Tuesday, May 31, 2011

John Baird Says Boat Shouldn't Float

I doubt anyone really cares much what John Baird has to say, but his love of hearing himself talk, causes him to weigh in on the Canada Boat, that will be sailing to Gaza with much needed humanitarian aid.
"I strongly urge those wishing to deliver humanitarian goods to the Gaza Strip to do so through established channels," Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said in a statement Monday. Unauthorized efforts to deliver aid are provocative and, ultimately, unhelpful to the people of Gaza."

Baird said Canada "recognizes Israel's legitimate security concerns" and its desire to prevent the smuggling of weapons which may be used against its citizens by Hamas -a terrorist group that controls Gaza and has called for the destruction of Israel.
Save it Baird. The 60% of Canadians who did not vote for your government, tuned you out long ago.

Jack Layton Wins as Least Civil in the House

A new study concludes that Jack Layton is the least civil MP during Question Period.
As he aims to introduce a more positive, pleasant opposition party in Parliament Thursday, a new civility index finds NDP leader Jack Layton is among the worst offenders when it comes to negative exchanges during Question Period.

Sure, it’s his job to rattle the government’s chains and hold the status quo to account. But Mr. Layton may want to rebrand his effort to create a better Question Period and atmosphere in Parliament, suggests the index created by communications researchers at McMaster University.
And while it is the Opposition's job to hold the government to account, if you peruse Hansard, you'll see that many, if not most of Layton's barbs were against the Liberals ... when they were NOT the government.

Why Jack Layton Has Lost all Credibility on the Environment

Brian Tapp, a man I greatly admire by the way, has a column this week on the positive effects the NDP could have on the world stage. He applauds re-appointing Paul Dewar as Foreign Affairs critic, and I agree.

However, from there he drops the ball.
And then, where to start? An excellent place to start would be on environmental policy. Foreign governments, notably in the European Union, have long been dismayed by Canada's record on this issue. Our now long-ago Liberal government paid lip service to international environmental agreements, while compiling the worst environmental record in the G8. Stephen Harper's Conservatives have embraced that record and made it worse, while repudiating the agreements,

We are paying a heavy economic price for this. European and Asian energy and technology firms are adapting quickly to a lower-carbon, higher-efficiency economy -- and are becoming more globally competitive in the result. Canadian energy companies understand that they are being left behind, and have been quietly talking about what a sensible climate change policy should look like, in their own best interests as well as those of good environmental policy.

But the Harper government, with an eye on its vulnerable populist right flank in Alberta, is going to stay on its simple-minded populist dime on this issue. As far as this Conservative government is concerned, dealing with climate change is about slapping big taxes on your family, and that is bad bad bad. Fill 'er up for ya?
Jack Layton has worked in tandem with the Harperites, using the same nonsense that the Green Shift (Dion's revenue neutral carbon tax plan)would hurt families.

Tapping into the fear of a tax. This despite the fact that the plan was praised by economists and environmentalists, including a group of Nobel Prize winners.

But Layton too was tapping into the simple-minded populists for votes.

He also tried to sabatoge Kyoto, when he teamed up with Harper to bring down the government on the very day that it was being ratified. He refused to return Elizabeth May's phone calls. Too ashamed I would imagine, and too keen on destroying the Liberals to bother with what Canadians wanted or needed.

But he didn't count on Dion's leadership skills and Kyoto was passed.

Fat lot of good though, because with the help of Layton's machinations, we will have gone a decade with NO ENVIRONMENTAL plan. Zip, zilch, nada.

We have officially pulled out of Kyoto.

We are the only developed nation refusing to submit our greenhouse gas emissions, and deliberately left oilsands data out of a UN report

And the posturing with the Tar Sands is only that they are not doing enough PR.

The Opposition helped to get the NDP environmental plan passed, but it was killed in the Harper controlled Senate.

So pardon me if I'm not doing cartwheels over Layton the environmental crusader. I've seen the movie and I know how it ends.

And in a bit more hypocrisy. The NDP election platform called for a Cap and Trade (a carbon tax in sheep's clothing) that Layton admitted could result in higher prices at the pumps or in heating our homes.

It made me so damn mad. I wish he'd pick a story and stick with it. He has as much credibility as Stephen Harper on this.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Friedman's Gold and Argentina

In his new book Imperialist Canada, Todd Gordon discusses Canadian company Barrick Gold and their mining at Pascua Lama, Argentina.
Toronto-based Barrick is the largest gold producer in the world, with properties—and opposition movements challenging its practices—on nearly every continent. As testament to the international unpopularity of the company, May 2, 2007, was the International Day of Action against it. One of Barrick's most controversial projects is Pascua Lama. Pascua Lama is a gold, silver and copper open-pit mine site located in the Andean mountains. It straddles the border between Argentina and Chile, in the province of San Juan in Argentina and on the outer edges of the Atacama Desert in Chile. .. (1)
Further exploitation of Chile and Argentina by the free-marketeers.

It's interesting that Peter Munk, founder of Barrick, is quoted in Time magazine praising Augustus Pinochet, the Chilean dictator who ran torture chambers and held massacres in football stadiums.

Munk defends his position by saying: "Maybe I'm less sensitive to these issues because I see that what people need first is economic security, and only when they have that can they afford to focus on human rights." The alternative to liberalized economies, he argues, "is the true enslavement of the people." (2)

An odd commentary that fits with Milton Friedman's shock therapy.

Barrick's initial plans for the mine was to "relocate" sizable portions of three large glaciers that were blocking deposits in the area. According to investigative journalist Jenn Ross, "these glaciers span approximately 24 hectares". The plan calls for moving roughly 10 hectares—about 25 acres—of that surface area, which amounts to 800,000 cubic metres of ice." (1)

Argentine ecologist, Raul Montenegro, argued that "Barrick is treating the glaciers like 'piles of ice' rather than essential parts of a fragile desert ecosystem. 'You cannot just pick up a glacier, move it, and then tell the rain to fall somewhere else."
Farmers of grapes, peaches, figs, lemons and avocados, among other crops, cultivate their land in the Huasco Valley, underneath the projected mine site. There is little rainfall in the area, so the crops are dependent on run-off water stored in the glaciers .

Local communities are also concerned about water pollution, a common fear of those living near mining developments. Barrick will use 7,200 kilograms of cyanide daily, and plans to divert rivers in Argentina for cyanide solution production, which is necessary for the extraction of gold. Vice-president for corporate communications at Barrick, Vincent Borg, has also admitted that the company plans to utilize arsenic in its extraction processes. The company assures the Chilean government and community activists that it has taken all necessary precautions to prevent spillage of pollutants into streams and rivers. However, Luis Fara, a farmer and councillor in the adjacent Chilean town of Alto del Carmen, points to the fact that the extreme weather conditions at the high altitude may very well overwhelm the containment systems put in place by Barrick. The U.S. Geological Survey has also recorded three earthquakes in excess of 6.7 in magnitude in the last four years in the area.
Stephen Harper visited the region in 2007, but only met with Barrick Gold officials, refusing to address the protesters.

And while Barrick is attempting to do better with PR, and has helped to build irrigation ditches, and provide alternative income, it is not nearly enough. They have also since dropped the bid to move the glaciers, but much damage has already been done. "So the protests continue.

