Agrégateur de flux

youth books, children's book edition #10, and the best part of my job

we move to canada - il y a 1 heure 54 min
I thought readers' advisory was the best part of my job, but that was before I began running our library's teen book club.

Once a month, I spend an evening with a group of teens who choose to spend their evening at the library, talking about books. We hang out, eat snacks, talk about books, talk about life. Although I've never had an interest in book clubs for myself, facilitating these young people's enjoyment of reading is a joy and a privilege.

The teens themselves come from diverse backgrounds and experiences. Most are the first generation of their family born in Canada. Some lead pressured, overly scheduled lives. Others are relatively independent and mature. Some are bursting with ideas and enthusiasm. Some are quiet and speak very little. All of them listen respectfully to each other and encourage each other. This is what I love best. Always, they are kind to each other.

I've read that reading helps people develop empathy and compassion, that readers exhibit a higher degree of empathy than non-readers. I don't know if these teens are such nice people because they read, or if they read because they're nice people, or if it's just a random coincidence. But on the last Monday of every month, these kids make me love my job even more.

* * * *

TBC is also an opportunity for me to venture out of my reading comfort zone and try books I wouldn't normally pick up.

Many TBC members, including me, thought they wouldn't enjoy Cinder, a dystopian-future take on the Cinderella fairytale, by Marissa Meyer. We all ended up tearing through it, cheering for the strong, independent, but damaged main character, hanging on suspense and plot twists, and not guessing the ending.

TBC gave me an excuse to read Coraline, Neil Gaiman's modern classic children's horror novel. I normally don't read horror, and I really had no idea what constituted horror for children. Coraline seems like just the right amount of scary for kids - and me! It's creepy and shivery, in a way that makes you want to keep reading, not in a way that gives you nightmares.

Gaiman follows some standard children's-lit conventions - the child of absent or neglectful parents as a solo adventurer, forced to rescue herself and others from the clutches of something evil - but energizes them with lyrical language and unexpected twists. One member of TBC shares my avoidance of all things scary, so I'm looking forward to seeing what she thought.

Other upcoming TBC selections: The Maze Runner by James Dashner (which I wrote about here), It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini (here), Epic by Conor Kostick, the first book of the favourite adventure series of one of our members, Hate List by Jennifer Brown, and Gauntlgrym by R. A. Salvatore. At our next meeting, we're voting by secret ballot for the last two titles of the year.

Stephen Marois?

Northern Reflections - il y a 3 heures 20 min

On the surface, Stephen Harper and Pauline Marois  couldn't be more different. They have diametrically opposed visions of what is best for this country. But, Haroon Siddiqui writes, they are disturbingly alike:

  • Both use phony wedge issues to consolidate their base and polarize the public. Neither cares for the long-term consequences of deeply dividing society. Her charter of Quebec values dealt with a crisis that did not exist. He spent billions on “tough-on-crime” initiatives when crime has been going down.
  • Both exploit prejudices against minorities. Marois was crude in going after Muslims, Jews and Sikhs in the name of secularism. He is clever in isolating Canada’s one million Muslims in the name of fighting terrorism. Both use the same tactics of hand-picking totally unrepresentative Muslims to attack the community.
  • Both copy the Republican Party’s dirty tactics of suppressing the votes of groups that are likely to vote for the opposition. For years, the GOP has been making it nearly impossible for blacks, Latinos and the young to vote. The PQ government made it difficult for Anglos, especially students, in Montreal to vote. The Harper government is changing election laws to try to disenfranchise about 500,000 people who are not likely to vote Conservative.
  • Both use Orwellian terminology to peddle their wares. She called her signature issue the charter of secular values when, in fact, it violated the most fundamental secular value, the right to religion. He calls his plan to make elections unfair “the Fair Elections Act.”

  •  Siddiqui adds to the list:

  • Both Marois and Harper spend government money on advertising campaigns promoting programs that advance their partisan purposes — she in pushing the charter, he in spending at least $200 million on his Economic Action Plan and other initiatives central to the fortunes of the Conservative party.
  • Both treat the opposition not as adversaries but enemies. Anyone who does not agree with her is not a true Quebecer; anyone who does not agree with Harper is not a Canadian patriot.

  • You get the idea. In fact, when it comes to doing politics, Harper and Marois come from the same gene pool.  In the last election, Quebecers took back the keys to Marois' kingdom. Siddiqui wonders if Canadians will eventually do the same for Harper.

    Perhaps -- with two caveats: First: Marois was defeated by an opposition which was sustained and focused. And, second: Campaigns matter. Besides having to deal with relentless opposition, Marois was disorganized and anything but focused.

