Saturday, May 28, 2011

Harperites Tax Policies Aggravate Gap Between rich and Poor

Toronto Star The full story

In addition to the weaknesses noted below in Les Whittington piece, one could also ask how effective is an accelerated reduction of the federal debt in creating jobs for Canadians? Since the Harperites are already shrinking tax revenues through the measures outlined below, wouldn't a focus on job creation combined with a modest pace in reducing the federal deficit be more prudent? People who work pay taxes and businesses who employ them also pay taxes. Many Harperite candidates in the recent election claimed publicly that jobs in and of themselves and the economy as it relates to jobs were the big issues at the door. If that is so, where indeed IS the focus on jobs, the heart of any economy?

"According to Toronto research agency Investor Economics, the richest 3.8 per cent of Canadian households controlled 66.6 per cent of all financial wealth (not counting real estate) by 2009, up from 60.6 per cent in 2005, just before Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government came to power. Looking ahead, the agency predicts the portion of financial wealth controlled by this richest group of Canadians is headed for 70 per cent by 2018.

And some analysts say the economic strategies being pursued by a re-elected Harper will only make matters worse, leading to a further expansion of the income gap between the very rich and others in Canada.

The crux of the issue concerns the Conservatives’ plan to continue implementing corporate income tax cuts and to eventually bring in other tax breaks, such as expanding deposits in Tax-Free Savings Accounts and allowing two-income couples with children younger than 18 to split their income for federal tax purposes.

While these measures have been promoted as ways of creating jobs or helping average Canadians, some economists say the benefits to the rich from these tax breaks will far outweigh anything seen by other members of society."

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Politicizing the Twitterverse | The Mark

Politicizing the Twitterverse | The Mark

These findings, especially the correlation with voting in particular districts, is not surprising in the least. And this report contradicts effectively the comments of the established media. See my earlier post: Media insiders, experts criticize emphasis on political distractions in media’s election coverage

"When we overlaid social-media usage (the volume of tweets, YouTube videos, Facebook fan pages, and blog postings with news-media comments) over an election map, we found some interesting trends. It appeared that more left-wing Canadians were inclined to use social media than right-wing Canadians, and that the electoral districts with the highest use of social-media tools had a higher percentage of Liberal and NDP voters than ridings with low social-media usage. Are Conservatives afraid of social media? We’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

But then, isn’t social media all about the youth vote? Actually, no. Youth certainly made very good use of social media during the recent election, but, as we looked at all the data, we found that the average age of Canadian citizens participating in social media is actually 38. The average age of Twitter users in Canada is 39, and that of Facebook users is 43. Political parties in Canada tend to view social media as the domain of those under 30, and that is an unreliable demographic for guaranteeing votes. The reasoning for this is that once you are over 30, you are far more predictable in your habits. At that point in your life, you are more likely to own a home, have at least one child, and have aging parents. That means you likely have mortgage payments and a car, which, in turn, translate into a predictable set of concerns pertaining to your lifestyle. Therefore, parties tend to focus on the concerns relative to the +30 demographic, because they are relatively stable and easy to pinpoint."

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Nobel Laureates Host a Conference on Sexual Violence in Countries in Conflict

This extremely important conference takes place next week at Montebello.

More information:
Most if not all of the metals in our mobile phones, computers, and automobiles come from these conflict countries, especially from the DRC. Several electronic corporations are trying to trace their minerals in an effort to be conflict free and have formed an industry association. (What shocks me is the absence of 5 major electronic companies in this association: Canon, Panasonic, Toshiba, Sharpe, and Sandisk). But the most successful company, HP, has only been able to track 32% of their products' minerals. Every time you use your cell or laptop you may be inadvertently contributing to the problem since rape is the intimidation weapon of choice in controlling the mining of these minerls in the DRC.