And to help kill a Liberal private members bill, which sought to hold Canadian mining companies to account, the company had some inside help.
Corporations like Barrick Gold and Visa Canada both hired former government staffers to act as lobbyists last year, despite a 2006 law that aimed to end such political influence. The New Democrats say that’s because a loophole exists that allows politicians and ministerial staff to advise corporations so long as they spend less than 20 per cent of their time doing so.

For example, Alanna Heath, a former adviser to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, was hired to advise Barrick Gold last year but wasn’t required to register as a lobbyist because of the loophole. (Heath was paid to help stop a bill that would have required the government to probe alleged human-rights abuses by Canadian mining companies in other countries.) NDP MP Pat Martin tells Bloomberg News the hirings violate “the spirit of the law.”
But they help to fulfil the neoconservative agenda.

The Canadian mining situation continues to be a controversial subject, and is greatly damaging Canada's reputation abroad.

But with Milton Friedman followers now in government, what hope do we have that this will change?

Not much, I'm afraid.


1. Imperialist Canada, By Todd Gordon, Arbeiter Publishing, 2010, ISBN: 978-1-894037-4507, Pg. 210-212

2. Canada's Gold Tycoon, By Andrew Purvis, Time Magazine, November 09, 2007

So Much for Accountabilty. Jason Kenney Rehires Man Accused of Abusing His Office

After the controversy over Jason Kenney using his office for partisan purposes, an aide was blamed and forced to resign.

The Conservative Modus Operandi.

But apparently it was only a time out, because he is again on the taxpayer's payroll.
A senior Conservative aide who quit in March over a fundraising controversy is already back on staff at the office of Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.

Kasra Nejatian left a position as a lawyer in New York to work for Mr. Kenney in January, but was forced to quit his government job two months later amid accusations that Mr. Kenney was using his political office for partisan purposes.
Alykhan Velshi has probably gone back to his old neocon hideout (just visiting?), and it looks like Nejatian will be taking his place.

Who says crime doesn't pay?

So Deep Integration Was Not a Conspiracy Theory

Though Stephen Harper and other neocons have denied that deep integration with the U.S. was on the table, Wikileaks show otherwise.
Numerous topics are discussed in the leaked document — borders, currency, labor, regulation, and more. How to push the integration agenda features particularly prominently.

Under the subject line “Placing a new North American Initiative in its economic policy context,” American diplomatic personnel in Canada said they believed an “incremental” path toward North American integration would probably gain the most support from policymakers. Apparently Canadian economists agreed.

The cable also touts the supposed benefits of merging the three countries and even mentions what elements to “stress” in future “efforts to promote further integration.” It lists what it claims is a summary of the “consensus” among Canadian economists about the issues, too. Merging the United States, Canada, and Mexico...
Just before the election, Ralph Nader wrote in the Toronto Star: Beware ‘deep integration’
Opponents of Prime Minister Stephen Harper are finding that, in one commentator’s words, “Questions of Harper’s ethics, accountability, secrecy and contempt for democracy have not stuck.” Questions about secrecy, however, should stick. Harper’s secret ongoing negotiations for “deep integration” with the U.S. could diminish the features of Canadian independence which have brought Canada world-envied standards of living, including medicare for all.

Public attention before May 2 regarding the contents of the forthcoming agreement between Harper and President Barack Obama could motivate many voters to go to the polls to preserve Canadian independence. Loss of Canadian independence between the eras of Jean Chrétien and Harper has meant moving from no involvement in George W. Bush’s Iraq atrocities to military engagement in the quagmire of Afghanistan. It has meant less resistance to the demands for military procurement of unneeded U.S. weapons.
We should have listened to him.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Democracy Netanyahu Style

Licia Corbella tries to draw a comparison between protests at an Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu address, and another in Saudi Arabia.
Two young women protesters — one in the United States the other in Saudi Arabia. One disrupts the most powerful people in the world during a joint session of Congress in the midst of a live televised speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the other disturbs no one, she simply drives her family in a car. One is merely ushered out of the gallery, the other is arrested and held in jail.

And yet both events serve to perfectly punctuate the truth behind Netanyahu’s eloquent 45-minute speech.
Corbella doesn't get out much, because while Netanyahu called the protest "real democracy", some people in Israel might like to see a bit of democracy themselves.
A demonstration against the settler takeover of East Jerusalem was held in the neighborhood of Ras al-Amud yesterday afternoon. The demonstration was organized by members of the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity group, an Israeli led nonviolent protest movement based in Jerusalem. Days before the demonstration, a new and illegal Jewish settlement was inaugurated in Ras al-Amud with name of Ma’ale HaZeitim.

Yesterday’s demonstration was a nonviolent exercise of the right to protest the illegal Israeli act of creating new settlements in occupied East Jerusalem. Israeli police reacted with excessive and violent force against the chanting Jewish protesters. For the first time, police used electronic stun guns against protesters who, locked arm in arm and sitting peacefully, refused to move from the entrance to the settlement.
And even if the Israeli PM missed the stun gun attacks, surely he saw what happened at the G-20 in Toronto, when Canadian citizens faced some of the worst human rights abuses this country has seen in a long time.

And maybe he might like to answer to why he thinks it's OK to kidnap children. Or beg our own PM to ignore the American president's call for peace.

There's a real double standard here when it comes to "democracy".

Is Big Bird Really a Commie?

Just when you thought you'd heard it all, right-wing columnist, Ben Shapiro, now says that Sesame Street has subliminal "pinko" messages.

And not just Sesame Street but other television favourites.
The TV series Friends undermined family values; Sesame Street taught ethnic minorities about civil disobedience; Happy Days had a subtle anti-Vietnam subtext; and the 1980s cop show MacGyver tried to persuade pistol-packing Americans that guns are bad.
He may have a point. I mean what's with all that sharing nonsense?

Sounds "Commie" to me.

In his new book, Primetime Propaganda, Shapiro undercovers the deep dark secrets of everyone from the Oscar the Grouch (Stalin?) to Kermit the Frog (Ghandi).

It's about time we got these "Reds" out of show business and back into the sock drawer where they belong.

Canadian Mining Companies Continue to Make Headlines

In 2009, Liberal MP John McKay introduced a private members bill, Bill C-300, in an attempt to hold Canadian mining companies, operating abroad, to account for human rights abuses.

Almost immediately he began receiving threats, and several other MPs spoke of similar threats to their careers by the mining lobby. The bill was defeated 135 to 140, with 13 Liberal, 5 Bloc and 4 NDP absent from the vote.

Brent Popplewell wrote a piece for the Toronto Star on the abuses, saying that:
The word "Canada" is so reviled in some places that travelling Canadians mask their citizenship by wearing American flags on their caps and backpacks.
Recently a Mining Justice Conference was held in Vancouver.
Indigenous representatives from Latin America were in Vancouver the week of May 16 speaking out on Canadian mining companies and the negative impacts operations are having on local communities.

Human rights violations, environmental degradation, bribery, intimidation and disregard for local villages and indigenous populations are alleged to have occurred at the hands of publicly shared operations with home bases in Vancouver.
From protests in Guatemala over the abuse in Canada of temporary foreign workers to Tibetans fighting against the exploitation of their mineral rights, we can't really say that Canada has lost its international notoriety.