    We shall see.

    what i'm reading: eleanor & park, another truly great youth book for readers of all ages

    we move to canada - il y a 3 heures 54 min
    If you enjoy youth novels of the realistic (non-fantasy) variety, Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell, is just about as good as it gets.

    Who else might enjoy Eleanor & Park? Readers who like beautifully drawn, believable, yet quirky and unique characters. Readers who are teens. Readers who have ever been teens. People who have fallen in love. People who dream of falling in love. People who like to read.

    Eleanor & Park is about two people who don't fit in slowly and tenderly finding their way to each other. It's about the horrors that ordinary young people endure, adults who make their lives hell, and adults who are there to support them, whether or not they understand them. It's a book full of music, and the discovery of music and art that, as a teen, might just save your life. It's a book about love.

    Last year in The New York Times, Eleanor & Park was reviewed by none other than John Green, far and away the most popular and famous author of realistic youth fiction of his generation. Green wrote:
    When I began reading contemporary fiction in high school, I remember feeling that each book was an absolute revelation. Whether I was reading Michael Crichton or Amy Tan or Tom Robbins, there had never been anything like it before in my life. The novel’s novelty passes, of course. I’m 35 now. I’ve read a dozen “we brought back the dinosaurs and they are mad” books. I’ve seen the conventions, and I’ve seen them interrogated.

    But I have never seen anything quite like “Eleanor & Park.” Rainbow Rowell’s first novel for young adults is a beautiful, haunting love story — but I have seen those. It’s set in 1986, and God knows I’ve seen that. There’s bullying, sibling rivalry, salvation through music and comics, a monstrous stepparent — and I know, we’ve seen all this stuff. But you’ve never seen “Eleanor & Park.” Its observational precision and richness make for very special reading.Green closed his review with a ready-made jacket-blurb, and it's not even an exaggeration.
    “Eleanor & Park” reminded me not just what it’s like to be young and in love with a girl, but also what it’s like to be young and in love with a book.

    Harperland and the Winds of Change

    Montreal Simon - il y a 6 heures 10 min

    Sometimes I think that getting Canadians to take any kind of political action is like that swan trying to get the wooden ones to follow.

    Because we must be one of the most democratically complacent people on Earth.
    But even in this frigid spring, even in Harperland, the winds of change are blowing. 

    Read more »

    Leveraging Laureen

    Dammit Janet - sam, 04/19/2014 - 12:23

    Last night when the story of Laureen Harper first, hosting/sponsoring a cat video fundraising thingy -- in kitty ears to boot -- then dismissing a question from a young woman on missing and murdered indigenous women at that event hit the news, I was enraged but couldn't put my finger on exactly why.


    Then I read this:

    Somebody needs to tell Laureen Harper that missing and murdered indigenous women isn't a cause... It's a national shame. #mmiw #cdnpoli

    — Allison Fenske (@AllisonFenske) April 18, 2014


    True, I don't like cats. The time, attention, and money spent on them -- and pets in general -- makes me want to hurl. Laureen Harper is repeatedly referred to as a "cat foster-mom" though it's not clear that she herself does.

    So, there's that on one side. People who go gooey over animals and whistle past a homeless person with a cap out on the sidewalk.

    And on the other, the immense, ongoing national shame of at least 824 murdered and missing indigenous women in Canada. This government not only repeatedly and routinely dismisses any calls for action or inquiry, its treatment of indigenous peoples -- here and everywhere it or its minions have interaction with them -- is simply disgusting.

    Laureen's callousness is not surprising then, but breathtaking nonetheless.

    “We’re raising money for animals tonight. If you’d like to donate to animals, we’d love to take your money,” she said to lots of clapping, before suggesting dealing with the issue a different night: “tonight we’re here for homeless cats.”
    So, now we come to Laureen Harper. I frankly don't give a rat's ass if she's living with her husband or the hunkiest RCMP officer -- of any gender -- in the land. I don't give a flying fuck what she wears, what she eats, what she says.

    Because in Canada, mercifully, she is a complete nonentity, no matter what some sycophants would like.
    Some commentators have tried to style prime ministers' wives as "First Lady of Canada", similar to the style of First Lady used in republics, but this is not a recognized title. Use of the term is based on the pervasive influence of American media and not a defined public role or title for the prime minister's spouse. In any case, both the spouse of the Canadian monarch and that of the Governor General of Canada take precedence over a prime minister's spouse, rendering the notion untenable.
    We just do not *do* First Ladies in Canada (check the wiki link for some interesting people who have wrestled with the role).

