Saturday, August 31, 2013
Many Ontario residents of a certain age will be aware of the fact that the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party ruled the province for forty-two years, from 1943 to 1985, a time during which the term 'progressive conservative' did not constitute an oxymoron.
That was then. This is now. A headline in today's Star reads: Tim Hudak best leader for Ontario PC party, poll shows.
How the mighty have fallen.
Friday, August 30, 2013
All of us have a right to respect and dignity. Many of us do not receive it. Having been 'educated' in the Catholic system at a time when the application of both verbal and physical abuse was regarded as proper corrective methodology, I experienced many times in my younger life situations where respect and dignity were denied. I suspect it was one of those foundational experiences that has made me so acutely aware of various forms of injustice as an adult.
Countless people around the world are denied dignity, many of them within North America, the most prosperous part of our planet. Particularly vulnerable to debasement are minimum wage workers, many of whom toil in the fast food industry about which I have written previous posts.
Yesterday, thousands of fast-food workers in nearly 60 cities across the United States staged strikes to protest poor wages as they call for a doubling of the minimum wage from an average of $7.25 to $15 per hour.
Organizers of the action, Low Pay Is Not Ok, are also calling for the right to unionize without fear of retalaiation; one of the obstacles to unionization is the fact that many work in 'right-to-work-states' that make it optional to join unions and pay dues, even in unionized environments. It is a law that Ontario's would-be premier, the young Tim Hudak, salivates over and promises for those foolish enough to consider voting for him.
I encourage people to educate themselves on this issue, striking as it does at the very heart of respect, dignity, and the capacity to live a life at the very least slightly above the poverty line. Perhaps statistics put into perspective the denialism that is the reflexive reaction of the corporate world whenever there is any discussion of improving the wages of those who make possible their massive profits:
Workers want their hourly pay more than doubled from the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour to a more livable $15 an hour. Organizers of the rally say the top eight fast-food chains — McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut, Domino’s and Papa John’s — made $7.35 billion in profit last year, yet most of their employees didn’t make more than $11,200.
Seems doable to me and I imagine just about everyone else who believes in a little justice and equity for humanity.
* On a personal note, we are taking our Cuban friends to see Niagara Falls today, after which we will visit my sister-in-law in Niagara-On-The-Lake. If you post comments here, they will not appear until later today, when I have computer access at her place. I hope everyone enjoys the long weekend.
Thursday, August 29, 2013
By now, most Canadians are probably aware that truth and the Harper regime are total strangers. Whether talking about the cost estimates of F-35 jets, knowledge about the Wright-Duffy-Wallin Senate scandal, reasons for taking rides from military helicopters to return from the cottage, spending $50 million on gazebos, everything the government says is suspect. People become used to such dishonesty, deceit and contempt, but I hope they never become inured to these egregious signs of overweening pride and arrogance from the people who 'serve' us.
Recent claims of revisions to the Temporary Foreign Workers Program that would ensure employers offer jobs to Canadians first appear to be yet just another lie issued by the government to quell widespread discontent. A story in today's Edmonton Journal reports the following:
Hundreds of Alberta employers are being allowed to bring temporary foreign workers into the province at minimum wage despite a federal government requirement they be paid at or near market rates.
Internal documents reveal officials at Human Resources and Skill Development Canada are letting businesses like big restaurant chains and large nurseries pay imported employees as little as $9.75 an hour.
The Alberta Federation of Labour, which gained the truth through a federal access to information request, says of the foreign workers,
“They’re being used as pawns by employers who don’t want to respond to the market signals that are telling them they need to raise wages”.
And the implication of this deceitful practice has implications far beyond the temporary workers directly affected:
Don Drummond, a former chief economist with TD Bank and deputy minister with the federal finance department, worries the documents show the TFW program is being used to artificially suppress wages in the province’s labour market despite a robust economy.
“If this program is creating a substantial number of positions at minimum wage,” said Drummond, “it’s dragging down wages throughout the province’s entire economy.”
Predictably, Dr. Kellie Leitch, the federal labour minister, did not respond to written questions about why this is being allowed.
Slavery was abolished in the United States in 1865 with the 13th Amendment to the Consitution. Apparently it continues under another name in our own country today.
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
As our Cuban friends' visit continues, we are trying to give them a sampling of life in Canada. Yesterday we went to the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto; the first exhibition hall we entered there was the one devoted to Canada's aboriginal peoples, where we came upon a work by Norval Morriseau entitled Migration, depicted above.
As the human race continues its ruthless and relentless exploitation of earth's resources to the point of exhaustion, as our heedless behaviour warms the earth to the point of profound and probably irreversible, disastrous change, Migration offers us a succinct reminder of how everyone and everything is interconnected and interdependent.
It is a simple and profound truth, the implications of which far too many choose to be willfully ignorant.
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
2015 is not very far away. It may be the year of liberation, the year Canada reclaims its collective soul, or it may be the year in which Canadians elect to continue their enslavement to the neo-conservative agenda. (Please forgive the rather overblown rhetoric in the previous sentence, but in my heart it sums up what lies before us.)
The question of whether Stephen Harper will run in the next election is on many people's minds. Some are entirely convinced that he will, while I am of the view the public opinion surveys and their consistency will be a heavy influence on his decision. If they suggest that he is held in wide and consistent public odium, I suspect he will choose to forgo another election. Like Brian Mulroney before him, and the detested former Ontario premier Mike Harris, whose massive egos didn't blind them to the likelihood of defeat at the polls, I suspect Harper will decide to cut and run (the contemptuous term Harper always used to when anyone suggested we get out of Afghanistan) rather than confront the truth about himself: that despite his delusions, he is a leader who has failed abysmally in inspiring anything but division, rancour and selfishness within the country he was elected to serve.