Around the world we are becoming reviled. I think I'd rather they didn't know who we were.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Stéphane Dion is Right. 50% Plus One Isn't Enough

In response to Jack Layton and some of his Quebec MPs suggesting that 50 plus 1 should be enough to settle the separation issue, Stéphane Dion writes in the Ottawa Citizen:
There are two fundamental reasons why negotiations for secession should be contingent on a clear majority. The first is that serious and irreversible decisions that affect future generations should be made by consensus, not on the basis of a weak and uncertain majority, not on the basis of a result which might have been different if the vote had been held the day before or the day after. There is no doubt that secession is something serious and probably irreversible since it is nearly impossible to rebuild a country after it has been broken. Such an action affects future generations and has serious consequences for all of the citizens of the country being broken up.

The second reason is that, even with all the goodwill in the world, negotiating the separation of a modern state would inevitably be difficult and fraught with pitfalls. What must not happen is that, while negotiators are working on a separation agreement, the majority should change its mind and decide to oppose secession. That would be an untenable situation. That is why the process should only be undertaken if there is a sufficiently large majority that will last through the inevitable difficulties of negotiation.
Making it easier to tear apart our country is not the way to go.

And remember that when Layton was running in 2004, he promised that if elected, he would repeal the Clarity Act. Who knows what this man is thinking.

Now he and Harper are on another kick. They are going to give Quebec more seats. The whole idea behind giving Alberta more seats, was because they claimed that Quebec had too many.

I'm with NDP Charlie Angus on the issue of more seats in the House (more salaries, expenses, pensions)who called it:
"putting a little bit of paint on a leaky old boat and trying to pass it off as a new Bluenose." He argued the Commons needs sweeping democratic reform, not tinkering around the edges. In particular, he called for a system of "fair and open proportional representation so that people in Canada actually feel their votes are being counted."
Sounds like more political games.

Kyoto Now Officially Dead

"Kyoto is essentially a socialist scheme to suck money out of wealth-producing nations" - Stephen Harper

From Stephen Harper to Jack Layton, the Kyoto Protocol never really had a chance.

The Canadian taxpayer has spent millions of dollars so that the Harper government could deny that global warming was real.

And Peter Kent's posturing with the tar sands is only because they have not done enough PR to change public opinion.

Finally, at this year's G-8, Canada has officially pulled out.

We were never really in.

The Canada Boat to Gaza Has Ruffled a Few Right Wing Feathers

The Canada Boat to Gaza is ready to sail in June and the Right Wing noise machine is doing what it can to paint the group as radicals.

Brain Lilley writes in the Sun:
Radicals from this country are organizing to take part in a flotilla that will try to run the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza. A boat from this country is expected to be part of that flotilla in June and one of the main groups involved gets millions of your tax dollars. You remember the last run so-called peace groups took at Gaza.
A bit of revisionist history suggests that the heavily armed commandos were threatened by humanitarian aid.

The Canada Boat to Gaza will be part of a flotilla organized by The Christian Peacemaker Team
The faith-based, human rights organization has maintained a presence in the region for the past 15 years to "help create a space for justice and peace" through non-violent direct action.

"We are appalled by the conditions in Gaza and by the silence of the international community with regard to the ongoing blockade of Gaza enforced by the military," said Lyn Adamson, Co-Chair, Canadian Voice of Women for Peace. "The freedom flotilla is a way to bring urgently needed aid to the people of Gaza. As Canadians we want to see this suffering end."
We may no longer be a progressive country under our current government, but it doesn't mean the 60% who didn't vote for them have lost their voice.

I hope everyone gets behind this courageous group.

When a Dictator Becomes a Problem

Because of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie Scotland, thought to be "blowback" (1) for Ronald Reagan's aerial raid on Libya, that killed Muammar Gaddafi's stepdaughter, the UN imposed sanctions on the country. These were renewed after several other infractions, including the development of nuclear weapons.

But the embargoes were finally lifted in 2004, and Libya was open for business, especially in the oil fields.

Paul Martin discusses his first visit to Libya in 2004, certainly newsworthy. But after a private meeting with the Libyan dictator, and expecting the usual questions from the media, he emerged from the tent to discover that there were no reporters there at all.

Apparently at the time, two camels decided to have sex, and the media were preoccupied with that (2), and not what transpired behind closed tent flaps, or what it meant for Canada. Enough said.

However, Canadian companies have fared very well in what might be considered virgin territory. In 2009, the Harper government extended Most-Favoured Nation tariff status to Libya, to reduce trade barriers.

Libya created a Privatization & Investment Board and welcomed U.S. investment, although on their terms.

Libya had survived the recent economic crisis in part due to their isolationist policies, so may not have been willing to simply hand over the keys to the kingdom. They wanted to maintain some state control.

This could explain why, when the protests first sprang up in Libya, the U.S. immediately offered to help oust Gadhafi. According to the Associated Press:
Clinton: U.S. stands ready to aid Libyan opposition
The Obama administration stands ready to offer "any type of assistance" to Libyans seeking to oust Moammar Gadhafi, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday, adding a warning to other African nations not to let mercenaries go to the aid of the longtime dictator ... Clinton spoke to reporters one day after President Barack Obama branded Gadhafi an illegitimate ruler who must leave power immediately.

"We are just at the beginning of what will follow Gadhafi. ... But we've been reaching out to many different Libyans who are attempting to organize in the east and as the revolution moves westward there as well," she said. "I think it's way too soon to tell how this is going to play out, but we're going to be ready and prepared to offer any kind of assistance that anyone wishes to have from the United States."
The U.S. was eager to take sides in a protest that had quickly turned into a civil war.

Is this just a continuation of the Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein writes of?

Much is being made of the dictator's detention centres, and yet the Canadian firm SNC Lavalin, was in the process of building a new one.

When the Canadian Parliament voted on military engagement, there were reports that as many as 10,000 civilians had been killed. We had a moral obligation to prevent more deaths.

And yet we are now ourselves killing civilians.

Canada has dropped 240 "smart bombs", and Stephen Harper is looking to buy 1300 more.

It's so much better to be killed by a 'smart bomb' than a dumbass one.

Stephen Harper is now looking to Parliament to extend the "mission", which we all know is a war for corporate interests.

It's only symbolic, given that he has a majority, and as prime minister, can make these decisions on his own. However, it presents another test for the NDP.

Foreign Affairs critic Paul Dewar, is noncommittal, but if they reject the motion, they may be called "soft on terror". Layton is still living down his "Taliban Jack" monicker. However, if they support the war, and things go bad, they will have no legitimate right to blame it all on the Conservatives.

Should be interesting.


1. Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, By Chalmers Johnson, Henry Holt and Company, 2000, Pg. 8

2. Hell or High Water: My Life in and Out of Politics, By Paul Martin, McClelland & Stewart, 2008, ISBN: 978-0-7710-5692-5 5, Pg. 336-337

Friday, May 27, 2011

Canadians Now Fine With Abolishing the Senate

A new poll conducted by Harris-Decima reveals that the majority of Canadians would be receptive to opening the constitution, to abolish the Senate.

Time limits or elections are not the answer.

Senators now have no function. The only time we ever see Hugh Segal in Kingston, is when there's an election.

Then he goes back into hiding, collecting an enormous salary for doing nothing other than propping up the Harper government.

Enough is enough.

The Deficit Cure: Acupuncture or Shock Therapy?