    Plus, there's that oh-so-Canajan thing of leaving families of politicians alone. "They weren't elected," the manners police sniff. "It just isn't done to attack them."

    Unless, of course, the family members chose to become part of the political pageant. Like this.

    The federal Conservatives have plotted a road map to a 2015 election campaign that counts on a massive donor- and voter-targeting effort, a communications onslaught, and a bid to “leverage” the popularity of Laureen Harper, the prime minister’s wife, according to documents obtained by the Star.The simple fact is that Stephen Harper is perceived to be at the very least, a cold, controlling micro-manager, and at worst -- by a scarily increasing number of Canadians -- an outright psychopath.

    In short, he has a teensy problem with that whole "human" shtick.

    Enter Laureen, who it is hoped/prayed can if not "humanize" him, at least "demonsterfy" him.

    It's been tried repeatedly, to little success, whether in an awkward kiss or in sketchy panda embrace.

    But hope springs eternal in the CON sausage factory. They're at it again -- now with homeless cats.

    Pro tip: If you're going to try to "leverage" someone with as little natural charm as Laureen, get her some fucking media/public speaking training. Try to get her to understand in advance that all "good causes" are not equivalent, and in particular that 800+ missing and murdered women are not a "good cause" just like spaying stray cats.

    (Hm. Maybe the issues are analogous in such twisted brains.)

    To sum up: Laureen is NOT First Lady. She IS fair game. She DID put herself in a totally frivolous situation. She DID fuck up. In CAT ears. (Imagine the withering look an aide would get with: "Hey, Mrs. Obama, we want you to wear these really cute cat ears.")

    But maybe the whole exercise was not for naught. On the YouTube page with the Shit Harper Did video, there was this comment from someone named Paul Gillett.
    Before reading about this in the news today, I wasn't aware of the problem of murder in the Indigenous community. Though I don't fully agree with this activists' tactics, I have to say, good job. I also think it is troubling that the conservatives would use the Prime Minister's wife to manipulate Canadians.
    I end with this tweet. This was tongue-in-cheek from a friend, but I got many other similar ones -- not so cheeky -- last night.

    @fernhilldammit “Shut up about #MMIW, we’re talking about homeless cats” - Laureen Harper’s legacy @Collyw0bbles

    — Johnny B (@MayorJeebus) April 18, 2014

    Vladimir Putin basically told Stephen Harper to go and take a hike

    LeDaro - sam, 04/19/2014 - 11:29
    Stephen Harper thinks he is a world leader. He has been prominent in criticizing Russia over Ukraine and promised Ukraine some military help. Putin primarily told him to go and 'screw yourself'.

    A toast to Stevie
    "The Conservative government's tough rhetoric over Russia’s actions in Ukraine may play well to some voters domestically, but analysts doubt it will have any impact on curtailing Moscow's policies in the region.

    "I think the only people Putin’s going to pay any attention to, if he pays any attention at all, are going to be the United States and the European Union, above all Germany," said Randall Hansen, director of the University of Toronto's Centre for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies."
    Read more here.

    Air travel woes

    Cathie from Canada - sam, 04/19/2014 - 10:05
    Air Canada apologizes for luggage toss caught on video - Toronto - CBC News:

    In spite of Air Canada saying that tossing bags down the stairs isn't their policy, its pretty clear from the video that there is nothing unusual for either of the gate staff doing this.
    Then again, on our recent trip to the coast, I was surprised at the size of some of the bags people were trying to carry on, particularly for the puddle-jumper jet we were on from Calgary to Saskatoon.
    And the woman sitting in front of us was shocked SHOCKED that her loaded, bulging bag just would not fit in the overhead compartment!
     This video is a lot more fun:

    But it isn't so much the airplanes that are awful these days, its the airports:

    Our own trip was certainly better than this -- planes on time, no problems either way.

    Guest Post: The Mound Of Sound On Oligarchy

    Politics and its Discontents - sam, 04/19/2014 - 09:45
    I am pleased to present to you this second guest post by the Mound of Sound, a.k.a. The Disaffected Lib:

    When the "Greatest Democracy on Earth" closes up shop and re-opens as an oligarchy every other supposed democracy, including our own, better sit up and take notice.

    The United States of America has proven that the ballot box does not guarantee the health or even the survival of democracy. Citizens can vote to their hearts' content and it doesn't matter if economic and political power resides elsewhere.

    Remember that old joke about the Golden Rule? He who has the gold, rules. That's not a joke any longer. It's called "political capture", the process by which political power is taken from the electorate and vested in a group of oligarchs who, through their influence over legislators, call the shots.