A letter in today's Star offers this view:
Re: Harper resignation no longer a far-fetched notion, Aug. 25
Prime Minister Stephen Harper will not risk the humiliation of losing the next election as the momentum is building against him across the country. Harper will not run in the 2015 election.
He may be able to prorogue Parliament to avoid a confrontation in the House of Commons and the intense questioning over Senators Pamela Wallin, Mac Harb, Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau. But he cannot prorogue the fact of his alienating Quebec.
He is unable to prorogue the 2015 election and will not want to preside over the break-up of the country.
Robert G. Sheehan-Gauthier, Ottawa
Of course, my political instincts are not what they once were, and I could be completely wrong. For a more nuanced and detailed analysis of the factors that will influence Harper's decision, take a look at the CBC's Greg Weston's piece here.
Monday, August 26, 2013
I'd like to make it clear at the start of this post that I have by no means been converted to the belief that Justin Trudeau would be an appropriate choice to lead the country, for reasons that I will conclude the post with. However, I simply want to make a few observations about the striking contrast he presents to Stephen Harper.
By now, everyone that follows such things is likely aware of the stark and tight control Harper tries to extend over his entire regime. Parliamentary secretaries, M.P.s and others who speak publicly on the government's behalf are given very strict speaking points from which they cannot deviate. A recent Power and Politics panel on Trudeau's admissions about pot-smoking vividly attested to that fact whenever Conservative M.P. Blake Richards spoke, as do numerous past public discussions on other matters. Journalists, as we were reminded the other day, are limited to five questions of the Prime Minister on those rare occasions when he deigns to allow them access to him. Any attempt at deviation from that regimen is met with severe consequences, as was evident to the world when Chinese reporter Li Xuejiang was roughed up and ejected by Harper's staff and the RCMP when he tried to ask a question:
Everything about Harper bespeaks an overweening control of the message, disdain for the truth, and contempt for the electorate.
Trudeau, by contrast, projects the image of an honest and transparent politician. In today's Toronto Star, columnist Tim Harper makes some interesting observations about the nature of what he sees as Trudeau's strategy:
Since entering federal politics, the Liberal leader has taken a series of risks.
They’ve all been calculated risks, but risks nonetheless.
He’s surviving, even flourishing, with a combination of charisma, favourable treatment from a national press pack desperate [emphasis mine] for a little colour in a drab political landscape, mastery of social media — and a little luck.
Tim Harper characterizes Trudeau as a risk-taker:
He has taken mock pratfalls down a flight of stairs for the television cameras, he did a faux striptease in front of the cameras at a charity fundraiser, he stepped into the boxing ring against a then-Conservative senator.
He took a risk in coming clean to an Ottawa reporter about his personal wealth and the money he earned on the speaking tour...
Harper then turns his attention to Trudeau's recent admission, saying it is hardly news that someone has smoked a bit of of pot over the years. He says the real risk for him is the unsolicited details he provided:
Trudeau could have acknowledged he had fired up a joint, five or six times, as he did, but he took the risk in volunteering that he has smoked a joint since becoming an MP, an MP who was clearly thinking of federal leadership, and an MP who voted in favour of tougher marijuana possession penalties.
In a country tired of the mean-spirited, controlling and spiteful nature of its Prime Minister, this is likely a refreshing change. But columnist Harper makes a crucial observation toward the end of his piece which addresses the same deep reservations I have about Trudeau's leadership capacities.
But I’m not sure I have any idea where Trudeau stands on prorogation, the latest twist in the Senate spending fiasco, or the potential of a giant American player entering the Canadian wireless market.
It is all well and good to project an image of openness and honesty, but without any articulation of policy, Trudeau runs the real risk of reinforcing the other image he has as a political and intellectual lightweight, something that even a country desperate for change will not and cannot support.
Sunday, August 25, 2013
If there is information that you could know and you should know but somehow manage not to know, the law deems that you are willfully blind, that you have chosen not to know. - Margaret Heffernan
This video applies to all of us, whether government, company, or individual. It is well-worth the less than 15 minutes it takes to view.
Saturday, August 24, 2013
This morning in her column contrasting Justin Trudeau and Stephen Harper, The Star's Heather Mallick offers this hilarious observation:
I am only now recovering from the photo of Harper posing in a red hoodie with Inuit rangers who look normal, even attractive, in a red hoodie, but Harper is playing with what appears to be a duck puppet. Spot the white guy.
Friday, August 23, 2013
On Facebook I follow the goings on of a bear sanctuary in Ontario, and this morning they posted the following with a peaceful photo of two bears sitting together:
The Peace of Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
— Wendell Berry
In response to a post I wrote yesterday, The Salamander left one of his trenchant and masterful commentaries on the myriad deficiencies of the Harper regime. So that it has a wider readership than a comment would usually garner, I am featuring it as a guest post. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did, replete as it is with excoriating allusion, simile, and metaphor:
.. always good to hear from Peter MacKay on matters that have somehow seeped or leaked through his stolid or squalid dura mater .. I'm certainly not the brightest knife in the drawer, so surely most of Canada is noticing that MacKay is about as useful as a paperweight made of dried fake canada goose snot.
Unfortunately, his snotworthy 'legacy' is blowing in the downdraft of imaginary helicopters, churned by stealth snow MacVehicles and about as blustery and bogus as that of Treasury Tony Clement and the late lamented zombified other Peter.. Petered out Kent .. our dear and caring environmentalist
Why everyone is piling on poor Pammy Wallin or Mikey Duffy.. when they are simply ornamental and plump red Alliance herring with wings and double chins is beyond me.. In the field of opportunity, the really plump turkeys are out there gobbling & strutting in plain sight..