Is Your Favorite Tech Company Conflict-Free

Commit to Purchase Conflict-Free Products

Some Telling Statistics about the Democratic Republic of Congo:

Number of rapes recorded by UN in conflict zones of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since 1996.
Number of rapes in the DRC in 2006-07, according to a public-health study, which breaks down to .
Number per day.
Number per hour.
Number of women treated for rape at Congo's Panzi Hospital, 2004-08.
Number who were over 65.
Number of vaginal-tear surgeries for 2009-10.
250,000- 500,000
Estimated number of rapes in 1994 Rwandan genocide.
Number of people charged by International Criminal Tribunal for sex crimes in Rwandan genocide as of 2010.
Number of total sexualviolence charges laid by the International Criminal Court.
Number of people convicted by the ICC.
Sources: UNIFEM, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, International Peace Research Institute, Stony Brook University School of Medicine

Read more:

Friday, May 20, 2011

The NDP in Quebec: ‘What do we do now?’ - The Globe and Mail

The NDP in Quebec: ‘What do we do now?’ - The Globe and Mail

"In most Quebec ridings, the NDP has next to no organization and the shallowest of roots. Combine that with the possibility that many Quebeckers voted for them in a disengaged, almost casual, manner and you may end up with a majority of Quebec seats bearing mute witness in the House of Commons, a political vacuum growing wider by the day.

The implications of either of these scenarios are not pretty for the democratic process, and even starker for Mr. Layton, who runs the risk of becoming a one-election wonder in Quebec. At worst, this may end up further alienating Quebeckers from federal politics, making Quebec even more irrelevant for other Canadians, or Canada more irrelevant for Quebeckers."

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Media insiders, experts criticize emphasis on political distractions in media’s election coverage | The Hill Times - Canada's Politics and Government Newsweekly

Media insiders, experts criticize emphasis on political distractions in media’s election coverage | The Hill Times - Canada's Politics and Government Newsweekly

These journalists must have been watching some other election, not #elxn41. The Twitterverse during #elxn41 was not about what politicians said, and the focus was not on "distractions." It was about the sharing of information and perspectives by journalists and ordinary concerned citizens. And assuming social media was going to pump up voter turnout is just that: an assumption. That failure is not social media's. The weak turnout has the same root cause it did in 2008: indifferent, apathetic, uninformed Canadians. (Is Hebert losing her edge? This is the fourth or fifth time in a month she's been out to lunch. ) #cdnpoli

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Michael Geist: Tories aim to heighten web-surveillance powers

Michael Geist: Tories aim to heighten web-surveillance powers

This is extremely worrisome legislation whether included in an omnibus bill or not:

"Lawful access is complex legislation that touches on a very wide range of issues, many of which extend far beyond conventional criminal law. Given that the proposals breed uncertainty and have never been the subject of public review, lumping them together with many other bills represents a serious threat and is bound to result in only a cursory analysis of an important piece of legislation that has far reaching consequences for privacy, security, and free speech."

Monday, May 16, 2011 The flawed world of targeted tax cuts The flawed world of targeted tax cuts

Harperite designer tax breaks drain the treasury and make tax filing needlessly complex: nearly 7 out of 10 Canadians now rely on someone else to fill out their tax returns. Purely political, such tax credits are calculated to win a particular voting demographic. consequently, they do not benefit every Canadian and, in fact, exclude some of our most needy. This is indeed a boutique tax credit system.

Paying the real price for urban sprawl - The Globe and Mail

"What if property owners paid according to the real costs of delivering some services to their properties, instead of market value?" This is indeed an intriguing idea, a variation on BC's Community Charter legislation, i.e., "parcel taxes." It would seem much fairer and more stable than fluctuating market values and thus a system that would benefit both municipalities and property owners. The question is does it also benefit provincial governments, and what would be the cost to convert to such a system? Not much would be my guess since both services data is already readily available and property assessments based on market value would no longer be necessary.

Paying the real price for urban sprawl - The Globe and Mail

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

How "Progressive" Is the NDP?

How left, how progressive, is the NDP really - whatever those terms now mean in a Canadian political context? They used to mean Marxist or Socialist in political orientation. Can we say that today's NDP is really Socialist or Marxist since they seem to be pretty deeply inscribed in the conventional capitalist matrix all the other parties are - out of necessity perhaps not necessarily by choice, though one could argue that a choice was made in 2001 when the New Politics Initiative was crushed at the Winnipeg convention.

As the terms are conventionally - historically - used, then, the NDP has moved steadily towards the centre since 2003, it seems to me, and most of their current fiscal polices could have been easily crafted by either the LPC or CPC, our mainline centrist parties, though there are differences in some areas such as the NDP's specific support for labour unions, attitudes towards the U.S. and the role of the military. But these are not left-wing policies as such; indeed both the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives have held these positions at one time or another. And some of those policies such as doubling the CPP plan have not been well-thought out or, as many have noted, properly cost-ed. Their thinking on the CPP, for example, suggests that they have no idea how the CPP investment board actually works or even a knowledge of how far behind returns are already for the CPP because of the recession.