    It's pretty dismal when you have to realize that whether you vote or how you vote doesn't matter. The day after the election those individuals that have just been 'hired' by your vote will go to work for someone else. Thank you very much. See you in four years or six years or - well, whatever. And, remember, don't call us, we'll call you.

    Thanks to a study from Princeton, we now have confirmation that the United States has transformed from democracy to oligarchy. Many of us knew it at a gut level but the study meticulously documents what we suspected. Now, here's the thing. America remains notionally a democracy, one citizen - one vote sort of thing. It has a constitution and bill of rights that reflect democracy, not some other form of political organization. What that means is that the rise of oligarchy is a subversion of democracy and powerful, prima facie evidence of a thoroughly corrupted political process. It reeks of wholesale corruption and, given its once lofty perch atop Mount Democracy, it proclaims America one of the most corrupted states on the planet.

    The massive and steadily widening gap between rich and poor in America is no accident. Nor is it the natural outcome of merit-based or market forces. It is the bastard child of the incestuous bedding of the oligarchs and the political classes. Government that pledges to serve the people instead serves them up on a legislative platter to its real masters.

    Now we learn, via Paul Krugman and Bill Moyers, that America's oligarchy is in the process of the next stage of its ascendancy, the establishment of a perpetual, inheritance-based aristocracy.

    Recommend this Post

    Saturday Morning Links

    accidentaldeliberations - sam, 04/19/2014 - 09:31
    Assorted content for your weekend reading.

    - Paul Krugman explains how one's political values figure to affect one's view of evidence as to the success or failure of a policy:
    (T)he liberal and conservative movements are not at all symmetric in their goals. Conservatives want smaller government as an end in itself; liberals don’t seek bigger government per se — they want government to achieve certain things, which is quite different. You’ll never see liberals boasting about raising the share of government spending in GDP the way conservatives talk proudly about bringing that share down. Because liberals want government to accomplish something, they want to know whether government programs are actually working; because conservatives don’t want the government doing anything except defense and law enforcement, they aren’t really interested in evidence about success or failure. True, they may seize on alleged evidence of failure to reinforce their case, but it’s about political strategy, not genuine interest in the facts.

    One side consequence of this great divide, by the way, is the way conservatives project their own style onto their opponents — insisting that climate researchers are just trying to rationalize government intervention, that liberals like trains because they destroy individualism....
    (A)nother factor is the lack of a comprehensive liberal media environment comparable to the closed conservative universe. If you lean right, you can swaddle yourself 24/7 in Fox News and talk radio, never hearing anything that disturbs your preconceptions. (If you were getting your “news” from Fox, you were told that the hugely encouraging Rand survey was nothing but bad news for Obamacare.) If you lean left, you might watch MSNBC, but the allegedly liberal network at least tries to make a distinction between news and opinion — and if you watch in the morning, what you get is right-wing conspiracy theorizing more or less indistinguishable from Fox.

    Yet another factor may be the different incentives of opinion leaders, which in turn go back to the huge difference in resources. Strange to say, there are more conservative than liberal billionaires, and it shows in think-tank funding. As a result, I like to say that there are three kinds of economists: Liberal professional economists, conservative professional economists, and professional conservative economists. The other box isn’t entirely empty, but there just isn’t enough money on the left to close the hack gap.- Linda McQuaig discusses the Cons' combination of elitist operations and populist messaging. Don Lenihan considers populism to be merely a particularly cynical form of elitism - which often serves to divert needed accountability by replacing the public's role in keeping an eye on its leaders with the promise of a savior to take on the job. And Jim Coyle questions how children of privilege like Rob Ford and Justin Trudeau can keep a straight face while claiming to stand up for the little guy - while comparing the respective plausibility of their pitches.

    - Of course, elitism in the ranks of our political leaders is all the worse when it's accepted by other institutions which should protect the public interest. On that front, Michael Harris wonders whether the RCMP is doing the bidding of the PMO rather than pursuing justice in electing not to pursue charges against Nigel Wright, while suggesting that we're at least owed an explanation for the choice.

    - Meanwhile, Erik Loomis asks why we treat employer wage theft as an administrative matter to be met with a slap on the wrist, rather than an abuse just as deserving of criminal intervention as an employee's stealing from the till. And the Star-Phoenix editorial board duly slams the Cons' "victims' rights" legislation which once again uses a misleading title to introduce regressive changes to the criminal justice system.

