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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Bob Hepburn: Harper the king of nasty attack ads (in the Toronto Star)

"Often in the final stretch of an election race, a desperate politician will abandon any pretence of discussing issues and instead pump tons of money into nasty attack ads. That was the only time such ads were ever unveiled.

"For Harper, that’s a naive way to use attack ads.

"Instead, the Conservative Prime Minister likes to run vicious ads all the time — before, during and after an election. He’s always at war with opposition parties and their leaders, with the most obvious sign being the perpetual ads directed at the Liberals.

".... the more hateful, personal and nasty the ads are, the more Harper seems to delight his hard-core base, and simultaneously turn off the rest of the voters."

Full article: Hepburn: Harper the king of nasty attack ads.

U.S. consumer group urges ban or warning on food dyes (in the Toronto Star)

From ParentCentral in the Toronto Star:

U.S. consumer group urges ban or warning on food dyes.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"Pushed to the Left and Loving It" talks about Harper and his 'malignant narcissism'

This term has been showing up in connection with Canada's First Dictator since at least 2008. Here is a recent take on it.

"I think that Stephen Harper believes in his condescending, narcissistic way, that he will win. That he will be the first to reach the ultimate goal. He will no longer be a 'follower' of Thatcherism, Reaganomics or Rogernomics. Future neocons will follow him, and 'Harperism' will be their battle cry.

"He may be delusional, but no one has ever accused him of being sane."

Pushed to the Left and Loving It: The Politics of Conceit: "Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better".

Kathleen Lahey: Help for hogs, not caregivers (in the Toronto Star)

Kathleen Lahey teaches tax law at Queen’s University’s Faculty of Law and is author of Women, Substantive Equality, and Fiscal Policy.

"Somehow, when compared with the $24 million the Harper budget allocated to the health of “young hogs,” it seems really heartless to offer just $40 million to help working taxpayers care for the people they love.

"And it seems especially heartless to offer it in the form of non-refundable tax credits — the one form of government spending that budget planners know full well will never reach those who need it the most."

Full article: Help for hogs, not caregivers.

Edaward Greenspon on the need to rebuild the centre (in the Toronto Star)

Edward Greenspon is Vice-President, Business Development, of the Star. He is a former editor-in-chief and former Ottawa bureau chief of the Globe and Mail.

"For all its neglect, Liberalism actually stands for something important. It is, in the words of Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor, not a neutral concept but “a fighting creed.” It says: “That is not the way we do things” in the face of illiberal behaviours, whether these be misleading MPs about signatures on documents, failing to disclose the costs of fighter jets or prisons, proroguing Parliament rather than abide by rulings, attacking the legitimacy of independent watchdogs from Elections Canada to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, jamming the judiciary or weakening the channels of knowledge by which decisions can be taken on the basis of evidence rather than belief.

"The early question in this election is how hard the arch-centralists are prepared to fight for their creed."

Full article: Greenspon: Most interesting C-word of the election? Centralist.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Heather Mallick talks about evangelical leader Charles McVety's influence over Harper (in the Toronto Star)

Quote from Wikipedia article on McVety (20 March 2011):

Claims about access to Harper

In November 2006, former Conservative Garth Turner claimed that McVety had once boasted to him of his influence with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, saying "I can pick up the phone and call Harper and I can get him in two minutes." McVety flatly denied saying this, after which Turner firmly reiterated his claim.

Bill C-10 involvement

On February 28, 2008, Canadian Heritage announced that it would be "expanding slightly" the criteria for denying tax credits to Canadian films to include gratuitous violence, significant sexual content that lacks an educational purpose, or denigration of an identifiable group; these changes were contained in Bill C-10. The following day, McVety claimed credit for this new policy, suggesting that its adoption was the result of a series of meetings he had with Stockwell Day, Rob Nicholson, and representatives of the Prime Minister's Office.

However on October 8, 2008 the new Conservative platform outlined plans not to re-introduce bill C-10 if re-elected. McVety appeared on CBC Newsworld on the same day and expressed his disappointment in the change in the Conservative Party's position.

Anti-Darwin protest

In the spring of 2008, McVety was involved in the promotion of the pro-Intelligent Design and anti-Charles Darwin film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. On June 12, 2008, he organized a protest outside the Royal Ontario Museum against its Darwin exhibit. McVety accused the ROM of “sugar coating” Darwin’s theory and of “cleansing the message” by omitting what he claimed were aspects of Darwinism that “propagate genocide and hatred." The rally immediately followed a special screening of Expelled at a nearby cinema.

