Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Flotilla to Gaza Has Fox News North in a Flap

Fox News North is in a right flap over Canada's participation in the Flotilla to Gaza, to deliver badly needed humanitarian aid.

Conservative columnist John Robson claims they are acting like children, and Brian Lilley says that because there is an obesity problem in Palestine, they don't really need aid.

Obesity is not always about too much food, but not the right kind of food.

John Baird is warning the participants that he will not come to their rescue, and two NDP MPs have broken with party policy and are supporting the activists. So am I.

What's interesting, is that while in Canada we are accused of supporting terrorists, or of being anti-Semitic if we denounce the Israeli blockade, in Israel, 64% of citizens want their government to negotiate with Hamas.

Are those 64% who denounce their government's actions, anti-Semitic? They are residents of a Jewish state, so I rather doubt it.

But as Glenn Greenwald wrote:
Needless to say, isolating the democratically elected Hamas government and childishly pretending that they don't exist is a central prong of the Bush administration's policy, and few American politicians could ever get away with advocating that Israel attempt diplomatically to negotiate its conflicts with Hamas. Cascades of "anti-Israel," "soft-on-Terrorists" and other related accusations would pour down on any person suggesting such a thing.
The same can now be said of Canada.

Libby Davies got a tongue lashing and was forced to apologize, after visiting Gaza and reporting on the inhumanities. The Reformers dug up an old piece written by Michael Ignatieff for the New York Times, in which he compared the Israeli Apartheid to the Apartheid in South Africa.

Jimmy Carter was president then and Ignatieff had flown over Gaza in a helicopter to report on Carter's initiatives in the area. But clearly he was the devil for making such an observation, even if it was 30 years ago.

Lilley, in the Fox News North piece, also suggests that even if Canadians are arrested, they will be treated like royalty, spending their days sipping champagne and eating pâté.

It's not like they're going to be tortured or anything.

And yet there is overwhelming evidence that Israel does indeed torture prisoners.

Of all the things that Stephen Harper has sold out from under us, the selling of our backbone, and our ability to care, are the two things we will miss the most.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Jim Flaherty and the Tea Party Abandon the Arts

It was once suggested to Winston Churchill that he cut funding to the arts to pay for Britain's war, to which he responded "Then what would we be fighting for?"

A nation's arts and culture are as important to their identity as their historic landmarks.

Yet neoconservative ideology suggests otherwise. If it doesn't make a profit, then it's not art. And in the same way that Margaret Thatcher declared that "there is no such thing as society", the Harperites believe that there is no such thing as a Canadian culture.

The Tea Party/Republicans believe that the National Endowment for the Arts are "elitists" and even go so far as to suggest that their main function is to create propaganda for the left.

Sarah Palin says: "NPR, National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, all those kind of frivolous things that government shouldn't’t be in the business of funding with tax dollars — those should all be on the chopping block."

Jim Flaherty listened and has announced that he will be cutting funding for the arts. No big surprise, since Harper himself has referred to artists as those living in "ivory towers".

Lighthouses on stumps, fake lakes and his singing off key, are the only artistic endeavors that we need to pay for. And we are indeed paying for them.

William Osborne wrote a piece for the American Arts Journal several years ago discussing the neoconservative principles of Milton Friedman and the Republicans, when it came to the funding of arts and culture.

He had spent several years in Europe, and was amazed at the divide.
As an American who has lived in Europe for the last 24 years, I see on a daily basis how different the American and European economic systems are, and how deeply this affects the ways they produce, market and perceive art. America advocates supply-side economics, small government and free trade – all reflecting a belief that societies should minimize government expenditure and maximize deregulated, privatized global capitalism. Corporate freedom is considered a direct and analogous extension of personal freedom.

Europeans, by contrast, hold to mixed economies with large social and cultural programs. Governmental spending often equals about half the GNP. Europeans argue that an unmitigated capitalism creates an isomorphic, corporate-dominated society with reduced individual and social options. Americans insist that privatization and the marketplace provide greater efficiency than governments. These two economic systems have created something of a cultural divide between Europeans and Americans.
Canada used to care about cultural events without worrying over whether they produced a profit or fit a mould. The neocons will pick and choose what events they fund, and only those that conform to neocon ideology will ever see a dime.

Gay Pride parades out, reenactments of battles in. Next summer it will be the War of 1812, only in this version, the Americans win and we hand over to them everything we own.

And the Harperites belittle artists to justify their heavy handedness. If you can't sell your painting, then you shouldn't be painting.

Says Osborne:
European politicians avoid attacking the arts for populist and opportunistic political gains. This is a taboo that is seldom, if ever, broken and the perpetrators generally only discredit themselves. Few mainstream European politicians would make remarks such as North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms, who said, “The artists and the homosexuals ain’t seen nothing yet.” Europeans would find it absurd to eliminate almost half of a nation’s arts funding because of two or three marginalized avant-garde artists. After the traumas of both fascism and communism, Europeans realize how destructive the intimidation of artists is to the dignity and cultural identity of society.
Ah yes. Jesse Helms. Did I mention that Arthur Finklestein also handled his campaign?

Don't you just love the ignorance of neoconservatism?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Since I Can't Comment on My Blog I Must Explain Jack Layton Post

After posting my piece yesterday: Jack Layton Needs to Spend the Summer Taking "Speech" Lessons I received a couple of comments in defense of the Layton strategy.

I'm still unable to respond on my own blog, so I thought I'd explain myself. I don't want to see the NDP destroyed. They were always my "go to" party if the PCs screwed up. However, as someone who has been following and studying the neoconservative movement, I see how easily it was for Harper to set up the NDP.

In 2004, when he arranged a meeting with Gilles Duceppe and Jack Layton, he convinced them that they must help him destroy the Liberals, so they should both attack the Sponsorship Scandal with all the gusto they could muster. And they did.

The Liberals were attacked on all fronts, despite the fact that the stage was set for the Sponsorship Scandal by Brian Mulroney, who hired all the cronies, and introduced them to the 'culture of entitlement' (see Stevie Cameron's On the Take) Every name is there.

Jack Layton's father was a cabinet minister in the Mulroney government, and since Layton tries to paint all Liberals with the Adscam brush, I guess turnabout is fair play.

Harper's strategy worked and he now has his majority. But what's interesting is the way it played out. He knew he couldn't beat the Bloc in Quebec, because his ideology is the complete opposite to what most Quebecers believe.

So instead he allowed the NDP to destroy them, getting his majority without Quebec. He never felt comfortable "sucking up to them" in the first place. (see Lawrence Martin's Harperland)

And it didn't take long for the right-wing media to rile the West with the Layton/Quebec match up.

I'm thoroughly convinced that the NDP "surge" was contrived, because the headlines appeared before the actual surge. But it is what it is. Harper couldn't have written the script better himself.

He will spend the next four years polarizing Canadians into a right/left divide. His plan all along.

Although it wasn't even originally his plan, but that of Ernest Manning's, the long serving Social Credit premier of Alberta. He set out to destroy the Liberals by working within the Conservative Party of John Diefenbaker.

Dief toyed with the idea of an alliance until a member of his caucus, Jim MacDonnell, whose father was a friend of Sir John A. MacDonald, exclaimed that the party founder "would now turn over in his grave!" (see One Canada by John Diefenbaker)

So Manning's next strategy was to have the head of the federal Social Credit Party, Rob Thompson, run for the Conservatives, hoping he would then be in a position to merge the two parties from the inside. That also failed.

With corporate financing, he wrote his little book: Political Realignment, and sent his son, Preston Manning, along with friend Erick Schmidt, to the PC convention, again to encourage a merger. But Robert Stanfield, a Red Tory (Harper called Red Tories "pink Liberals") was chosen, and the two young men sent on their way.

