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"There is no greatness where simplicity, goodness and truth are absent." Leo Tolstoy
Updated: 35 min 46 sec ago

There's Only One Word For It -- Tyranny

14 hours 55 min ago
                                                       http://tenthamendmentcenter.com/

In the wake of the news that the Harper government has directed the CRA to audit PEN Canada, Linda McQuaig asks,"Why is Harper punishing charities while letting tax cheats off the hook?"

This beefing-up of tax audits of charities is particularly striking when compared to Harper’s laid-back approach to auditing the real bad guys: corporations and citizens using offshore tax havens to cheat the government out of billions of dollars in revenue.

Indeed, the allocation of an extra $13 million to carry out audits of charities has taken place even as the government slashes the overall Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) budget by $250 million over three years and lays off hundreds of auditors.

Meanwhile, as worldwide pressure has grown for a clampdown on tax havens, Ottawa announced last year that it was ramping up its efforts to investigate offshore tax evasion. But it only allocated $15 million — over five years — a piddling amount, given the existing departmental cuts and the sheer scope of the offshore problem.
A CRA auditor provides value for money:

In Canada, an experienced international tax auditor typically costs Ottawa about $100,000 a year, but brings in ten times that amount in revenue, according to sources.

Internal CRA documents, obtained under access-to-information by Sen. Percy Downe, reveal that an infusion of $30 million by Ottawa in 2005 to counter “aggressive international tax planning” resulted in the collection of an extra $2.5 billion over four years.

Presumably, that is why the auditors have been sent in to monitor an organization with an annual budget of  $240,000 -- while "the illegal caching of money offshore by Canadian companies and individuals results in an annual revenue loss to Canadian governments (provincial and federal) of about $7.8 billion, according to Dennis Howlett, executive director of the Ottawa-based Canadians for Tax Fairness."

The problem is that PEN had the audacity "to criticize the government for muzzling scientists in the civil service, and for spying on Canadian citizens alongside U.S. intelligence agencies."

There is only one word for it -- tyranny. 


The Real Battle Has Begun

Wed, 07/23/2014 - 06:39
                                                      http://www.fordefables.co.uk/

The Prime Minister's Office announced yesterday that Stephen Harper on the witness stand is an unlikely prospect. The Canadian Press reports:

Stephen Harper's office says it's "difficult to imagine" the prime minister would have any relevant information to share in the trial of Sen. Mike Duffy.

Spokesman Jason MacDonald says in an email that the PMO has responded "fully and freely" to requests for assistance from RCMP investigators.

He adds the Mounties have made it clear they don't believe Harper has any knowledge of Duffy's alleged wrongdoing and that there would be no reason for the prime minister to be involved should Duffy's defence team attempt to have him testify.
So we can expect that Stephen Harper will do everything he can to avoid being questioned in court by Donald Bayne, Duffy's attorney. Bayne would destroy the prime minister's shifting narrative and -- worse still -- the myth  that Stephen Harper is the smartest guy in the room.

 That outcome must be avoided at all costs. And, so, the real battle has begun.


More And Worse Conflict

Tue, 07/22/2014 - 05:47
                                                                          http://en.wikipedia.org/

Michael den Tandt writes that Stephen Harper's foreign policy will outlive Harper:

It is axiomatic for Harper’s critics, certainly for those who churn out talking points for the Dippers, Grits and Greens, that this prime minister is a ham-fisted and embarrassingly unsubtle foreign-policy actor. The prima facie evidence is his notorious letter to the Wall Street Journal in 2003, penned with Stockwell Day, lamenting Canada’s refusal to participate in George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq.
Never mind that mistake, writes den Tandt:

But here’s the thing: Harper and Baird’s basic positions have been borne out by events — both in the conflict with Hamas, and in Ukraine, since the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 by a rocket attack, killing all 298 people aboard.
Really? Could it be that his minor error on Iraq has helped destabilise the entire Middle East? And could Harper's support of Israel -- while completely ignoring its occupation of Gaza  -- not have something to do with the increased rocket technology which Hamas has now aimed at Israel?

