Thursday, October 08, 2015

Tough on Crime. Never Mind the Facts.

One of the hallmarks of the Conservative philosophy, if I can use that term with the Conservatives, is that they believe themselves to be "tough on crime".

So, under the Harper Conservatives, we've had various pieces of legislation proposed and (some of them) passed.  Some examples:

"Life Means Life" legislation - continuing a theme of that party of imposing mandatory sentences, in this case, mandatory life sentences with NO chances of parole.  Ever.  Admittedly, this would apply to the most heinous of crimes, so perhaps sympathy isn't needed.

More recently, several American states decided to ignore Federal laws and legalized marajuana.  So far as I know, the current list includes Alaska, Oregon, Washington, District of Columbia and Colorado.  It's a civil misdemeanor in several other states.  The Harper Conservatives continue to flog pot as evil incarnate.  No vasillation on possible legalization or decriminalization.  Just harsher penalties and more rhetoric.  Not to suggest that any drugs are good for you, I'd just point out that pot probably isn't much worse for a person than alcohol or tobacco.  The main problem is a lack of good data, something the current prohibition makes hard to fix.  

A number of other Conservative pieces of legislation have met with unfavourable rulings from the Supreme Court of Canada.

In fact, if you can stand the partisan rhetoric and a whole page of Conservative talking points, it's all here on the Conservatives' website.

There are many consequences of this kind of mindset on the part of the government.  One is all the money that is spent on prisons.  In fact, Canada's prisons are claimed to be in chaos and our reputation as a just nation somewhat tarnished.  

Also keep in mind, every time the Conservatives trumpet their tiny budget surplus... the Feds can make the laws but it's often the provinces that have to enforce them.  That means that many of the direct costs have been downloaded on the provinces.  So everyone pays.  It just doesn't look like it's the Federal Government that's responsible for the costs.

The cynics (and who could believe there are Canadians cynical of this government) will point out the number of Harper aides who have fallen afoul of the law, whether in the Senate, the PMO or the various election campaigns (Del Maestro, Carson, Duffy, Penashue, Sona....).  In almost every one of these cases, the Prime Minister repeatedly confirmed his faith and confidence in the person involved (until they were ultimately found guilty and thrown under the bus), leaving the cynics to offer this thought:

In each election campaign, the Conservatives have been found guilty of some form of electoral fraud.  Once again, the cynics have been at work:

Of course when the government claims to be working hard to find and convict tax cheats, the cynics (again) remain skeptical.  And for possibly good reason, as indicated in this story from CBC Business News.

It leads one to wonder if the Conservatives are really "tough on crime" or if it's all just a political sham designed to make enough gullible voters believe they are being kept safe from the criminal hordes by only voting Conservative.

It's part of the Harper Conservatives' "government by fear" policy.  Just remember: Whenever any government tried to scare you, they're not doing it because they're trying to keep you safe.  They're doing it because they're trying to control you.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

War. What is it Good For?

Everything seems to be a war these days.

There's the War on Terror.  This was classic Dubya, Harper's friend and idol in the White House.  The very guy, according to his brother Jeb, who "Kept America Safe".  Never mind that 9/11 happened during his watch.  Never mind that the Bush Era saw the greatest number of Americans killed as a result of terrorism and war since Vietnam...  That seemingly doesn't matter.  Pesky facts.

There's the War on Drugs.  This goes back to around 1971 during the term of Richard Nixon.  We all know how this has been working.  It's filled the prisons with pot smokers and such, but the drugs?  They're still as prevalent as ever.

And then there are the "real" wars.  Syria, Libya, Iraq....we're just waiting for someone to start a war with Iran, and language is getting tense with Russia.  After WWI, WWI, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq.... you would have thought we'd have learned something.  Huh.

Mr Harper seems to be an enthusiastic booster of all of these.  

What we also get in Canada is a "War on Science".  Discussed in more detail here.

I'm old enough to remember something called the "Peace Dividend".  Where did that go, eh?

