Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Monday, June 29, 2015
The Trans Pacific Partnership is a zombie that refuses to die no matter how many stakes are driven through its heart. Today the Senate voted 60 to 37 in favor of “fast track” negotiating authority, and final passage of fast track is expected tomorrow – laying the groundwork for an up-or-down vote on the TPP without amendment or full discussion. The big global corporations and Wall Street banks that initiated and have lobbied hard for this anti-worker deal smell victory. Don’t let them have it. Please call your senators and representative now, even if you’ve phoned before, and tell them: No to fast-track and no to the Trans Pacific Partnership. Congressional switchboard: 202-225-3121. Here, again, is what’s at stake:Posted by Robert Reich on Tuesday, June 23, 2015
For your Monday discernment, I offer this volley of wise observations about that unrepentant felon, Dean Del Mastro, from the usual suspects - Toronto Star readers:
Re: Ex-Tory MP Del Mastro sentenced to month in jail, June 26
Finally a crooked Conservative gets a jail sentence, proclaiming his innocence all the way. In fact, he has the nerve to say, “that’s her opinion,” when the judge declared him guilty of election fraud. Yes, Dean Del Mastro, that is her opinion, her legal opinion, that is.
When is Stephen Harper going to learn that blind loyalty to him isn’t half as important as being honest? I also wonder when all members of the press are going to stop slavishly following Harper around, hoping for some little crumb of a quote when most of us don’t care where he is or what he says.
In fact, since he seems to have a personal vendetta against the general public, why not just ignore him altogether and let his own spin doctors continue to spew the B.S. that he thinks we’re all going to believe.
I am really tired of the deterioration of my country’s standards and the chipping away of our democracy so that one person can wake up every day feeling in control. Mr. Harper, I can hardly wait until October when you face all of the voters whose jobs and rights you have so easily destroyed.
Of course then you will move on to all those oil and mining company boards whose stock holders you have so nicely taken care of. As long as you are not in Ottawa anymore.
Roseanne Quinn, Trenton
I find Dean Del Mastro’s behaviour in actively and most wilfully attempting to suborn the Canadian electoral process by committing electoral fraud and his failure to accept responsibility for his actions profoundly unsettling. Elections are a civic matter grounded in civic social trust and any breach in this trust is indeed most profoundly appalling.
Monte McMurchy, LL.D., Toronto
During his trial, and afterwards, Dean Del Mastro was not repentant and has shown no remorse for breaking the country’s election laws. His stupid, illegal behaviour has caused irrevocable damage to himself, his constituents, Parliament and the country.
That said, he should have been given a conditional sentence. The conditional sentence of imprisonment (or CSI) was introduced in Canada in 1996 as an alternate form of incarceration subject to specific criteria. It is not, as some assume, the same as probation.
In 2000, the Supreme Court clarified its use and differentiated it from probation. When the sentence is a term of imprisonment of less than two years, an offender deemed not to pose a danger to society is allowed to remain in the community, but with a more stringent set of conditions than offenders on parole. The offender must abide by a number of typically punitive conditions, such as house arrest and a strict curfew. If a condition is broken without a lawful excuse, the offender may well serve out the rest of the sentence in prison.
House arrest conditions can be designed to address the factors that led to the offence in the first place. Moreover, some conditional sentences force the offender to make reparations to the victim and the community while living under tight controls. Conditional sentences sustain Canada’s tradition of granting discretion and independence to the judiciary.
Canada’s growing prison population, mounting evidence that jail time does not reduce the chances of re-offending and other factors gave way to an increasing use of conditional sentences.
The illegal, stupid and irresponsible behaviour that Del Mastro indulged in that led to the charges can only be described as “tragic and senseless.” But the question must be asked: what would jail time accomplish that a conditional sentence could not accomplish?
In 2008-09, according to Statistics Canada, the number of offenders serving conditional sentences was 13,500 — a not insignificant number.
Denunciation and imprisonment satisfy society’s desire to punish offenders and reinforce shared values by deterring crime. However, there is little evidence to support the general deterrence argument — that is, that the more severe the punishment, the greater the deterrent effect. Research simply does not support that proposition.
Emile Therien, Ottawa
The Conservative law and order plan finally kicks in.
Bob Larocque, Carrying Place
Sunday, June 28, 2015
In the following video, which gets really interesting at the four-minute mark, a principled Tom Clark pursues the irritating gnat over his party's use of terrorist imagery in its latest political ad, an apparent contravention of his leader's Bill C-51 anti-terror legislation. You will see that Teneycke is no match for the tenacious Clark.
Saturday, June 27, 2015
Change can only come when the young show that they are indeed a force to be reckoned with. I discovered a site yesterday that makes specific appeal to that demographic. Check it out, and if you know any young potential voters, send it along to them. Below is a sample of how Harpoon 2015 is approaching the problem.
Friday, June 26, 2015
As reported by CTV,
A new Conservative attack ad takes aim at Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s position on the mission against the Islamic State, but it uses the terrorist group’s own horrifying propaganda images.Given its pattern of skirting and breaking laws, this may be of no great concern to the Harper regime. But perhaps this will give the apparatchik pause:
In the online ad, posted on the Conservative Party’s Facebook page, Trudeau is shown in a CBC interview saying he would end the CF-18 bombing campaign against the terrorist group, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
The ad uses Islamic State propaganda, including gruesome images of prisoners facing death by drowning and beheading -- and those images may actually violate the government’s own anti-terror law.
Advertising executive Tony Chapman wondered how the uses of ISIS imagery would help the Conservatives score political points.While the exploitation of fear is nothing new to the Conservatives, perhaps this latest example will provoke the backlash it so roundly deserves:
“Not only are they providing free advertising for ISIS, they’re completely offside and driving Canadian politics to a new low,” said Tony Chapman.