Jonathan Kay wrote a short time ago that the Harper regime is populated by punitive moral absolutists. They have tried to legislate their values into Canadian law. And they are convinced that, by exporting their philosophy to the rest of the world, they will make it a safer place.

We are approaching the one hundredth anniversary of the Guns of August. If Harper knew anything about history -- and the treaty which ended World War I -- he'd know that punitive moral absolutism simply guarantees more -- and worse -- conflict.


Sabotaging Responsible Government

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 06:16
                                                                                 www.nationalpost.com/

Over at ipolitics, Andrew Mitrovica asks,"Is Mulcair just another Harper with a beard?"  It's an important question, given the evolution -- some would say devolution -- of the New Democratic  Party. There is a nomination battle unfolding in British Columbia. Officials at party headquarters have banned Paul Manly from seeking the party nomination in Nanaimo-Ladysmith:

This fracas is instructive for a number of reasons. The prickly issue, however, at the core of the dispute – that is fraying so-called party unity and triggering hard questions about Mulcair’s leadership – are the vague, carefully coded reasons NDP brass have proffered to Manly, his parents and supporters for why the accomplished environmentalist, filmmaker and musician has been barred from the party’s nomination in traditionally NDP-friendly British Columbia.
NDP headquarters, Mitrovica writes, is beginning to look and sound like Harper's PMO. Not only that, Mulcair's stand on Gaza is alienating traditional NDP constituencies:

Just read this pointed letter of protest written and signed by nine long-standing Jewish NDP supporters in Toronto to Mulcair in which they demand that he not only finally speak out against “the repression of Palestinians,” but also “rescind” Manly’s ban.

They’re not alone. Among the many other disenchanted party members is a “deeply dismayed” Vancouver rabbi and a “long-time and dedicated NDP member” who has also recently written Muclair, urging him to “reverse [The federal NDP leadership’s] action preventing Mr. Manly from standing to be the candidate from Nanaimo-Ladysmith and its attempt to distance the party from meaningful and forthright action regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict.”
All three party leaders have recently assumed a presidential style of leadership, which asserts that MP's serve at the leader's pleasure.Their constituents have no say in the matter.

That may be Stephen Harper's real legacy -- sabotaging the parliamentary form of responsible government



We Need Duffy's Emails

Sun, 07/20/2014 - 06:02


There has been a lot of public befuddlement -- including from  Mike Duffy's lawyer -- as to why the senator has been charged with accepting a bribe, while Nigel Wright has been given a free ride. The official explanation seems to be that everything hangs on one word --"corruptly." To be convicted, Wright would have to have acted in a corrupt manner. It's a difficult standard of proof, because it assumes corrupt intention -- something which runs against the grain of Wright's public persona. He is seen as a man who sees, hears and does no evil.

Michael Spratt writes that the decision to not charge Wright may be tactical, not legal:

Duffy’s case is headed to trial; Wright will surely be a star witness. By choosing to not charge Wright, the case against Duffy is made stronger. If Wright and Duffy were jointly charged, Wright would not be a compellable witness for the Crown and essential evidence could be lost.

Further, if Wright and Duffy had been jointly charged, any statements made by Wright and adduced into evidence could not be used against Duffy.

Most important, by declining to lay charges against Wright the RCMP limits damage to his credibility — which can only increase his value as a witness.
Clearly, the powers that be are out to get Duffy. Given his past behaviour, it's hard to feel sympathy for the man. But one cannot escape the suspicion that the RCMP -- like the civil service and the military --  has been politicized by the Harper government.

Everything will hinge on Duffy's stash of emails -- which the Harper cabal will seek to declare inadmissible. I would be helpful, at this point, if the press could get their hands on some of those emails.