The Mannings knew they would have to wait, so wait they did. Political Realignment drew the attention of the National Citizens Coalition, and a marriage was sanctified. To complete the new strategy, the NCC hired Arthur Finklestein, who took liberal bashing to a new level. Finklestein also created the idea of Independent Expenditure Campaigns, in response to a tightening of political contributions after Watergate.

He helped to turn the NCC from a simple protest group, into a full blown, corporate financed, purveyor of Independent Expenditure Campaigns (third party advertising), while Manning advised that they become designated non-profit, to enjoy the tax breaks.

The next wave came with western anger over the National Energy Policy and Mulroney's decision to give a military contract to Montreal, that was promised to Winnipeg, and the Reform Party was born.

David Frum attempted another merger when Jean Charest became Conservative leader, but soon realized that the two parties were polar opposites, so they again bided their time.

Finally, with Peter MacKay at the helm, and a $500,000 loan hanging over his head, he sold out to Harper and the PC Party was no more. Harper claims to know who paid MacKay's loan but refuses to divulge the information. Possibly Karlheinz Schreiber, a close friend of MacKay's father. ( MacKay's financial secret safe with Harper: No conflict, party leader says, by Stephen Maher, The Halifax Herald Limited, May 13, 2004)

That was 2003, and in 2004, the next phase to destroy the centre began.

It's important for Jack Layton to understand just how this movement began and how deeply entrenched it is, if he hopes to survive.

And using language like "brothers and sisters", only fuels the right-wing noise machine.

So I stand by my opinion that he needs to develop a new language, if he hopes to make his party palpable to the average Canadian, who gets all their messaging from Harper's communications team.

We know how important trade unions are, but at the beginning of the debate over the back to work legislation, Canadians were split down the middle. By the end, they were 70% against the postal workers. Why? Because the Conservatives sold their side better.

Layton's rhetoric only helps the right-wingers paint him as a communist. A "red threat". Completely irrational, but this movement is anything but rational. Have you read the comments sections at the end of on-line articles? Harper's supporters defend his purchase of the F-35s, because the communists of Russia and China are threatening our Arctic sovereignty.

And it doesn't matter how many experts claim that these planes are no good for the Arctic, you will not budge them. Why do you think the government is building a monument to the victims of Communism?

Personally, I don't think commie plots are our biggest threat. I don't even believe that terrorism is. The biggest threat we are facing today is ignorance.

For heaven sake, Michelle Bachman and Sarah Palin are both thought by some to be the next president of the United States. In fact, other Republican hopefuls, are dumming down their message to compete with their stupidity.

Can you imagine if one of these women had access to the metaphorical red button?


So hopefully, when Parliament resumes in the fall, Jack Layton will have learned something from this. He needs to change his strategy or he's doomed, and unfortunately, so are we.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Jack Layton Needs to Spend the Summer Taking "Speech" Lessons

Matt Latimer, a former George Bush speechwriter, wrote a book on his experiences at the White House. Speechless: Tales of a White House Survivor.

In it he speaks of how excited he was to be hired to write presidential speeches. Pearls of wisdom that would be passed from generation to generation.

But once he joined the 'team", he learned that he was little more than an ad man. George Bush didn't want lavish speeches, he wanted slogans. If it wouldn't fit on a bumper sticker, it had no place in his parlance.

Harper insider, David Frum, also a George Bush speech writer, carefully crafted the gem, "axis of evil". My hero.

However, the most important task for speech writers in the Bush administration was crafting messages. When they were first considering bailing out banks during the economic crisis, many conservatives said that this was tantamount to nationalizing the banks, and sounded like socialism.

Bush needed the team to write a speech that made nationalizing the banks, not sound like socialism, despite the fact that it kinda' was.

Stephen Harper has increased government advertising by 300% and has the largest communications team, of any prime minister (maybe even larger than George Bush's or God's), and yet he doesn't really communicate with us.

And that's because this over bloated office has one function and one function only. To craft messages, so that things that are clearly wrong for our country, sound like the best thing since sliced bread.

They won the standoff with the NDP over the postal strike, because they carefully crafted the message as concern for charities and small businesses. Canadians soon forgot that it was not the workers who stopped the mail, but management.

I admired Jack Layton and the NDP for their filibuster, but it was doomed to fail from the get go. And that's because of messaging.

Layton, maybe still stinging from the booing his party got for suggesting that they drop 'socialism' from their constitution, met with postal workers and referred to them as his "brothers and sisters".

I didn't know if he was going to rap or break into a rendition of the Hymn of the Bolsheviks. What was he thinking? This is just the kind of ammunition the Harperites needed. Doesn't he remember this from Fox News North?

Instead of worrying about the term 'socialist', he needs to remove the nonsense from his own speaking. "Big oil, big banks and big gas" are just annoying now. And anti-corporation rhetoric will win him few favours with anyone. Instead he needs to focus on how to work with big business, to make them more responsible.

He sounds like a crotchety old man complaining about the yunguns' playing their 8-tracks too loud.

In the age of globalization "big oil, big gas and big banks" are going to be with us for a very long time.

Layton has some clever young people in his caucus. Tap into their youthful passion, and allow them to present some catchy alternatives to the same old jargon.

Because this legislation was important for all of us. It was not just about protecting good union jobs, that benefit small business and charities, but also, setting a tone.

In Mike Harris's Ontario, there was an atmosphere of distrust, as the government encouraged people to report their neighbours and co-workers, if they were bending the rules. General Motors, picking up on the vibe, placed a suggestion type box in their factory, encouraging workers to "snitch" on their fellow workers.

It didn't last long, because the union stepped in and the box was removed.

This time, management won over workers, and the nation rejoiced. The message is clear. They are the boss and will always be the boss, and if you want to keep your job, you do as you're told. How long before we see another "snitch" box?

During the Mike Harris years in Ontario, the clashes between government and unions were legendary and riot police became as normal a view at Queen's Park as the sculptures.

We need to stop this trend before it gets started, and the only way to do that is to convince Canadians, with messaging, that unions are important. Without them income disparity will only grow, and our middle class obliterated.

That's the argument the NDP need to present to the Canadian people. Referring to union workers as "brothers and sisters" only provides fodder for the right-wing media.

One of my readers posted a link to a column written by Harper's former VP at the National Citizens Coalition, Gerry Nicholls. In it he discusses the fact that Harper's ultimate goal was to completely destroy the Liberal Party.
Indeed, his desire to eliminate the Liberals is something he and I discussed way back in the days when we worked together at the National Citizens Coalition. His theory, as explained to me, was that conservatism would be better served in this country if Canada had a two-party system, one that pitted right against left, free enterprise against socialism, Conservatives against New Democrats. He believed that, in such a polarized political environment, a conservative-oriented party would have a huge advantage over its left-wing rival. When given a clear choice, voters will usually pick conservatism over socialism.
Astonishingly, Harper was able to convince Jack Layton that destroying the Liberals would be good for him too, so Jack complied.

Little did he know at the time, that he was setting himself up, because Harper is right. The majority of Canadians will never choose socialism over free enterprise. Now with the PCs eliminated and the Liberals weakened, we are moving toward a one-party state.

And that "my brothers and sisters" is the simple truth.

It's Not About the Life Jackets Dammit

Chris Selley writes a column for the National Post this week about mandatory life jackets, coming soon to a lake near you.

He brings up a story in the Toronto Star two years ago, suggesting that mandatory life jackets might not be a bad thing, given the increase in drowning victims that particular summer.

