confidantes. It was that e-mail, leaked to a reporter, that triggered the scandal. We know what that deal was because the elements of the deal Duffy described all came to pass.

Wright didn’t just hand Duffy $90,000. The money came with strings attached, bundled into a deal. Duffy was ordered to keep his mouth shut and to refuse to cooperate with the auditors appointed by the Senate to report on expense irregularities. There’s the corruption the RCMP doesn’t want to acknowledge. But wait, there’s more. Duffy wasn’t just getting cash. The guys who conjured up what the cops say, in respect of Duffy was a bribe, also promised to see to it that the Senate audit report on Duffy would be laundered. They did and it was. There’s the corruption that the RCMP has to do backflips to ignore. The bribe was the whole deal.

That Nigel Wright wrote a cheque on his personal account is irrelevant. The PMO gang tried to get the money elsewhere – from the Conservative Party’s cache - and they almost succeeded. Only when that fell through did Wright step in with his own cheque after clearing the deal with Stephen Harper. Would it have been a bribe if the cash came from CPC funds but not when Wright had to step in with his own money?

By looking at Wright’s cheque in isolation, the Royal Conservative Mounted Police are blatantly whitewashing the involvement and culpability of everyone except Stephen Harper’s target, Mike Duffy. No wonder Paulson put his senior officers under a gag order.

This deal oozes corruption throughout the PMO to the prime minister to the Tory Senate leadership to the Senate audit committee to the Conservative Party. The measure of the integrity of the RCMP lies in its ability to sweep all of that under the carpet even after the facts are out in the public.

We know better. We know this prosecution has been tailored to take Nigel Wright, Benjamin Perrin, Stephen Harper, Senators Gerstein, LeBreton, Tkachuk and Stewart-Olsen, and Arthur Hamilton off the hook. This is the doing of the prime minister’s partisan state police apparatus and it harkens back to another time on another continent.

If it was valid to jettison the Canadian Airborne Regiment after the Somalia scandal (and, for the record, I’m not convinced it was), then this sorry affair surely warrants dismantling the RCMP. There’s no place in a democracy for a partisan political state police agency. From the barn burnings in Quebec in the 60s to this I’ve certainly had my fill of these rogue operators.

MoS, the Disaffected LibRecommend this Post

More On Duffy

sam, 07/19/2014 - 11:33
Like many others, I have been trying to fathom how Nigel Wright has escaped without charges for the cheque he wrote to Mike Duffy, while the latter has been charged with accepting a bribe. I have also been attempting to get video of two programs, Power and Politics and last Thursday's At Issue Panel, which discuss this mystery in some detail. Unfortunately, CBC no long seems to offer the embed code for their shows, but you can watch the P&P show by clicking here. I was able to find the second show on You Tube, and you can view it below.

Perhaps, like me, you will find the proffered explanations for Wright's 'get-out-of-jail-free card' less than edifying.

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Holding Our 'Leaders' To Account

sam, 07/19/2014 - 06:00


It is almost impossible, I think, to feel anything but a dark impotence when it comes to world events today. Wherever we look, be it the Ukraine, Africa, the Middle East or our own backyards, death, despoliation and injustice prevail. At times, it seems assuming the fetal position is the only reasonable response to a world out of control.

Yet, even when there seems little we can do to ameliorate the world's suffering, there is something all of us can do - refuse to be silent and passive in the face of atrocity - refuse to make it easier for those with power to have their way - refuse to allow them to commit their atrocities in our name.

Clearly, that spirit of defiance is at work in today's letters to The Star, a few of which I reproduce below:

Re: ‘Hamas has no interest in peace,' Baird says, July 16

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird’s condemnation of Hamas and his unconditional support of Israel’s indiscriminate bombing of Gaza ought to be appalling for anyone with a modicum of consciousness. What happened to the Canada known internationally known as a soft-power participating in peaceful resolutions for world conflict?

Would Mr. Baird and his boss, Stephen Harper, be as critical of the victims’ struggle for nationhood if they were the ones helplessly watching their hopes for a homeland on just over 20 per cent of what Palestine was before 1948 being progressively confiscated by Israel while living in a concentration camp called Gaza?
Should they, instead, not be working toward brokering ideas for a two-state solution so that Israelis can leave in peace and without collective guilt for the genocide taking place and the Palestinians can once again be a sovereign people as they rightly deserve?


Carmelinda Scian, Islington

One wonders how Baird can walk through the front doors at Foreign Affairs each morning knowing the whole building is laughing at him behind his back. The pantheon of poorly educated cretins appointed by Harper to cabinet has destroyed 105 years of solid partnership and respect with the world.
Now that Canada advocates (and demands others advocate) state murder in Palestine of women and children, are we any different from Vladmir Putin who presides over the deaths of thousands in Syria purely for the purpose of arms dealing.