Toronto Star article by Heather Mallick: Mallick: What if Harper's dream of a majority comes true?.

Chantal Hébert: Liberals march to distant beat of Tory drummer (in the Toronto Star)

Chantal nails it again. Why does Iggy keep painting himself into a corner, just because he doesn't want to give Harper more ammunition? He has way more ammo against Dictator Steve - if he would only start to use it...

Quotes from the article:

"But Ignatieff’s bigger problem is that he said on Saturday something that he would not say the day before or earlier in the week or, for that matter, for the past two years.

"If the Liberal leader was convinced that it was inappropriate for a Canadian government to be run by a coalition of parties or to formally secure Bloc support to make Parliament work more productively, he could have abstained from signing the coalition pact crafted by his predecessor, Stéphane Dion, in 2008. ...

"It is not the first time the Liberals fail to hold their ground under sustained Conservative fire.

"On the same basis, Ignatieff dropped his party’s carbon tax after a single campaign and he will be spending the next five weeks promising to eliminate the deficit, expand the social safety net and keep Medicare funding on a secure footing without raising a single individual tax.

"That distant beat that the Liberals have been marching to is that of a Conservative drummer."

Full article: Hébert: Liberals march to distant beat of Tory drummer.

Thomas Walkom: Harper’s curious hidden agenda talk (in the Toronto Star)

"[Walkom's] own view, incidentally, is that Harper’s agenda isn’t hidden. To anyone who cares to pay attention, he has been clear about his ultimate aim — which is to get the federal government out of the business of virtually everything except banks, prisons, the military, foreign affairs and interprovincial commerce.

"This is not something he wants to dwell on during an election campaign he hopes will be fought on economic management. But by raising the spectre of Ignatieff’s agenda, he risks focusing attention on his own."

Full article: Walkom: Harper’s curious hidden agenda talk.

ADHD: It’s the food, stupid (in The Grist)

"Dr. Pessler's [Dr. Lidy Pessler of the ADHD Research Center in the Netherlands] study is the first to conclusively say that diet is implicated in ADHD. In the NPR interview, Dr. Pessler did not mince words, 'Food is the main cause of ADHD,' she said adding, 'After the diet, they were just normal children with normal behavior. They were no longer more easily distracted, they were no more forgetful, there were no more temper-tantrums.' The study found that in 64 percent of children with ADHD, the symptoms were caused by food. 'It's a hypersensitivity reaction to food,' Pessler said.

Full article: ADHD: It’s the food, stupid.

Heather Mallick: What if Harper's dream of a majority comes true? (in the Toronto Star)

And another powerful article by the Star's Heather Mallick.

"A Harper majority government would be dishonest. That's an easy one, they're Dodgy Inc. now, with their in-and-out campaign financing, lying to Parliament, allegations of illegally blocking freedom of information, killing the long-form census to cater to invented online outrage, wildly underestimating the cost of those Lockheed Martin jets, padding the Senate they previously vowed to reform, accepting fat MP pensions they once decried . . . I could go on but lack the space and sometimes the will to live, frankly.

"A recent poll shows that Canadians know the Harper government tells whoppers. For the Harper regime, lying is a core value, to the point where there's a bouncy aggressive incredulity when they're questioned about it in the House of Commons. They regard opposition MPs as dogs lunging at a G20 wire fence when they've already been trained with electroshocks to never do that again. ...

"Fear these people. Don't get sick. Don't grow old. Don't have children. Make yourself invulnerable."

Full article: Mallick: What if Harper's dream of a majority comes true?.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Antonia Zerbisias: Thorium touted as The Answer to our energy needs (in the Toronto Star)

Antonia Zerbisias looks at the promise of thorium, and talks about why it wasn't adopted as the main nuclear alternative years ago.

"'Here’s a solution that’s in front of us that can solve multiple problems,' says retired physicist and IT specialist Robert Hargraves. 'It can tackle global warming. To the extent that we can make fuel, we can reduce our dependency on the Mideast.'"

Thorium touted as The Answer to our energy needs.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Disaffected Lib: Dear Iggy

Good advice to Ignatieff from the Disaffected Lib (The Mound of Sound):

The Disaffected Lib: Dear Iggy.

Lisa Phillipps: Fiscal favours are eroding our tax system (in the Toronto Star)

Lisa Phillipps is a professor of tax law and policy at Osgoode Hall Law School of York University, and co-editor with Neil Brooks and Jinyan Li of Tax Expenditures: State of the Art.