Since there is no evidence that any of these wars have actually accomplished anything and have instead caused untold damage to lives and property, much as a rational person would have expected, perhaps it's time to get rid of politicians who insist on rattling the sabers and strutting belligerently around the world looking for trouble.

Friday, October 02, 2015

The Niqab - Suddenly Everyone's an Expert

One thing that the recent "dog-whistle" tactic of the Harper Conservatives has revealed is the number of Islamic scholars who live in Canada.  No sooner than the Federal Court ruled that the government couldn't ban the niqab at Canadian Citizenship ceremonies (in itself a topic that I'll bet almost NO Canadians have given much thought to in their entire lives), then Jason Kenney declared that the government would appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court and that the niqab "just wasn't consistent with "Canadian values" - whatever those are.

The woodwork erupted with posts and comments and articles from people who claimed to know that the niqab was part of sharia law, that it was cultural, not religious, that is was a religious requirement, that is was oppressive of women, that it was a sign of female liberation and freedom, that is was a security risk, that it wasn't a problem....  You pick a viewpoint, dozens could be found for each one.

Frankly, I've never met anyone who wore a niqab (or a hijab, for that matter) and will bet that most Canadians haven't either.  Why this becomes a problem is, therefore, a complete mystery.  Well, not really....  Anyone with 2 clues to rub together can see clearly that this is a desperate attempt on the part of the Harper Conservatives to pull in some more electoral support, especially since science, the environment, the economy, law and order, climate change, fighter jets, Canada's role at the UN, Canada's role in Syria, jobs, trade deals.... none of these issues were working in Harper's favour.

In other words, this has become an issue because Harper wants it to become an issue.  That is, Harper and his imported Dingo, Lynton Crosby.

I'm not really all that interested in knowing the intricacies of sharia law or the Muslim religion.  I feel the same way about pretty much any form of religion.  I only get exercised when people try to impose their religious beliefs on other people or me in particular.  So on matters of abortion, birth control, meat or fish on Fridays, whether liquor stores should be open on Sundays or not.... and none of these "issues" have had anything to do with Islam.  I just can't believe it.  These days, you'd think the Ayatollah was coming to impose his will on all of us north of the 49th.

So I had a very quick look.  Here are a few references for those of you who really DO want to know.  Take your pick and see if you learn anything.  They are probably more informed that anything you'll find in the Toronto Sun, but that's only my opinion....

From the Guardian - "The Niqab makes me feel liberated and no law will make me stop wearing it"

From the Toronto Star - Muslim Women in Canada Explain why they wear a niqab

Understanding the Face Veil

Rulings regarding Wearing Hijab and Niqab

Those are just a very few of the gazillions that I suppose are out there.  I really didn't try to find any that were significant or "the final answer" in any way at all.  Me?  I really, really don't care.  It's not a security issue (despite attempts to make it one), it's not a "values" thing (despite attempts to make it one) and it's not a matter of "never telling my daughter that she should wear a niqab" despite what Mr Harper might say.  

If a woman wants to wear a niqab because it's a religious thing, or a cultural thing or because she feels somehow protected from the gaze of sexist males... whatever, it matters naught to me.  I think I can deal with it and not feel like it's undermining my "Canadian values".  I still won't like hockey, I'll still drink beer, I'll still like CBC Radio and the Green Party of Canada, I won't feel less secure on an airplane and I probably won't start demanding that my "life partner" start wearing a niqab.   

You're being played Canada.  Wake up and smell the bigotry.

Dog-Whistle Politics

[Exposing "values" that Conservatives can really rally around.]

Not a term I was familiar with, "dog-whistle politics" has appeared in Canada late in the 2015 election campaign.

Obviously designed as a strategy by the Harper Conservatives' imported Dingo, the "esteemed" Lynton Crosby, the plan introduces wedge issues into the campaign.  In Canada, it's focus has been on something as innocuous as a small piece of cloth called the niqab.  One wouldn't think of this as representing an existential threat to Canada and whatever "values" we hold dear, but there you are.

 Almost immediately, social media erupted with posts from people who managed to conflate all of the following: muslim = niqab = terrorist = security threat = bombs = WTC = hijackings = whatever.