But Selley's article focuses on a new (and temporary) mandatory life jacket law, just passed in King County, Washington. The reason for the implementation of such a law was the unusually heavy amount of mountain snow, that was increasing water levels, making swimming dangerous.

But says Selley: 'I suspect the Founding Fathers might take serious issue with mandatory life jacket laws for swimmers. But if it can happen in liberal America, there’s no reason to believe it won’t happen in liberal Canada.'

Those darn liberals and their seat belt laws and helmet laws. If we want to be stupid, we should be allowed the freedom to be stupid.

Personally, I haven't given a lot of thought to mandatory life jackets for swimmers. If we take our grandson near water, or even when swimming in a pool, we always make sure he's wearing one. But that's mainly because of his disability. I probably wouldn't support a broad law banning swimming without a life jacket, but I doubt that would ever see the light of the day.

This is just a bit more right-wing fear mongering, that will probably have the neocons spitting in their cornflakes.

The problem with this "founding fathers", "don't take away my freedoms" logic of the Tea Party/Republican/Neoconservative movement is that it's balderdash.

Bill Maher discussed an incident where a young woman was removed from a movie theatre because she refused to put away her cell phone, annoying the other patrons. She wrote a scathing tea party like letter to the theatre saying that she lived in America, the land of the free, and all that. Forgetting that people would like the "freedom" to go to the movies to actually watch a movie. A rather novel idea, I know.

Chris Matthews, one of the panelists also expressed a desire to eat tuna, with the comfort of knowing that it had been expected with his tax dollars, and not have to play Russian Roulette with his food.

Stephen Harper envisions a Canada with no corporate taxes and no rules for big business. He signed onto a scheme called 'Risk Management', which allows companies to do their own inspections, but if Canadians die as a result, they have to clean up their own mess.

Jim Flaherty also announced recently a 'red tape commission', like the one adopted by Mike Harris in Ontario, that resulted in at least seven deaths at Walkerton.

However, let's say we listen to the neocon knuckleheads, and eliminate all government "infringement" on our lives.

In their book The Trouble With Billionaires, Linda McQuaig and Neil Brooks, tell the story of British movie star Michael Caine and composer Andrew Lloyd Weber. Both men threatened to leave England if the British government raised their taxes.

In true libertarian fashion, they declared that the reason they are rich is because of their talent. However, what they fail to recognize, is that their talent alone did not make them rich. Copyright laws protecting their talent did. Otherwise they would be busking on street corners or reciting Hamlet in the park to thundering applause, but little more.

Harper claims to be Canada's Mr. Hockey, but could the NHL afford to pay the salaries they do without trademark licensing? How about corporate logos? Why don't I have the freedom to open a burger shop with golden arches, or make running shoes with a simple check mark?

All of that is government intervention.

Even at the Olympics, the Australian team was forbidden from hanging out their team flag, because it encroached on trademark protection. Not of the trademark associated with the flag, but on other competing firms who poured money into the sporting event.

You were also denied the freedom to bring in your own food, because it violated the franchising of food. The same rule applied to bottled water and other drinks.

And what about government created trade laws? Without them Stephen Harper would have never been able to gift AbitibiBowater $130 million of our money, if he couldn't draw on Chapter 11 of NAFTA. He denied us the freedom of using that money for our own benefit.

And while we're mulling over mandatory licensing and restrictive safety rules, we might want to think about this.

The late Milton Friedman, the iconic symbol of the Harper government, wanted to put an end to the licensing of doctors. He claimed that those licenses gave monopoly power to the American Medical Association.

Is this why Harper's health minister, Leona Aglukkaq, is refusing to attend Canadian Medical Association conferences? Is she concerned with their monopoly?

But then we should forgive the poor girl. She had an opportunity to have her picture taken with Harper, and who knows, it might just make it to his wall of honour.

Sorry Leona. He shares that wall with no one.

Chris Selley is not concerned with the infringement on our freedoms, but only with stirring up Harper's base, with more "the government's out to get you" nonsense.

Besides. Now that Harper is allowing mining companies to dump their toxic waste in our lakes and rivers, we'll be having to mandate bio-hazard suits if we want to risk swimming in them.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Why the NDP Filibuster Could Help Liberals in the Long Run

The NDP has dropped their filibuster, and naturally the Conservatives are rightfully claiming a resounding victory.
The Conservative benches erupted in cheers and backslapping as the final vote was held Saturday night, signalling that the official Opposition New Democrats had folded their tent on a decision the party's deputy leader called "preordained." Prime Minister Stephen Harper emerged from the chamber with Labour Minister Lisa Raitt to say his government had prevailed in the court of public opinion.

"We know what side the public was on and I think today members of Parliament on the other side finally started to get that message," said Harper. Calling the three days of round-the-clock debate in Parliament "a completely unnecessary delay," Harper said he was "nevertheless pleased that soon Canadians will again have access to their postal service, particularly small businesses and charities."
I was pleased that the NDP had gone back to their roots, standing with labour, but once you start something like this, you have to finish it, or appear weak.

I think this has definitely weakened them. Not that we shouldn't applaud their efforts, but by sticking to "charities" and "small business" as those the Conservatives were fighting for, they gave themselves leverage, while the NDP appeared to be backing self serving unions. Very sad, but Jack Layton should have known that you can't fight the right-wing noise machine by keeping it oiled.

Or by what Bob Rae called "shambolic behaviour". The ritual pawing of the ground, while unable to add bite to your bark.

Rae saw the standoff as a battle between two ideologies, and while the Conservatives were able to massage the public with the careful crafting of their message, the NDP were not, which will remind those non-conservative supporters that Layton is not a viable alternative to Harper.

This was his first real test.

After some NDP members arrogantly tried to pass a motion, banning any merger talks with the Liberals, but instead saying that the door was open for us to join them, the NDP dropped two points in the polls (Nanos). Their loss was divided between Conservatives and Liberals. They continue to remain strong only in Quebec.

Layton may have joined forces with Stephen Harper to destroy the Liberal Party, but he is instead destroying us. This country fared better when Liberals and NDP worked together. An NDP/Reform-Conservative alliance will never work, and I think Layton may finally be realizing that.

Because not only did his machinations give Harper a majority, but this latest drama, that played so well into Harper's hands, will hurt his party's integrity, while boosting the Conservatives in the polls.

They will continue to play the "socialist" card and within four years I see the NDP crushed by the neoconservatives. The plan all along if Layton had only put his ego aside for a minute and reminded himself of who Stephen Harper really is, and what he stands for.

He has only himself to blame, and posturing over the Sponsorship scandal, just won't cut it in the long term. He'd better develop a strategy quick.

In the meantime, the Liberals can continue to promote themselves as the alternative this country needs. The Conservatives won this one, but we will indeed see more clashing of ideologies.

And the Liberals must continue to provide a voice of reason.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Harperite Pal Geert Wilders Acquitted of Hate Speech Charges

The man invited by the Harperites to speak at this year's Tulip Festival, Geert Wilders, has been acquitted of hate crime charges.

Wilders has also appeared on Fox News North and had Ezra Levant in such a tizzy they had to administer smelling salts, in fear that his dizzy spell could put him into a coma.

The audience wouldn't have noticed.

Can't wait to see who we have at next year's Tulip Festival.

Maybe Franklin Graham.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Great Canadian Standoff

The NDP are filibustering, presenting their 20 minute speeches, delaying the vote on the back to work legislation, that would force postal workers back on the job, for less money than originally offered.

I don't know if Lisa Raitt finds union busting as sexy as cancer, but she's standing her ground, blaming the workers, despite the fact that it was management who stopped the mail.

The small difference in pay increase may not mean much, but the legislation means that management can refuse to accept doctor's notes for absenteeism. That's pretty draconian.