Fantino would be a fantastic feast.. and his lovely mysterious PMO compadre Stephen Lecce too.. plus the red goatee robo dude from Alberta
Keith Ashfield is a complete documented disaster waiting for a journalist or Frankie James to fricassee
Kenney rhymes with and lives with Mummy .. enuff said
Baird is getting a free pass for being gay .. Policy wise he's a glib asshat bullyboy
with the ethics, courage, morality and usefulness of a leaky septic tank located near a lake
That leaves us with petro circus barker, stock broker, lawyer, millionaire energy pimp Joe Oliver, Flaherty.. and strutting master Stephen Harper, his zombie trolls in the PMO and, the electoral dataminers and lesser quislings and remoras that like Peter MacKay.. thrive on eating Stevie's easterner shite .. along with the dung beetle Flanagans, Jenni Byrne's, Arthur Hamilton's and REAL Women et al .. those paramours and pretenders of Canadian Western Values that stand up for a political party that is a holding tank for swimming mutating unsentient creatures that define political animal evolution in swine excrement excellence..
Deary me.. I hope I haven't been too hard on Peter Mackay..
but swapping this pimply arsed entitled poser off from Defense of the land and China, to Justice left me gasping at the poetic brilliance of Stephen and Ray Novak..
So why not shuffle Fantino to pro-China Environment too ? He's an expert at 'containment' after all
And .. how did American Tom Flanagan fall so far he never made it to Great White Ottawa Chief of Indian Affairs and related treaty exterminator/fumigator ??
My goodness .. !! We haven't even gotten to the closets at Sussex Drive..
Who's clothes are those.. in the Royal Harper walk in closets ? Incroyable !!
How all these so called Canadians line up against Canada and Canadians and defend the toxic tainted deceits of Torontonian Stephen Harper simply blows me away.. I really have yet to comprehend how a sniff or whiff of power makes creating, then eating .. shite, acceptable.. or leads to appearances on the front page of magazines
As well, you may enjoy these letters from Star readers who have an even less flattering view of Mr. Harper as it pertains to his northern junket, escaping the heat via prorogation, and his ongoing senate 'problems.'
Thursday, August 22, 2013
Earlier today., I posted a brief piece on how, despite my reservations about Justin Trudeau's leadership capacity, I found his openness and honesty refreshing when it came to pot.
The second surprise I got today was the fact that he spoke quite candidly about his opposition to Quebec's proposed ban on religious symbols and clothing in public buildings.
As you will see see if you read the readers' comments following the first link, people are beginning to discern a difference amongst the three major party leaders, with Trudeau's assertiveness offering a sharp contrast to Thomas Mulcair's refusal to 'comment on something that has not yet been tabled' to the Harper regime's gutless 'it's a provincial matter' evasion of anything remotely representing a real stand.
... Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
Imagine the world if we treated it with the reverence it deserves.
The response from the Harperites has been both swift and predictable, at a time when even the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (see video below) are advocating handing out tickets for pot possession:
Justice Minister Peter MacKay said that smoking pot as an MP demonstrated "a profound lack of judgment" on Trudeau's part.
"By flouting the laws of Canada while holding elected office, he shows he is a poor example for all Canadians, particularly young ones. Justin Trudeau is simply not the kind of leader our country needs," MacKay said in a statement.
Meanwhile, you might like to read this AlterNet article that gives 10 frightening examples of why the 'war on drugs' is far too costly.
UPDATE: Many thanks to LeDaro for alerting me to this video, a discussion on Power and Politics about Trudeau's revelation. I couldn't help but note the short leash the party put Conservative M.P. Blake Richards on as he evades questions and only repeats points.
Quebec’s directorate of public prosecutions said in a statement Wednesday afternoon that 27 witnesses had been interviewed in the course of the probe into Trudeau’s actions that evening and they had concluded, given the “aggressive and violent nature of the protests,” that the officer had not used unnecessary force as defined in the Criminal Code.
“As a result, no criminal offence has been committed by the officer who was the subject of this investigation,” the agency said.
From my perspective, the video seems to offer a pretty full context, but hey, I'm a mere civilian with a bias in favour of free speech:
If you would like to see another video featuring Constable Trudeau's aggressive proclivities, click here.
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Yesterday was not a good day for me. First, I awoke to read about the government raid on the Guardian office resulting in the destruction of computers containing some of the material leaked by Edward Snowden on illegal state surveillance. Eerily reminiscent of the U.S. Department of Justice raid on the Associated Press back in May, there is little doubt in my mind that these are actions designed to cast a deep chill, not only on journalists themselves, but also on their sources, many of whom demand an anonymity that can no longer be guaranteed.
The second blow to my day was learning that Elmore Leonard, a peerless master of crime fiction, a writer of prodigious output, had died at the age of 87. If you have never read one of his post-western novels, give one a try. If, like me, you have an affinity for things slightly off-kilter, you will appreciate Leonards's slightly bent characters and impeccable ear for language and dialogue. Even though he enjoyed a long life, I am saddened that I will never again read a new work by him.
While nothing can stop the tide of time and mortality, much can be done to stand together against the tyranny of the state. The basis of that stand has to be access to information that allows us to decide for ourselves where truth lies, not where the state and the corporate-driven media wants us to believe it lies. And the basis for that information must be unfettered journalism, not journalism cowed and confined by intimidation tactics. In today's Star, Heather Mallick writes passionately about the issue.
Entitled Like food, we need good reporting to survive, Mallick, reflecting on the outrage at the Guardian, observes that there is a
... common attitude floating in the ether: that secret information must not be reported. Citizens — including in Canada, a most secretive country — must not know about who governs us, how they behave and how they keep us under surveillance so that we may be quickly pulled in on a hook.