Just to remind us.... this whole thing appeared because the Harper Conservatives decided that a woman wearing a niqab during the Canadian citizenship ceremonies went against these Canadian values.  The Conservatives' ban on the niqab was challenged in court and so far, has lost twice, with the Supreme Court being the only level of the judiciary remaining to be heard from.  

One longer piece that discussed the niqab had to say:
Views on the significance of the niqab differ, however, its emergence as an issue on the national political stage is in large measure due to the expert machinations of the Harper Conservatives who are highly skilled in distracting the electorate from a consideration of their social, political, economic, and environmental record. This is an illustration of the "dead cat" theory of political campaigning as espoused by the "dark arts" practitioner and so-called "Australian rottweiler," Lynton Crosby, recently recruited by Stephen Harper to salvage his electoral prospects.
The niqab is described as a classic "dead cat issue":
"If you're losing an argument, if you're in a weak position, throw a dead cat on the table. Everyone will shout 'Jeez, mate, there's a dead cat on the table!'; in other words they will be talking about the dead cat, the thing you want them to talk about, and they will not be talking about the issue that has been causing you so much grief."

The article ends with the following: 
 ...the personal choices of women in their attire should not be a subject of political discourse on the Canadian electoral stage in 2015. When climate change threatens the future of humanity, when economic inequality oppresses the vast majority of the planet's denizens, when electoral dysfunctionality cripples democratic expression, when scientists are muzzled, Parliament is hamstrung, aboriginal communities are suffering, our public infrastructure is crumbling, trade deals threaten every aspect of our sovereignty, and refugees are pleading for succor at our doors -- these issues urgently need to command our political attention -- and not how a woman chooses to dress herself.
Calgary's mayor, the awesome Naheed Nenshi, one of the few Canadian politicians willing to stand up and be counted on this issue, recently blasted the practices of the Harper Conservatives in an article appearing in the National Post.

Of course, there is no shortage of articles over the whole issue.  The one issue that seems to have overtaken every other issue of importance that needs to be discussed in this election.

Such dog-whistle dead-cat tactics divide us and demean us all all as an article from the Georgia Straight puts it.

A Citizenship and Immigration spokesperson basically described it all as a complete non-issue.  

Canadians all need to remember that we have a Constitution with a Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  These rights don't just apply to things that you, personally, agree with.  The courts ruled on this years ago - remember the turban "issue" in the RCMP?  Somehow we've managed to move beyond that one without the world collapsing around us.

Let's call this what it is.  It's hate speech.  It's dog-whistle politics. It's a dead-cat issue.  It's intended to be divisive and appeal to all the racists, bigots, fearmongers, haters and xenophobes in society  For that, we can lay the blame squarely at the door of Harper's Conservative Party.  They are not fit to govern.

While Canada certainly hasn't always had the best record on such things (Jewish refugees fleeing Germany during WWII, for example), we like to claim, and maybe even believe, that we're better than this.  Are we?

From the National Post - To Uncover or not to Uncover - Why the Niqab issue is ridiculous.

As part of an interview with Calgary's Naheed Nenshi - 
"...we’re playing with fire, without question. But you know what? Good for Mulcair and good for Trudeau for standing up and saying, you know, this is a ridiculous argument. Mulcair had a great line: weapons of mass distraction. Because that’s all this is. And Canadians know that. And you know, when I say to any Albertan who walks up to me and says women shouldn’t be able to cover themselves while being at the citizenship ceremony, and I say well, you know, I go to a million citizenship ceremonies. It’s actually my favourite thing to do as Mayor. And not only have I never seen a woman in a niqab attempting to do it, but you understand that the oath is just ceremonial. They have to unveil themselves and give ID and sign the forms and sign the oath, all of that, separately. And in fact, the woman in Mississauga even offered to wear a wireless mic so that people could hear that she was actually saying the oath."
From a Canadian now living in the UK, these parting words:

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Myth of the "liberal media" and other Fairy Stories

As one trawls through media stories, it's easy to find articles both critical and complimentary of the government of the day.

What I've found interesting, and somewhat frustrating, is this refrain so often heard in response to any article critical of the government: "Yeah, but they're just part of the liberal media", a comment intended to blow off any negative comments about the government of the day.

Canada is, generally speaking, a left-of-center country and as evidence I can point to voting results from the 2011 election, where over 60% voted for left-of-center parties (Liberal, NDP and Green).  I can also point to long stretches of Liberal governments, so long and so frequent that the Liberals seem to view themselves as the "natural governing party".  So it might be reasonable to think that the media would reflect this Canadian reality.

That said, is this claim of a left-wing press really true?  I came across this article the other day and many of it's points resonated with me.  It uses American examples but it shouldn't be too difficult to adapt it to the Canadian situation, something I will attempt to do over the coming days.

It is called "15 Things Everyone Would Know if There Was a Liberal Media".  See what you think.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Dear Albertans Against the NDP

In response to increasingly stupid comments from some people who just can't handle democracy, the institution that brought about the recent regime change in Alberta, there is this following response:

OK. You don't like the NDP. I get it. You don't like its platform, policies or ideology? Fine. You are free to hold your own opinions, campaign for another party, or run for office, Vote for another party at the next election. That is your right. Diversity of opinion and the freedom to vote are essential aspects of every democratic country.  But you can't expect a "recall" or a "vote of non-confidence" or demand that another election be called immediately. That is not how our democracy works. 
Some of you are bitter that the party you supported for decades lost. Understandable. After 44 years in power, it must be tough to feel your views are not represented in the legislature. You'll get another shot at it in a few years.
But could I just give you a few tips-if you really want to advance your cause? Suggesting you tear down every NDP lawn sign you see and creating a big bonfire in the ditch violates section 325 of Canada's Election Act. Saying the Premier's office should be burned down or that Tom Mulcair should be hung from a tree is also illegal. 
It might be a thought to tone down the personal insults as well. Among the over 600,000 "retarded idiots" who voted NDP on May 5 you may well find your neighbour, your local pastor, your kids' teachers, the nurse who tended to you during an emergency, the fire fighter that just saved your house from burning, and the doctor who diagnosed your latest illness.  Anyway maybe don't go around saying, "Any of you guys want to admit you voted NDP should give me your address so I can come over and slap your face." That kind of crude bullying doesn't help convince any thinking person that they should support you.
You don't like the Premier? Ok. But your misogynist comments, including calling her a witch, a f--king bitch, "an ugly whore", a "twat", a "no-good stupid piece of sh--", the "fricken devil I seen in my nightmares", a "stupid blonde thing" and a "snatch" doesn't demonstrate that you understand the issues that face our province.  It just shows that you hate women. And I'm not sure if anyone cares what your "buddy" who knew her in high school thinks, especially his view that she was a "high maintenance c--nt".  
And calling for her assassination? Enough already. 
Every quotation in this blog was taken directly from the "Albertans Against the NDP" Facebook page, a page describes itself as not being affiliated with any political party. It  states "Anyone antagonizing or trolling will be banned." Yet apparently hate speech and threats of violence against individuals are ok.
It seems that the bulk of the people who comment on the page blame the NDP for the collapse of the energy sector. They frequently comment that anyone who votes NDP is a "leech", a "parasite", or a "lazyass welfare bum" who should "get off your asses and work for a living." 
I don't expect people to understand the global economy or even know the basics about how the political system in their own province works. But can these people unite the right by playing on fear and ignorance, encouraging the hatred of women, and allowing vile name-calling and threats of violence?  
On second thought, keep it up, "Albertans Against the NDP." Keep dividing the right. Because I hope the intelligent and compassionate supporters of a more right wing ideology, many of whom are my friends, will find another way. 
There is too much hate in this world already.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Stephen Harper - Serial Abuser of Power - Election 2015

Just recently published by The Tyee, a compendium of the many abuses of power on the part of Stephen Harper.  Download from this link as a PDF file.

And for the kids, a connect the dots puzzle:

Canada - It's time for a change.