Depraved Policy

Sat, 07/19/2014 - 05:47


                                                                                  http://www.ctpost.com/

Israeli tanks rolled into Gaza this week -- a move that is loudly supported by the Harper government. And it illustrates, Linda McQuaig writes, the moral disconnect at the heart of Harper's policy towards Israel:

Certain minimal standards are expected of a national leader in what is known as the ‘civilized world’.

One of those standards would seem to be that, when massive numbers of defenceless civilians are being killed, a national leader should call for the killing to stop.

Questions about responsibility, blame, punishment, repercussions, etc., can always follow. But surely the first order of business — the one with moral urgency — is to halt the killing of innocent people.

Harper's simple answer -- there's always a simple answer for him -- is that Hamas is using civilians as human shields. So don't blame the Israelis:

But Paul Heinbecker, a former Canadian ambassador, noted on CBC TV’s Power and Politics on Tuesday that international law prohibits Israel from, for instance, attacking a military target if it is located in a densely populated building.
Anyone who knows anything thing about the Israeli-Palestinian relationship knows that it's fraught with complications:

What is striking about Harper’s intensely one-sided approach is the way he resolutely avoids dealing with the central fact of this decades-old conflict: that millions of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have been living under Israeli military occupation for more than forty-five years, and that Israel has effectively annexed what used to be their land, building settlements on it that now accommodate more than 600,000 Israelis.

Harper’s refusal to take any of this into consideration flies in the face of Canada’s long-standing position on the Mideast conflict — a position that still appears on the Canadian government’s website.
Harper has always been comfortable in his ignorance. Moreover, he has the arrogance to think he's the smartest guy in the room. The result is depraved policy.



Harper's Perfect Storm

Fri, 07/18/2014 - 06:38
                                                                           http://www.huffingtonpost.ca

Now that the RCMP has thrown the book at Mike Duffy, Stephen Harper finds himself at the centre of a perfect storm. It's a storm entirely of his own making. And, at last, Andrew Coyne writes, we will get some answers:

The biggest question to be answered remains: why? Not only why did Mr. Wright make the payment — which, remember, was not to “the taxpayer” but to Mr. Duffy, in secret and on condition that he remain silent about it — but why were so many other senior people in and around the government, as we learned from the trove of emails unearthed by the RCMP, so utterly transfixed with the task of paying Mr. Duffy’s falsely claimed expenses? Why not just leave him to face the consequences of his own actions?
The answer to that question may turn out to be sheer stupidity. But, given who Duffy claims to be -- someone who knows where the bodies are buried -- there are other questions which need to be answered -- questions that involve Stephen Harper:

What involvement or knowledge did the prime minister have, particularly with regard to the $90,000? In a sense, it does not matter: that so many people close to him were so ready to act in such an unethical fashion is damning enough in itself. But in a sense it is all that matters: partly because the prime minister has been so vehement in his denials of any foreknowledge, and partly because the set of circumstances required for this to be true seem so implausible.

Among other things, it requires us to believe not only that Mr. Wright and everyone else around the prime minister lied to him for months on end about how Mr. Duffy’s expenses were repaid, but that Mr. Wright lied to the others: that having told him at a meeting in February of 2013 that Mr. Duffy would repay his own expenses, he then told his fellow conspirators the prime minister was “good to go” with an earlier plan for the party to pay them; and that when Mr. Wright later told the prime minister’s former communications director, Andrew MacDougall, that “the PM knows, in broad terms only, that I personally assisted Duffy” he was lying then, too.
Unlike others who Mr. Harper has thrown under the bus, Duffy will not go quietly.  If he goes down, he may just take the prime minister with him. If that were to happen, justice would truly be done.


They're Really Not Very Smart

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.