On the same day that ISIS releases yet another barbaric video, Justin Trudeau promises to stop bombing ISIS. He’s clearly just not ready for the serious job of Prime Minister.Posted by Conservative Party of Canada - Parti conservateur du Canada on Thursday, June 25, 2015
These questions and others are raised in a documentary shown on The National the other night. The drug in question, Solaris, costs over $600 thousand per year to save the life of one person.
As you will see, parents and other loved ones are put into untenable positions, making them easy pawns for what some would say are unfair pharmaceutical practices. That being said, I would do exactly what they are doing to save someone close to me.
You decide the ethics here:
Thursday, June 25, 2015
Click hear to learn about pastor Rick Scarborough's plan to defend 'traditional marriage.'
Would it be wrong of me to offer this 'man of God' some waterproof matches?
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Consider the following from The Young Turks' Cenk Uygur, who argues that the secrecy behind the negotiations is understandable, given that its benefits will redound not to the people, but to the multinational corporations. While speaking from an American perspective, his observations are equally applicable to Canada:
As well, Star readers sound these notes of caution about free trade agreements:
Trade pact coming, despite opposition, June 19
David Olive’s championing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is so wrong-headed, I hardly know where to begin. In suggesting that state authority and power in developing countries should rather give way to corporate power, he is doubling down on the proven dysfunction of such corporate hegemony, in terms of income inequality, and the impact on workers and the environmental.
To suggest that countries will be better off in a corporate-dominated world is naive at best. His assertion that Canada has really done fine as a result of free trade so far is also an amazingly blinkered view of reality.
Even measured in that narrowest of measures, GDP, we have not done as well in the last 20 years as we did in the “protectionist” era of the 1950s through 1970s. When you look at distribution of this GDP, it is obvious that middle class families have not benefited at all.
John Simke, Toronto
Free-trade agreements are based on the premise that if every country exports what it makes most efficiently and if governments clear the way for market forces to engage in transactions, then everyone will be better off. However, in practice, only multi-national corporations have benefited from free-trade agreements as national interests are undermined.
Taxes are lowered, public services are cut, wages are downgraded, environmental protection is weakened, and regulations are abolished. In short, economic activities have taken precedent over other considerations, such as social justice and national democratic mandates.
The European and North American experiences have shown how, under free trade, governments lose the ability to be responsive to the national needs. Under NAFTA, the Chapter 11 clause has allowed investors to launch successful legal challenges against governments, undermining their efforts to enforce environmental, health or safety standards.
The free trade arrangements worked for the West in the follow up to World War II. However, in the complex 21st century world, they are no longer working. We should come up with a way to regulate the damage done by free trade without undermining its advantages.
Ali Orang, Richmond Hill
Trade deals a big threat to Medicare, Letter June 21
I sincerely hope that the Star is mustering its considerable investigative talents to check out the alarming allegations in Professor Meyer Brownstone’s letter. He claims that the new Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) “includes health among services to be shifted to the corporate sector in a wholesale global privatization process that includes education, prisons and other public services.” He also claims that “all participants are sworn to secrecy for five years even if the negotiations fail.”And so the world moves on, not always for the better, while we sleep.
Thanks in advance for your excellent service in this and so many other secretive and complex matters.
Jean Gower, Kingston
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Rarely has a volunteer done so little for so much, some might say.
Another reason Chong should feel profoundly disaffected is the fact that his Reform Act has been gutted, and up to yesterday, looked likely to be killed by the Senate through an odious amendment, despite the fact that it was passed by the House. Fortunately, the bill was passed last night without the amendment.
Here is Michael Chong talking to Terry Milewski about the bill on Power and Politics yesterday that perhaps gives some insight into his thinking:
Monday, June 22, 2015
London, United Kingdom - Activists and trade union leaders have called for a general strike and a mass campaign of civil disobedience to bring down the country's new right-wing government as hundreds of thousands took to the streets of London and other cities to protest against austerity and public service cuts.
Organisers said a quarter of a million people had joined Saturday's march from the Bank of England to the Houses of Parliament, with smaller protests also taking place in Glasgow, Liverpool, and Bristol, and pledged the event was only a beginning.
"We've got to get rid of this government quicker than five years. This government cannot last the full term," Sam Fairbairn, national secretary of the People's Assembly, the anti-austerity campaign group that organised the march, told a rally in Parliament Square.
"Today is just the start of a campaign of protests, of strikes, of direct action and civil disobedience up and down the country. We are going to organise the biggest mass movement this country has ever seen, and it is that mass movement that is going to kick David Cameron out of office."
There is similar anger in Canada over the Harper regime's many abuses of the country's citizens. How can we best mobilize that anger?
Sunday, June 21, 2015
Watch The Sunday Scrum as John consistently, stoutly and steadfastly defends Dear Leader at every turn while opining on matters such as cabinet departures, the Senate scandal involving Don Meredith, and Mr. Harper's refusal to take questions from national reporters.
All in all, Mr. Ibbitson shows he clearly has what it takes to ably represent his master in The Red Chamber.
Saturday, June 20, 2015
In a post last week, I explained the basis for my outrage over Health Minister Rona Ambrose's manufactured rant at the Supreme Court's decision permitting medical marijuana users to ingest their medicine in any form they wish. Reading this morning's Star letters to the editor, I was pleased to see that I am not alone in my reaction to Ms Ambrose and the regime she is a mouthpiece for.
Here are but a few of many excellent missives:
Re: Chill out, minister, Editorial June 14
How ironic is this? Rona Ambrose, health minister in the Harper government, infamous for their disdain for science, invokes science in her rejection of the Supreme Court decision on medical marijuana.
While I happen to agree that much of the medical use of marijuana is not evidence based, the Harper government shows their cynicism in challenging medical marijuana. It’s not a good fit with their popular tough-on-crime agenda, which the evidence shows is expensive, ineffective and cruel.
When this government revitalizes StatsCan, environmental research and protection and evidence based justice then they can legitimately pronounce on marijuana use.