Riddle me this: is raising the hot button language issue in both Canada as a whole and Quebec in particular by proposing an application of federal labour codes to private sector workers in federally regulated industries in Quebec a progressive move, or is it mere pandering to the Quebec electorate? This proposal has apparently become job number one for the Jackists, but many argue this proposal is completely unnecessary since in practice workers already use french in these workplaces, not to mention that it contravenes Canada's Official Languages Act.

Riddle me this too: is guaranteeing Quebec at least the same number of parliamentary seats they now have for the foreseeable future, even though their population is shrinking, a democratic proposal, or is it a mere pandering to the Quebec electorate?

And finally riddle me this: is opening up the constitution, even though such a process is theoretically "down the road," a well-considered move? Or, once again, is it mere pandering?

Since there are so many Quebec MPs now in the NDP caucus, there will obviously be a considerable amount of pressure to implement these proposals sooner rather than later. I'm just sayin'.

I have to admit that I no longer know what "left" or "progressive" means in a Canadian political context. But I do know that, like every other Canadian federal party, the NDP has and will continue to flirt with the centre because that's where they think the vote and thus the possibility of electoral power is. And they will now be intensely obsessed with that scenario given their new-found status as the official opposition. I'm just sayin'.

So will we have a polarized situation in Parliament, as many are suggesting? I doubt it: instead we'll probably have just a lot of quibbling about details in various centrist positions the different parties may take.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Why I Stopped Contributing to Rabble

During the federal election campaign, I contributed several piece to Rabble under my user id AppalledBC, all of which but one are reproduced here on my blog. (I also wrote a piece under my own name on invitation from a Rabble editor.) Some disturbing responses to the one that I chose not to republish prompted me to to abandon writing for the site.

I wrote a piece innocently defending Elizabeth May's choice of ridings in which to run in 2008 and 2011. Naively taking her at her word in public interviews, I argued that she ran in these ridings because she lived there. I was severely criticized for the error of my ways when respondents KenS and Northern Shoveler pointed out in no uncertain terms that I was dead wrong: she and the Green Party brain trust chose the ridings first, and she then moved to them in order to run. I was suitably chasten, though I did quibble about the accusation of obfuscation on May's exclusion from mainline national media discourse once she was out of the debates for good, arguing that it was still a form of political exclusion by Big Media. Those contributors were harsh but respectful for the most part and not really unfair, and for that I am grateful. I was dead wrong because of my ignorance about the matter. Many lessons learned.

But then along came two respondents who chose to make ad hominem attacks against Elizabeth May and, in particular, her physical attributes. That kind of discursive abuse is profoundly disturbing. It shuts down meaningful discussion and leaves a bitter taste about the site that would include among its contributors people with such textual assault weapons – not that I expect Rabble to exercise any sort of censorship nor should they. People should be free to express themselves, and people should likewise be free to react to those expressions. One can write passionately and forcefully but still be respectful. That was pretty clearly not the case with these two respondents, who I'm sure thought they were being merely clever and witty.

I thought briefly of writing the Rabble administration, but I had written to them twice before on other matters and never received a response. So I had little reason to travel that route. Besides, that would have been a little bit like telling the teacher on Johnny. I suppose I could have answered back, challenging them about their abuse, but that would have merely extended an already awkward and fundamentally useless discussion already going nowhere.

There are many intelligent, insightful, and worthy contributors on Rabble, most of whom are civil and respectful in their discourse. I wish them all well. But I simply cannot contribute to a site where I would be looking over my shoulder in fear of another such vitriolic assault and probably, as a result, pulling my punches because of that implicit intimidation. I feel the chill. I have not been to the site since then.

Note: I am not a member of any federal or provincial party. I've said good things about the Liberals, the NDP, and the Greens, and I've taken shots at all of them too. I have of course taken multiple whacks at the Harperites over the years, but now that they have some Red Tories from Ontario in the caucus, who may modified the destructive ideology of the far right elements in the party, I might be able to say something good about them too. I'm not holding my breath.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Our So-called Concern for Democracy