Corrupting Civil Society

Wed, 07/16/2014 - 06:13

                                                                                  http://buzznigeria.com/


The government has always had the power to revoke an organization's charitable status. But it didn't happen very often; and, Carol Goar writes, the rules were clear:

They siphoned donations into their founders’ own pockets, they provided a front for shadowy groups or they used most of their funds for administration. 
But things changed with the advent of Stephen Harper:

The Conservative government, angered that environmentalists were tying up pipeline projects in the West, tightened the regulation of charities. It required them to provide a detailed account of their political activities, imposed tough penalties on those that spent more than 10 per cent of their funds on advocacy and gave CRA $8 million to conduct a special audit.

The announcement sent a ripple of unease through the non-profit sector, but there was no wholesale panic. Most charities assumed the government would target a handful of prominent environmental organizations and leave the rest alone. That was a reasonable interpretation of the signals Stephen Harper and his colleagues were sending at the time. Joe Oliver, then natural resources minister, had lashed out at “radical environmental groups” for undermining the economy. Former environment minister Peter Kent had accused of them of “laundering offshore funds for inappropriate use.” But over time the scope of the blitz widened. CRA is now auditing churches, human rights organizations, animal welfare groups and anti-poverty coalitions. There are fears the two-year crackdown will be extended, putting non-profit organizations under an indefinite regime of increased surveillance.
The reason was simple. Charities almost invariably are opposed to Harper's agenda. And, like the man he more and more resembles -- Richard Nixon -- Harper has turned to government agencies to harass and dispose of his enemies.

The effect on charities has been devastating. Gareth Kirby writes in a recent paper:

I find that an advocacy chill is affecting charitable organizations that advocate on public policy issues though it varies in intensity and extent from organization to organization. I find that there is evidence in the data that the government is attempting, with some successes, to narrow society’s important policy conversations. Finally I find the data suggest that the current federal government is corrupting Canada’s democratic processes by treating as political enemies these civil-society organizations whose contributions to public policy conversations differ from government priorities.”
That's what Harper is all about: corrupting civil society.

 

Debiting His Credit

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 06:20
                                                                                     http://www.cbc.ca/

Stephen Harper has a habit of taking credit for what others have done -- or for just pure dumb luck. In 2008, he took credit for the solidity of Canadian banks, even though it was Paul Martin who beefed up capital requirements for the banks, while Harper -- as the Leader of the Opposition -- insisted that Canadian banks should follow the model of their American cousins.

And recently, at the Calgary Stampede, he took credit for the "gradual decline in Quebec separatist sentiment." Celine Cooper writes:

If support for sovereignty in Quebec is on the wane, it is in spite of his party’s governance, not because of it.

As research conducted by Université de Montréal sociology professor Claire Durand indicates, support for sovereignty has been receding among young francophones for close to 15 years.

In other words, support started to slide while the federal Liberals were still in power.

Beyond keeping their nose out of Quebec’s internal politics (the “don’t poke the bear” approach), neither the ebbing of sovereignist sentiment nor the PQ’s truncated tenure should be directly attributed to Harper’s governance. It is disingenuous for him to suggest otherwise.
Cooper suggests that, in the next election, the Conservatives will be off the Quebec radar screen -- because they concluded a long time ago that they can win a majority without any real presence in la belle province:

When the Conservatives won 10 Quebec seats in 2006, one of the reasons was because the Liberals had been in power for so long and were flailing in the aftermath of the Liberal sponsorship scandal and the Gomery commission. But after realizing they could win a majority without Quebec, Harper more or less retreated from the province.
However, the prime minister has never let facts stop him from taking credit for what he sees as his monumental achievements. The truth is that there is nothing monumental about what he has done.

And it's time to debit his credit.


They Say He's A Smart Guy

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 08:00


                                                                          http://www.globalresearch.ca/

Chris Hedges writes that there is a deep irony to what is currently happening in Gaza. It mirrors what happened to European Jews eighty years ago:

Raul Hilberg in his monumental work “The Destruction of the European Jews” chronicled a process of repression that at first was “relatively mild” but led, step by step, to the Holocaust. It started with legal discrimination and ended with mass murder. “The destructive process was a development that was begun with caution and ended without restraint,” Hilberg wrote.