Peter Crosby, Toronto
Kudos to the Supreme Court for legalizing the use of medical marijuana through oils and foods; it is a common-sense decision that will benefit patients across Canada, and have a profound effect on the lives of individuals with the most extreme forms of epilepsy.
For years, too many of our members have been unable to control their seizures with conventional therapies. Medical marijuana has provided seizure control for adults and children, some of whom have gone from having dozens of seizures every day to none. While more research is needed, these anecdotal cases are having a real impact on the lives of many people with epilepsy.
Providing families with the option to use oils and foods to take their medical marijuana instead of being forced to smoke or inhale it gives individuals already living with medical challenges an easier and more sensible way of getting the medication they need.
Drew Woodley, Director of Communications, Epilepsy Toronto
Perhaps Health Minister Rona Ambrose’s sense of outrage about the Supreme Court decision regarding medical marijuana could have been better directed at her boss. If she had done her homework she would have discovered that the Harper government itself cancelled the research component of the medical marijuana program shortly after he took office.
Since he wasn’t able to obliterate the program entirely he quickly began the process of enacting barriers and demonizing users. Ironically if he had known then that he would later learn to muzzle scientific communications at will, he could have let the research go on, comfortable that any unwanted positive findings would never be heard.
It is so like this government to be so easily outraged when frustrated, much like a toddler.
Steven Gaber, Toronto
Health Minister Rona Ambrose is “outraged” that the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that marijuana can be legally consumed in forms other than smoking. “This is not a drug,” she said. “This is not medicine.”
Such breathtakingly ill-informed statements coming out of the mouth of a so-called health minister is appalling. I wonder if she would be willing to repeat such canards to all of the children with debilitating forms of epilepsy who are helped through the ingestion of small amounts of various cannabis preparations? Perhaps she could embrace one of these children in her motherly arms as they suffer yet another seizure, maybe offer them a joint?
Strains of low or no THC marijuana that are high in cannabidiol (CBD) have been developed and have proven remarkably effective at controlling not only seizures, but providing relief from neuropathic pain, PTSD, Crohn’s disease, and nausea as a result of chemotherapy, to name but a few. The loving minister, however, appears to be wantonly ignorant of such developments to the point of unmitigated callousness.
Ambrose goes on to say “There’s very harmful effects of marijuana, especially on our youth.” Really? Would the good madame care to list them?
I applaud the Supreme Court and the wisdom of its decision. If only such sage reasoning could be instilled elsewhere, beginning with the health minister’s office.
Walter Ross, West Richland, Wash.
Friday, June 19, 2015
In yesterday's post, I wrote about Angel Reyes, the 61-year-old member of the precariat terminated from his five-year 'temp' job at a recycling company one week after speaking to The Star about his inability to secure a full-time designation for the work he was doing, which meant that he was paid minimum wage while those classified as permanent at the plant made much more.
Unfortunately, Reyes is but one of many unable to escape the cycle of poverty and uncertain work, a situation aided and abetted by provincial regulations that seem to pay obeisance to the business imperative, an imperative that enhances corporate profits while exploiting workers.
Consider these facts:
Ontario’s low-wage work force has skyrocketed by 94 percent over the past two decades, compared with just 30 percent growth in total employment, according to a new report.The report, compiled by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives,
It shows that 40 percent of low-wage employees are saddled with unpredictable shifts, and the overwhelming majority do not get paid when they need time off.
shows that the share of Ontario workers labouring for the minimum wage is now five times higher than in 1997. It rose from less than 3 per cent of all employees to about 12 per cent in 2014.Add to that these sobering statistics:
The share of low-paid work has also ballooned: almost a third of all employees in the province are now making within $4 of the minimum wage, compared with less than 20 per cent of the workforce in 1997.
And while more than half of all minimum-wage workers are still young people, most of those making less than $15 an hour are 25 or older.
50.5: Percentage of Ontario employees working less than 40 hours a week
29.4: Percentage of Ontario workers who are low-wage
6.7: Percentage of employees unionized in private-sector businesses with fewer than 20 people
23.7: Percentage of employees unionized in workplaces with 500 or more people
The human face is all-important in truly coming to grips with these statistics. Responding to the above are two Star readers:
Re: Ontario's ‘eye-popping' shift to low-wage work, June 15
This is the second article I’ve read recently about low-wage workers in Ontario becoming the norm. I’m one of those folks. I went from full-time decent pay to part time (15 hours a week) at barely more than minimum wage. Why? Downsizing, loss of work, poorly managed companies. Yet the upper executives and company owners suffering is little to non-existent.
And I have been doing all I can to change that in the last six years by taking college courses. Now, at 50, I feel stuck, marginalized and depressed that there is no way out.
I see my government care less for those who support the infrastructure and more for those in the 1 per cent. How do we fix this? I don’t know, but something needs to change and none of the parties seems to care or have a plan or even address this issue in meaningful ways.
Janet Swainston, Cambridge
Anyone even remotely surprised by the tone of this article clearly hasn’t been paying attention these last 20-odd years. Corporate taxes were slashed, ostensibly to increase profits and free up monies for research and more jobs. That didn’t happen. Jobs have been outsourced and wages have dwindled.
Companies now hire contract employees who are responsible for paying their own taxes, EI, etc. Their continued employment is subject to the whims of their employer.
This is all backed by complicit governments whose sole economic plan seems to be that if they cut corporate taxes it will trickle down to the citizenry.
Escalating corporate bonuses have put to rest the bromide that “when times get tight we must all tighten our belts.” Translation: “You tighten your belts while we loosen ours.”
John Dickie, Toronto
Thursday, June 18, 2015
Human nature is a funny thing, especially in its ability to compartmentalize things. For example, I suspect that the vast majority of us are able to witness the plight of suffering around the world with a certain dispassion; images from halfway across the world of disaster, for example, we are able to process without a great deal of emotional involvement, the mediating influence of geography being a big factor. Statistics show a widening gap between the rich and the poor, but that information is received intellectually, not personally. It is only when the suffering is up close and personal, when we are able to put a particular face to injustice, for example, that we are moved to emotions like sympathy, empathy, even outrage.