    - Kim Nursall reports on TD's study examining the long-term costs of climate change - which include both tens of billions in losses to Canadian GDP, and human costs going far beyond what can be easily quantified. And Leilani Farha and Michele Biss look at the numbers we're missing in discussing homelessness in Canada, while pointing out that we already know plenty which should push us to act.

    - Finally, Rob Nagai suggests that the NDP should change its attitude to take a more positive view of fund-raising. But I'd note some distinction between the view of the party apparatus (which has done plenty to work on the issue) and the grassroots (which probably does better fit Nagai's description of preferring issue advocacy to fund-raising) - and suggest that if the NDP is going to find a find-raising advantage, the longer-term goal should be to better build fund-raising into its member-driven activities.

    A Brief Programming Note

    Politics and its Discontents - sam, 04/19/2014 - 09:04

    Since spring finally seems to be arriving in my place on the planet, it seems like a propitious time to take a day or two off from this blog and contemplate other matters. In the interim, I recommend the following for your perusal:

    The Star's Thomas Walkom writes about democracy, voting and past democratic reform measures in his column today.

    A series of thoughtful letters from Star readers provides an ample basis for some serious contemplation of climate change.

    And finally, on the oligarchy that has essentially subverted supplanted democracy, the Mound of Sound recommends this interview with Thomas Krugman, who discusses a new book by French economist Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Pikey argues that modern capitalism has put the world "on the road not just to a highly unequal society, but to a society of an oligarchy—a society of inherited wealth."

    See you shortly, and enjoy the long weekend.
    Recommend this Post

    Smelling A Skunk

    Northern Reflections - sam, 04/19/2014 - 06:47

    Eric Grenier writes that, the more Canadians learn about the Fair Elections Act, the less they like it:

    Opposition to the Conservative government's proposed Fair Elections Act (Bill C-23) is widespread and growing, according to a new poll by Angus Reid Global.

    The survey, conducted online from April 14-15 and surveying 1,505 Canadians, found that 59 per cent of Canadians who said they were very or fairly familiar with the proposed legislation were opposed to it, an increase of three points since Angus Reid last polled Canadians on the topic in February.

    Unfortunately, there is still a significant number of Canadians who haven't bothered to look into what the Harperites are selling:

    Nevertheless, a majority of Canadians (69 per cent) said they were not familiar with the bill, including 27 per cent who said they had not heard of it before Angus Reid polled them. That did decrease by 11 points from February, however, as the number of people saying they were very familiar with the bill increased by three points to eight per cent, and the proportion who said they were fairly familiar jumped by eight points to 23 per cent.

    There was an important difference in support for Bill C-23 between those who knew something about it and those who said they didn't. And why not? It is called the "Fair Elections Act" after all. Whereas just 41 per cent of Canadians who said they were familiar with the proposed legislation supported it, 52 per cent who said they knew little to nothing about it were in favour. 
    And therein lies the rub. The government is depending on ignorance and apathy to finesse its future. But Tom Walkom warns that fixing Canadian democracy will take more than defeating the Fair Elections Act:

    But the real problems of Canadian democracy are much deeper. They centre on the fact that, even without these new impediments to voting so few Canadians bother to cast ballots.In 2011, only 61 per cent of those eligible to vote did so.

    Harper’s Conservatives are right about one thing: Feel-good ads from Elections Canada won’t persuade non-voters to vote. People will vote only if they are inspired to do so, presumably by those seeking office.
    And that will only happen when Canadians begin to smell a skunk in the woodpile.

    Stephen Harper's Not So Good Good Friday

    Montreal Simon - sam, 04/19/2014 - 03:31

    Lordy. I see that Stephen Harper didn't have a very good Good Friday.

    His Easter Message was no doubt well received by his dwindling flock, the 28% of Canadians who still support him.

    Because they all agree that Jimbo Flaherty would want the Cons to keep his legacy alive.

    Canada’s budget watchdog says the federal public service has already lost more jobs than expected and projects thousands more cuts.

    By killing government in his memory.
    Read more »

    Musical interlude

    accidentaldeliberations - ven, 04/18/2014 - 20:14
    Mossy - Euphoria

    Due to the poor attendance at Rob Ford’s campaign kickoff...

    The Ranting Canadian - ven, 04/18/2014 - 10:17

    Due to the poor attendance at Rob Ford’s campaign kickoff party, his new theme song could be “Half Empty Halls” by The Evaporators.

    By most accounts, the April 17, 2014 event was a flop, with low turnout, no “history in the making" moments (another Ford promise broken), none of the celebrity appearances that were anticipated, and a lackluster speech full of lies, clichés and vague pledges. According to some, Ford was even heckled a bunch of times.