She describes how tax goodies can look benign, but eventually result in "our tax system [looking] like Swiss cheese", as one group after another seeks parity with others that are receiving tax breaks, not to mention the fact that these tax breaks eventually "add up to a major drain on revenues."

Full article: Fiscal favours are eroding our tax system.

Haroon Siddiqui: The U.S. double standard (in the Toronto Star)

Now for a different slant on America's Arab wars, by the Star's Haroon Siddiqui.

"Welcome to Obama’s realpolitik. He has sacrificed his grand promise of universal human rights and democracy at the altar of American interests.

"All states work in their own interests but few claim the moral leadership that America does."

Siddiqui: The U.S. double standard.

Heather Mallick: Will Libya break the American bank? (in the Toronto Star)

Heather Mallick presents an interesting analysis of the common threads behind America's 3 current wars:

Mallick: Will Libya break the American bank?.

She includes a reference to Matt Taibbi's recent book, Griftopia. Scary!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Linda McQuaig: Luxury for the rich but ‘realism’ for the rest of us (in the Toronto Star)

"Of course, the rich preach that their uncontrolled greed benefits us all. But hard evidence shows this isn’t true. As they’ve become increasingly dominant in the past 30 years, ensuring deregulated markets and low taxes for themselves, their own incomes have soared, while average wages have stagnated."

Full article: McQuaig: Luxury for the rich but ‘realism’ for the rest of us.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Thomas Walkom: Forget meltdowns. The real nuclear problem is waste (in the Toronto Star)

Thomas Walkom talks about the nuclear problem everyone seems to be forgetting. Canadians assure themselves that "it couldn't happen here" - but that's not the real problem.

"... nuclear waste lasts forever. That’s the real horror of Fukushima — that the spread of radioactive material could make an entire chunk of Japan uninhabitable. We could afford to be smug if we knew how to deal with our nuclear waste. But we don’t."

Full article: Walkom: Forget meltdowns. The real nuclear problem is waste.

Hans Rosling at TED: Civilization depends on washing machines (linked to by Grist)

Hans Rosling is a Swedish medical doctor, academic, statistician and public speaker. He is Professor of International Health at Karolinska Institute and co-founder and chairman of the Gapminder Foundation, which developed the Trendalyzer software system.

He speaks on future energy use world-wide:

Hans Rosling at TED: Civilization depends on washing machines.

In two generations, Swedish women went from washing clothes in water heated over wood fires to washing machines, thus freeing up time to read and study. Rosling asks how we can deny that to 3rd world women who today spend countless hours washing clothes the old way.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Antonia Zerbisias: A deep look at the Earth’s future (in the Toronto Star)

Antonia Zerbisias writes about "Deep Future: The Next 100,000 Years of Life on Earth" by Curt Stager: A deep look at the Earth’s future.

Curt Stager will be discussing his book at the Royal Ontario Museum, Thursday March 24 at 7 p.m.

Heather Mallick: Liberals ads finally turn tigerish (in the Toronto Star)

"Thank god the Liberals have muscled up. They are defending themselves in clear, strong terms against ludicrous attacks, saying out loud what the Regime is doing to our democracy and finally getting it right.

"They are not the wraiths they once were.

"It’s time for courage and I urge them on. This is a terrible government and it must be fought."

Full article: Mallick: Liberals ads finally turn tigerish.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Carol Goar: Angry grey clouds on Tory horizon (in the Toronto Star)

Goar: Angry grey clouds on Tory horizon.

Yay! Grey power!

Bob Hepburn: Layton should listen to NDP elder statesmen (in the Toronto Star)

"If NDP Leader Jack Layton is thinking at all about propping up the Harper government once again in return for a few crumbs in next Tuesday’s budget, he should stop and listen to some of his party’s elder statesmen.

"They would tell him they consider the Conservative government under Stephen Harper to be the most right-wing, mean-spirited and dictatorial regime in Ottawa in living memory.

"They would also tell Layton the Tories now running Ottawa have damaged Canada’s reputation abroad and at home and are nothing more than “oafs” who are more aligned with the Tea Party in the U.S. than they are with mainstream Canadians...

"Former federal NDP leader Ed Broadbent, speaking earlier this week on CBC Radio, ... said that when he travels overseas now he is met by something 'approaching contempt for the government today' because of its policies toward the Mideast, foreign aid and peacekeeping. 'They all see our government as a very right-wing government that has gone back on everything this country used to stand for,' he added.

"Stephen Lewis, a former Ontario NDP leader and Canadian ambassador to the United Nations, so dislikes Harper and his Tories that he can hardly talk about them."