The plight of the precariat has the potential to elicit the latter reactions. The Toronto Star has been conducting an ongoing series on the topic, and its individual portrayals of those toiling under low-paying and uncertain jobs has been quite moving. But, perhaps predictably, one of those who spoke to the paper has now experienced retaliation from his employer.
In the May 10 installment of the series, 61-year-old Angel Reyes was profiled. Here is a brief excerpt:
For more than five years, 61-year-old Angel Reyes has woken up five days a week at 3 a.m. and braced himself for eight hours of hauling garbage at a Toronto recycling plant.I remember after reading his and others' stories how long it would be before retaliation was meted out. For Reyes, the day of corporate judgement came just a short time after his story appeared:
The university-educated refugee is the longest-serving worker on the floor, hired through a temp agency more than half a decade ago.
Half a decade and, technically, still a temp.
Half a decade earning minimum wage, never having seen a raise.
Half a decade, and still paid less per hour than his permanent colleagues for doing the same job.
Half a decade, and still no benefits.
Half a decade, and still no obligation for his employer to hire him permanently.
“If hell exists, that is hell,” says Reyes, a father of three who came to Canada in 1993 after he was kidnapped and imprisoned in El Salvador for — ironically — lobbying for workers’ rights.
Just one week after sharing his story with the Star, he was told to finish out the hour at the plant and go home.His de facto employer, Canada Fibres recycling plant, will not discuss his situation, and they are likely able to get away with this reprehensible treatment for a simple reason: technically speaking, Reyes was employed, even after five years at the same job, by a temp agency, United Staffing Services. In Ontario, agencies are considered the “employer of record” for temps. Not that this in any way absolves Canada Fibres of its moral culpability in this very sordid business:
Almost a month later, he has not been called back. He has not received termination pay. And he has not been given a straight answer as to why he was let go.
“I feel so sad, because I’ve been working there for so long,” he says.
When he spoke to the Star in May, Reyes had a simple request for the company: “Hire me.”A spokesman for Canada Fibres, Mark Badger, responded to requests from The Star for comment with the tiresomely predicable non-answer due to "privacy concerns" and the standard platitudes:
Instead, one week later, Reyes and six temporary colleagues were summoned by United Staffing Services, which has an office at the plant itself, and told to go home.
Reached by the Star, Chris Ilkanic of United Staffing said the plant was “downsizing” and that plant management, not the temp agency, decided who to let go.
Ilkanic added the plant manager told him Reyes had appeared in the Star but “didn’t have any problems with it.”
Reyes says when he approached Canada Fibres’ general manager to plead for his job back, he was batted back to the temp agency.
Reyes says he didn’t get an explanation as to why he was let go and former colleagues told him that several of the temps sent home at the same time are now back on the job.
... the company is growing overall and strives to provide a good work environment.Tell that to Angel Reyes, Mr. Badger.
“There are a lot of people who are really proud of what they do here and have worked here for a long time,” he told the Star.
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
When we think of climate change, the first things that may come to mind are our increasingly violent storms and melting Arctic ice. Another, of course, is drought and its ever-widening destructive swath. It is the latter that has led to a new threat:
The world’s largest underground aquifers – a source of fresh water for hundreds of millions of people — are being depleted at alarming rates, according to new NASA satellite data that provides the most detailed picture yet of vital water reserves hidden under the Earth’s surface.The crucial role acquifers play in our lives cannot be overestimated:
Twenty-one of the world’s 37 largest aquifers — in locations from India and China to the United States and France — have passed their sustainability tipping points, meaning more water was removed than replaced during the decade-long study period, researchers announced Tuesday. Thirteen aquifers declined at rates that put them into the most troubled category. The researchers said this indicated a long-term problem that’s likely to worsen as reliance on aquifers grows.
Underground aquifers supply 35 percent of the water used by humans worldwide. Demand is even greater in times of drought. Rain-starved California is currently tapping aquifers for 60 percent of its water use as its rivers and above-ground reservoirs dry up, a steep increase from the usual 40 percent. Some expect water from aquifers will account for virtually every drop of the state’s fresh water supply by year end.It is a problem that cannot be easily remediated, no matter our technology:
Aquifers can take thousands of years to fill up and only slowly recharge with water from snowmelt and rains. Now, as drilling for water has taken off across the globe, the hidden water reservoirs are being stressed.In addition to climate change, the other reasons for the precipitous drop in aquifer levels include heavy agricultural irrigation, mining, and oil and gas exploration.
No one knows how much groundwater is left in the world. This report simply brings to our attention once again the environmental destruction we are all a part of, either directly or indirectly.
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
There are many things we take for granted in our lives: our health, our family, our way of life. Sometimes, changes in those and other areas happen so gradually that we really don't notice until it is too late. The state of democracy, both globally and domestically, is one of those things that, over time, has become grievously imperiled, with the vast majority seeming either not to notice or, perhaps even worse, not to care.
A newspaper report from a few days ago serves as an international illustration. In India, Greenpeace and a multitude of
other NGOs and charities — environmental and other — have been under the government radar since last June, when the Intelligence Bureau leaked a report accusing several foreign-funded NGOs of stalling infrastructure projects.The language of an intelligence report on these organizations is chilling:
The government has also restricted direct transfers of foreign donations.
The report named several activists and organizations but singled out Greenpeace as a “threat to national economic security.” The report also said the global organization was using its “exponential” growth in terms of “reach, impact, volunteers and media influence” to create obstacles in India’s energy plans.The parallels with what is happening at home should be obvious. There is, of course, the Harper use of the CRA to intimidate organizations that are critical of government policies. There is his widely reported muzzling of scientists. And then there are the very worrisome provisions of Bill C-51 that could be used to criminalize dissent. These are just three examples of the tip of a very large iceberg.