When the neoconservative movement in Canada first appeared on the radar of many journalists, it was tied to the administrations of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Both of these leaders launched aggressive attacks on the welfare state, and left devastation in their paths.

Grant Devine in Saskatchewan, Ralph Klein in Alberta and Mike Harris in Ontario, all sought to experiment with the Thatcher/Reagan theories in their respective provinces.

On the federal scene, the Reform Party had their ideology in check, and were just waiting for their turn.

At the time, Thatcher and Reagan were not on tour, so Canada's neocons were taught strategy by New Zealand politician, Roger Douglas.

He held information seminars, speaking to the Harris caucus in Ontario, with Tony Clement, John Baird and Jim Flaherty in attendance; and Klein's in Alberta, indoctrinating Stockwell Day.

But the most important lecture, when it comes to the future of Canada, was presented to the Reform Party of Preston Manning and Stephen Harper, at their 1991 Assembly.
Douglas was introduced by Preston Manning, the only assembly speaker to be so honoured. And Manning told the delegates: There are three basic reasons why we have invited Sir Roger Douglas to be with us ... and three reasons why Reformers should pay close attention to what he has to say ... Sir Roger is an authority in fiscal reform and has advocated and promoted many of the fiscal reforms ... He is not only a reformer in word, he is a reformer in deed. Sir Roger deregulated the financial sector, phased down agricultural and other subsidies .. phased out import controls and drastically reduced tariffs levels. He instituted a 10% flat rate consumption tax (GST)*, with virtually no exemptions ... (1)
And Roger Douglas's most important message to his followers was "don't blink". Once you start cutting, keep going.

And if you developed a case of blepharospasm, uncontrollable eye blinking, a little acupuncture would fix you right up.

Because what Douglas failed to mention was how his policies affected New Zealand.
Dr. John Warnock, travelled to New Zealand to study the effects of what New Zealanders dubbed 'Rogernomics.' The figures tell a story of devastation - a word used by New Zealand's own agricultural minister to describe the state of agriculture in four years after the 'reforms': A 40 per cent drop in farm income; a 50 per cent drop in the value of farm land; a policy of paying 3,000 farmers incentives of $ 45,000 to leave and the suggestion that another 15,000 (out of 79,000) should follow them. Unemployment, which had been at 4 per cent before Douglas's reforms, jumped to over 12 per cent in just over a year and is still increasing.

"Douglas completely eliminated regional development grants and subsidies to rural services. Says Warnock, 'They had things like subsidized petroleum - regardless of where you were the price was the same - subsidized train service, bus service, airport service. They privatized all these things and the prices immediately skyrocketed.' A massive de-population of the countryside resulted, and approximately 40,000 New Zealanders per year have since left the country for Australia to find work ... (1)
He should have blinked.

Shock Therapy

While Roger Douglas may present us with a little trip down memory lane, Stephen Harper and Jim Flaherty will probably forgo acupuncture for shock therapy.

This is the remedy prescribed by Milton Friedman, and articulated at places like the Fraser Institute. Friedman believed in taking advantage of disasters, like Katrina, but when none presented themselves, they could simply be created.

His most famous induced disaster, was the Chilean experiment.

In 1970, when a socialist, Salvador Allende, was elected president, many of Chile's elite, were not pleased.
Allende, a physician by training, understood the cost that malnutrition imposed upon the poor and set out to alleviate the grinding poverty in which so many Chileans were trapped. He ensured that every Chilean schoolchild had access to at least a half-liter of milk each day, and that their parents had access to jobs and the means to feed and educate their children. Median incomes began to rise dramatically in the first two years of Allende's term.

To pay for these social programs designed to create opportunities for the poor, rich Chileans who had lived all their lives off of rents, dividends and interest and who had never paid a dime in taxes, found themselves paying taxes for the first time and being forced to morally justify their lives of luxurious leisure at the expense of the poor. They didn't like it one bit. And they began to complain to their friends in Washington. (2)
Fortunately for them Washington was already aware of the situation, and with the help of several corporations, engineered a coup to oust Allende and place the murderous Augustus Pinochet in the presidential palace.

Friedman then took over, encouraging Pinochet to implement "shock therapy" on the people of Chile.
Friedman advised Pinochet to impose a rapid-fire transformation of the economy—tax cuts, free trade, privatized services, cuts to social spending and deregulation. Eventually, Chileans even saw their public schools replaced with voucher-funded private ones. It was the most extreme capitalist makeover ever attempted anywhere, and it became known as a "Chicago School" revolution, since so many of Pinochet's economists had studied under Friedman at the University of Chicago. Friedman predicted that the speed, suddenness and scope of the economic shifts would provoke psychological reactions in the public that "facilitate the adjustment." He coined a phrase for this painful tactic: economic "shock treatment." In the decades since, whenever governments have imposed sweeping free-market programs, the all-at-once shock treatment, or "shock therapy," has been the method of choice. (3)
And though Friedman and his Chicago School are still being hailed as heroes by Neoliberals/Neoconservative/Free Marketeers everywhere, his remaking of Chile was an absolute failure.
.. The country's period of steady growth that is held up as proof of its miraculous success, did not begin until the mid-eighties, a full decade after the Chicago Boys implemented shock therapy and well after Pinochet was forced to make a radical course correction.

That's because in 1982, despite its strict adherence to Chicago doctrine, Chile's economy crashed: its debt exploded, it faced hyperinflation once again and unemployment hit 30 percent—ten times higher than it was under Allende. The main cause was that the piranhas, the Enron-style financial houses that the Chicago Boys had freed from all regulation, had bought up the country's assets on borrowed money and run up an enormous debt of $14 billion.

The situation was so unstable that Pinochet was forced to do what Allende had done: he nationalized many of these companies. In the face of the debacle, almost all the Chicago Boys lost their influential government posts. (4)
So despite the fact that both of these experiments in economic reform were catastrophes, we know that it will not change Flaherty's or Harper's ideology.

Canadians will probably be subjected to a little "shock" in the upcoming budget, or if not then, in the not too distant future. The convoluted belief being that if we associate pain with social programs, we will not be too quick to want to reintroduce them (Friedman was a nut), especially if they convince us that they have been replaced with something better.

Poverty being good for the soul.

So slap on the electrodes boys. I'm ready.


*The Reform Party was conflicted about the GST, with most wanting it scrapped if they came to power. Harper himself convinced them to keep the GST but eliminate any exemptions.


1. Preston Manning and the Reform Party, By Murray Dobbin, Goodread Publishing, 1992, ISBN: 0-88780-161-7, pg. 113-114

2. Free Market Fundamentalism: Friedman, Pinochet and the "Chilean Miracle", By Scott Bidstrup

3. The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, By Naomi Klein, Vintage Canada, 2007, ISBN: 978-0-676-97801-8, Pg. 8

4. Klein, 2007, Pg. 123

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Dropping Jobs and Dropping Bombs. Welcome to Imperialist Canada

I didn't think I'd ever be reading headlines like this:
Canada drops 240 'smart' bombs on Libya

It didn't take our dictator long to start throwing his weight around.

Apparently they cost about $100 million, but what has this done to our reputation?

How long before these countries or their allies start fighting back?

Not to worry though. Peter MacKay is planning a massive layoff to pay for the bombs. Not sure when we start paying for dropping them.

What a horrible time to be Canadian.