Surely we’ve murdered enough Arabs for our selfish want of oil and our kook obsession with Israel.


Bryan Charlebois, Toronto

How dare our prime minister give Canada’s pledge of “unequivocal” support to a nation that has in recent days killed over 150 civilians. Israel claims to be defending itself from rocket attacks that have amounted to one civilian death.

Stephen Harper, you do not speak for all Canadians in giving unconditional support to a nation that is okay with home demolitions, bombing residential areas, destroying schools and hospitals, killing children and unarmed civilians. We cannot give unequivocal support to anybody, let alone a nation known for its human rights violations.

Harper represents the citizens of Canada, not his personal political affiliations. He must not put the blood of innocents on the hands of Canadians through unconditional support of this nation.


Arsheen Devjee, Edmonton

Harper and Baird abandoned any pretense of objectivity on the Israel/Palestinians file when they allowed themselves to be feted as Negev Dinner honorees. Their motives in doing so were to keep the generous donations coming to the Conservative Party of Canada from many Canadian Jews who have come to take for granted their knee-jerk praise of Israel, right or wrong.

Ron Charach, TorontoRecommend this Post

A Little Something For Your Friday Evening Enjoyment

ven, 07/18/2014 - 16:34
When it comes to Mike Duffy, the hits keep on coming. Enjoy:









Recommend this Post

About That Invasion Of Gaza

ven, 07/18/2014 - 11:01



To hear our political leaders tell it – the sorry lot of them – Israel is right to yet again invade Gaza. The Palestinians have it coming. It’s all the doing of Hamas.

It’s a convenient and cowardly political posture. Harper probably believes it. Trudeau and Mulcair? Expedience, sheer craven expedience.

Nathan Thrall, senior analyst with the International Crisis Group, has an op-ed in The New York Times, entitled, “How the West Chose War in Gaza. Gaza and Israel: the Road to War, Paved by the West.” The Palestinians, he writes, were on the road to forming a “consensus government” until Israel, with the tacit backing of the west, derailed it.

In the new political Canada we choose the good guys and, by default, the bad guys. The good guys (usually the powerful side) can do no wrong, the bad guys deserve whatever they get.

And when the good guys do bad things, we just look the other way. Harper, Trudeau, Mulcair – if you think one of them is fit to run this country, you’ve got a damned poor regard for this country.

MoS, the Disaffected Lib

UPDATE: Of course Canada’s political weasels will proclaim that Israel is only rampaging through Gaza to get at Hamas. That’s why the Israelis have destroyed Gaza’s water and sewage plants.

The eight-day assault has caused massive damage to infrastructure and destroyed at least 560 homes, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) said. “Within days, the entire population of the Strip may be desperately short of water,” Jacques de Maio, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delegation in Israel and the occupied territories, said in a statement. If hostilities continue, just as temperatures soar in the region, “the question is not if but when an already beleaguered population will face an acute water crisis”, he said. “Water is becoming contaminated and sewage is overflowing, bringing a serious risk of disease,” de Maio added.Recommend this Post

While Harper Fiddles, Canada Burns

ven, 07/18/2014 - 05:17


There have been so many developments on the climate front of late that, collectively, give us a pretty stark warning and yet the media, the public and our political leadership are tuning out. We seem to be culturally embracing a sort of Andean fatalism that seems to precede abrupt civilizational decline. Perhaps we’re hampered by the fact that it’s a moving target that repeatedly exceeds our ‘worst case scenarios’. Far from being pessimists we constantly underestimate the onset of climate change even as severe events increase in frequency, intensity and duration. Maybe that’s why Harper (and his rivals) aren’t coming forward with any meaningful responses. They’re all avowed fossil fuelers and, having staked out that turf, any significant reduction in Canada’s GHG emissions would have to be borne by every other sector of the economy and the Canadian people. Who would risk the public wrath when pretending to act and doing nothing remains an option? There’s a rank and dangerous cowardice that runs through the Conservatives, the Liberals and the New Democrats alike. God save the Queen. The Canadian people can fend for themselves.


The other day came news of a mysterious crater in Siberia that Russian scientists determined was caused, not by a meteorite, but by an eruption of subsurface gas released by thawing permafrost – a global warming event. We’ve known for several years that the ancient permafrost that girds the high north was “perma” no more. The tundra was drying out, catching fire, and exposing the permafrost below that it once shielded. The permafrost was a sink for massive quantities of the potent greenhouse gas, methane, or, as the energy industry calls it, natural gas.