It's nice to see Layton take a stand on something. Kudos.

Why Friedrich Von Hayek Must be Barred From Canada

A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada

I realize that Friedrich Von Hayek died in 1992, but he is one of the "scholars" who helped to draft neoconservative theory.

In Lawrence Martin's book Harperland, he states that he spoke with Harper insiders about Leo Strauss, deemed the primary neoconservative theorist, and they denied that Stephen Harper had ever read him. I'm not surprised. A bit too deep, though he does ascribe to his theory of "hidden messages". Calculated ambiguity, taught at neocon schools everywhere. Orwellian with a twist.

However, Harper's boys do suggest that their boss is an avid reader and follower of Friedrich Von Hayek, an Austrian economist, and author of The Road to Serfdom, which has become a Bible to neocon disciples.

I'm currently reading the Fiftieth Anniversary Edition, with introduction by none other than Milton Friedman, a colleague of Hayek's at the Chicago School's Committee on Social Thought.

In the first chapter, The Abandoned Road, Hayek speaks of the roots of western civilisation. The roots which he claims come from the Greeks and Romans. He also laments that we are abandoning the sage advice of Adam Smith, John Milton, Erasmus, Cicero, etc., etc., etc.

However, Canadian civilization was not based on the ramblings of the historic scholars, or the ancient Romans or Greeks. Our unique culture was based on the relationship between early European settlers and our First Nations.

When conducting trade on our river highways, they were not thinking of Adam Smith and the sovereignty of the consumer. Nor were they reading Milton's Paradise Lost or the philosophies of Marcus Tullius Cicero.

They were too busy trying to survive.

Von Hayek would never understand that. He grew up in Vienna, where his father was of minor nobility and his mother a member of the upper-class bourgeoisie. He led a privileged life, influenced by the intelligentsia of Viennese society.

So invoking the scholars was as natural to him as breathing, but understanding the needs of the general population, completely alien.

In his introduction to the Road to the Serfdom, he says that it was originally only meant to be a pamphlet, written for a British audience. He was surprised by it's success and especially the interest shown by the University of Chicago.

He even thought that he may have written it differently for the Americans. However, when he began to lecture in Canada, especially at the Fraser Institute, he should have written it differently for Canadians, because our culture is vastly different from that of the United States.

We don't thump our chests and chant "Canada, Canada, Canada", which doesn't mean that we aren't proud Canadians. We're just not annoyingly so.

And this is something that Stephen Harper doesn't understand. He's always been embarrassed by us. Socialists, lazy, a welfare state, mamby pamby Peacekeepers.

We needed to be more muscular. Tough soldiers behind state of the art heavy machinery. War toys to flaunt and intimidate others with.

He just doesn't get it.

Norm Jewison was interviewed several years ago and asked why he felt that Canadians were so successful in the entertainment industry. From Comedians like Jim Carey and Martin Short to directors like himself and David Cronenberg.

Jewison answered that it was because we only had six crayons, explaining to a confused interviewer, that Canadians have learned to make do. We never had the money that the American entertainment industry did, so we had to push the limits. Make do with what we had and turn those six colours into a kaledescope.

Martin Short once spoke of the successful series SCTV, that became the inspiration for Saturday Night Live. They ran the show on a shoestring, first writing the scripts, and then visiting the local Salvation Army thrift store for costumes.

Stephen Harper likes to tout our military history, without really understanding our military history. At Vimy Ridge, we were successful where so many other better equipped armies were not. And it's because we learned to make do with less.

Instead we focused on training down to the finest detail.

Stephen Harper instead follows the beliefs of people like Donald Rumsfeld, who felt that the man or woman behind the gun was not important. Only the size of the gun.

I watched a documentary about Iraq, and they interviewed several young American soldiers who admitted that they really had no idea what they were doing, or even how to properly handle those big guns. One young man said that before joining up he was working at Kentucky Fried Chicken. Now he was a member of the Intelligence Corp, charged with information gathering, and carrying a huge weapon.

Lester Pearson once said that the Americans may be richer than us, but that we were better off. We always thrived to be a nation that took care of its people.

This of course is anathema to the neoconservative, who believe that people should take care of themselves. This has never been the Canadian way. We do rely on ourselves, but also on our neighbours and our government.

Three and a half centuries ago, France sent shiploads of young brides, to help settle Quebec. Filles du roi, or 'King's Daughters. Men were told to select robust wives, capable of hard work and they were paid so much for every child born. Government intervention to encourage population growth.

My great grandfather was granted 100 acres of land in New Brunswick, for $3.00 and a set number of hours working to build roads. He also had to commit to clearing so many acres of land a year. Government intervention to build infrastructure and aid in prosperity.

A favourite social event for early settlers was the work 'Bees'. Logging bees, stumping bees, quilting bees. Communities working together. Collectivism to accomplish tasks beyond the ability of a single family. (from my Victorian Canada website)

We don't share the individualist attitudes of American history. It's rather telling that we selected Tommy Douglas as the 'Greatest Canadian'. The man who gave us universal healthcare, something Harper told the U.S. conservatives would "horrify" them.

Stephen Harper doesn't get us, he just wants to change us. Remake Canadians in the American image. An American image created by people like Friedrich Von Hayek.

In a 1997 CBC interview, Harper was asked "Is there a Canadian culture?" He replied: "Yes, in a very loose sense. It consists of regional cultures within Canada, regional cultures that cross borders with the US. We're part of a worldwide Anglo-American culture..."

Nope. He just doesn't get us.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

If There is a Referendum, I Will Vote to Abolish the Senate

There is a lot of discussion about Stephen Harper's plans to reform the Senate, by placing term limits of nine years, but only on those appointed after 2008.

Most of the opposition is coming from Harper's own senate appointments, many of whom have been rejected by the electorate, so would have difficulty finding such a cushy job, not to mention a pension for life.

Harper's other plan of an elected senate, would require a referendum, but even his current tweaking, demands a consensus from the provinces.

Being a Senator use to mean something in Canada, but the Senate is now just a $100 million a year drain on tax dollars, as a home for Harper flunkies.

They used to be there to protect us from someone like Stephen Harper, now they only protect him from people like us.

A three year study on poverty in Canada by the Liberal dominated senate, with vital input from Conservative senators, was presented to Stephen Harper. He gave it a glance then threw it in the trash.

The Parliament debated and passed a climate change bill. The Conservative dominated Senate gave it a glance, then threw it in the trash.

And any Senate bills that might help Canadians or make government more accountable, never have a chance. Even if they could get enough support from Conservative senators, the Harperites have found a way to make sure they never see the light of day.

In 2009, the Canadian Press learned of the tactic they used to hijack senate bills.
Normally, the author of a Senate private member's bill arranges to have a sympathetic MP sponsor it once it clears the upper house and arrives in the Commons. The sponsor informs the clerk's office that he or she will take responsibility for shepherding the bill through the Commons. But last month, Tory MPs began rushing to the clerk's office to sponsor bills almost the moment they were introduced in the upper house, whether or not they actually supported the bills and without waiting to see if they'd actually ever make it to the Commons.
A bill automatically dies if its sponsor fails to show up twice for debate on it. The Harperites who rush to sponsor the bill, make sure that they never show up to debate, stopping it in its tracks.
Ralph Goodale said the latest ploy is "an effort to muzzle a house of Parliament," and part of the government's continuing "vendetta" against the Senate. He said it's particularly hypocritical given the Tories' denunciations of the unelected chamber as an affront to democracy. "What they're basically saying is these topics (in the senators' bills) will not be debated. So it is very clearly the stifling of free speech."
It has just become another body that Harper can control at his whim.