Full article: Hepburn: Layton should listen to NDP elder statesmen

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Brahma Chellaney describes the nuclear water dilemma (in the Toronto Star)

Brahma Chellaney, professor of strategic studies at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, is the author of "Asian Juggernaut".

Article: Japan: A new flood of nuclear doubt.

Given the coming changes in the world's climate, it appears that we need to be a lot more cautious about embracing the nuclear option.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Carol Goar: Harper’s shadow public service (in the Toronto Star)

"'They look like government employees, but they’re not,' [David Macdonald, a research associate with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives] said. They are exempt from the government’s normal hiring requirements such as bilingualism and proven ability to do the job. And they aren’t on the government payroll; their remuneration comes from a private outsourcing firm (which usually means they have no job security or benefits.)"

Full article: Goar: Harper’s shadow public service.

Why does it not surprise me that a government that preaches austerity should be found to be building up a parallel, increasingly expensive and unaccountable public service...?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Disaffected Lib: To The Next Liberal Leader - Fight the Right From the Left

Important message from the Disaffected Lib (Mound of Sound) to the next Liberal leader: The Disaffected Lib: To The Next Liberal Leader - Fight the Right From the Left.

This post includes a really powerful statement by Naomi Klein explaining why climate change will "dismember virtually all that they [the Rights] have won in their wars with the Progressives."

The old-fashioned view (shared by Rights and even by many on the left) is "about an economic model that needs constant and infinite growth on a finite planet. So we really are talking about some deep transformations of our economy if we’re going to deal with climate change. And we need to talk about it."

Heather Mallick: The battle of the generations cracks swords (in the Toronto Star)

This article by Heather Mallick about the competing demands of different generations - and how the Conservatives try to use them to divide us - is important.

"Will we care for our young — the most profound human wish — or will we care for the old who, thanks to medical science, now live at least 20 years longer than was once considered reasonable?

"It shouldn’t be a contest, and only the Harper Regime would try to turn it into one. Generations at each other’s throats tend to miss the point, that we’re all in this together as we move from age 2 to 82. This is a Liberal sentiment — sane, based on economic and scientific projections, and tending to the affable.

"It’s not a Harper one. Harperites don’t like humans, we’re too expensive. ...

"We shouldn’t fall for the Conservatives egging us on. It’s like refusing that crucial temper-heating last drink. Just say no, Canadians....

"The fact is that the money is here. Ottawa is spending $35 billion on ships, including an icebreaker for Arctic ice that won’t be there when the John G. Diefenbaker slips into the water. This week we discover, thanks to Parliament’s budget watchdog, that the real cost of those F-35 fighters might be $29 billion, not the $9 billion the Harper Regime originally suggested. What a waste of dollars that could be spent smoothing the path for young and old."

Full article: Mallick: The battle of the generations cracks swords.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Derek Satnik: More wind than science in turbine debate (in the Toronto Star)

Derek Satnik is managing director at OntarioGreenSpec.ca and chief innovation officer at Mindscape Innovations Group Inc.

`The chief medical officer of Ontario publishes annual reports that mention the 9,000 Ontarians who die every year from respiratory ailments caused in part by emissions from coal-fired electric plants. Most of these deaths are seniors and children....

"... Why are we okay with letting 9,000 Ontarians die every year just so we can turn on the lights. Wind or no wind is missing the point: lights or no lights is a question that needs to be asked.

This is a problem that we can readily fix. Less coal and more wind seems obvious to me."

More wind than science in turbine debate.

Chantal Hébert: NDP not holding its breath waiting for PM’s call (in the Toronto Star)

Carefully reasoned analysis of why a spring election is (almost) inevitable: Hébert: NDP not holding its breath waiting for PM’s call.

Quote: "Short of a reversal on the part of the Prime Minister on the scale of his 2006 embrace of the Quebec nation, Harper and Layton are now immensely more likely to see each other on the set of a televised election debate this spring than across a budget negotiating table."

See also Carol Goar's article on the Tories' short-sighted, punitive and cynical budget plans - it is hard to see how they could be more provocative!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Chantal Hébert: Liberals set the stage to bring down the government (in the Toronto Star)

Hébert: Liberals set the stage to bring down the government.

The opposition now has so much ammunition against Harper and his stooges that putting an end to his minority government ought to be as easy as shooting fish in a barrel. Now the only thing to do is wait and see if Iggy has the backbone to do it... If he doesn't, I suspect any remaining credibility he still has will be toast!