She goes on to make two assertions that seem irrefutable to me:
Opposing reporting is like opposing food. We need food the same way we need information about where and how we live, globally, nationally and locally. Those intolerant of lactose and gluten may not like traditional milk or bread. But we still need and like food.
Without reporting, we fail as a democracy.
Creeping state interference with our ability to know, understand and assess information and activities does not bode well for our way of life. People who think otherwise, embracing and/or promoting willful ignorance instead of enlightenment, are doing great harm to each of us.
They are the real enemy we should all be on guard against.
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Or, to update the metaphor, computers being destroyed by the govenment:
The message is clear: citizens do not have the right to material that would allow them to decide for themselves whether the overarching and illegal domestic spying being carried out by western 'democracies' is justified.
Following revelations of the baseless detainment of Glenn Greenwald's partner at Heathrow Airport on Sunday for nine hours, along with the confiscation of his computer equipment, we are now learning that Britains's GCHQ raided the offices of The Guardian to destroy computers containing data leaked by US whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Alan Rusbridger, the editor of the Guardian, said “shadowy Whitehall figures” had ordered the destruction after his paper refused to hand over files on American mass surveillance programmes sent to it by Mr Snowden.
Mr Rusbridger said the computers were turned into “mangled bits of metal” after the incident and warned that the “pointless” vandalism represented part of an increasingly “formidable” effort to curb freedom of the press.
Both the detention of Miranda and the destruction of the computers are clearly intimidation tactics, the message of which is clear: You are nothing, you are powerless before the state, you continue to exist only at our sufferance.
Hyperbole? An overreaction on my part? Would it were so.
Click here to read the reaction of Guardian Editor Alan Rusbridger to this bald flexing of state power.
As well, Glenn Greenwald's reaction to the state's mistreatment of his partner is one of defiance and contempt:
Even the Mafia had ethical rules against targeting the family members of people they felt threatened by. But the UK puppets and their owners in the US national security state obviously are unconstrained by even those minimal scruples.
If the UK and US governments believe that tactics like this are going to deter or intimidate us in any way from continuing to report aggressively on what these documents reveal, they are beyond deluded. If anything, it will have only the opposite effect: to embolden us even further. Beyond that, every time the US and UK governments show their true character to the world - when they prevent the Bolivian President's plane from flying safely home, when they threaten journalists with prosecution, when they engage in behavior like what they did today - all they do is helpfully underscore why it's so dangerous to allow them to exercise vast, unchecked spying power in the dark.
You can read Greenwald's entire piece here.
Monday, August 19, 2013
Sunday, August 18, 2013
For anyone still under the illusion that our rights and freedoms are sacred trusts protected by our democracies, you might want to read this little item, the beginning of what I suspect will be a very long period of payback for Glenn Greenwald's act of bringing Edward Snowden's inconvenient truths to the world's attention.
H/t Min Reyes
Machiavelli wrote: “Those who governed the state of Florence . . . used to say it was necessary to reconstitute the government every five years . . . otherwise it was difficult to maintain it.”
What brings down all holders of significant public office in the end is hubris. There is no escape, no way out, whether in an oligarchy or a democracy. Once they are sucked into the maelstrom embrace of the “government machine,” they are inevitably cut off from the real world with the result being hubris ending in a wretched fall from grace.
Monte McMurchy, Toronto
If I were to rob a bank and then get caught, I would be charged and sent to jail, even if I said I would give back the money. So why are politicians not treated the same way when they steal money from the taxpayers? Anyone caught using public funds for their own benefit should receive an automatic jail sentence and forfeit their pension. Implement this rule and anyone in public office would think twice before sliding their hand into our pocket.
Dave Watson, Pickering
Two things consistently strike me about this Senate scandal:
1. Is it not very telling that it is so difficult to specifically define “Senate business” for the purpose of making expense claims?
2. Is it also not very telling that the principal reason for retaining the Senate repeatedly given by many observers is the fact that it would be so difficult constitutionally to abolish it?
Hmmm. We can’t really say what we do, but it might be a pain to get rid of us, so we better keep going. Hardly a ringing endorsement.
Michael Farrell, Oakville
Senator Wallin seems to have the same syndrome as Conrad Black, Bill Clinton, Sheila Copps, Mike Duffy, Patrick Brazeau, Mac Harb and Martha Stewart, etc. She simply will not admit that she ever did anything wrong. Strength and self confidence based on noble principles is one thing, but stubborness. arrogance, and frothing and grunting at the public trough is something else.
Douglas Cornish. Ottawa
And the best for last:
Every time a peace tower bell rings Pamela Wallin gets her wings to fly anywhere at the public’s expense. Oh it’s a wonderful life!
Terry Toll, Campbell’s Bay, Que.
UPDATE: For those who can't get enough of the shenanigans transpiring in our chamber of sober second thought, Bruce Anderson offers an interesting perspective in The Globe.
Saturday, August 17, 2013
A Saturday Night Special: On Friday Night News Dumps, Lamar Alexander's Shirts, And Other Weighty Matters
Yesterday I write a brief post expressing my disdain for the fact that Peter MacKay and his family are on the cover of the 'celebrity' magazine Hello! Canada. That disdain springs not only from his incompetent and dishonest performance on more than one occasion as a long-standing cabinet minister in the Harper government, but also from the fact that were it not for MacKays patent lack of integrity, the Conservative Party of Canada would not exist today.
Serendipitously, I came upon a podcast hosted by Global Research marking the ten years that have elapsed since Peter MacKay's betrayal led to end of the Progressive Conservative Party and the birth of the Harper mutation known as the Conservative Party of Canada. The rest, as they say, is history, albeit a sad one for many of us who care about this country.