Since then, Greenpeace India’s offices have undergone inspections, its bank accounts have been frozen and at least three staffers, including Pillai, have been refused permission to either enter or leave India.
Today's Globe and Mail tells us that a a 66-page report is being issued today that should be of great interest to all Canadians:
The report is being released under the banner of Voices-Voix and its signatories include the heads of Amnesty International Canada, Greenpeace Canada and the former head of Oxfam Canada.The implications for democracy are deeply troubling:
The coalition of 200 organizations and 500 individuals accuses the government of taking away funding or otherwise intimidating organizations that it disagrees with.
It accuses the government of muzzling scientists and public servants and portraying First Nations and aboriginal groups as threats to national security.
...the government is silencing the public policy debate on important issues.The report ends with what is ultimately the ideal of which the Harper regime is the antithesis:
“We have borne witness to hundreds of cases in which individuals, organizations and institutions have been intimidated, defunded, shut down or vilified by the federal government,” the report states.
The report accuses the government of targeting dozens of charities that it deems “too political” for its taste.
It also says the government has undermined the function of Justice Department lawyers by discouraging them from giving important advice to the government.
And it points to the “muzzling” of several government watchdog agencies, citing the sacking of senior leadership at the Canadian Wheat Board and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.
It also accuses the government of undermining the work of the military ombudsman, the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP, the federal commissioner of the environment and the correctional services investigator.
The report says the government has mounted an attack on “evidence-based” policy-making and cites Statistics Canada, which has undergone an 18 per cent staff reduction and $30-million in budget cuts since 2012.
It also takes the government to task for doing away with the long-form census.
“Canadians deserve a vibrant and dynamic democracy and they are capable of building that together,” the report concludes.
“It is the job of government to support those engaged in this task, not undercut and destroy their striving for a better and more inclusive democracy.”If this does not move Canadians, perhaps we are beyond saving.
UPDATE: You can access the full report by going to this website.
As well, environmentalist Paul Watson has not been able to return to Canada since his Canadian passport was seized in Germany in 2012 and turned over to the Canadian embassy in Frankfurt. Canada has refused to return it to him, and Watson believes the decision was driven by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's dislike of environmentalists.
And ThinkingManNeil has provided this link to Paul Watson's story on the outrage.
Monday, June 15, 2015
Despite the over-generalization of my title, it is clear to me that many of rich really are different from the rest of us, not just in terms of their material status, but in the way they relate to the world around them. Yet they fail to recognize their spiritual aridity.
In Matthew, 19:24, Jesus says: "Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."
Now, while some interpret that strictly to mean entering heaven, progressive theologians such as Marcus Borg suggest that it has a very real application in the here and now. The kingdom of God involves communion with our fellow human beings and the world in which we live, a world thirsting for social, economic and environmental justice. When we pursue those goals, say people like Borg, we are entering the Kingdom of God. The wealthy have a harder time of it, probably, because their wealth serves to isolate them from that communion.
And so the rich folk of California have quite a journey ahead of them. According to The Washington Post, despite the terrible drought that pervades the state, they don't think that the state-imposed water restrictions should apply to them:
Drought or no drought, Steve Yuhas resents the idea that it is somehow shameful to be a water hog. If you can pay for it, he argues, you should get your water.The attitude expressed above seems like a clear challenge to Michael J. Sandel's thesis in his book, What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets, wherein he asks if there are indeed moral and social limits to what wealth should give a person access to.
People “should not be forced to live on property with brown lawns, golf on brown courses or apologize for wanting their gardens to be beautiful,” Yuhas fumed recently on social media. “We pay significant property taxes based on where we live,” he added in an interview. “And, no, we’re not all equal when it comes to water.”
Yuhas lives in the ultra-wealthy enclave of Rancho Santa Fe, a bucolic Southern California hamlet of ranches, gated communities and country clubs that guzzles five times more water per capita than the statewide average. In April, after Gov. Jerry Brown (D) called for a 25 percent reduction in water use, consumption in Rancho Santa Fe went up by 9 percent.
Thus far, many of the 3100 residents have ignored the water restrictions, but as of July 1, more substantial financial penalties, and even restricted or terminated access to water, will be imposed. This is leaving them feeling most aggrieved:
“I think we’re being overly penalized, and we’re certainly being overly scrutinized by the world,” said Gay Butler, an interior designer out for a trail ride on her show horse, Bear. She said her water bill averages about $800 a month.Other wealthy communities are feeling similar outrage:
“It angers me because people aren’t looking at the overall picture,” Butler said. “What are we supposed to do, just have dirt around our house on four acres?”
“I call it the war on suburbia,” said Brett Barbre, who lives in the Orange County community of Yorba Linda, another exceptionally wealthy Zip code
“California used to be the land of opportunity and freedom,” Barbre said. “It’s slowly becoming the land of one group telling everybody else how they think everybody should live their lives.”
Jurgen Gramckow, a sod farmer north of Los Angeles in Ventura County, agrees. He likens the freedom to buy water to the freedom to buy gasoline.Clearly, the concept of shared sacrifice for the collective good is an alien one to some people. But to be fair, of course, that is an attitude not limited to one part of the socio-economic strata, is it?
“Some people have a Prius; others have a Suburban,” Gramckow said. “Once the water goes through the meter, it’s yours.”
Sunday, June 14, 2015
While progressives in general, and bloggers in particular, are largely aware of the grave threat that the Harper regime poses to traditional democracy, I am always pleased when that message is conveyed to a larger audience, in this case readers of The Star. In the lead letter, Edward Carson of Toronto sounds the alarm:
Re: PM can't escape effects of Senate spending storm, June 6
Re: Harper’s cold shrug, Editorial June 5
A disturbing and unsettling habit of the Harper government is one of allowing a broad range of right-leaning ideological positions to triumph over historical evidence, empirical data and common sense in many of its strategic social, political, and economic plans.Meanwhile, Keith R. Leckie of Toronto offers this concise assessment of Mr. Harper:
When ideology is made into an operational weapon, or set into a global context, it begins by exploiting the vulnerabilities of those least likely to be able to defend themselves, in addition to overtly attacking those who oppose its doctrines and philosophies.