If She Were Prime Minister

In 1987, Mel Hurtig edited a book If I were prime Minister (ISBN: 0-88830-315-7). Each chapter was written by a prominent Canadian, who outlined what they would do if they were prime minister of Canada.

George Ignatieff was one of those prominent Canadians.

Green Party's Elizabeth May, has a piece at Huffington Post, where she outlines her goals, if she were in fact prime minister. And her primary goal would be to limit the powers of her office.
In Canada, at the moment, we face a significant menace to our democracy. The prime minister of Canada (stated as a generic, rather than a personal reality) has far more power than a U.S. president or a U.K. prime minister. Checks and balances have been bypassed in Canada. Even in a minority parliament, the Canadian prime minister has shown himself able to dictate terms, laws, and policy without having a parliamentary debate on such things as violating Kyoto, sending jets to Libya, or leaving one of our nationals in Guantanamo Bay.

Now, following the May 2, 2011 election, the prime minister of Canada, leader of the Conservative Party, has a majority of the seats in the House of Commons -- even though the electorate's popular vote was 60-plus per cent in opposition to his government. The unelected, appointed Senate (the Canadian version of the British House of Lords) has now been stacked with Conservative appointments.

So my wish list under the heading "If I were prime minister" begins with reducing the unhealthy and undemocratic power of the Prime Minister's Office.
I think it might be nice to have another book published, similar to the 1987 offering.

I wonder how many would share May's concern.

Is Canada Now Part of the U.S. Empire?

In reading books like Todd Gordon's Imperialist Canada, Chalmers Johnson's Dismantling the Empire and now Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine, a pattern for American Imperialism becomes evident.

If a country has natural resources the U.S. wants, but refuses to hand over, the government is replaced with a dictator. And that dictator is financed by the corporations then operating in, or wishing to operate in, the resource rich country.

Stephen Harper is now the dictionary definition of a dictator (try saying that fast three times).

This was not accomplished through a bloody coup, and the big stick diplomacy was domestic, however, much of Harper's success was American made.

1. One of the top Republican polling firms, McLaughlin and Associates take credit for Harper's career. They were also the official ad firm for Harper's National Citizens Coalition, "having worked with them for many years". From their website: John [McLaughlin] also has done extensive market research and consulting for non-profit and corporate clients. His clients have included ... The National Citizens Coalition (Canada)

2. Arthur Finkelstein, another top Republican pollster, who has worked for presidents from Nixon to Bush, was the official advisor to the National Citizens Coalition, for sixteen years. He was also a mentor of Stephen Harper's, passing on a visceral hatred for anything liberal.

3. Frank Luntz, yet another Republican pollster, instructed Harper on how to get a majority. His advice included faux nationalism and talking hockey any chance he got. And darn it all, if it didn't work.

4. One of the founders of the American Religious Right, Paul Weyrich, helped to get Harper elected by cautioning his flock not to speak with the Canadian media.

5. Another key player in the American Religious Right, James Dobson, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, on Canadian radio ads attacking same-sex marriage, to bolster Harper's campaign when he was running on the same platform.

6. In Lawrence Martin's book Harperland, he claimed that Stephen Harper does not believe in peacekeeping, but sees the world as a 'Clash of Civilizations', the doctrine of American neoconservative Irving Kristol.

7. Alykhan Velshi from the American Enterprise Institute (dubbed the Cheney Family Think Tank (Dick and Lynne)), is now Jason Kenney's assistant. The same Jason Kenney who brought Ralph Reed's Christian Coalition to Canada.

8. Billionaire Rupert Murdoch of Fox News, financed our own Fox News North (Sun TV)

In November of 2006, in response to a John Ibbitson column: Harper and Bush Compared, Michael Watkins refuted the claim that Harper was nothing like Bush. In everything from healthcare and education, to foreign policy, he was indeed the mirror image.

Not surprising given that the people above, were involved with both men.

I know the list is longer, but it gives some idea of the American bloodless coup and their puppet dictator.

Some are now referring to Canada as the 51st state, but I think it's more than that. I think we are now little more than another American colony.

And before you roll your eyes, consider this.

1. Operation "Shiprider" allows U.S. agents to patrol Canadian waters.

2. An agreement with their military, allows the U.S. to send troops across our border in the case of an emergency. One of those emergencies would be an indigenous protest over a joint venture like a pipeline or highway.

3. FBI agents can now conduct investigations in Canada without permission.

4. The Buy America trade deal was the gifting of our country to the United States.

5. Harper introduced a bill that would require permission from the U.S. before any Canadian flies to a third world country.
The Harper government has quietly presented a bill in the House of Commons that would give U.S. officials final say over who may board aircraft in Canada if they are to fly over the U.S. en route to a third country. "Canadian sovereignty has gone right out the window," Liberal Transport critic Joe Volpe told the Montreal Gazette in a recent telephone interview. "You are going to be subject to American law." (Vancouver Sun)
6. We are now part of the U.S. led nuclear partnership, allowing all nuclear waste to be repatriated to Canada. In other words, the handling of our nuclear energy, is being directed by the United States.

7. The Border Security deal, locks us inside fortress North America.

So could someone please tell me how we are not now just another American colony. We have been handed over by our puppet dictator. Once they control our public services, including healthcare, we may wish we were just the 51st state.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Bob Rae Chosen as Interim Liberal Leader

The Liberals have just named Bob Rae as interim leader.

A good choice.

He is an extremely likable guy, experienced and already weather beaten from Conservative attacks.

But Rae will be an important factor in earning trust from the business community as they rebuild without the democratic vote subsidies.

As Lawrence Martin said recently, many moderates will simply not vote NDP. So unless we rebuild the centre, many voters will go to the right and possibly stay there.

When they choose a permanent leader though, they must go with someone young and fresh.

As Glen Pearson says, we can't afford to mess this up.

Democrats Makes Gains in Republican Territory

A bit of good news for liberals, as Democrat Kathy Hochul, won election in a Republican stronghold.

And she ran on a platform of public healthcare.

I know that hindsight is 20/20 but I think our election was held a few months too early. The U.S. is just starting to shift back, as Obama is enjoying a spike in popularity.

And we're stuck with at least four years in political hell.

Stephen Harper's Perfect Crisis

“Pulling their children from ‘union-run’ schools should be a viable option for all parents.” Stephen Harper
I just started reading Naomi Klein's book The Shock Doctrine and from the introduction, it sets the stage for what a Harper majority might look like.

She begins by discussing Katrina and the horrible devastation the storm caused. But in the midst of the chaos, were the smiling faces of the neoconservative interlopers. They failed to see the human misery, but instead saw an opportunity for profit. Levelled land on which to build a free market empire.
The news racing around the shelter that day was that Richard Baker, a prominent Republican Congressman from this city, had told a group of lobbyists, "We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did." Joseph Canizaro, one of New Orleans' wealthiest developers, had just expressed a similar sentiment: "I think we have a clean sheet to start again. And with that clean sheet we have some very big opportunities." All that week the Louisiana State Legislature in Baton Rouge had been crawling with corporate lobbyists helping to lock in those big opportunities: lower taxes, fewer regulations, cheaper workers and a "smaller, safer city"—which in practice meant plans to level the public housing projects and replace them with condos. Hearing all the talk of "fresh starts" and "clean sheets," you could almost forget the toxic stew of rubble, chemical outflows and human remains just a few miles down the highway. (1)
Leading the charge for God's chosen people, the corporatists, was the late Milton Friedman, a man who has played an integral role in the neoconservative/neoliberal/free market movement.