A senator, especially a Conservative senator, is nothing more than a high priced bench warmer.

I did get my own back on one of them though. Senator Hugh Segal lives in Kingston, but we only hear from him when there's going to be an election. Like Wiarton Willie, if we see Segal's shadow, we know we're going to the polls.

When Stephen Harper was in Kingston, protesters were treated like criminals, kept behind imaginary lines and vivid barbed wire.

I was there, and when it was over made my way to the restaurant to use the bathroom and phone my husband. The door I normally used was locked, but I spotted Segal coming out the side door.

I approached him, and with all the innocence I could muster, asked him if he worked there, and could he let me in. He bent his head slightly, perhaps thinking I hadn't recognized him, and "feared" that I might ask for his autograph. I knew who he was, but it felt good to pretend I didn't.

He's done nothing to earn my respect, and that's something I don't hand out for free.

So if there is a referendum, I will be voting to abolish the Senate. It no longer has a legitimate function.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

JP Morgan Fined $153.6M For Doing God's Work

It is becoming increasingly evident that the so-called "Economic Crisis" was carefully engineered to force governments to tear down their welfare states.

The 153.6 million fine for JP Morgan is a drop in the bucket, when we look at the billions of dollars given in bailout money, much of which went to pay bonuses to execs of those companies, who "needed" the cash to "survive".

Too big to fail we were told.

The neoconservative movement is based on many things, but at the root is the desire to place public funds into private hands, and boy has there been a lot of public funds given away since this began. The financial 'shock doctrine'.

As a result, the United States is almost bankrupt and around the world austerity budgets are causing undue suffering on citizens. Not wealthy citizens though.

They're serving up caviar and Foie gras, while watching the peasants revolt on their wide screen TVs. Nothing this entertaining since public hangings.

But a few have a conscience, as distorted as it is, holding onto the belief that they are doing God's work". God sent Katrina so the neocons could rebuild in their image of what a "free market" should look like, including private schools and voucher systems. Milton Friedman had a spiritual awakening and began speaking in tongues.

Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman-Sachs, told the London Times that he was just a banker doing God's work. I'm glad he cleared that up, because I thought he was just another crook.

And speaking of crooks, this "economic crisis" certainly did a lot for the careers of Jim Flaherty and Stephen Harper. They just have to mention the word "economy" and everyone swoons.

And they're still using it as an excuse for more taxpayer funded advertising and even the reason for attacking postal employees. How dare they demand fair treatment during our "economic recovery"?

A Wikileaks document revealed that the Americans believe, and rightfully so, that Stephen Harper has no idea what he's doing when it comes to the economy, only hoping that the stimulus package worked. Otherwise, he had no plan "B".

They also portray Harper as being weak and a blowhard. Like we needed Wikileaks to tell us that.

Let's hope there are more fines and eventually arrests, because these guys should never get away with they've done. The largest fraud in history, that has destroyed the economies of many nations, and stuck Canada with a Harper majority.

He now has four years to destroy us, and destroy us he will.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

RCMP Looking Into Misappropiation of Funds Re: G-8 Spending

Several people, including myself, have contacted the RCMP about the $50 million dollars spent in Tony Clement's riding, that was supposed to be for border security and the easing of congestion at crossings.

Stephen Harper's only defense was that they had done it before. He no longer even pretends to be honest.

But Liberal Marlene Jennings has taken the bull by the horn, and we learn today that the RCMP will be investigating the matter.

Just because you steal the money from taxpayers, doesn't make stealing legal, despite what Harper says.

Let's hope the RCMP don't bury this one along with countless other Conservative crimes. We deserve better.

Allan Bloom Writes Harper's War on Women Strategy

(Left to right, William Gairdner, Leo Strauss, Allan Bloom)
A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada

I first read Susan Faludi's 1991 classic, Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women, several years ago, and I remember thinking that we were lucky to be living in Canada.

We had our male chauvinists, but government policy reflected, at least the notion of equality for women. We certainly knew of the U.S. 'Moral Majority', which later became the 'Religious Right', but as of yet, we had not been inflicted.

Reading the book again, 20 years later, Faludi could be writing about the Harper government and Canada's Religious Right.

When she discusses the influences of the Chicago School, and their Committee on Social Thought, she could just as easily be talking about our own Calgary School, that has gifted us with Stephen Harper, Pierre Poilievre and other like minded neocons.

And just as Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine, succinctly outlines western imperialism, Faludi's Backlash clearly lays out the neoconservative feminine agenda.

She devotes part of a chapter to Allan Bloom, a student of Leo Strauss, and author of the book, The Closing of the American Mind. Harper's counterpart is William Gairdner, a founding member of the Reform Party, whose misogyny is so profound, that in 2007, he became the topic of a paper written by Donna L. Lillian, Assistant Professor of Discourse and Linguistics in the Department of English at East Carolina University: A thorn by any other name: sexist discourse as hate speech, which centered around Gairdner, and analyzed "Canadian neoconservative discourse as racist, sexist, and homophobic."
"In arguing that at least some sexist discourse should be considered hate speech, I first demonstrate that the popular discourse of Canadian neoconservative author William D. Gairdner is sexist.... Sexism, the ideology and practice of relegating women to a lower rung on the social hierarchy than men simply by virtue of their femaleness, is an integral component of neoconservative thinking, and one way that such sexism is produced and reproduced is through language"
Gairdner has actually been compared to Bloom and his The Book of Absolutes: A Critique of Relativism and a Defence of Universals, is hauntingly similar to Bloom's Closing of the American Mind.

But it is Gairdner's The Trouble With Canada, that was sold at Reform Party assemblies, that best defines Harper's anti-feminist policies.

Allan Bloomberg and William Gairdner
The establishment came down with a constitutional package which they put to a national referendum. The package included distinct society status for Quebec and some other changes, including some that would just horrify you, putting universal Medicare in our constitution, and feminist rights, and a whole bunch of other things. (Stephen Harper, 1997 speech to Council for National Policy)
Susan Faludi writes of Allan Bloom:
Ostensibly about the decline in American education, Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind dedicates page after page to an assault on the women's movement. Whether he's deploring the state of scholarship, the emasculating tendencies of music, or the transience of student relationships, the baleful influence he identifies is always the same: the feminist transformation of society that has filled women with demands and desires and depleted men of vim and vigor. "The latest enemy of the vitality of the classic texts is feminism," he writes; concerted attacks on the literary canon from '60s student radicals and minorities pale in comparison, he says. Even the sexual revolution, Bloom's other bete noire, cast as a mere warm-up exercise to the "grimmer" rule of feminist tyranny. "The July 14 of the sexual revolution," he writes, "was really only a day between the overthrow of the Ancient Regime and the onset of the Terror."
The bachelor Bloom writes very little of the problem with education, but a great deal of ink was used to paint the women's movement as a terrorist attack on America, and his paranoia that universities had succumbed to the terror of the radical feminist.
[Bloom] a Plato scholar teaches at the University of Chicago, where he has retreated to the conservative, and practically all-male, bunker of the Committee on Social Thought (which had only one woman on its faculty): "I'm protected in my eccentric ivory tower," he says. "It's worse in the departments." When venturing outside the committee's demilitarized zone, he treads warily. "It's hard to explain to people who aren't in the universities how extraordinary it is," he says, comparing his lot to a shell-shocked refugee bearing atrocity stories: "I'm like one of the first people out of Cambodia."