An introduction to the podcast, written by Marjaleena Repo and Michael Welch, reminds us of some of the sordid history behind the incarnation of today's party:
David Orchard contested the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party back in 2003. Orchard relied on the support of grass-roots people, myself among them, who were opposed to government policies on free trade, environmental neglect, and Canadian support for imperial wars abroad. 
It was through Orchard’s support that Peter Mackay became leader of the party. Mackay then betrayed the condition of Orchard’s support by orchestrating a merger with the right-wing US-Republican style Canadian Alliance Party, which was then led by Stephen Harper. 
This betrayal, in addition to some of the other shenanigans which played out in the months during the leadership campaign and leading up to the vote to merge the parties in December provides a critical context for assessing this party’s commitment to ethics, responsible conduct and fair play.
An example of the shenanigans?
“They would do all kinds of things…Organizing meetings that didn’t happen or people would go to a delegate selection meeting and the address was a pawn shop in Regina so people stood at the street corner waiting for something and nobody came…There was a kind of planned confusion…by people who really wanted us to stay out, and I think these people were people who wanted the party to be taken over.” Orchard campaign manager and political advisor Marjaleena Repo
While dirty politics is hardly something MacKay invented, I feel a special animus toward him due to the long-term effects of his dishonourable behaviour.
You can listen to or download the podcast here.
UPDATE: I see that MacKay, the new Minister of Justice, is continuing his duplicity. In reference to American justice trends during an interview, he insists that Canada is moving in a very progressive way, despite the evidence that proves otherwise, evidence that MacKay dismisses as “partisan rhetoric”:
“They’re [the U.S.]talking about moving away from very harsh sentences that were handed down for, in some cases, simple possession. That we’ve already done, [This bold lie ignores the fact that growing six pot plants now requires a minimum six month sentence under Harper reforms] but there will remain very severe penalties in the U.S., in fact more severe than in Canada, for trafficking in narcotics and that is an area in which our government feels very strongly.”
Despite cuts to prisoner work programs and new rules that make it harder for ex-convicts to obtain pardons, MacKay maintains Canada’s approach is “balanced” and “doesn’t lose sight of the need to rehabilitate.”
To read the full extent of Peter's prevarications, click here.
Friday, August 16, 2013
Even if you only have a few minutes to spare, I would urge you to watch at least part of the following video, and read the accompanying story on Alternet.
This is what graces its current cover:
Impoverished indeed are we as a nation* if a minister as consistently and profoundly incompetent as Peter MacKay and his family are deemed worthy of celebrity status.
* Special thanks to Yoda for permission to use his always arresting syntax.
Thursday, August 15, 2013
For those appalled by Russia's rampant homophobia (and I hope that's everyone, Real Women notwithstanding), The Star's Judith Timson has a column in today's paper well-worth reading.
By the way, speaking of Real Women, The Star's David Macfarlane has two choice words for them.
Happily, the agenda clumsily yet avidly embraced by Mr. Hudak and his federal brethren is transparent to many, as the following Star letter makes clear:
Re: A Conservative banner you won’t see, Aug. 10
Susan Delacourt misses the point. While home ownership is the dream of all middle-class and would-be middle-class Canadians, the changes to tougher mortgage restrictions by the Conservative government is not the problem. The problem is that fiscal Conservatives like Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mayor Rob Ford, not to mention the wanabee premier Tim Hudak, bash unions and are thereby responsible for the loss of middle class and fair wage jobs.
In the name of fiscal responsibility we have seen in the last decade the radical decline of good paying employment. Unions protect not only their members but, by raising the bar on wages and benefits, also protect non-members. But, these fiscal elites bash unions and give jobs to the minimum-wage-paying private for profit sector.
The real culprit in the decline of the middle class and the smashing of their dreams is not changes to mortgage lending, but rather the overall decline of wages and salaries. The growth in wealth of the 1 per cent does not make for a sound economy. Unions are the major defence against the one-sided economy we now have.
If the middle class hopes to regain some of its vitality (and surely the entire country depends on this) then it’s time for union bashing to end. Conservatives like the prime minister and the mayor and Mr. Hudak believe that divide and conquer, by creating jealousy on the part of non-union workers of those lucky enough to be protected by group action, is the way to keep wealth in the hands of the few. That’s the secret agenda.
It’s really time the electorate woke up to this Machiavellian plan and took back their power.
Stephen L. Bloom, Toronto
While I periodically enjoy making sport of what I sometimes refer to as crazy old evangelicals (a distinction I make out of respect to the sincere and well-intentioned ones) and fundamentalists who espouse views that are an egregious insult to people's intelligence, I am by and large a person who is of the opinion that everyone has a right to their own beliefs, as long as they don't try to inflict them on others. I have my own spiritual convictions, but I don't see it as my role to proselytize.
But people cross the line when they insist that their views should form the blueprint for the way people conduct themselves. Evangelical pastor Scott Lively of Massachusetts is one such person who has crossed that line.
As reported in The Raw Story, Lively is facing charges of crimes against humanity, accused of violating international law by inciting the persecution of LGBT individuals in Uganda.
Lively attended an anti-gay conference entitled “Seminar on Exposing the Homosexual Agenda” in 2009 in which he accused gays and lesbians of having genocidal tendencies. His lecture lead [sic] to the introduction of the bill, the lawsuit claimed.
Lively denies having any role in the hateful legislation, and says the lawsuit “boils down to nothing more than an attempt to define my Biblical views against homosexuality as a crime.”
If you have the stomach for it, you can read more about Lively's self-pitying justifications for his religious ardour on his blog.
Unless you are of unusually robust constitution, I suggest you read it sparingly.
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
By the way, Gordon Klingenschmitt, as you will see if you click on the link, has had an interesting career.