For more comments on the same topic, see article by The Star's Thomas Walkom: Zeroing in on Harper’s political morality.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

David Olive: The People vs. the Greedheads (in the Toronto Star)

David Olive writes on the case that isn't coming to trial...

"You’re excused if the names Rajaratnam and Galleon don’t readily spring to mind. Or if you didn’t know that Rajaratnam is the richest Sri Lankan in history.

"Interesting facts, to be sure. But they’re as relevant to global capitalism’s latest implosion, triggering the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression, as the proper body mass index of an adult dolphin.

"The trial judge in this case said as much Tuesday, instructing prospective jurors that the case against Rajaratnam 'does not have anything to do with the recession or who is to blame for the financial problems we face.'

"Which begs the question of why justice hasn’t been rendered in a case yet to be brought, People vs. the Greedheads Who Triggered the Great Recession."

Full article: The People vs. the Greedheads.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Reuters: Fossilized bacteria found on meteorites: NASA scientist (reprinted in the Toronto Star)

Fossilized bacteria found on meteorites: NASA scientist.

See also various NASA experiments proving that amino acids can survive a high-speed impact into a target.

Now (Mar. 7, 2011) AP quotes Carl Pilcher, who heads NASA's Astrobiology Institute, as stating "... the rocks have been handled for more than 100 years. ... they are likely contaminated with Earth microbes." Why is there this unwillingness to accept the idea that life is universal? If these particular meteorites don't actually contain fossilized bacteria, the next set will.

Heather Mallick: Harper re-brands the government out of spite (in the Toronto Star)

Mallick: Harper re-brands the government out of spite.

This is unbelievable in this day and age - isn't Harper reading the papers these days about dictators getting their comeuppance? If he read Orwell's "1984" as a child, is he using Orwell's ideas - or does he just think they don't apply to him? So, which is it: cynicism or ignorance?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

David Olive: We unwisely ignore the global food crisis (Moneyville.ca, reprinted in the Toronto Star)

"While it’s an ugly truth that many stand to profit from malnutrition and the prospect of starvation in especially hard-hit countries like Bangladesh, Uganda, Cameroon, Vietnam and Burundi, the real scandal is continued global sloth on climate-change remedies. ...

"'The fact is that climate around the world is changing,' says Sunny Verghese, CEO of Olam International, one of the world’s three leading distributors of rice and cotton. 'That will cause massive disruptions.'

"Lee Myung Bak, president of South Korea, has been a rarity among heads of government in bluntly linking food shortages with global warming. In launching a task force of food security, Lee declared: 'There is an increasing likelihood of food crisis globally, due to climate change.'

"The endpoint of 'massive disruption' will be mass migration of humanity to arable land....

"We don’t think of weather and food as factors in radical geopolitical change. It’s long past time we began to."

Full article: Olive: We unwisely ignore the global food crisis.

Tyler Hamilton: Signs of life at Ballard Power (in the Toronto Star)

"Back in the 1990s it was the flag-bearer of the coming hydrogen economy. ...

"But as a fraction of its former self the company is now beginning to gain some traction in some niche, but not insignificant markets. In 2010, for example, it sold more than 3,000 fuel cell stacks for use as backup power and in forklifts, double what it sold the previous year. ...

"[Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC), the federal cleantech granting agency that recently contributed $7 million toward the demonstration project] is keen on seeing this technology used in remote communities that are off-grid and rely heavily on dirty diesel generators. Getting the diesel fuel to these communities is also expensive because of long transport distances.

"It may be better, in these remote places, to have wind turbines produce electricity, and then use that electricity – using an electrolysis process – to produce hydrogen. When you need power, run the hydrogen through the fuel cells. No greenhouse gases. No particulates. Just clean power.

"'Mated with a renewable source, Ballard fuel cells can deliver base and peak power to such communities at significantly less cost and remove emission from these communities,' according to SDTC".

Full article: Signs of life at Ballard Power.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Ramesh Thakur: We have a duty to stop Libyan slaughter (in the Toronto Star)

Ramesh Thakur is a professor of political science, University of Waterloo. He was an R2P commissioner and a principal author of its report. His most recent book is The Responsibility to Protect: Norms, Laws and the Use of Force in International Politics.

"R2P [Responsibility to Protect] provides the normative and political cover to deal robustly, promptly, effectively and, if necessary, militarily with Gadhafi’s threat to his people. Action will also help the UN and the West to cleanse their consciences of the stain of being passive spectators in Rwanda and Srebrenica and of complicity in privileging stability over freedom for the Arabs."

Full article: We have a duty to stop Libyan slaughter.