According to Bloom's report from the front, feminists have invaded every academic sanctuary—a view shared by the many male scholars denouncing "political correctness" in the early '90s. "One finds it in all the various departments. They have made tremendous changes in courses. But more than that, in the old established courses with traditionalist books, a huge number [of professors] are teaching from that point of view. You study American history now, and what is America but the history of the enslavement of women! There's no question but it's become the doctrine."
Gairdner also speaks of "radical feminists" in Canada and how they too have influenced teaching, or what he refers to as "brain washing". He quotes the more extreme advocates for the movement, while ignoring the fact that there are legitimate grievances.

Instead, he suggests that men are the ones being victimized.
So woe betide us if men ever manifest the same lack of confidence in themselves as women have done for the past few decades and start a worldwide "masculinist" movement. That would have lots of fodder.

For example, men carry a disproportionate "death burden" in society. They die much younger than women do; there is a "life gap" favouring women all over the world. They are also vastly more often the victims of violent crime - than are women. They also suffer outright discrimination in wartime: over 120,000 Canadian men have been killed in battle, 150 in Afghanistan as of this writing; and a handful of women, of which three in Afghanistan. Men also suffer an unfair anti-emotional bias, and a stereotype-burden: we say "men can take it"—so listen, don't even think about crying, eh? Society also unfairly expects men (not women) to compete financially for their entire lives, and face scorn and failure if they can't hack it. Boys begin to feel this expectation in big way when they are about fifteen. They don't have the same safe harbour default option of homemaking and child-rearing as women do.
Gairdner wrote those words in a follow up to The Trouble With Canada, The Trouble With Canada ... Still. Hard to imagine that he would think that way in 2010, but his arguments provide an excellent case for equality, to free both men and women from the "stereotype-burden".

As to men being the victims of violent crime more often than women, men also perpetrate violent crime more often than women. And few women have that "safe harbour default option of homemaking and child-rearing", even if they wanted it.

What this really boils down to for men like Bloom and Gairdner, is that they are losing their status, when just being male opened all the doors. They truly believe that men are superior and resent any notion that they're not.
Perhaps what troubled Bloom was not so much that the feminist-tainted American mind was closing—but that it was closing against him. In 1970, Bloom felt compelled to flee his Ivy League haven for Canada. -The guns at Cornell," as he characterized the student uprising, drove him out. While only a very few of the guns were in women's hands, they are the ones he most vividly recalls—and resents. "That's when I began encountering the feminists," he recalls of Cornell, which was one of the first college campuses to establish a women's studies program. "The feminists started speaking very strongly.... Some of them are students who have since become well known. They were mostly women doing comparative literature who got a lot of attention."

While these women were building their careers and collecting their kudos, he felt exiled for ten bitter years at the University of Toronto. "I was lost," he told a reporter later. Two years into his expatriate post, at the relatively young age of forty-one, he suffered a heart attack. Finally, after two years of negotiations, he received a faculty appointment at the University of Chicago. But even there he remained, in his word, a "nobody." (1)
Understanding the influence of the 'Chicago School', brought to Canada by the 'Calgary School', is important if we are to understand the Harper agenda.

This is not just about imperialism, neoconservatism, racism, sexism, and all the other 'isms'. It is a total "movement", influenced by men like Leo Strauss, Friedrich Von Hayek, Milton Friedman and Allan Bloom; and absorbed by Stephen Harper and the Reform Party (now calling themselves the Conservative party of Canada).

All of these men are deceased (with the exception of Gairdner), but their legacy lives on in the Republican Party, the Tea Party and the current Canadian government.

Defunding the Status for Women, promoting male sports and traditionally male occupations, is only part of the incremental steps in destroying everything so many women fought for.

Harper likes to suggest that he has many women in his cabinet and caucus, but they are women who sit down and shut up and do as they're told. They hardly represent us.

We'd better start paying attention.


1. Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women, By Susan Faludi, Crown publishing, 1991, ISBN: 0-385-42507-4, Pg. 290-296

2. The Trouble With Canada ... Still: A Citizen Speaks Out, By William D. Gairdner, Key Porter Books, 2010, ISBN: 978-1-55470-247-3, Pg. 238-240

Monday, June 20, 2011

Harper Fires 92 Auditors Before They can Reveal His Military Expenses

After buying the Bush Doctrine and changing a few words (mainly just replacing 'Bush' with 'Harper'), Canadians may never know how much Harper's new 'Democracy' business is going to cost.

In a premptive strike, Stephen Harper has fired 92 auditors, as part of a 700 job trimming at public works.
The cuts to auditing staff at Public Works come just as the department is in the midst of overseeing a $35-billion wave of military purchases – including new ships and icebreakers – that carries political implications as Canada’s regions battle over the contracts.
So was John Baird lying? I refuse to believe it.

Rape as Weapon of War is Bigger Issue

During the debate over the extension of the Libyan "mission", NDP foreign affairs critic, Paul Dewar, brought up the subject of rape as a weapon of war.

He wanted the Conservatives to promise to address the issue.

This may have been inspired by the change in the language of our foreign policy, that prevents Canadian foreign aid workers from discussing victims of sexual abuse, among other things.

However, there are several reasons why this point shouldn't be raised at this time.

First off, the International Criminal Court already prosecutes those who use rape as a weapon of war, so we don't, in this instance, need to take it any further.

Secondly, headlines of systematic rape in Libya, have a propaganda feel, so may cloud the reasons for this war. Bringing it up in Parliament, enables the Conservatives to justify their bombing.

But the most important factor, is the issue of rape itself. We have to understand Libyan culture.

According to a report by CNN, while the ICC is gathering evidence, the rebel forces are destroying proof of sexual assaults themselves.
"There was a commander here at the eastern front in Misrata named Mohamed al-Halboos; he ordered all the (rebel) fighters to give him all the rape videos they find on Gadhafi soldiers' cell phones. I heard that he used to destroy every rape video he got," al-Kabeir said.

Asked why potential evidence of war crimes being carried out by pro-Gadhafi forces would be destroyed by rebel forces, he cited the heavy stigma that Libyan culture attaches to the victims of such crimes.

"Aside from being a heinous crime, rape is perceived here in our culture as damaging not only for the girl, but also the whole family," he said. In fact, he added, rape is such a taboo here that some victims' families would rather erase potential evidence than risk living with the shame.
It's a very sensitive issue, and normally I would feel, that if it is indeed taking place, it should be brought to our attention.

But in this case, those raped could be victimized twice.

I like Paul Dewar very much and understand where he's coming from. But foreign policy can be very complicated, which is why we need a diplomatic corp, that is respected and listened to, so we don't trip up and make matters worse.

After reading Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine, I can't help but think that this is just another self serving attack on an oil rich nation, since it comes after Gadhafi was demanding more money from the oil companies.

However, understanding the enormity of western imperialism, I know that realistically, it's not something we can put an end to tomorrow. So for the time being, we must demand that human rights are protected.

And in Libya, that means profound descretion. That doesn't mean turning our back on rape, but making sure that we don't sensationalize the issue, leaving it to the experts.

That's my two cents worth.

Will Bob Rae and Jack Layton Attempt to Filibuster Back to Work Legislation?

Jack Layton has vowed to filibuster Conservative back to work legislation, and Bob Rae is standing in solidarity with postal workers.

Harper is being Harper, siding with management and throwing in a few 'economy, economy, economy'.

The 'economy' doesn't stop his taxpayer funded self-promotion ads or 'hospitality' extravaganzas. Or ballooning his own costs and bloating his cabinet with extra salaries, limos and expense accounts.

But fair negotiations with unionized workers, will cripple us?

Harper's National Citizens Coalition was very anti-union, and the PM personally hates unions almost as much as he hates liberals, so we already know what his tactics will be.

But this is a little different. The people I speak with are for the most part supportive of the postal workers. Wisconsin looms large, and fear that their own bargaining powers could be weakened, is a factor.