It was a comment yesterday that The Mound of Sound (a.k.a. The Disaffected Lib) made in response to a cartoon I posted depicting the much beleaguered Senator Wallin that made me think. He reminded me of an earlier time when there was honour associated with public service, and expressed the hope that Harper's poisonous partisanship is something that we will eventually recover from.
I have been following politics for a very long time, something that no doubt partially accounts for my deep cynicism. I am well-aware that the current scandals engulfing the notorious quartet of senators under investigation cannot be seen as an indictment of the entire institution; in fact, in many ways it is a mere diversion, or at best a sensational tip of the iceberg, of much deeper problems plaguing our democracy, problems that have only worsened under the dark reign of the Harper cabal, problems that may seem irrelevant to the majority but are in fact threatening the kind of life and values that we enjoy as Canadians.
Yet my gratification at the public squirming of people like Wallin and Duffy is deep and abiding. Mound's comments set me to thinking about why. In my daily life, I like to think that I have a reasonable amount of empathy for others. Why is it totally absent when it comes to public figures who hold authority? Why does the betrayal of public trust, the abuse of power, inflame me so much? I think there are likely three reasons:
Having been 'taught' in the Catholic school systems many years ago, I and many of my fellow students were regularly subjected to both physical and verbal abuse by our teachers, abuse that began in elementary school, only to be intensified at the secondary level. It took me many many years to overcome my anger and bitterness over that mistreatment.
As a teacher, I was keenly aware of the responsibility and trust the position entailed. Almost all of the people I worked with over the years respected that trust. All of us knew that the rare instances in which it was violated reflected badly on all of us. it was a trust we did not take lightly.
Also during my teaching career, I was witness to administrative abuse of authority, decisions made that favoured students and their parents in the effort to stave off parental complaints that could impede their upward career trajectory. Once, I was myself the victim of a vindictive principal who disciplined me with an insubordination charge for the campaign I mounted to get a candy vending machine removed from beside my classroom due to the noise and distraction it caused, as well as what I considered to be the inappropriate commercialization of an academic area. It was a charge I later successfully fought and had removed from my record.
So I guess my point is a public justification for the animus I hold against people in high places who treat others, mainly the electorate, with contempt. Stephen Harper does it, his acolytes do it, as do his Senate appointees. I ardently look forward to their fall, but hope the damage they have done to people's faith is not irreparable.
For those interested, Rosie DiManno has Ms Wallin in her sights today, as does Tim Harper. As well, the Star editorializes on how all of this reflects very very badly on our Prime Minister and his abysmal judgement in appointing three of the four senators now at the receiving end of profound public odium.
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
The video that follows was made by Canadian Doctors For Medicare, who are advocating for a national pharmacare program, something that a country as rich as ours could well-afford. It is a logical and necessary extension of our national healthcare. In fact, according to an article in The National Post,
Canada is one of the few developed countries in the world without a universal pharmacare program, and we are the only country in the world with a universal medicare system that excludes prescription drugs (as if pharmaceuticals are not an essential element of medical treatment). Each year, a staggering 10% of Canadians cannot fill a prescription due to financial reasons.
Instead of a consistent and uniform standard throughout the country, Canada has a patchwork of provincial programmes that may or may not meet people's needs. During the 12 years I lived in Manitoba in the 70's and 80's, for example, I enjoyed its pharmacare coverage which, at the time, as I recall, had a standard deductible of only $80. While things have changed somewhat in the interim, with the deductible now a percentage of family income, it is far superior to what other Canadian jurisdictions offer.
A sharp contrast is found in Ontario, where I now live; only people over 65 qualify for general coverage. Other groups, depending upon their level of poverty or their special needs, can access some coverage through other programmes.
For a breakdown of what is available in the other provinces and the Territories, click here.
That we do not have a national program offering universal access should be a source of shame. Perhaps if we are ever fortunate enough to elect a government that cares more about the well-being of its citizens than it does about bloated corporate profits, things will change.
Monday, August 12, 2013
Re: Hiking the minimum wage, Letter, Aug. 9
In his letter, Doug Stewart seems to be forgetting one very important thing. The economy depends on people spending money. If someone is paid so little they can’t afford the basics, they not only will not have much to contribute to the economy and taxes, they will also become a burden on the taxpayer. Do those in the Timmy’s drive-through, sitting in their big SUVs, really need the few pennies they save by being served by those earning poverty wages? Why is that person behind the counter also not entitled to be able to buy things? You might also take a look at Walmart. It’s a very large and successful company. Its owners are among the richest people in the U.S. Yet, their employees often have to rely on the state for things like adequate food and health care. In Wisconsin, a Walmart employee is estimated to cost the taxpayer some $5,000 per year in state benefits. California is working on a law to fine Walmart every time an employee has to rely on medicaid. This is that you get when you don’t pay people enough to support themselves. The taxpayer winds up subsidizing the employer. Is that really what you want?
James Knott, Mississauga
By examining the experience of Australia and some European countries, this video offers a useful counterbalance to the propaganda that permeates the mainstream media about minimum wages:
UPDATE: Thom Hartman adds additional facts that show how wrong companies like Walmart are in bleeding their workers while at the same time being subsidized by the taxpayer.
Yesterday I wrote an entry offering my opinion on why Ontarians are not embracing Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak as the economic messiah he purports to be. Fellow blogger ThinkingManNeil offered a concise and insightful comment on Hudak's problem, which I am posting as a separate entry here:
I think that another reason that Ontarians are reluctant to give Hudak the reins of power is that most most people who remember the Harris regime really remember seeing no tangible benefits from it. Hospitals were closed, teachers and nurses were fired by the truckload, the deregulation free for all (free fall?) gave us Walkerton, the riots at Queen's Park and the execution of Dudley George, workfare that promised job training but was more like punitive community service (aka forced labour litter collection), and seeing valuable provincial assets sold off such as the cash cow 407 highway. And all the while the only beneficiaries of these changes seem to have been the Bay Street set. Now in Sparky McAusterity we see someone even more doctrinaire than Harris, and short of Ford Nation or the Harper Reich I think most folks a pretty leery of seeing a "Common Sense Revolution" on steroids...