Throughout its years in power, the Harper government has embraced an ideology dedicated to a gradual, but carefully managed redefinition of Canada’s democratic values and freedoms. Characterized by a resolute, personal control over messaging, coupled with a singular management of policy and operational decisions, Harper’s autocratic style has over time incorporated a range of positions such as: wilful suppression or “re-interpretation” of information; attacks on the media and a devotion to a culture of fear, intimidation and secrecy; repudiation of common ground participation or reasoned compromise with its opponents; and control, misrepresentation, narrowing and elimination of scientific, social and financial researched facts and statistical data through targeted budgetary cutbacks, access limitations, security-inspired censorship and reductions in regulatory oversight.
“Majoritarian democracies,” as recently described by Milton Friedman, are democratically elected ruling parties who “interpret their election as a writ to do whatever they want in office, including ignoring the opposition, trampling privacy rights, choking the news media and otherwise behaving in imperious or corrupt ways, as if democracy is only about the right to vote, not rights in general and especially minority rights.” While referencing far-away politics in places like Egypt and Brazil, Russia and Turkey, that description of democratic rule should nevertheless resonate with many Canadians.
Democracy is at best a temporary gift to those given access to its power. Today, the real accumulating damage to our democracy under the Harper government is that the community of Canada is less and less about a collective “we” and more about a narrowing, ideologically driven realm of limited rights and freedoms, ideas and reforms.
No, we are not yet ruled by the autocratically and often tyrannical “majoritarian” rulers like those found in Egypt and Brazil, Russia and Turkey, but the qualitative differences are closer to those of degree, not of kind. The more we define ourselves through our newly “Harper-managed” democracy, any right we might claim to its moral or ethical high ground is at best a dream we once had, and now must search for once again.
Harper has suggested Omar Khadr is a threat to Canada. Harper has scrapped the Health Accord, ratified FIPA, curtailed civil liberties, audited charities, muzzled scientists, abandoned Kyoto, punished refugees, ordered minimum criminal sentences, ordered super prisons, sold arms to repressive regimes, cancelled census to keep Canadians in the dark, had CRTC slash Canadian content rules, passed Bill C51.
Who is the bigger threat to the Canada we love?
Finally, a young person, A.J. Recana of Whitby, warns us about one of our greatest afflictions, apathy:
Indeed there are diseases in the world that can take away human life in the blink of an eye. But many fail to acknowledge the deadliest disease mankind has ignored: apathy.
We live in a culture where people are more offended by “swear” words than by famine, warfare and environmental destruction. Because of mass corporations and grand media conglomerates, their influence on the human population is substantial.
The saturation of media shapes how humans view the world and comprehend it. Kids today are socialized to be narcissistic when faced with societal, political and environmental issues and therefore have no interest in civic responsibility. Human unity, and the sacredness of the human person have been abolished by exposure to mass media, which has stimulated rates of obesity, depression and anxiety to skyrocket and still grow today.
Imagine if every human being chose one issue he or she cared about the most, and did something about it to eradicate the problem. It is time that we, as young, charismatic generations, turn to political reformation. It is time to take control of our environment, it is time to create our futures, and it is time to wake up.
Saturday, June 13, 2015
Friday, June 12, 2015
In the interests, as they say, of full disclosure, I do have a personal interest in this subject. My wife, for the past few years, suffered intractable and debilitating pain, pain that was relieved neither by over-the-counter medications nor narcotic painkillers. Happily, after recent surgery, most of that pain should be a thing of the past. Her suffering, however, was a disillusioning revelation to both of us; we had always assumed that most pain could be managed as long as doctors were willing to prescribe the necessary amounts of medication. This is not the case.
While I cannot say for certain that medical pot would have provided the sought-after relief, (and truth be told, my wife did not ask her doctor if he would prescribe it), I became resentful over two things: the fact that her access to it would have depended upon her doctor's beliefs and values, and the fact that Health Canada forbade the ingestion of medical pot in all forms except its dried form, which must be smoked or vaporized. Owing to a lung condition that she has, my wife would thus have been unable to use it in that form. Until yesterday's ruling, she would have been deemed a criminal.
Rona Ambrose asserts that research needs to be done to back up anecdotal claims of pot's medicinal benefits. She is surely being disingenuous here, given that big pharma will not undertake costly research into a substance that they cannot patent, and U.S,. medical research is severely circumscribed due to cannabis being listing as a Schedule 1 drug, reserved for the most dangerous of substances, right up there with heroin. Legal access is therefore difficult to obtain. Fortunately, in some parts of the world, enlighted attitudes coupled with compassion mean research is ramping up.
Beyond its benefits for pain relief, there are many claims to its benefits in treating intractable epilepsy:
And some in the medical community are quite receptive to the possibilities. Click here to play the clip.
If you want to read more about the above program and one mother's tireless battle to legally bring in a tincture from Colorado to her home state of Virginia to treat her saughter, click here. or watch the full program upon which the above is excerpted here. I watched the program when it aired, a good piece of journalism that one would have to be pretty hard-hearted not to be moved by.
Rona Ambose's obduracy of spirit, evidenced in her denunciation of the Supreme Court decision, is unacceptable and a gross insult to all who seek wider access to a medicine that may help them. The Harper regime's shameful trumping of ideology over compassion has no place in the Canada I know and live.
UPDATE: Even if you lack the time or the inclination to watch the Dateline program I described above, go to the 28 minute mark where you will see a vet suffering from PTSD who moved to Coloradeo to have access to marijuana. He displays all of the medications he was prescribed, which he says made him feel like a zombie, that he was able to dispose of once he started using cannabis to treat his condition. It is a powerful visual of what is at stake for the pharmaceuticals and suggests why they are likely a powerful force against widening marijuana's use.