We are not just supporting postal workers, but the real meat and potatoes of the Canadian economy. Even if we work for a non-unionized company, that business is probably thriving because of good union jobs. Workers spend money in this country, and that's the real trickle down.

Corporations hold onto their dough, trying to keep more and more of it for themselves.

Today's debate should be interesting, though don't be surprised if Layton throws in a 'sponsorship scandal' or two.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Harper's War on Women Was Launched in the USA

A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada
"The woman who is truly Spirit-filled will want to be totally submissive to her husband . . . This is a truly liberated woman. Submission is God's design for women."BEVERLY LAHAYE, The Spirit-Controlled Woman
One evening in 1978 Beverly LaHaye was watching television with her husband. On the tube Barbara Walters was interviewing the feminist leader Betty Friedan, who suggested that she represented many women in America.

According to the story that LaHaye has repeated countless times, she immediately sprang to her feet and declared, "Betty Friedan doesn't speak for me and I bet she doesn't speak for the majority of women in this country."

From that day on, or so the story goes, she vowed to rally other "submissive" women who believed, like her, that "the women's liberation movement is destroying the family and threatening the survival of our nation." (1)

Betty LaHaye's husband is Religious Right leader, Tim LaHaye, co-author of the successful Apocalyptic Left Behind book series. He is also a founder of the Council for National Policy, where Harper gave his 1997 speech, where he vilified Canadians and our socialist ways.

Betty LaHaye's "submissive awakening" was in direct contrast to what she had been preaching several years before. Then as a pastor's wife, raising four children, she felt unfulfilled and hated the drudgery of her day to day existence.
One very well-meaning lady said to me in the early days of our ministry, "Mrs. LaHaye, our last pastor's wife was an author; what do you do?" That was a heavy question for a fearful twenty-seven-year-old woman to cope with. And I began to wonder, "What did I do?" Oh yes, I was a good mother to my four children, I could keep house reasonably well, my husband adored me, but what could I do that would be eternally effective in the lives of other women? The answer seemed to come back to me. "Very little!" There was something missing in my life.

In my case it was not the major problems that succeeded in wearing me down; it was the smoldering resentment caused from the endless little tasks that had to be repeated over and over again and seemed so futile. Day after day I would perform the same routine procedures: picking up dirty socks, hanging up wet towels, closing closet doors, turning off lights that had been left on, creating a path through the clutter of toys. (1)
So despite the fact that her children were still young, she returned to work full-time, as a teletype operator for Merrill Lynch. This job she claimed helped her to "gain confidence" and fulfilment.

By 1978 her children were grown and forgetting her life before Merrill Lynch, she decided that she would be the voice of submissive women everywhere.

Lahaye helped to form the group 'Concerned Women for America', drafting women's policy for the Neoconservative/Religious Right movement. CWA also sparked similar organisations in other countries, including our own version 'Real Women of Canada', who have worked in Harper's various parties from the beginning of Reform.

A branch group of Real Women, Alberta Federation of Women United for Families, helped to get Conservative MP Rob Anders elected.

Members of Concerned Women, regularly speak at Real Women conventions, and Canadian members return the favour.

In fact several Conservative MPs have also made the trek to Betty LaHaye's anti-feminist kingdom, including Vic Toews and Stockwell Day.

Given this kind of support for anti-feminism, should we really be surprised that the Republicans are attacking any funding to vulnerable women? That Harper's tax policies ignore single mothers, and pander only to high income households with one wage earner? Or that the Neoconservative government of David Cameron in the UK, is also targeting women in their "austerity" budgets?

This all began when stocking footed Betty LaHaye stood up and vowed to offer an alternative voice for women, who could find happiness if they would just totally submit to their menfolk.

So kick off those shoes ladies and get back in the kitchen where you belong.

As for me, I'm experiencing a case of the vapours. Could just be that my corset's too tight.


1. Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women, By Susan Faludi, Crown publishing, 1991, ISBN: 0-385-42507-4, Pg. 247-249

Harper Breaks Rules to Live Large on Our Dime

'Harper Breaks Rules' is becoming as common a headline as 'Harper lies', but in another arrogant reminder that he is boss and will do what he wants, Canadian Press has learned that Harper's office spent $340,000 on hospitality, without prior approval.

The basic rule put in place to safeguard taxpayers against frivolous waste of our money.

But as we know, Harper now makes the rules, so don't expect anything to change.
An internal report on how the Privy Council Office spent $340,000 on hospitality found widespread flouting of a basic rule – that is, public servants must get prior approval from a supervisor before spending the cash. The review of 2,100 hospitality claims over 13 months, ending last June, found employees repeatedly failed to get a green light before racking up expenses.

The survey examined expense claims in the Prime Minister's Office as well those run up by the Privy Council Office, Mr. Harper's own department and the central organ of the Canadian government.

Auditors initially found several instances in which hospitality expenses were incurred without pre-authorization. But they were assured by senior managers that the problem had since been corrected. So auditors randomly selected 20 more-recent hospitality claims – and found only half had been authorized in advance, clear evidence the rules continued to be flouted, despite the protestations of senior management ... The Canadian Press later reported Mr. Harper had personally approved a $47,000 event for 600 employees in Privy Council Office.
Another example of 'do what I say, not what I do.'

King Steve has increased government advertising by 300% (still running Canada Action Plan ads, despite inaction), and increased spending on ministers’ personal offices by 14% last year alone.

How much longer can we afford to keep him in the lifestyle he's created?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

If Vic Toews Had Lived Then ...

I spent several years researching my family history, not only to create a genealogy, but to find the stories that brought my ancestors to Canada.

The first arrived in 1632 as an army surgeon. His future wife would join the colony at Port Royal, a few years later, but it's what brought her here that is interesting.

Her father was escaping the law. Apparently he was among a group, that included a Catholic priest, who were caught stealing firewood from a nobleman's estate. Had they not they would have froze to death, but that didn't matter. All the wealth was in the hands of a few, and you didn't try to get any of it for yourself.

Had that been today he would no doubt have been detained and shipped back, but he found refuge in Canada. His daughter would marry my ancestral grandfather, raise a large Acadian family, and contribute to Canadian history.

One of their descendants would later meet the son of an Irish immigrant, better known as my grandparents.

What brought his family to Canada is also an interesting story.

My dad had always told me that his grandfather was a "freedom fighter". An Irish Catholic who had joined a group of rebels opposing British rule.

I mentioned this to an aunt several years ago, when I was visiting her in New Brunswick, and she brought out an old Irish newspaper that she had from 1833. In it there was a small story about three men who had blown up an "outhouse" and were still at large.

I laughed thinking it was just a prank. A desire to watch the crap fly. But she informed me that the "outhouse" was actually a munitions shed, and had they not escaped to Canada, would have probably been executed.

They were just teenagers then, and by today's standards, "terrorists". But given the suffering of the Irish at the time, especially Irish Catholics, who were refused basic human rights, it's easy to put it into context.

Those rebels found wives in Canada, raised large families, and produced many mayors, judges, and even a provincial fisheries minister.

Bruce Cheadle has a great story on the ancestors of our current Public Safety minister, Vic Toews. He reminds us that had someone like Toews been in his job in 1929, the future Vic Toews would not exist.
There's a global recession and Canada's economy is not immune. Shiploads of strange, foreign refugees — economic migrants and oppressed minorities — have been landing on our shores, fleeing civil war, economic upheaval and famine. No one is certain how they can be assimilated and there are concerns about criminals, subversives and agitators in their midst.