Sunday, August 11, 2013
I realize that the subject of Ontario politics is likely of little interest to those residing outside of the province. Yet I can't help but think that the dynamics at work here are not much different than anywhere else in the country, especially when one is talking about the qualities that make for an effective political leader.
In today's edition of The Star, Michael Taube, a political analyst and former speechwriter for Stephen Harper, offers his opinion as to why it is imperative that Tim Hudak, the leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, should step down as soon as possible. The reasons he adduces for this position, in my view, miss the larger problem epitomized by people like Hudak.
Essentially, his indictment of the hapless Hudak revolves around the contention that he doesn’t have the personality, strategic skills or the common touch that [Mike] Harris cobbled together in two successive majority governments.:
Hudak flip-flopped on seemingly solid policy positions, including opposing the HST, eliminating human rights commissions and removing the health tax. His proposal for a public sex-offender registry should have been a no-brainer, but was sold poorly and turned out to be a negative factor. Opposition rivals claimed Hudak has similar policies to the U.S. Tea Party movement, and he just couldn’t escape the comparison. He even caused a communications nightmare for his party by using a loaded term “foreign workers” when opposing a Liberal plan for a $10,000 tax credit for first-time hires of immigrants.
Such an analysis strikes me as shallow and incomplete at best. While it is true that young Tim has failed to inspire confidence in the electorate, Taube's narrow ideological lens suggests that a good portion of Ontario is awaiting a leader who steadfastly projects the kind of right-wing values epitomized by Mike Harris, unquestionably the most divisive and, in my view, detested premier Ontario has ever seen. I give the electorate here a little more credit than that.
Judging by the fact that the NDP under Andrea Horwath has made some impressive gains in the province, and current Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne has inspired some respect for her willingness to raise difficult questions about transportation funding, my thought is that the voters of this province are more progressive and savvy than Taube gives them credit for. They are not looking for a return to the mean-spirited and ideologically-driven agenda so lustily embraced by Mike Harris; they are tired of the right-wing bromides that promise everything and deliver little more than misery for the masses and profligate perks for the privileged. They are hungry for policies that will be of use and relevance to themselves and their fellow citizens.
The fact that the Liberals were not trounced in all five recent by elections suggests that despite the many scandals they have been involved in, the electorate still regards them and the NDP as far preferable to the kind of anti-union, pro-corporate policies propagated by the province's right wing.
May I suggest that the time for reactionary political parties as represented by the likes of Tim Hudak is passing quickly?
Saturday, August 10, 2013
I was reminded of that sentiment today as I was editing a loan description for Kiva, a microfinance organization with which I volunteer. The woman requesting the loan lives in a slum in Nairobi, Kenya, where she wants to buy something called a Fresh Life Toilet, which provides a rather simple yet elegant solution to the problem of waste disposal, a problem of especially pressing concern in many developing countries, especially in their slums, where access to sanitation facilities can be quite limited, leading to soil and river pollution.
After editing the loan, I did some research on the device, which is mentioned in the following very informative video:
While I have written about the good that Kiva does in a few past posts, I once again invite readers to check it out for themselves. A loan of as little as $25 is a tangible way to do a lot of good in a world that sorely needs it.
In today's Star, there is a spirited discussion in a lengthy series of letters that explore this topic, two of which I will reproduce below. As well, CNN's Sanjay Gupta, in a column on the CNN website, explains what led him to apologize for his earlier condemnation of pot for medicinal purposes. A brief video of his explanation follows.
Re: Legalizing pot, endorsing stupidity, Aug. 7
Is this column about the inappropriateness of legalizing pot or the shortcomings of Justin Trudeau as the Liberal leader? Trudeau is “the political embodiment of stupid?” Because Trudeau has an alternative to the time-consuming expense of policing the use and possession of pot, Rosie DiManno has chosen to ridicule JustinTrudeau by suggesting that “maybe he should fire up a reefer and ponder it some more,” in reference the fact that his thinking about dope has “evolved.”
I have never tried pot and never had the inclination to do so. Quitting “regular”cigarettes was, for me, difficult enough. The smell of this substance is nauseating to me when I have had the misfortune to be near someone who was smoking it.
But I think that Mr. Trudeau has an idea worth considering. By not having pot legalized, we are ensuring that some young people, who may be in possession of this drug when stopped by police, could be be saddled with a criminal record that will affect their future employment.
The financial savings alone would merit the legalization of pot. The police would be free to pursue more important criminal matters. The load on the court system would be lightened. There would be more room in our jails for “real” criminals.
Finally, if legalized, the tax revenues could be comparable to those collected by the LCBO. Could we actually see a PCBO, or an MCBO?
“What about driving whilst high?” Ms DiManno asks. I believe that some police forces are now in possession of a “marijuana version of the breathalyzer” that was developed in Sweden. It can detect 12 different controlled substances including methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, morphine and of course, marijuana. Apparently, this test is equally as accurate as blood and urine tests. Therefore motorists using legalized marijuana would be subject to the same restrictions as motorists using legal alcohol.
Unauthorized growing of marijuana would remain a criminal offense, the same as bootlegging and cigarette smuggling.
I agree with Ms DiManno’s final statement that “Canada already has way too much stupidity,” but I don’t agree that Justin Trudeau’s idea of marijuana decriminalization is a part of that stupidity.