Thursday, June 11, 2015
You can read more about these concerns here.
Once, many years ago, one of my students had chosen Robertson Davies' Fifth Business for independent reading. Early in the novel, a Baptist minister's wife is struck in the head by a large stone encased in a snowball, an incident that starts a cascade of events with profound effects on the fortunes of the protagonist. During a parent-teacher interview, the mother of a student who had chosen the novel, herself the wife of a Baptist minister, objected bitterly to her daughter reading the novel because of its alleged disrespect toward religion (solely evidenced by the snowball incident), assertively opining that such material had no place in schools. I told her that as a parent, she had the right to object to her daughter reading the book, but that NO ONE had the right to ban others from reading any given book.
A second incident during a telephone conversation with a Muslim parent, many years later, went along exactly the same lines; in this case, the man was objecting to his daughter reading Flowers for Algernon, also chosen by the student for independent reading. He objected to a scene entailing some brief and quite circumspect sexual content, and went on to say such material should not be available to students. Again, I told him exactly what I told the Baptist minister's wife.
So how is this relevant to the world of politics? Here in Ontario, a microcosm of the larger pluralistic Canada within which we all live, there has been much heated contention by a small group of right-wing Christian fundamentalists and those from other conservative religious backgrounds, many of whom are immigrants, over the revamped sex-ed curriculum slated to go into effect in the fall.
In this morning's Star, Martin Regg Cohn observes that the same dynamic is at work that I experienced in the two above incidents, noting that parents already have the right to remove their children from class when material they object to is being taught:
Apparently that’s no longer enough. Now, the protest movement wants to prevent everyone else’s children from hearing the updated Health and Physical Education Curriculum — an update strongly supported by teachers in the public and separate school systems, and broadly supported by parents who want the best for their children.
To be clear, the protesters are not only demanding a right that they already have — an exemption from the curriculum — but are insisting that everyone else hew to their world views of sexuality, pedagogy and ideology. They want to water down a curriculum prepared by experts after years of deliberation and consultation in order to accommodate their own interpretation of sex education in 2015.Cohn points out that such intractable and intolerant thinking could provoke a backlash against our practice of reasonable accommodation, and it is a risk being made worse by the usual suspects: the political right-wing desperate to curry favour among social conservatives:
In other words, “My child, my choice” translates to: “Your child, no choice.”
At the most recent protest, the darling of the anti-sex-ed movement, MPP and recent PC leadership candidate Monte McNaughton once again took the microphone to proclaim his fidelity to the cause. Significantly, he brought “greetings” from Patrick Brown, the new leader he helped elect at last month’s Tory convention.Although we reside in the 21st century, it would seem that the thinking of far too many people resides yet in a much earlier time, when ignorance thrived and education was looked upon with suspicion and disdain. It is time we all grew up.
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
Somehow, however, many forms of Christianity get a free pass when it comes to their own acts of terror and promotion of hatred. I offer in evidence two clips of the Pastor Stephen L. Anderson of Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona. In the first clip, the man of God calls for the death of Barrack Obama. Some might interpret it as a terrorist threat:
Similarly, this god-fearing man tells us that death is the only fate worthy of Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner as he offers up this moving prayer for the celebrity transgendered former athlete:
“I’m going to pray that he dies and goes to Hell. Are you serious? Look, I have nothing but hate — when I see a man dressed up as a woman, who has mutilated his body to become a woman, and say ‘Hey, look at me everybody. Look at me kids!’ I mean, the kids in America today — 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 10 years old are seeing this freak and having their minds perverted and ruined permanently. Listen to me, I hate him with a perfect hatred. I have no love — NO LOVE — for this Bruce freak. I hope he dies today. I hope he dies and goes to Hell. He’s disgusting, he’s filthy, he’s reprobate. I would pray all these prayers in Psalm 69. I would pray all this in Psalm 69 and 129 toward him.”
“You evil, filthy animal that’s destroying the morals of our country,” Anderson said as his rant continued. “DIE!”
VIEWER CAUTION: I suggest you only watch a small part of the second video, unless you have an unusually high tolerance for lunatic hate speech.
Tuesday, June 9, 2015
No doubt, obeisance to the corporate agenda is what Donahue and his ilk expect from any self-respecting pontiff.
Monday, June 8, 2015
Sunday, June 7, 2015
Operation Maple has put up an interesting video that comes to some intriguing, although rather conspiratorial, conclusions. But surely such is preferable to the bovine passivity that government counts on when imposing its will on its citizens, isn't it?
Meanwhile, Toronto Star letter-writers do their usual excellent job in the critical-thinking department. Here are but a few examples:
Sell-off will help Ontario, Hydro One, Letter June 2
The government surely disagrees with Keith Summer’s excellent May 2 opinion piece, but Minister of Energy Bob Chiarelli’s letter fails to say why. Instead of numerical analysis, all we get is the usual political bafflegab. Boiled down, the minister asks us to trust them. Well, count me out.
Apparently, a valuation of Hydro One has been worked out. I assume this valuation is a report of some kind, with validated numerical analysis. Has it been made public? If not public, has it been made available for scrutiny by reputable independent reviewers? Ontarians deserve this. When there is such a major policy change about the ownership of this vital utility, we all should demand a full revelation of the method and results of the valuation process.
The non-sequiturs in Mr. Chiarelli’s letters confound and astound me. He speaks of a 10 per cent maximum ownership causing shares to be broadly held across Ontario in the same sentence. How does that work? How does any aspect of the sale enable Hydro One to become more innovative, competitive and effective as he claims? It’s just silly to make such claims without any proof or rationale.
This deal is bad policy and Mr. Chiarelli should be admonished for writing such a trivial letter.
Edward Kilner, Mississauga
Minister of Energy Bob Chiarelli repeated the term “much needed infrastructure” four times in his letter to the Star.