"If (their) ... government is threatening to deport them ... it is probably because they refuse to obey the laws of the country, and we should have full information regarding the facts," one mainstream advocacy group objects.

No, it is not 2010. The year is 1929. The migrants are Mennonites fleeing Joseph Stalin's Soviet Russia and deportation to certain starvation in Siberia. Canada's doors are slamming shut to refugees. Among the massive Mennonite influx who had helped fuel that public and political backlash were the Ukrainian refugee grandparents and parents of current Public Safety Minister Vic Toews.
I had written a similar story when Peter Van Loan was Public Safety minister, and I learned that he was engaged in horrific workplace raids.
With the stage being set for war, the small Republic of Estonia declared neutrality, not wishing to take sides in any conflict.

However, a month before the Invasion of Poland that precipitated World War II; Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which was a treaty of nonaggression between Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

This sealed the fate for the Estonian people, as they soon fell under the Soviet sphere of influence. Mass political arrests, deportations, and executions followed, as Stalin's scorched earth philosophy was inflicted on the country.

Peter Van Loan's mother and grandparents fled during this horrible time, and were among three thousand Estonian immigrants, given asylum in Canada.
Toews refuses to discuss his family history, I suppose believing it to be irrelevant. But it is very relevant.

We could argue that the world is a dangerous place, but the world has always been a dangerous place, and Canada throughout our history, a refuge, where many sought safety from oppressive regimes, starvation, and in the case of my Irish ancestor, political asylum.

Do we really want to be a country that closes the door, and turns back those suffering? For example, Jason Kenney once claimed that the Roma from Czechoslovakia, were not legitimate refugees, only opportunists.

But Peter O'Neil, European Correspondent for Canwest News Service, wrote in May of 2009:
A ghastly arson attack that has left a two-year-old girl fighting for her life contradicts Canadian and Czech government assertions that an exodus of Roma refugee claimants to Canada is driven by economics, rather than fear of persecution, say members of the Roma community here.... They say they face a constant threat of neo-Nazi attacks and hateful demonstrations, where marchers head into Roma communities and call them "parasites," organized by increasingly sophisticated organizations such as the far-right Workers' Party."We are afraid for our lives," said Martin Duna, 31 ... "We are worried that Hitler is coming back." ...

Duna's reference to Hitler, who sent Roma, as well as Jews and homosexuals, to extermination camps during the Second World War, isn't as extreme as it may sound ... Czech municipal politicians have won nationwide public praise for evicting Roma from apartments to live in metal containers in city outskirts; and human-rights groups have reported involuntary sterilizations of Roma women from the late 1960s to as recently as late last year.

Growing neo-Nazi violence, as well as discrimination and even segregation in areas such as health, housing, education, criminal justice and employment, have been reported in numerous publications issued by the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the U.S. State Department and Amnesty International.
We are becoming a country without a heart, and one that ignores its rich history.

I'm just glad that Vic Toews, Peter Van Loan or Jason Kenney, were not around in 1632 or 1833. If they had, I would not be in 2011.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Will NDP Members Vote for Their Party to Go Right?

As angry as I have been with Jack Layton and his alliance with Stephen Harper, I had great hope for the party.

Packed now with union leaders, activists and bright-eyed youth, I thought they might be able to rouse Parliament with a bit of the prairie fire, ignited by Tommy Douglas.

Or before him, J.S. Woodsworth, who refused to leave the floor until the government was willing to enact prison reform.

But alas, it's just more of the same: "Big oil, big banks, sponsorship scandal. Big oil, big banks, sponsorship scandal". I expect them to break out in song in a remake of the Wizard of Oz. "Lions and tigers and bears, oh, my".

Perhaps that's fitting, as the Wizard of the NDP is acting more and more like the man behind the curtain, or as longtime NDP insider, James Laxer once said of Layton, the man who fakes left, but goes right.

That was written in 2006, when Layton left the Kelowna Accord and a national childcare plan on the table.

In 2008, Laxer again criticized Layton's leadership, feeling that he was causing the party to lose direction, missing an opportunity to build a progressive movement.

He was driven purely by power so joined forces with Stephen Harper to destroy the Liberals, instead of focusing on what this country needed. A strong voice on the left.

This weekend's convention could put the final nail in the coffin, of what men like Tommy Douglas and J.S. Woodsworth tried to build, as Layton is expecting the membership to vote on measures that will clearly move them to the right.
Delegates to this weekend's convention will be asked to eradicate the word "socialist" from the NDP constitution. A proposed new preamble touts the party's "social democratic principles" of economic and social equality, individual freedom and responsibility and democratic rights — replacing the current preamble's dedication to the principles of "democratic socialism," which include "social ownership" and a pox on making a profit.

{Brad] Lavigne says the proposed change is simply part of a "modernization" of the constitution, begun two years ago, getting rid of out-moded phrases that no one uses anymore. For his part, Layton declines to explain the difference between social democratic principles and democratic socialism. "I couldn't give you a quick primer on that. I've offered lengthy courses on the topic over the years," he said earlier this week.
Layton then goes into his usual food on the table, education, medicine and pensions. And yet he is not insisting that Flaherty tell him what 111 things he's going to cut (it's a secret) or demanding that the health minister produce the Canada Health Act. Instead she is getting away with touting the party line "we're increasing transfer payments".

But for all those socialists out there, not to worry: "the NDP resolutions do include some staple big bank- and corporation-bashing".

Again ringing hollow, seeing as how the Libyan "mission" is for "big oil" and "big banks" (Goldman-Sachs already has their foot in the door).

The Liberals gave us our flag, our national anthem, our unique rights culture and our Just Society. And they accomplished that when governing from the centre, taking from both the right and the left.

But much of the success of this nation came from the NDP, making sure that the country stayed on course.

Stephen Harper's political victories came by pretending to be Liberal, or Progressive Conservative, answering the question insider Tom Flanagan once asked: "how do we convince Canadians that we are moving to the left, when we're not"? This has led to a mistrust, since those who know better, are well aware of his far-right ideology.

Now Jack Layton also wants to pretend to be Liberal, so he can take over that base. It won't happen. Right leaning Liberals would go Conservative, because of Layton's anti-corporate posturing, and left-leaning Liberals, would probably go to the Green Party, if either decided to jump ship.

However, I believe most will instead work to rebuild the party, that has given Canada so much. We lost the Progressive Conservatives and we can't afford to lose the Liberals.

I mean who would Jack Layton spend all of his time bashing then, seeing as how he has always given the Conservatives a free ride?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Jack Layton May Have Sold Out for Nothing

I mentioned yesterday being surprised that every single NDP voted in favour of bombing the hell out of Libya.

Layton performed his usual posturing, saying yes drop those 1000 bombs, but then I'm going to say enough. What an amazing blowhard he has turned out to be.

Well, Jack, you may have sold out a little too soon. Apparently Gaddafi is now negotiating with the rebels.

I know that the NDP could not stop Harper, but a "no" vote would have been symbolic. For years those on the left have been critical of the Liberals, for too often supporting American Imperialism. The NDP would never do that, or so we were led to believe.

Well, guess what? Not only would they, but they did.

And in a surprising twist, the Republicans are questioning the U.S. reason for the "mission". (bombs for oil)
Republican leaders demanded a written justification of military involvement in Libya from President Barack Obama on Wednesday as the traditionally hawkish party shows signs of losing its appetite for war.
This puts the NDP just right of the Republicans.

Poor Harper. If there is a truce, and peace is negotiated with Gaddafi's son, and a promised election on their terms, what is he going to do with all those damn bombs? $130 million worth.

What a screwed up country we've become. And just think. Another 4-5 years of a Harper majority with Jack Layton "holding the bully's coat". I'm so thrilled.