On the heels of the Russian crater story comes a report from Climate Central about fires spreading unchecked across the Northwest Territories.

“The amount of acres burned in the Northwest Territories is six times greater than the 25-year average to-date according to data from the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Center.

“Boreal forests like those in the Northwest Territories are burning at rates "unprecedented" in the past 10,000 years according to the authors of a study put out last year. The northern reaches of the globe are warming at twice the rate as areas closer to the equator, and those hotter conditions are contributing to more widespread burns.

“The combined boreal forests of Canada, Europe, Russia and Alaska, account for 30 percent of the world’s carbon stored in land, carbon that's taken up to centuries to store. Forest fires like those currently raging in the Northwest Territories, as well as ones in 2012 and 2013 in Russia, can release that stored carbon into the atmosphere and contribute to global warming. Warmer temperatures can in turn create a feedback loop, priming forests for wildfires that release more carbon into the atmosphere and cause more warming. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's landmark climate report released earlier this year indicates that for every 1.8°F rise in temperatures, wildfire activity is expected to double.”

The Climate Central report indicates that the massive amounts of airborne soot from these forest and tundra fires could accelerate the melting of the Greenland ice sheet far faster than we had ever imagined, perhaps by the end of this century. Ice, being white, reflects most solar energy back into space. Soot, being black, absorbs the solar energy and it passes into the ice beneath, causing melting. The melt run-off should wash away the soot except that these fires just keep adding more soot. And, of course, the fires that generate the soot also release ever more greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. Forest fires release the CO2 from the trees. Tundra fires release CO2 and expose the permafrost below that releases methane.

As for the Greenland ice sheet and the prospect of losing all or most of it by the end of this century, here’s what you need to bear in mind. When that ice sheet is gone, and it will eventually, it will create 23-feet of sea level rise. You’ve probably seen plenty of graphics of what three or four feet of sea level rise will mean around the world. The reality is that we tend to build our major cities where there’s navigable water. In Canada that’s Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. With Lake Ontario at 75 metres above sea level, Toronto should be safe from inundation but Montreal, on the St. Lawrence and at 6 metres is vulnerable and, as for Vancouver, well let’s just say that False Creek, Coal Harbour and Burrard Inlet will be a whole lot bigger and the Lower Mainland an awful lot smaller.

So, with the prospect of runaway climate change steadily worsening, with major population centres and critical infrastructure at increasing risk, surely this must be at the very top of our Lord and Master’s priority list, right? What’s that, no? His priority is flogging as much of the world’s highest-carbon oil as quickly as he can push through the pipelines and supertanker ports to carry it, really? Surely the opposition parties are going to shut this down as soon as the voting public gives Harper the boot, right? Wrong? Oh dear. Maybe it’s time to caulk the dinghy.


MoS, the Disaffected Lib.

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A Blast From The Past

jeu, 07/17/2014 - 08:58
I am sure that some politicos would prefer certain things remain buried in what seems to be a collective public amnesia. Thankfully, the Internet is the gift that just keeps on giving, as this piece from Press Progress reminds us:

.
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A Darwin Award Contender?

jeu, 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

jeu, 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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From The Climate-Change File: The Signs Are Getting Increasingly Ominous

mer, 07/16/2014 - 12:38
A note from The Mound of Sound with the header, The Tundra's a poppin' alerted me to this strange tale from the far north in Siberia, where a giant crater has appeared.

Says the Mound:

Russian helicopter crews stumbled across what appears to be an 80-metre wide crater in Siberia. They thought it might have been a meteor. Wrong. Russian scientists believe it was gas, probably methane, from melting permafrost that formed a bubble and finally blew up. The helo crew posted a great video of it on YouTube. No one has any idea how deep the hole is but it’s obviously very, very deep.

Makes you wonder if this is a fluke or if we’ll be seeing these in our high north before long. It also begs the question of how much highly pressurized methane must have been released into the atmosphere.


Maybe this dramatic event will... nah, this ominous sign of climatic disaster won't make any difference in the policies of our overlords.

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Did She Really Say That?

mer, 07/16/2014 - 05:54
I have a measure of sympathy for Irene Hubar, who reportedly spent over $1 million to refurbish a building in Hamilton's downtown core, only to encounter difficulty in leasing it out to commercial interests. In her view, the problem is with the 'street people' who loiter outside, scaring away potential tenants that she is trying to attract.

However, her outrageous assertion to a city hall task force, which you will hear at the beginning of the following clip, goes far beyond anything a democratic and free society could ever countenance, but it is one, I suspect, that the corporate agenda would wholeheartedly embrace:



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Do they Not Get Any Canadian News In Peru?

mar, 07/15/2014 - 13:49
I had to wonder after reading this story and watching the video below. After all, asserting to be Mike Duffy's daughter is not something that most people would claim, given the porcine senator's domestic notoriety:


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A Mound Of Sound Guest Post: Climate Change By The Numbers

mar, 07/15/2014 - 05:02
One of the great malignancies of the 20th century was the spread of neo-classical economics. the macro- and micro-stuff that you probably had to learn in university.

I did a good bit of fraud work in my legal career. One of the key ways to unravel a well-crafted fraud was to ferret out the inconsistencies, the gaps, the irreconcilable contradictions. Neo-classical economics, being a work of fraud, also is replete with inconsistencies, illogic and irreconcilable contradictions, but it bundles them all up and jettisons them under the category of “externalities.” It’s sort of like your teenager shoving all the dirt and debris under the bed before proclaiming his room ‘clean’ before demanding the keys to the family car.

The use of externality is a dandy way of keeping incidental costs off the balance sheet. Carbon emissions? An externality. Impacts on climate change, ditto. Deaths in the hundreds of thousands? That too.

In yesterday’s Guardian there’s an item that reveals the face of climate change since the 1970s in 8 charts. It’s taken from a UN study.

What is most telling are two bar graphs toward the end of the article. One of these is titled, “Disasters ranked by reported deaths (1970-2012)”. The countries that dominate that list are Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Mozambique – essentially the Third World. The other is entitled, “Disasters ranked by economic losses (1970-2012)”. Here the top players are Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, Andrew and Ike along with flooding in China and Thailand.






What this reveals is that for the Third World, climate change is a matter of life and death. For the developed and developing countries, it’s an economic problem. Economic challenges are approached from a “cost/benefit” basis. That’s where externalities, such as all those Third World deaths and suffering, come into play. Even though the industrialized world is responsible for almost all of the greenhouse gas emissions since the Industrial Revolution that are wreaking death and suffering in the Third World, we externalize that. We keep it off our books. It’s not relevant.

What have we become? Recommend this Post

Giving Credit Where It Is Due

lun, 07/14/2014 - 07:11


Over the years on this blog, I have been deeply and justifiably critical of the excesses of unfettered capitalism. Degradation of the environment, activities contributing to widescale climate change, and exploitation of labour have been some common targets. Yet every so often, something comes along to show that not all businesses are based on such a rapacious and monolithic model.

In yesterday's business section, The Star reported on a number of enterprises that puncture the myth that paying ones's employees more than the minimum wage is a shortcut to bankruptcy, a favoured assertion of the right.

One of those enterprises is Coffee Pubs,

where the starting wage is 50 cents higher than Ontario’s $11 an hour minimum wage. Full-time staff can start earning an ownership share in the company after six months of service. The business has also expanded to include bartending and catering services. It has 16 employees; workers start at $11.50 an hour and qualify for medical and dental benefits after three months. Managers earn about $30,000, and the Cluleys, the husband and wife owners, say they pay themselves slightly more.

A small company with only two location, Coffee Pubs's decision to depart from the conventional pay model is a bold one, given that employee remuneration in a small operation is a much greater factor in overall costs than in large enterprises.

So why did they do it? Both serendipity and social conscience seem to have played roles.

Their first site, at Bloor and Bathurst in Toronto, is leased from The Centre for Social Innovation, which offers rents geared to revenue. Their second venue is at Artscape Youngplace, a collaborative public space in a former elementary school that’s home to artists’ studios, galleries and an Ontario Early Years Centre.

The Cluleys say that their advantage comes from the strong relationships they’ve forged with local vendors, tenants and walk-in customers from the surrounding neighbourhood. They estimate they have about 100 to 150 customers each day and about half of them work in the building.

The other part of the equation is their philosophy:

“We could use cheaper ingredients and pay the staff less and make more money. We know that this way isn’t going to get us wealthy but we believe in the model,” Erin said.

“We believe if we are patient, we can make a big difference. We want to show there’s another way to run a business that’s not just profit for its own sake.”

The article includes reference and links to other organizations promoting similar values, but on a larger scale, such as B Corporation and Wagemark Foundation.

Like industry leaders including WestJet and Costco, more and companies are discovering that treating employees with dignity, respect and decent wages has tangible benefits:

They argue firms that create high-quality, well-paying jobs and treat their workers better will have a more loyal and engaged workforce, leading to better bottom lines, and better end results for everyone.

We can only hope that this model, which in many ways is the antithesis of the rapacious and unfettered capitalist one widely practised today, ultimately becomes the norm. We, of course, can do our own part by patronizing such enterprises and spreading the word about them with any means we have at our disposal.

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