    TV footage showed a lot of people waiting in line to get Ford T-shirts and bobblehead dolls, but it seems that many of those people were not genuine supporters, and left soon after getting their memorabilia, perhaps to sell online.

    View during Rob Ford's 2014 campaign kickoff speech.

    The Ford campaign booked an enormous banquet hall; rented tables, chairs, tablecloths, sound equipment, etc.; shelled out for servers and other staff; hired a rock band and bagpipers; hung large printed banners; gave away free alcohol and snacks; handed out other freebies; and brought along an old fire truck as a prop (which brother Randy bought for $4,000 at an auction). There were probably many other expenses too.

    Whenever I see these massive Ford crime family events, I wonder who the hell is paying for it all. What political financing laws are being broken? What business expenses and tax refunds are being claimed illegally? How much drug money is being laundered? I doubt the full costs will ever be revealed to the authorities and the public.

    In the last Toronto election, more than one third of the [on-the-books] money donated to the Rob Ford mayoral campaign came from outside of Toronto, from people who could not vote in the Toronto election. Many of the people at his April 17 kickoff event do not live in Toronto either. In May, Ford’s first fundraising event for this campaign (a $300-a-plate gala for the rich elites he claims to hate) will be in Vaughan instead of Toronto. A few months ago, wackjob city councillor Giorgio Mammoliti (a Ford ally) held an illegal fundraising event in nearby Woodbridge, at which lobbyists and other sleazy operators paid $5,000 per table. This is the kind of backroom corruption that the Fords pretend to oppose, but fully embrace in practice.

    Attendees of the Ford kickoff party who spoke to the media displayed low intelligence, pathetic gullibility and almost no sense of reality. They are lost causes who will never be swayed by facts, so the Olivia Chow campaign has to move past them and focus on getting her own supporters to vote in October, and on convincing swing voters to come on board.

    Torontonians cannot be complacent. Although polls show Chow in the lead, when one takes into account the margin of error, there is essentially a three-way tie between Chow, Ford and John Tory (Ford-lite). The election is months away and everything is still up for grabs. A Ford or Tory victory would be another win for the rich corporate elites and their cronies. Chow is the only option.

    Friday Morning Links

    accidentaldeliberations - ven, 04/18/2014 - 08:37
    Assorted content for your Friday reading.

    - Robert Kuttner discusses Karl Polanyi's increasingly important critique of unregulated markets and corporatist states. Sarah Kendzior writes about the latest cycle of workers stuck in poverty who are striking back against a system designed to suppress their standard of living. And Michael Rozworski examines the effect of the Cons' temporary foreign worker focus on Canadian workers:
    (W)hile food attendants made up 9% of all TFW Labour Market Opinions (LMOs) issued in Canada in 2012, they comprised 17%, or almost double, of TFW LMOs in Alberta, the province that has the tightest labour market. Indeed, in Alberta the top five occupations filled by TFWs are all in services. For a program that is meant to help employers find workers for otherwise impossible-to-fill positions, it seems to be doing quite the opposite: helping employers staff low-wage service occupations that are relatively always in demand. Government documents show as much – Alberta employers were applying for low-level service LMOs in the same jurisdictions where unemployed workers with skills for those occupations were on EI.

    Employers are using TFWs to enforce discipline especially at the lower end of the job market. Increasing bifurcation between low- and high-wage jobs means that the effect is potentially all the greater.
    Bringing in more TFWs is one more means of ensuring that a tighter labour market does not lead to increased agitation for better pay and better conditions. When unemployment (and the even greater underemployment) starts to fall, the increased use of temporary foreign workers is a means of securing continued economic power. The cruel irony is that temporary foreign workers hoping to counteract the effects of an unequal global distribution of goods and power on their families are being used to help safeguard and enlarge disparities in their new home.

    The different rules for temporary foreign workers – their institutionalized precarity – help spread a lighter but still increasing precarity throughout the rest of the lower-wage workforce. This is enough to condemn the TFWP as a policy tool that stacks the hand of employers in broader labour relations.The particular genius of the TFWP, especially as applied to low-wage work, goes further. The TFWP is not only a labour policy tool but, at the same time, an immigration program and, as such, interacts with existing prejudices that limit solidarity along the axis of immigration and race. These work to counteract the potential for solidarity that arises from shared experiences of deteriorating labour conditions. The function of the TFWP on the labour market and on immigration should not be analyzed in isolation. The program lies at a problematic but potentially fruitful intersection of class and immigration – by and large meaning at the intersection of class and race. - Ben Casselman points out that the timing of a job loss has far more to do with one's future prospects than education, occupation or any other factor which could plausibly be tied to merit. And Lisa Wright reports on the trend toward highly unstable work - which can only increase the odds of a single job loss coming at just the wrong time.

    - Claudia Calderon Machicado makes a strong business case for fair paid leave and sick leave programs.

    - The CCPA offers a series of papers on the role unions can and should play in ensuring economic fairness - and the steps the Cons and similar governments are taking to prevent them from acting.

    - Finally, Matt Taibbi highlights the fact that inequality by design isn't limited to income or wealth - as the same justice system which readily throws people in jail for extended periods of time for relatively minor offences has done nothing to address gross criminal behaviour in financial markets.

    Nigel Wright & Linda Frum in the Republican wayback machine

    Creekside - ven, 04/18/2014 - 07:09
    In a week that has featured ...

    1) Nigel Wright let off the hook by the RCMP for bribing sitting legislator Senator Mike Duffy in spite of weeks of PMO discussions involving over a dozen senior party officials re buying Duffy's silence,    and 

    2) Senator Linda Frum making the most idiotic and widely-mocked attack on Elections Canada over the Fair Elections Act to date, ie  that it is a conflict of interest for Elections Canada to both administer the vote during elections and encourage people to vote between elections, 

    ... it is fitting that Jay Watts III should dig up a piece of Canadian history that includes both Frum and Wright, as blogged by Brian Busby in a brilliant pair of blogposts that really should be savoured in their own right.

    Seems in 1984, a rightwing Republican foundation confirmed it was funding several start-up campus publications in Canada among its 69 across North America. The Institute of Educational Affairs was set up by Irving Kristol, godfather of the US neoconservative movement, his fellow founding PNACer William Bennett, and William Simon, Reaganite, Richard Nixon's treasury secretary and board director of Halliburton Canada - and it bankrolled : 

    ~ University of Toronto Magazine, founded by Nigel Wright - already working in Muldoon's PMO - and his friend and classmate Tony "Gazebo" Clement, and
    ~ McGill Magazine and editor Linda Frum, daughter of CBC's Barbara Frum and sister to David "Axis of Evil" Frum
    ~ Libertas at Queens, run by the son of the CEO at the Bank of Montreal. 
    The original Canadian University Press article says 7 other clones of Libertas appeared across Canadian campuses that month, including articles of *unusual access* for campus papers - like an interview with George Bush.

    Nigel Wright told the Montreal Gazette at the time that he had "no misgivings about applying for and accepting money from the Republican foundation".
    The only advice he could recall receiving from the foundation was a circular "suggesting we publish nothing to do with the John Birch Society." Right-wing paper covertly funded from US , also published as Republicans fund Ontario & Quebec right wing newspapers :
    "We were happy to have help and advice from the Americans," said Nigel Wright. In 1982 the IEA and American Spectator, a prominent conservative newspaper, held a seminar for college students interested in starting or maintaining conservative newspapers. More than 40 students attended to hear speakers such as the Spectator's R. Emett Tyrell Jr lecture on taste and strategy. "Don't print Klu Klux Klan literature," Tyrell advised. IEA Executive Director Phillip Marcus suggested: "If someone accuses you of being racist or sexist, accuse them back of McCarthy tactics." One person contacted who attended that conference but asked not to be identified said: "They told me that when I was ready to go ahead publishing, I shouldn't worry about the money. They said they'd take care of that."From such smug little acorns are whole governments sprouted, along with their bent senators and chiefs of staff and covert bribes and Republican-style voter suppression bills.

    Slamming Harper Secrecy

    Politics and its Discontents - ven, 04/18/2014 - 06:58

    The Toronto Star recently revealed the following:

    Health Canada is keeping secret the vast majority of the drug reviews it conducts despite a clear promise from the federal minister to publish this critical safety information.

    Only 24 of 152 drug reviews completed last year by Health Canada are being considered for public release, the Toronto Star has learned. The drug safety reviews that will be open to the public are those triggered by alarms raised by foreign regulators, medical or scientific literature or Health Canada’s routine monitoring activities.

    The main reason? Wholly consistent with the Harper regime's legendary secrecy and the preeminence it accords to all things corporate, is this justification:

    The information is classified in part because it was provided “with the understanding that this information is proprietary,” a Health Canada spokeswoman told the Star in an email Wednesday.

    In layperson's language, corporate concerns trump citizen safety. Aided and abetted by Health Canada, safety information falls under the rubric of commercial secrets - this despite some well-publicized tragedies that might very well have been avoided had the public had access to vital information about toxicity studies and drug side effects.