And he began in an area near and dear to his heart. Privatizing eduction.
One of those who saw opportunity in the floodwaters of New Orleans was Milton Friedman, grand guru of the movement for unfettered capitalism and the man credited with writing the rulebook for the contemporary, hyper-mobile global economy. Ninety-three years old and in failing health, "Uncle Miltie," as he was known to his followers, nonetheless found the strength to write an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal three months after the levees broke. "Most New Orleans schools are in ruins," Friedman observed, "as are the homes of the children who have attended them. The children are now scattered all over the country. This is a tragedy. It is also an opportunity to radically reform the educational system."

Friedman's radical idea was that instead of spending a portion of the billions of dollars in reconstruction money on rebuilding and improving New Orleans' existing public school system, the government should provide families with vouchers, which they could spend at private institutions, many run at a profit, that would be subidized by the state. It was crucial, Friedman wrote, that this fundamental change not be a stopgap but rather "a permanent reform." (1)
Friedman had been a regular speaker at the Fraser Institute and has been following Canada's own right-wing revolution.

And Canada's right-wing revolution, includes the desire to 'radically reform the educational system'.

The Reform Party had public education in their cross hairs:
The Reformers gathered in Saskatoon saved perhaps the loudest cheers, whistles, and applause for [founding member William] Gairdner's last shot: 'And my favourite proposal, by the way, is returning choice to education by privatizing every school in the country'. (2)
When Jim Flaherty was finance minister in Ontario, he did "Uncle Miltie" proud. From the National Review:
We don't often look to Canada for inspiring leadership. But Jim Flaherty — the finance minister of Ontario, its largest and wealthiest province — is poised to make his constituency a model of smaller government and respect for individual freedom.

Flaherty is running to succeed premier Mike Harris at the helm of Ontario's governing Progressive Conservative party in the party's leadership election on March 23. His full-bodied, conservative platform of tax cuts, privatization, and school choice has set the agenda for the contest ... Flaherty first caught the attention of grassroots conservatives with his unexpected announcement in last year's budget of a $3,500 ($2,300 USD) per-child tax credit for parents who send their children to independent schools. The measure, according to Laura Swartley of the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation for School Choice, is the most generous education tax credit in North America. It alone has won Flaherty the support of social conservatives and minority religious groups. (3)
The quote at the top of the page from Stephen Harper, was in response to Flaherty's private school subsidy. (Hill Times, 2001)

In his 2007 federal budget, he provided "bursaries" for elementary school students.
The Harper government is giving a tax break to families who send their kids to elite private schools, raising the ire of public education advocates. Under a little-noticed measure in last month's budget, scholarships and bursaries to attend elementary and secondary school will now be fully tax exempt. Finance officials estimate the new exemption will mean "significant tax savings" for about 1,000 students – or, by extension, their parents.

Officials insisted that the exemption applies to scholarships for either public or private schools. But they couldn't supply any examples of public schools – which are funded from the public purse and don't charge tuition fees – awarding scholarships or bursaries.
Entering into his majority, Harper has his Katrina; the "global economic crisis", and a record deficit and debt.

His clean sheet that will provide those very big opportunities that Friedman envisioned. And with Mike Harris lap dog, Tim Hudak, poised to become premier in Ontario, and former student of Tom Flanagan, Danielle Smith in Alberta, it will create the perfect storm.

Education, however, will only be one area, where taxpayer money will build, and the corporate sector will profit.

In New Orleans they laid off all 4,700 unionized teachers, with only a handful hired back, but at greatly reduced wages. And the savings of course were not given back to the taxpayers but into the pockets of the already wealthy.

Milton Friedman is giddy in his grave.


Milton Friedman and the Chilean Experiment

Milton Friedman and the Destruction of Argentina

Milton Friedman, the Southern Cone and "Authoritarian Democracy"

Raul Prebisch and Developmentalism


1. The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, By Naomi Klein, Vintage Canada, 2007, ISBN: 978-0-676-97801-8, Pg. 4-7

2. Preston Manning and the Reform Party, By Murray Dobbin, Goodread Biographies/Formac Publishing, 1992, ISBN: 0-88780-161-7, pg. 165-166

3. Looking North: Election time in Canada, By David Curtin, March 18, 2002

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Dictator is a Dictator is a Dictator

Whenever I call Stephen Harper a "dictator" in a posting, I get emails from people telling me that I am wrong and that I don't know what a dictator is.

So I turned to the dictionary, which defines a dictator as "a leader with absolute, imperious, or overbearing power or control." And a dictatorship, as "a country, government, or the form of government in which absolute power is exercised by a dictator".

If you read Lawrence Martin's piece last week: Behold the most powerful PM ever, Stephen Harper now has absolute control of our country. He can even take our country into war, just on his command.

Jack Layton bragged today that he resides over the largest official opposition party in 31 years. But it is also the most powerless.

Harper has Parliament, the Senate and the Governor General was a Brian Mulroney insider. He has the media and will soon control the Supreme Court.

And if that isn't bad enough, we learn today, that he will also soon control the Ontario Court of Appeals. How long before other provinces fall under his sway?

Even before his majority, his government had reached all benchmarks of Fascism, and his determined to be the most secretive in history.

So please don't tell me that I don't know what a dictatorship is, or that Stephen Harper does not currently have dictatorial powers.

It's important for us to realize this, because we are the ones who allowed a single man to take absolute control of our country.

And while you might say that we are still a democracy, given that he was elected, even if it was with less than 40% of the popular vote, another man became a dictator when he was elected with just 43.9% of the popular vote.

The “Coup D’etat at Barriere Lake and Why it Matters

During the 2008 election campaign, a citizens group occupied the offices of Lawrence Cannon. After a member of his staff insulted the peaceful protesters, by suggesting that they were all drunkards, Cannon was forced to issue an apology.

But the incident brought the situation at Barriere Lake in Quebec, from where the occupying citizens hailed, to the public's attention.

Because the sit-in was only one measure taken by the community, that has been victimized by corporate greed and government intervention, for decades.

In his book, Speaking Out, Jack Layton mentions a visit to the community and a meeting with then Chief Harry Wawatie.
The true heroes, however, are First Nations leaders and communities. Like Barriere Lake Reserve Chief Harry Wawatie, whose community of four hundred people live in sixty decrepit houses in abject poverty while resource-extracting firms and tourism companies suck the enormous economic wealth out of the lands that should provide the community with sustenance. Courage and wise determination are what you see in the chief's eyes, along with deep sadness as he watches an affluent nation systematically deny human rights and security to the next generation of his community. (1)
And it has indeed been systematic, in what Todd Gordon calls a "violent intervention by paramilitary force to impose government-friendly leaderships in First Nation communities" (2), Barriere Lake being one of them.