This election was driven, as so many have been, by excessive media concentration and financial resources on the leaders of the parties, not by broad reporting on constituencies, selective or otherwise, across the country or by even significant discussions, with very few exceptions, of party policies. Most stories began with “what are the leaders up to today” leads. Both the contempt issue and the environment disappeared off the radar quickly, for example, except when Iggy brought up the former, and not even Elizabeth May, focused as she was on winning her riding, brought up the latter except incidentally. And it isn't just the media who should be blamed: the parties themselves are responsible for this distortion in our public discourse, for they have all concentrated both air and ground resources on their leaders, and those leaders have incrementally over forty years or so undermined democracy both subtlely and overtly both inside Parliament, as Peter Miliken has implied, and structurally in their Party organizations by creating power hierarchies whereby you do what the leader's brain trust says or you're out. Add to that the well-established illusion that the grassroots has real input power, for most policy conventions are like carnival day for the workers in the field: give them a day of fun and games and they'll go back to work content. And, apparently, even ordinary MPs have little input. An ordinary MP, according to Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis, can't just walk in and have a chat with his or her leader; an appointment has to be made, and of course backbenchers have really never had any significant power.

There is much transformational work that needs to happen for genuine parliamentary democracy to be reinstated and even more to shift the public discourse to broad-based constituency considerations across the county. How likely is change? Given Harper's majority, and the powerlessness all opposition parties in Parliament, not much, and the media, of necessity, will still concentrate coverage on the leaders with the odd side-road story now and them. Enjoy the next four years.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Do attack ads really work?

Many pundits, scribes, and scriveners alike continue to say attack ads work, and several have today suggested that Iggy went down because of the attack ads. Show me some hard evidence, please. I simply don't buy it: you have to be dumber than the proverbial door knob or Big Bobby Clobber not to see through these and any other attack ads. The Harperite base obviously enjoys them, but they're not aimed at that base. They're aimed at the undecided and opposition party voters. Who really watches these except for amusement and maybe to exclaim in mock indignation, "how naughty of them" or, from the base, how "dead on"? Or am I overestimating the average intelligence of Canadians? Perhaps.

The Day the Liberal Party Died

The day Iggy was anointed by the Liberal cabal without input from the grass roots was the day the Party died, though some in the Party might have marked Iggy's arrival from distant shores on Canadian soil as the day the music died. (Some called him the Unity Bomber: not a rough beast slouching towards Bethlehem but Ottawa.) What was both the original cabal that brought him to town and the new conclave that beatified the Count smoking? Whatever it was, it wasn't good for the health of the Liberal body. It will take a decade to rebuild this party if at all, and the first thing to do would be to let the ordinary people of the Party instead of the brain trust actually have a say instead of the illusion of input that has existed up til now. (What a waste of time policy conferences are for the grass roots!)

They would do better thinking about a merger with the NDP, but since they've moved so firmly to the centre and frequently across that line to the right, would the NDP even be interested in such a possibility? Red Tories, if any are left, have more in common with the NDP than the LPC. And, besides, such a merger would never happen because of Liberal pride. Understandably but nevertheless sadly so. There ought to be much weeping if not downright gnashing of teeth going on today.

Iggy Has to go: Kinsella 

P.S.Just a note to add that Iggy has resigned this morning and is going back to school -- my guess,somewhere in the U.S. So that's a beginning.

And some have suggested that because the LPC campaigned left of even the NDP in this election, the centrists in the party abandoned them and voted CPC. Maybe, but some certainly migrated to the NDP contributing to the orange crush.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Polling ain't what it used to be

For one thing, dwindling numbers of people, given our abhorrence of telemarketers, answer their home phones, much less agree to take the time and energy to complete an interview, says Scott Mathews, co-director of the Canadian Opinion Research Archive at Queen's University. And pollsters rarely report response rates, he says, but the reality is that the 75 and 80 per cent rates of a generation ago have slipped to as low as 15 to 20 per cent today. And it's not a random 15 or 20 per cent of that random sample; instead, " it's the people who are easily contacted and these tend to be people who are unrepresentative in various ways, maybe older, maybe unemployed, just something that makes it more likely that they'll be home to pick up the phone and complete a survey."

Add to Mathews and the Citizen reporter's observations here is the fact that cell phone users, many of whom are the 18-24 demographic, seldom get calls or pick up if they do, and we have a very suspect process in all the current polling. The votemob crowd has not been participating significantly if at all in this polling, in other words, and they appear to be a serious factor in this election. Will we be surprised on Monday night if the numbers are radically different from what the pollsters have been hyping all week? They could be higher; they could be lower. In any case, nothing will surprise me.

In the Ottawa Citizen