The Palestinians over the past few decades have endured a similar “destructive process.” They have gradually been stripped of basic civil liberties, robbed of assets including much of their land and often their homes, have suffered from mounting restrictions on their physical movements, been blocked from trading and business, especially the selling of produce, and found themselves increasingly impoverished and finally trapped behind walls and security fences erected around Gaza and the West Bank.

“The process of destruction [of the European Jews] unfolded in a definite pattern,” Hilberg wrote. “It did not, however, proceed from a basic plan. No bureaucrat in 1933 could have predicted what kind of measures would be taken in 1938, nor was it possible in 1938 to foretell the configuration of the undertaking in 1942. The destructive process was a step-by-step operation, and the administrator could seldom see more than one step ahead.”
There is no halocaust. One hopes that history has taught us something. Nevertheless, it is a patten which is repeated over and over again:

The Palestinians in Gaza live in conditions that now replicate those first imposed on Jews by the Nazis in the ghettos set up throughout Eastern Europe. Palestinians cannot enter or leave Gaza. They are chronically short of food—the World Health Organization estimates that more than 50 percent of children in Gaza and the West Bank under 2 years old have iron deficiency anemia and reports that malnutrition and stunting in children under 5 are “not improving” and could actually be worsening. Palestinians often lack clean water. They are crammed into unsanitary hovels. They do not have access to basic medical care. They are stateless and lack passports or travel documents. There is massive unemployment. They are daily dehumanized in racist diatribes by their occupiers as criminals, terrorists and mortal enemies of the Jewish people.
No one seems to have brought these parallels to the attention of Stephen Harper -- or perhaps he has chosen to ignore them. For the prime minister there is always one side to any issue. Economics is about supply, not demand. The world is populated by "Us" and "Them."  Israeli policy is always right, never wrong.

And they say he's a smart guy.

The Opposite Of Truth and Freedom

Sun, 07/13/2014 - 05:42

                                                                                http://wellington.pm.org/

The Harper government came to Ottawa promising transparency and accountability. But, Tim Harper writes, when journalists request information from the Throne, they get obfuscation:

When we ask for specifics on a program known as the International Experience Canada, a supposedly reciprocal program that is disproportionately being used by foreign workers in this country, [Chris] Alexander’s office tells us our economic recovery is one of the best in the G7 and “Canada’s economy is doing better than most . . . and that is something we can all celebrate.’’
When we ask for a response to reports sex murderer Paul Bernardo plans to marry, the office of Public Works Minister Steven Blaney assures us his government puts victims first and “We continue to examine ways to ensure that the worst of the worst stay behind bars where they belong, without needless perks that these dangerous and violent criminals certainly never afforded to their victims.”When we asked about reports that a couple of Russian business magnates were not sanctioned here because they had Canadian business interests, there is no denial or confirmation, but there are a couple of links to old Baird press releases and: “Our sanctions are designed to punish the Putin regime and bring economic pressure on Russia for its illegal occupation of Ukraine.”
This is a government that is on a permanent spin cycle; and the objective is message control. God forbid that any hard information should make its way to the media. The result would be catastrophic, because facts undermine Conservative policy. That was the whole idea behind getting rid of Statistics Canada's long form census.

If the old axiom "the truth shall set you free" has any validity, then it's obvious that Harper Inc. is dedicated to the opposite of both truth and freedom.


That Will Take Some Doing

Sat, 07/12/2014 - 06:00
                                                                                     http://bookdome.com/

Stephen Harper came to Ottawa like a bull in a china shop -- determined to get his way in all things, even if it meant destroying the shop in the process. But, Carol Goar writes, the bull has been wounded:

It took a while to find the chinks in Stephen Harper’s armour. But Canadians have done it now. They are chipping away at the prime minister’s policies on everything from electoral reform to military procurement. Advocacy groups have raised red flags, the media have highlighted the damage he is doing to people’s lives and communities and the courts have reined him in. But the primary thrust is coming from citizens who don’t like what is happening to their country. 
Goar then goes on to highlight several instances where Harper hasn't been allowed to get his way:

Their plan to the rewrite the Election Act , disenfranchising thousands of voters, ran into a wall of public opposition. The harder Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre pushed his proposal, the harder Canadians pushed back. Eventually he agreed to amend the controversial bill. The new version is not perfect, but its most contentious elements are gone. It will no longer allow the Tories to restrict the right to vote or withhold ballots from individuals whose identification doesn’t meet their standards.  Their plan to flood the labour market with temporary foreign workers worked for six years. But last April it began to unravel. The Royal Bank was caught replacing its information technology staff with temporary foreign workers. (The bank said the arrangement met the letter of the law, but apologized and launched a review of its outsourcing strategy.) Rather than squelching the controversy, that stoked it. Whistle-blowers in other sectors — mining, hospitality, food service — popped up, claiming they too had lost their jobs to temporary foreign workers. Employment Minister Jason Kenney tried to put a lid on the contagion but it was too late. On June 20, he announced a wholesale overhaul of the program, effectively shutting it down. Their plan to revamp — preferably abolish — the Senate without the agreement of the provinces was rejected out of hand by the Supreme Court of Canada. It delivered a stinging rebuke to the prime minister, pointing out he did not have authority to override the Constitution or change the rules under which Canadians are governed. Harper grudgingly accepted the court’s ruling, but tried to exact revenge six days later. His office issued a statement insinuating that Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin had improperly approached him. The evidence melted under scrutiny.  
What is most striking, however, is that the prime minister appears incapable of learning from these rebukes:

Their plans to crush prostitution and drive an oil pipeline through British Columbia will probably be next on the list.
Conservative policies are being thrown out with abandon these days. But the ultimate rebuke will be when Canadians throw Harper and his party out. That is still going to take some doing.


The Moody Blues

Fri, 07/11/2014 - 05:41


No sooner had the newly elected Kathleen Wynne tabled her budget than Moody's -- the bond rating agency -- pounced. But, Linda McQuaig writes, it wasn't much of a pounce:

In fact, Moody’s only tweaked things slightly — it maintained Ontario’s perfectly acceptable current rating (Aa2), but downgraded the outlook from stable to negative – not a huge change, and one that didn’t even lead to higher interest on Ontario bonds.
Conservatives, however, jumped all over the news:

“It’s a very big deal,” solemnly cautioned Stockwell Day, former Conservative finance minister, on CBC-TV’s Power and Politics. “It should be taken very seriously.”

The National Post’s John Ivison dismissed as “baloney” the Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa’s suggestion that Ontario has a revenue problem.

“It’s not a revenue problem. It’s a spending problem,” thundered Ivison in his broad Scottish accent, sounding like a Dickensian character responding to the request “please sir I want some more.”
For conservative pundits, there is no such word as "investment." Everything comes down to spending. They make no distinction between wise spending and foolish spending -- even though a good case can be made that our present masters do spend foolishly, on things like F35's and advertising. Their ranting about spending is a smokescreen to hide their real objective -- to downsize government to the point where they can, in Grover Norquist's words, "drown it in a bathtub:"

The Harper government, deeply committed to this ideology, has followed the formula closely. It has slashed taxes to the point that Ottawa now collects less revenue (as a proportion of GDP) than it did in 1940 – before we had national public programs for health care, pensions and unemployment insurance.

With such reduced revenue, the government insists it has no choice but to cut spending. Got to get those deficits down, Moody’s is coming, etc.

As a result of Harper’s spending cuts, Ottawa is projected to spend only 14 percent of GDP by 2018/19 – the lowest level of spending by Ottawa in seventy years ago.
The problem is that all this downsizing has been going on during the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression. Conservatives have completely ignored the lessons that tragedy taught us.

 The only thing they know how to do is sing the Moody Blues.