Ending his letter he left the impression that selling off 60 per cent of Hydro One “will create more than 110,000 jobs each year and help grow our economy,” without costing the taxpayers any money. But selling off part of Hydro One is not going to create one new job. These jobs for the “much needed infrastructure” are already there and have been sitting on the sidelines for years.
To suggest it will not cost the taxpayers any money reminds of the story of the investor who wanted to open a mink farm. He reasoned since mice multiplied five times faster than mink he could feed the mice to the mink and the mink carcasses to the mice and get the pelts for nothing. It sounded good on paper but as time went on he had to go to the well for more money.
Frank Feeley, Fonthill
After reading Keith M. Summers’ commentary I am more than ever convinced that the Ontario government should retain 100 per cent ownership of Hydro One, with all its healthy profits going into the public coffers rather than private pockets. But if it is in fact impossible for the government to borrow $9 billion at a reasonable rate then it should at least follow Mr. Summers’ advice and focus on raising $9 billion by offering approximately 30 per cent equity in Hydro One, retaining majority ownership and a much healthier percentage of the profits.
Gillian Marwick, Toronto
Saturday, June 6, 2015
Although far from a biblical scholar, I find the above line, taken from the Book of Acts, to be an apt title. Even though I am taking it out of context, it encapsulates for me a capacity that the world in general, and Canada in particular, has lost: the capacity to dream of and envisage a better reality than what we have settled for.
Under the relentless barrage of neoconservative propaganda, we have succumbed to the kind of existence epitomized in the video I posted the other day, a world of mindless consumerism, relentless environmental despoliation, and spiritual barrenness. if they are good at anything, those of the reactionary right are very good at limiting, even destroying hope.
Consider the insidious narratives they spin - government as an impediment, government as a thief in your tax pocket, government as the obstruction without which all would be well. Like all effective narratives, each chapter of theirs may contain an element of truth, but only a small part of the truth.
Forgotten is the role that government plays for the collective good, without which all of us would be lost. Imagine no libraries, no public roads, no health care, no pensions, no labour laws, no public police or fire services - all the logical conclusions to the extreme right-wing dream, a dream that would be a nightmare for the vast majority of us, especially those without the means or the wherewithal to escape consignment to the trash heap - economic Darwinianism run amok.
But from those vying for our electoral support, where are the visions, where are the dreams? From Stephen Harper, of course we get the above vision. Justin Trudeau offers more money for families, and a 'new way of doing politics,' whatever that means, and a bit of tinkering around the edges. Thomas Mulcair promises a national daycare program and more money for municipalities, important bread and butter issues, to be sure, but singularly uninspiring and pedestrian, and, to be quite blunt, safe.
Bold initiatives that require more from us via taxes have become verboten, thanks to the narrative the media brings us. So neither Thomas Mulcair nor Justin Trudeau will suggest, for example, a national pharmacare system that would ultimately save everyone, including government and private health plans, huge sums of money (upwards of $12 billion annually) through pooled purchases and far less hospitalizations owing to people either not getting their prescriptions filled or not taking the required dosages in order to stretch out their costly medicationss.
I could go on, but I think you get my point. I have made no reference to the truly critical issues confronting us for an obvious reason. If our leadership is too timid to address matters that are well within reach, such as pharmacare, what likelihood beyond a bit of rhetorical toe-dipping is there of bold measures to remediate child poverty, homelessness and our greatest threat, climate change?
Zero to nil, would be my guess.
Friday, June 5, 2015
H/t The Pet Collective
Do you think they might have something to teach us?
Thursday, June 4, 2015
The Mound of Sound, who knows a great deal about the topic, offered the following response to my post on our hubris and our folly.
Thanks for posting that video, Lorne. Any species that cannot live in harmony with its environment, that even comes to dominate and overwhelm its environment is inherently parasitic and self-extinguishing. We've done this before on a smaller scale time and again. The Mayans, the Easter Islanders, the Mesopotamians - civilizations that come off the land, organize and rise to a peak before suddenly collapsing.
The seeds of our collapse are found in our inability to get beyond 18th century economics, 19th century industrialism and 20th century geopolitics. We're more afraid of abandoning our slavish pursuit of perpetual, exponential growth than the far worse outcome that's inevitable in our success. Where this ends is a matter of mathematical certainty. We're consuming Earth's resources at more than 1.5 times the planet's carrying capacity and our voraciousness is accelerating. It's a dependency more powerful than heroin or crystal meth and far more lethal. Like a chronic junkie we're prepared to live in our ever worsening filth. Rivers that no longer flow to the sea, freshwater no longer fit for human consumption, oceanic dead zones, fish stock collapses, a fouled atmosphere even to the polar regions where black soot darkens the ice caps, aquifers running on empty but, as this video shows, it doesn't matter when your reality is refreshed daily on some electronic screen.
We've been conditioned, Lorne, powerfully conditioned to be fearful and complacent and, especially, to recoil at the notion of change. We've become the vivisectionist's dog, lovingly licking the master's hand while the other hand holds the scalpel plunged into us.
Wednesday, June 3, 2015
On our last visit there, the people I talked to looked forward, guardedly, to the gradual normalization with Cuba's historical nemesis, the United States. While some North Americans have suggested that the nation will become little more than a colony of the U.S. once again, as you will see in this report from Democracy Now, new opportunities may well arise out of this meeting of socialism and capitalism.
I couldn't help but wonder, as you may too, whether the emerging Cuba might have a thing or two to teach inveterate capitalists, especially with regard to the benefits of treating one's employees well. A restaurateur who is featured in the video seems particularly possessed of a common sense that is sadly disappearing in North America:
Tuesday, June 2, 2015
Monday, June 1, 2015
Jesse Brown, over at CanadaLand, offers an anonymously uploaded YouTube video, shot during Saturday's "Stop C-51" Rally on Parliament Hill, that would seem to confirm our biggest fears: