Friday, June 27, 2014


Even Margaret Wente can't quite figure out how to support Peter MacKay:
I’m feeling kind of sorry for Peter MacKay. Nothing has been going right. He tried to appoint a guy to the Supreme Court and it turned into a massive screw-up. The Supremes have been messing with his laws. Judges have been refusing to follow his order to make criminals pay victim fines because it’s pointless and stupid.

And now, he’s been exposed as a blatant chauvinist who is completely out of touch with modern families.’s partly the minister’s fault for landing in the soup. As a long-time politician, he ought to know that there are certain things you can’t say in public, even if (sometimes especially if) they’re true. Anything to do with gender differences, for example. If he isn’t smart enough to know this, then you’ve got to ask whether he’s smart enough to be a cabinet minister.
The answer, of course, is no.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

How ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm after they've seen Paree?

Well, it appears that the Harper Cons may have actually fixed the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in many of the ways suggested by its critics.
I know, I can't believe it either.
But I just wonder if Canadian employers can adjust their thinking? Right now, they're absolutely pissed!
Jason Kenny is absolutely correct here:
...the government wants to return the TFWP to its original objective -- to be the “last, limited and temporary resort for employers who absolutely cannot find qualified Canadians to take jobs at the Canadian wage rate.”
Kenney said some employers, “probably a few thousands in the Canadian economy, primarily out West, have begun building a business model around this program.
“As opposed to it being a last resort, in too many cases it’s become a first or only resort.”
Kenney said the government is aware of 1,100 businesses where half of the workforce is made up of temporary foreign workers.
“That is unacceptable,” he said. “I don’t care how tight the local labour market is, you shouldn’t be setting up a business and spending money on capital for business if you don’t have the human capital to staff it.”
Kenny is on the side of the angels in these remarks.  But Thomas Walkom in the Toronto Star questions the whole approach of the program:
In a country where the official unemployment rate hovers near 7 per cent (the real jobless rate is well above that), there is no shortage of labour willing to work at low-skilled jobs.
What there may be, however, is a shortage of Canadians willing to accept the wages and conditions that these jobs offer.
The market solution would be to offer higher wages and better conditions in the hope of attracting workers. The Conservative solution has been to let fast food outlets and others import temporary foreign workers willing to accept whatever wages employers offer.
Intellectually, Kenney seems to understand this contradiction.
Intellectually, Kenney seems to understand this contradiction. On Friday, he pointed out that real wages adjusted for inflation have fallen in Alberta’s food service industry — thanks to its use of temporary foreign workers.
His reforms would prevent employers in the food, accommodation and retail industries from hiring temporary foreign workers whenever the local unemployment rate is 6 per cent or higher (which, tellingly, excludes his home province of Alberta).
But he very specifically limited this ban to what economists call the non-tradable goods and services sector.
Other sectors that produce commodities traded across borders — including farmers, manufacturers, miners, meat processors and fish packers — would be able to hire temporary foreign workers, regardless of the local jobless rate.
Incidentally, hotels and restaurants in high unemployment area can also continue to hire certain kinds of foreigners — such as students — under reciprocal trade agreements. These temporary foreign workers are not covered by Friday’s announced reforms.
So there may be a few loopholes that business could continue to try to exploit.
I wonder if Canadian companies will adopt the goal of finding new ways to hire more Canadians, rather than just complaining to the Harper Cons and sneaking around to try to subvert the new regulations?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Outraged innocence and plaintive pathos

If you sensed a certain lack of enthusiasm from the Harper Cons about their own decision to approve the Northern Gateway pipeline, you were right.
A day after accepting a review panel’s recommendation to impose more than 200 conditions on the Northern Gateway project, a government spokesman is now insisting the Conservatives have not approved the pipeline.
Instead, it’s just “a maybe,” a spokesman for Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford says.

So when the protests gear up, this is how the Harper Cons are going to play it -- outraged innocence and plaintive pathos.
They will stamp their little feet and proclaim how we have hurt their delicate fee-fees if we dare to claim they approved Northern Gateway.

The coming partition of Iraq

The War Nerd explains what is happening in Iraq -- basically, the country is being violently partitioned into Sunni, Shiite and Kurd countries and there's just about nothing anyone can realistically do, or perhaps should do, to stop this from happening:

ISIS is a sectarian Sunni militia — that’s all. A big one, as militias go, with something like 10,000 fighters. Most of them are Iraqi, a few are Syrian, and a few hundred are those famous “European jihadis” who draw press attention out of all relation to their negligible combat value. The real strength of ISIS comes from its Chechen fighters, up to a thousand of them. A thousand Chechens is a serious force, and a terrifying one if they’re bearing down on your neighborhood. Chechens are the scariest fighters, pound-for-pound, in the world.
But we’re still talking about a conventional military force smaller than a division. That’s a real but very limited amount of combat power. What this means is that, no matter how many scare headlines you read, ISIS will never take Baghdad, let alone Shia cities to the south like Karbala. It won’t be able to dent the Kurds’ territory to the north, either. All it can do—all it has been doing, by moving into Sunni cities like Mosul and Tikrit—is to complete the partition of Iraq begun by our dear ex-president Bush in 2003. 
Yes, it makes sense, though this is not a part of the world that I can easily understand. I keep remembering Robert X. Cringley's description of his experience in Teheran in 1986 when he saw just one horrific battle in the eight-year-long Iran-Iraq War. He wrote this in 2004, just after Bush was reelected:

I...decided to go see the war since I had been in Beirut and Angola, but had never seen trench warfare, which is what I was told they had going in Iran. So I took a taxi to the front, introduced myself to the local commander, who had gone, as I recall, to Iowa State, and spent a couple days waiting for the impending human wave attack. That attack was to be conducted primarily with 11-and 12-year-old boys as troops, nearly all of them unarmed. There were several thousand kids and their job was to rise out of the trench, praising Allah, run across No Man's Land, be killed by the Iraqi machine gunners, then go directly to Paradise, do not pass GO, do not collect 200 dinars. And that's exactly what happened in a battle lasting less than 10 minutes. None of the kids fired a shot or made it all the way to the other side. And when I asked the purpose of this exercise, I was told it was to demoralize the cowardly Iraqi soldiers.

It was the most horrific event I have ever seen, and I once covered a cholera epidemic in Bangladesh that killed 40,000 people.

Waiting those two nights for the attack was surreal. Some kids acted as though nothing was wrong while others cried and puked. But when the time came to praise Allah and enter Paradise, not a single boy tried to stay behind.

Now put this in a current context. What effective limit is there to the number of Islamic kids willing to blow themselves to bits? There is no limit, which means that a Bush Doctrine can't really stand in that part of the world.
So Tony Blair and Paul Wolfowitz and Bill Kristol are again trying to tell everybody how America should pacify Iraq?  Ain't gonna happen.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Liberals win in Ontario, hooray!

I haven't written any posts about the Ontario election campaign because I haven't been following it very closely, but now that the results are in, here are some random observations.
First, I am just so glad to see the Liberals win in Ontario, and the Conservatives lose. I sincerely hope this will mark the last time we will see a political party in Canada ever think it can get elected by threatening to throw people out of work.
On a personal basis, I am glad that Kathleen Wynne won, just to show once and for all that people will vote for a woman who is gay -- and the crowd cheered when Wynne invited her partner to join her on stage during her victory speech.
There will be lots of analysis for the NDP, but it seems that people blamed the NDP for causing the election in the first place, over a budget that was perhaps not outstanding but was at least OK, and they also accepted Wynne's argument that a vote for Howarth was a vote for Hudak.
The polling companies are going to have to look at their "likely voter" models -- even just before the election, the polls showed Wynne and Hudak in a dead heat, though maybe it will be found that the Liberals were able to use the Hudak threat to get their vote out.
Oh, and David Walmsley, editor-in-chief of the Globe and Mail, should be ashamed of himself for fucking with his editorial board and then lying about it. I agree with Dawg

When a party tries to send opposing voters down a blind alley, the same party covertly attempts a “decline your ballot” strategy to give itself an electoral edge, and the editor-in-chief of a major newspaper essentially lies to the public (and is defended for doing so), something has gone badly awry with the way we do politics. Democracy is fragile, requiring the people themselves to make it operational. When they are deliberately misled by party and press alike, seemingly with impunity, we’re heading down a nasty slippery slope.

Happy dogs

There's nothing like a happy dog.  If you're ever feeling a little down, just watch these videos:

And of course the story of little Fiona:

Monday, June 09, 2014

Tweet of the day

Here is a larger version of the comment, in case you can't read it:

Embedded image permalink

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Get it - Got it - Good

So let me make sure I have this straight.
Even though Nigel Wright did give Mike Duffy $90,000 to pay off his Senate debt, and even though it is illegal to bribe a senator, the RCMP did not bring charges against Wright because...
well, because firstly, it wasn't actually a bribe anyway because what could Duffy possibly have given Wright in exchange?
And because secondly, the payment would have been legal as long as Harper had approved it.
Or at long as Wright BELIEVED that Harper had approved it.
Though apparently there could be no actual evidence that Harper had approved it since Harper knew nothing, NOTHING, about it and the RCMP has seen "no evidence to suggest that the Prime Minister was personally involved in the minutiae of these matters."
Now, describing $90,000 as "minutiae" strikes me as a bit of a stretch, particularly during last spring when there was a perfect storm of media coverage of everything Duffy all day every day.
But never mind. I think I've got it.

Told ya so!

When Julian Fantino was first appointed to the Veterans Affairs post -- eleven months ago! -- most of us progressives agreed that this was a disastrous decision by Harper.
Sure 'nuff -- now everybody realizes it:
With his ineptitude, walking away from veterans seeking a meeting, ignoring the plaintive cries of the spouse of a veteran suffering from PTSD, he has raised the profile of frustrated veterans and has single-handedly cemented a perception of an unflinching, uncaring, government disrespecting those who served this country with honour.
In the House of Commons, he has responded to questions of compassion by reading talking points.
Harper inexplicably placed a man with decades of experience with the regimental, hard-line, top-down approach to policing in a portfolio where he needed someone exuding sincerity, concern and a common touch.