    As usual, perspicacious Star letter-writers offer their views of this intolerable insult to all who believe that the free flow of information is one of the crucial elements of a healthy democracy:

    Ottawa keeps drug reviews under wraps, April 12

    The Canadian public is once again being “stonewalled” by the Harper government. The reason that I am calling this the “Harper Government” is the fact that Stephen Harper runs this government like a dictatorship. His ministers are muzzled until Harper approves of what statements they are allowed to make to the media.

    He arbitrarily releases information only when he feels like doing so, not when the public has a genuine need to know the details of situations, such as rail safety measures put in place after the disaster in Quebec, and now the federal drug reviews of 151 various medications.
    According to Dr. David Juurlink from Sunnybrook Hospital, “These drugs harm people and in some instances they kill people. Frankly, shame on (Ottawa) for even contemplating not publishing them.” The doctor doesn’t realize that in Ottawa there is no shame, only secrecy.

    Why all of this secrecy when Ottawa has supposedly made a commitment to being more transparent? This government is as “transparent” as the heavily tinted windows in a motor vehicle.

    In 1947, there was a movie starring Danny Kaye, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. This movie was re-made in 2013 with Ben Stiller as the star. In Canada, it could have been made as The Secret Life of Stephen Harper, starring our Prime Minister.

    Also, Harper would have been the perfect guest on the 1950s and 1960s TV show I’ve Got A Secret. He has so many secrets that the panel would never guess to which one he was referring.

    Warren Dalton, Scarborough

    The reason Ottawa keeps drug reviews under wraps is the same reason Transport Canada keeps under wraps the movement of toxic materials through highly populated areas. The “conservative corporate party” in Ottawa is not about to bite the hand that feeds it. Ask yourself: who is damaged by disclosure?

    Nicholas Kostiak, Tottenham

    Drugs that have been developed under the sole funding of the private sector may, indeed, legitimize claims to exclusive rights to such information. Where the public has funded the research and development of pharmaceuticals, however, the public has a right to the results of such research.

    Canadian taxpayers have contributed billions of dollars, under a multitude of programs, to the development of pharmaceuticals. We seem to have forgotten Harper’s Economic Action Plan and the Canada Foundation for Innovation, which funnelled hundreds of millions of dollars to the research and development of pharmaceuticals in the year 2009 alone. If you follow the money, you’ll discover that the public has just as many proprietary rights to the much-guarded research.

    Those who wish to have exclusive rights to research results, data, analyses, outcomes or reports should also ensure their exclusive funding of such research activity rather than looking to the public purse for support. Until then, we have a right to know exactly what our money has produced.

    Stella Kargiannakis, TorontoRecommend this Post

    Harperland, the Con Monsters, and the Death of Reason

    Montreal Simon - ven, 04/18/2014 - 02:39

    Once upon a time Canada seemed like a brighter, better place to me than it does today.

    A more hopeful, more optimistic, more decent country.

    A country where an opposition MP could write a polite letter to a Minister like this one. (PDF)

    And expect to get a reasonable reply.

    But this is Harperland, and this is Pierre Poilievre...
    Read more »

    The House That Ronald Built

    Politics and its Discontents - jeu, 04/17/2014 - 07:42
    ... seems to be undergoing some serious perturbations these days. Earlier in the month came the story of three McDonald's outlets in British Columbia abusing the Harper regime's TFWP (Temporary Foreign Workers Program) by hiring temporary workers instead of available local people and reducing the hours of Canadian employees.

    Now comes word from Edmonton of more abuse by the hamburger giant, this time of its temporary workers. CBC News reports the following:

    Foreign workers recruited from Belize are accusing McDonald’s Canada of treating them like "slaves," by effectively forcing them to share an expensive apartment – then deducting almost half their take-home pay as rent.

    Records from three employees show they made $11 an hour working at various McDonald’s locations and the company took $280 from their pay for rent, bi-weekly. Their remaining take-home pay for the same pay periods was roughly $350.

    “[The apartment lease] contracts are signed by McDonald’s. All of our bills – utility bills – were billed [to us] under the name of McDonald’s,” said Montero.

    “They brought us here and they are this big huge corporation. We felt that we didn’t have a chance to even voice our opinion to them because they had brought us here so they could ship us back whenever they wanted to," said Montero. "It was like modern day slavery."

    You can read the full tawdry tale of corporate malfeasance here, and watch a video report below:

    Kind of takes away your appetite for when the next 'Mac attack' happens, doesn't it?Recommend this Post


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