Warren Dalton, Scarborough
I agree with you that Justin Trudeau owes it to Canadians to explain how his legalizing marijuana would actually work. I have problems following his rationale for legalization. It seems to be his belief that by legalizing and regulating pot that will keep it out of the hands of our youth. We all know how successful that has been keeping tobacco and alcohol out of the hands of young people.
Not only that, in both cases legalization has resulted in a black market for both substances, with the entrance of organized criminal elements. I can see the same thing happening if we follow the same path with marihuana.
The other aspect Mr. Trudeau seems to ignore is that today’s hydroponically produced marijuana is many times more potent than that produced in the past. This makes it more likely to lead to addiction, adding even more problems to our struggling healthcare system.
I think Mr. Trudeau should rethink this subject before pushing ahead.
Larry Comeau, Ottawa
Friday, August 9, 2013
For example, police are known to arrive at courtrooms en masse when one of their own is under judicial scrutiny. An egregious example occurred earlier this year when both a criminal lawyer and her client allege intimidation occurred during the trial of Raymond Costain on charges of impaired driving and assault to resist arrest; these charges followed Costain's severe beating by police in an episode captured on video:
Leora Shemesh, defence lawyer for Raymond Costain, tells a tale of what can only be described as collective police intimidation:
Shemesh said officers showed up en masse at court, surrounded her and Costain in an elevator, followed her to her car after a hearing and even took cellphone pictures of her in the courthouse.
The judge, Ford Clements, eventually tossed out the charges against Costain, but also experienced some truculence at the hands of the police"
When the camera incident was raised in court, it caused such an uproar it almost brought the case to a halt, she said.
The officer who took the picture was put on the witness stand and refused to show the judge his cellphone to prove he had not taken the picture. Shemesh said it so enraged the judge that he raised his voice with the officer before ordering him out of the courtroom, raising questions about whether the judge should recuse himself.
Yet police muscle extends far beyond the street and the courtroom. In response to Durham Police Detective Dennis Scott's attempt yesterday to intimidate Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin via Twitter, The Star's Rosie Dimanno has a column today that reveals something truly chilling about the 'long arm of the law." It is an arm that reaches into the very heart of our democracy, our government, revealed in the latter's reaction to Marin's proposal, in 2011, that the SIU (Special Investigations Unit) be taken out of the Police Services Act so it can operate as an entirely independent body:
“Take the SIU out of the PSA, with consequences for failure to co-operate. If you don’t co-operate with the SIU, you face prosecution — that simple.” This, of course, would not apply to subject officers, who would retain the right to silence shared by civilians.
In Marin's view, that would end the frequent roadblocks to investigations of the police, who frequently simply refuse to co-operate with any probes conducted by the SIU under its current legislative configuration.
The reaction of the Ontario government to this proposal? An internal Ministry of the Attorney General briefing note is telling:
“As you know, the decision was made at the time of the Report’s release that — largely due to vehement police opposition — we will not be considering the recommended legislative changes in the near term.
The note goes on:
“At some point, we may have to communicate that we will not be legislating, however that time is not now. Marin typically does not conduct any public communications regarding ‘report-backs’ — he usually gets his media hit off report releases and then moves on. We need not be overly concerned that he will criticize us on the basis of this letter.”
The motto of the Toronto Police Force, and many others, is To Serve and Protect. Perhaps it is time for civilians to ask to whom this motto is really meant to apply.
UPDATE: Many thanks to ThinkingManNeil for pointing out the following video entitled Cherry Beach, the reference, as explained here, being as follows:
The song is about local lore of how the Toronto police used Cherry Beach as a location to beat suspects. The police tried to have the song banned. Hardcore punk band Career Suicide also references the slang phrase "Cherry Beach express" (referring to the supposed police practice) in their song "Cherry Beach".
Thursday, August 8, 2013
- Staff Sergeant Dan Richardson, Peel Regional Police
While I am well-aware that there are two sides to every story, I can't help but think that the experience of this Hamilton family is consistent with a dismayingly familiar pattern: police abuse of authority, arrogance, and a measure of contempt for the public they 'serve'.
Andre Marin, Ontario's Ombudsman, found this out after announcing he was planning to investigate the province’s direction to police on de-escalating conflict situations in light of the police killing of Sammy Yatim.
According to a report in The National Post, a Durham police detective, Dennis Scott, opened a Twitter account under a pseudonym so that he could call Marin a carded member of Al Qaida. With what I guess passes for original thought amongst the constabulary, Scott went on to call the ombudsman “a complete douche bag!” and had this suggestion: “Why don’t you stick your big French nose up your ass instead of business where it doesn’t belong.”
Toronto city councillor, who was critical of the police killing, was also the recipient of advice from Scott:
“You are a real expert, huh? Douchebag city councillor? Were you there? You need to keep your idiotic thoughts to yourself.”
Durham Police Deputy Chief Paul Martin tweeted that he is investigating these disturbing allegations.
I'm sure that will set everything to rights.
When you are leading a major provincial political party, it is never a good sign when the country's largest-circulating newpaper makes editorial sport of you:
Memo to Tim Hudak: Please stay as Ontario PC leader: Editorial
You lost an Ontario election in 2011 that you were to supposed to win; failed in two byelections last year; and dropped four out of five this month against a tired and scandal-prone government. But so what? You’re Tim Hudak, head of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, and winning isn’t everything.
Ignore the growing number of Tories worried they’ll never achieve power as long as you’re at the helm. Naysayers. They’re troubled by your persistent and well-documented failure to connect with Ontario voters. The electorate doesn’t seem to trust you.
Never mind. People of good judgment realize Ontario is best served by having a leader with your special touch continue to steer the PC party. Yes, Tory petitions are circulating calling for a leadership review, with the aim of dumping you. But cheer up. The good news is they are likely to fail. With any luck, Ontarians will have the option of not giving Tim Hudak their vote for a long time to come.