The occupation of Lawrence Cannon's office was to protest the hostile takeover of their government.
In what residents of the Algonquin community of Barriere Lake, located 250 kilometres. from Ottawa, describe as a coup d'etat, SQ officers forcibly entered their community of 650 to remove a customary leadership, which had not been subject to the Indian Act's band council system and which had the support of the majority of the community. The SQ-enforced coup followed the Department of Indian Affairs' decision to remove the traditional chief and council and replace them with a small and unpopular faction. (2)

The conflict began in the 1960s, when the federal and Quebec governments forced the First Nation community off of its traditional lands and onto a small plot, with 'no community centre or high school, only one phone line for the entire community and serious overcrowding in substandard houses (in some cases; up to eighteen people live in small dwellings with unfinished basements and leaky roofs.'

The reserve is badly underserviced and the rape of the land has wreaked havoc on the ecosystem of their traditional territory. Hydro development has damaged waterways. Logging companies have cut over traplines, destroyed moose habitat (moose have been a staple of the community's diet) and sprayed the area with industrial herbicide.

One of their struggles has been a battle with lumber giant Domtar. In the 1980's the people of Barriere Lake mounted blockades, and cut off the wood supply to their mills, resulting in a Trilateral Agreement between the federal government, the Quebec government and the First Nations. But that agreement has not been honoured. Financial remuneration has been withheld and important meetings cancelled.

This has necessitated the residents to again mobilize, while the government worked behind the scenes to remove dissidents and plant a more compliant municipal body.

When former Barriere Lake leader Chief Jean Maurice Matchewan, was charged with assault, his bail conditions prohibited him from returning to the community. The same thing happened with band administrator, Michel Thusky. And though the cases were eventually thrown out, the legal troubles were damaging.

In 1995, the Quebec government began making accusations of sexual and financial misconduct by the community leadership, based solely on accusations by the puppet government in waiting.

Indian Affairs hired the law firm of Thompson Dorfman Sweatman to file a motion with the federal government to have Barriere Lake's traditional council removed from power. It was later discovered that the law firm also represented Domtar, the company standing the most to lose if the citizens retained their democratically elected council.
But the residents remained defiant, and blockaded their own reserve to keep the opposition from entering their community. Faced with the resistance, Indian Affairs cut off all government funding to the reserve, which was already suffering from ninety percent unemployment and extremely poor living conditions. But community members refused to give in, and lived for over a year without water, electricity or schooling for their children. They survived entirely by living off their land as best they could given the decades of environmental destruction caused by resource development. And when logging companies tried to move back into areas that had previously been protected, they were met once again by blockades. With mills facing shutdowns as a result, Indian Affairs dropped its effort to replace the community's leadership, and when elections were subsequently held, the opposition was soundly defeated." (2)
They won this battle , but the war continues. When a new chief was elected in 2006, the Harper government refused to recognize his leadership. Instead, it put Barriere Lake under Third Party Management meaning that an external consultant unilaterally runs their affairs.

This allowed the unwanted and unelected opposition, under corporate friendly Casey Ratt, to move in. He refused to hold elections and has promised to drop the lawsuit against the federal government.

This again sparked confrontations that led to a number of arrests.
Although most of those activists were eventually released from jail, the experience is a chilling re-minder of the lengths to which the state will go to keep indigenous people under its thumb. The full force of the state's coercive apparatus is brought to bear on those indigenous peoples willing to step outside the parameters Canada has set for its colonial relations with First Nations.
According to the Department of National Defense's counter-insurgency manual, there are aggressive measures that can be taken to handle "indigenous militancy".

One is the use of deception and misinformation campaigns, something we have already witnessed at Barriere Lake. But it does not rule out the use of "deadly force".
The rise of radical Native American organizations, such as the Mohawk Warrior Society, can be viewed as insurgencies with specific and limited aims. Although they do not seek complete control of the federal government, they do seek particular political concessions in their relationship with national governments and control (either overt or covert) of political affairs at a local/reserve ('First Nation') level, through the threat of, or use of, violence.
Given Harper's new border security deal with the U.S. and the Wikileaks documents that express their concerns over "indigenous militancy", we could see the use of force becoming more commonplace, if campaigns of deception and misinformation fail.

And let's not forget the most troubling aspect of all. A deal signed three years ago that allows the U.S. military to cross our border in the case of what they deem to be a "civil emergency".

I'm very concerned with the direction that the Harper government will take, given their unfettered power.

Lawrence Cannon has fortunately been replaced, and the new NDP MP Mathieu Ravignat, seems to be a compassionate and caring man. But if this becomes a military issue, there is little he will be able to do to stop it. I'm very worried.


1. Speaking Out: Ideas That Work for Canadians, By Jack Layton, Key Porter Books, 2004 ISBN: 1-55263-577-5, Pg. 265-266

2. Imperialist Canada, By Todd Gordon, Arbeiter Publishing, 2010, ISBN: 978-1-894037-4507, Pg. 283-286

More Alarm Over Harper's Plans to Reduce Food Safety Regulations

A story over the weekend, revealed that U.S. scientists are concerned with the fact that traces of feces are being found in imported food. Not exotic food found in import shops, but fruits, vegetables and other staples, sold in our supermarkets.
Michael Doyle, a microbiologist with the University of Georgia, was to address that topic Monday while making the keynote address at the general meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in New Orleans.

Doyle and others are sounding the alarm about increasing proportions of food being imported - mostly because it costs less - from countries where sanitary standards for production are not as stringent as in places such as Canada and the United States.
And how safe are Canadians?
A Canadian Food Inspection Agency spokeswoman, when asked for comment on the safety of imported food, said in an email that "Canada's rigorous food safety requirements apply equally to imported and domestic foods." ... However, an internal audit of CFIA released in September found there were "deficiencies" with regard to its procedures dealing with imported food. The audit found that there are no mechanisms in place to ensure the quality of imported food is equivalent to that produced in Canada, other than for meat, fish and eggs. It said there was poor tracking to ensure the quality of products including beverages, infant formula, confectionaries, cereals, spices and seasonings, and baked products.

That CFIA report said the inflation-adjusted value of food imported increased to $21.8 billion in 2006 from $14.2 billion in 1997. On its website, the CFIA says more than 70 per cent of food products sold in Canada are imported.
But Canadians also need to be concerned with food processed at home.

Under the guise of eliminating red tape, the Harper government has been systematically tearing down any protections that stand in the way of corporate profit. At what has been dubbed the "jelly bean summit", Harper and George Bush agreed to lower safety standards, to come closer to those of Mexico, and adopted a new strategy, known as "risk management".

This allows many companies to inspect themselves, but if things go wrong, they have to clean up their own mess. The government will take no responsibility.

When Jim Flaherty announced the elimination of 80,000 public service jobs, many of those jobs are in "food safety".

They say "you are what you eat", and that could mean feeling crappy.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Levant and Wilders. Who's the Loser Now?

Ezra Levant interviewed the Islamophobic Geert Wilders, on his popular (?) program 'I'm better than Glenn Beck Because...', and with all the feigned shock he could muster, exposed those darn lefties who were trying to muzzle the Dutch MP.

Levant did everything but weep.

I read Dana Milbank's Tears of a Clown, about Beck, and apparently he used to dab menthol ointment under his eyes before going on, to get the tear ducts flowing. Maybe I'll send Levant a jar.

Wilders spoke recently at a Conservative approved event, as part of the Tulip Festival. It was quite lovely. Everything a Tulip Festival should be.

But he may miss next year's because he's about to go on trial for hate speech. Guess the Dutch don't like him either.
One of Europe's most prominent right-wing populists, Wilders argues that his remarks comparing Islam to Nazism and calling for a ban on the Quran are part of legitimate public debate that is protected by freedom of speech. Muslim groups say Wilders is infringing their right to freedom of religion by increasing discrimination against them.
Ezra must be getting so excited.

His Danish cartoon story is getting old, but Wilders is giving him lots of fresh material.

I think I'll send him that ointment now.

The Move Forward to Colonialism

This week the Harper regime announced that they would be changing the name of "Indian Affairs" to "Aboriginal Affairs", seemingly the politically correct thing to do.

Immediately, several First Nations' leaders spoke out against the change, because it lumps all such nations into one. A legitimate argument.

On the other hand, aboriginal advocacy groups, believe that it will mean broader qualifications for government services. And indeed as part of the press release, Andrew MacDougall, a spokesman for Stephen Harper, said that “Changing the term used in the minister’s title from ‘Indian’ to ‘aboriginal’ better reflects the scope of the minister’s responsibilities" as they would now include Inuit and Métis.

However, to me, the name change means nothing, because it still fails to address the special relationship between the modern Canadian state and our indigenous people. The term "responsibilities" has the familiar paternal tone.

In his 2000 Massey lecture: the Rights Revolution, Michael Ignatieff wrote of us:
We are British North Americans, a colonial people in refuge from the republican experiment to the south. We are a community forged by the primal experience of negotiating terms of settlement among three peoples: the English, the French, and the aboriginal First Nations. This gives us a particular rights culture and it is this rights culture that makes us different. (1)
Those terms of settlement have been breached, and what we have created instead is a form of colonialism, where many First Nations people are subjugated.

Todd Gordon in his book Imperialist Canada, rightfully states that Canadian Imperialism begins with our Empire at Home.
The Canadian state's relationship with indigenous people provides a sharp example of the policy of accumulation by dispossession, and serves as a potent reminder of Canada's imperialist history. Any discussion of Canadian imperialism really must begin at home. Indigenous nations are Canada's very own Third World colonies, created and managed as part of an intensive, ongoing colonial project ... (2)
So while we can look at the living conditions on many reserves, with disgust, we can't make any significant changes until we understand the severity of the crimes against the people living there.

As Gordon reminds us.
There were hundreds of indigenous nations living across present-day Canada on land rich in resources, that did not wish to participate in the state and big business's plans for them and their land. But it was precisely the natural wealth of indigenous land and the labour of indigenous peoples (and poor immigrants) that provided the necessary basis for Canadian capital to grow and prosper in the first place, and to eventually move abroad to become a globally competitive force. It was on indigenous lands that mines were developed, oil discovered, private farms to feed the growing urban centres established, railways connecting the vast Canadian market laid, roads to transport goods carved out of the landscape and tourist resorts built. The whole foundation of Canadian capitalism rests upon indigenous land and resources. (2)
So this nation's prosperity was only possible because of negotiated terms of settlement. Terms of settlement that we are constantly abusing.

And that abuse is justified through a sense of racial superiority. A notion that will be accelerated with Fox News North reducing land claim issues to a struggle between "Indians and White People".

In Jack Layton's book, Speaking Out, he says:
I've learned from my years in municipal government that healthy public policy should shift resources to communities themselves, empowering those who live there to implement their ideas rather than live under the dictates of others. In the case of Aboriginals and Metis in Canada, the principle of social justice demands it. (3)
A good baby step, but then throughout the book he speaks more of the horrible living conditions and resulting community advocacy from non-aboriginals, but it doesn't address the big issue.

Any policy must start from a place of respect, and that means making First Nations equal partners in the development of our country.

Self government is essential, but it also means recognizing the validity of those governments.

A Unique Opportunity

Jack Layton has been given a rare opportunity to separate himself from Stephen Harper. And it comes with the election of Romeo Saganash.

A James Bay Cree, Saganash has experience in government, having served as director of governmental relations and international affairs for the Grand Council of Crees, for 30 years, and has advised parliamentary committees in Quebec and Ottawa.

And he worked very hard to get his seat, vigorously campaigning, in an attempt to garner the needed 9,000 votes. He earned 14,000.

He's intelligent, well liked and has the kind of face you instantly warm to.

Layton needs to appoint him as the "Aboriginal Affairs" critic. The Conservatives love their tokenism, keeping count, as if on a scorecard. But Saganash is no token anything. Another new MP that I just know I'm going to like.

Let's hope Layton recognizes the importance of his experience and capabilities. We are sorely in need of a change in direction.


A Harper Majority and Native rights

The “Coup D’etat at Barriere Lake and Why it Matters


1. The Rights Revolution: CBC Massey Lectures, By Michael Ignatieff, Anansi Books, 2000, ISBN: 978-0-88784-762-2, Pg. 14

2. Imperialist Canada, By Todd Gordon, Arbeiter Publishing, 2010, ISBN: 978-1-894037-4507, Pg. 66-68

3. Speaking Out: Ideas That Work for Canadians, By Jack Layton, Key Porter Books, 2004 ISBN: 1-55263-577-5, Pg. 143

Sunday, May 22, 2011

So Much For Belt Tightening. Harper Just Needs Bigger Pants

With promises of major cutbacks for everyone else, Stephen Harper is again rubbing our noses in the fact that he controls us all, by spreading our money lavishly around his MPs.

39 cabinet ministers, at a minimum annual cost of $9 million.

But don't forget that he usually also assigns numerous Parliamentary secretaries from among them, in an attempt to bring as many as possible into the executive, ensuring that few are left to actually question the executive.

Not that any of them ever question anything the exalted one does.

They wouldn't dare.

Harper's Dictatorship Now Complete and Unchallenged

Warren Kinsella writes this week: Stephen Harper gives Canadians the finger

The discussion is Harper's latest snub of the media, no longer caring whether they challenge his decisions. It was deliberate and calculated. He didn't have to answer to them regarding his Senate appointments. They are no longer useful to him.

Let them stomp up and down. For the next 4-5 years he will no longer have to explain his actions to the Canadian people. He's always done what he wanted anyway, but now his control of our country is absolute.

Lawrence Martin writes: Behold the most powerful PM ever

He has it all:
•A fractured opposition and decimated Liberal party.
•An overpowering political machine that doubles and triples rivals in financial resources.
•A preponderant media advantage with most of the big fourth-estate players on side.
•A public service more submissive than ever before.
•Agencies and watchdog groups that are intimidated or stacked with governing party partisans.
•A majority in the Senate and the House, plus command over an increasingly dysfunctional parliamentary committee structure.
•A bossist structure in the governing party that allows no dissent from within.
Not to mention the fact that within a few months, he will also have control of the Supreme Court, and the Governor General is a Conservative insider.

When Jack Layton teamed up with Harper to destroy the Liberals, he must have felt pretty powerful. But looking around at the carnage, just how powerful is he really? Leader of what?

Stephen Harper is ending the democratic voter subsidies, where less than $2.00 was taken from each voting taxpayer, and going to the party of their choice.

Layton's surge was mostly superficial, and I doubt it will generate into massive fundraising, given that he's pretty much impotent, with few allies in the House.

And how easy will it be for the Liberals to rebuild? Their membership is currently on the rise, as many Canadians now realize that the Harper/Layton team has gutted the centre, but can the interest hold?

It's a very terrifying time to be a Canadian progressive.