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J.G Hertzler Talks About the Benefit of Unions

7 Jul

Written by J.G Hertzler

PRO-UNION RANT #332: My mother was a school teacher, my dad was in the Air Force…and yet we never faced budgetary collapse as so many Americans now face. Our middle class has been “disappeared” by big John G Hertzlerbusiness/Governmental conspiracy to drive down labor costs and increase productivity resulting in 60,000 domestic factory closings over the last 15 years and ever expanding off-shoring of money and jobs.

In turn, this has resulted in the immense economic disparity in America,,,Once Upon a Time…”the land of opportunity!”….and the collapse of the great middle class that built this country. There are no Rockafellers or Vanderbilts or Romneys or Trumps or Fricks sitting on that iron girder 60 stories above Central Park eating lunch…they were the American Common Man, the middle class who literally built this nation. Such men bound together in Iron Workers Unions, Automobile Workers unions, Electricians, Plumbers, Home construction Unions…they built this country and created a pay scale that allowed for their Middle Class families to exist. Do you really believe that the Vanderbilts, Rockafellers, Trumps, etc would ever pay a living wage if they were not forced to do so by Big Labor?

Union LaborIf you believe that, we will eternally disagree. And hey…I know their has been corruption in Big Labor…there is some corruption everywhere….but without Unions, America would have grown into a Third World Power long long ago, where 1% of our society is fabulously rich and enjoying the good life but 99% of us would be living in poverty without sufficient jobs, without decent shelter, food or clothing and without hope…oh wait…that is the current breakdown of economic disparity in this nation. And you ask why I support Unions? jgh

From ‘Washington Redskins’ to ‘queer culture,’ the uneasy evolution of the slur

5 Jul
neil-macdonald

Neil Macdonald is the senior Washington correspondent for CBC News, which he joined in 1988 following 12 years in newspapers. Before taking up this post in 2003, Macdonald reported from the Middle East for five years. He speaks English and French fluently, and some Arabic.

Written by Neil MacDonald

The professional football team here in the U.S. capital is still called the Washington Redskins.

It’s ridiculous, but there it is.

Personally, for the sake of consistency, I’ve begun to avoid using the word “Redskins” in news reports about the controversy surrounding the team’s name.

It goes against my grain to do so; I’m a speech libertarian, and I believe we should shrink from no word if it is relevant to the discourse at hand, which, in this city, Redskins most certainly is.

But I also try, at least, to avoid hypocrisy, and there’s plenty of that in the discussions of the controversy surrounding the team.

The word itself is a self-evidently racist, slangy, condescending term for Indians, as a U.S. government commission ruled just recently. And yet we in the news media still use it when describing the team, simply because the team’s owner refuses to consider changing the name.

Imagine for a moment someone naming a team the “Houston Wetbacks.” Or the “New York Coons.” Would we repeat those names in reports? To ask that question is to answer it.

Other slurs are so radioactive they cannot even be uttered in a hypothetical discussion, so I won’t. (Again, I don’t think any word should be off-limits to discussion, but like the comedian Louis CK, I despise the fig-leaf coyness of euphemisms like “the n-word.”)

So why is it still acceptable to use the term Redskins?

Do we allow ourselves to use it because it’s the name of a major sports team? Or is it still the name of a major sports team because we allow ourselves to use it?

Some people say that not all Indians regard the word as necessarily racist. But pretty clearly a large number of them do. Indian groups have tried, and failed, to force a name change.

That leaves us with the ugly conclusion that native Americans simply don’t have the political clout in the U.S. that some other minority groups have acquired through vigorous activism.

If you want further evidence of the difficulty native groups have had in pushing back against being caricatured in the crudest possible manner, just take a look at Big Chief Wahoo, the mascot of the Cleveland Indians.

redskins-what-s-a-slur

As protests by the American Indian Movement and others grow, including during last year’s NFL Super Bowl, the U.S. Patent Office ruled in June 2014 that the Washington Redskins name is “disparaging of Native Americans” and that the team’s federal trademarks for the name must be cancelled. (Associated Press)

 

Reclaiming slurs

But our resistance to change, as a society and as journalists, applies the other way around, too, and that’s where the issue of what constitutes a slur these days can get really interesting.

pride-parade-mormons

Dyke march is another term, Neil Macdonald has trouble with. Here, gay rights supporters, including sympathetic members of the Mormon Church, march at the Utah State Capitol before the annual Pride festival in June 2013. (Associated Press)

The current practice of “reclaiming” slurs, as a means of defaming them, means that certain words that have been vile insults most of my life are now finding their way into the mainstream.

During last month’s Pride celebrations across America, for example, the term “dyke marches” began popping up in reports, used without attribution or irony. (Dyke is just not a word I will ever feel able to utter politely.)

Dyke march is another term, Neil Macdonald has trouble with. Here, gay rights supporters, including sympathetic members of the Mormon Church, march at the Utah State Capitol before the annual Pride festival in June 2013. (Associated Press)

Similarly, LGBT, the acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered, has now become LBGTQ, the Q being widely understood to represent “queer.”

Olivia Chow, the former Canadian Federal NDP MP now running for mayor of Toronto, was slinging that one around at a news conference just the other day.

In fact, the acronym seems to grow by the week; some activists are pushing LGBTTIQQ2SAA, standing for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, intersex, queer, questioning, two-spirited, allies and asexual.

“Queer,” in particular, is a word the non-heterosexual community has been trying hard for years to promote as a perfectly respectful catch-all. They’ve lobbied news organizations to adopt it as an across-the-board neutral descriptor to replace the increasingly cumbersome alphabet-soup acronym mentioned above.

They’ve had some success with the wider public. A colleague in her thirties tells me she does not remember the term queer ever being anything other than polite.

But it will forever feel insulting to me, and to a lot of viewers and readers my age, and so most mainstream news organizations have demurred. Queer is usually only used with attribution.

 

Hard to keep up

Ultimately, though, the word will no doubt become thoroughly acceptable, having completed its journey from meaning simply odd (and being tolerated as a verb) to becoming a rather ugly insult, all the way round to a happy, inclusive term.

So what of other “reclaimed” slurs? Is it imaginable that the galaxy of insults specific groups now use in reference to themselves, but which are forbidden to any outsider, will move on to normalization?

Probably. I’d have laughed back in the 1970s if someone had suggested queer would be stripped of its insult. (I even remember when “gay” had another meaning entirely, and the honorific “Ms.” was equated with man-hating radical feminism and spoken with icy condescension.)

But the other arc will continue, too. Words that are now respectful will no doubt be shunned.

My elderly mother, a retired schoolteacher who is perhaps the most tolerant person I have ever known, a woman who is philosophically opposed to any sort of trash talk or disrespect, once remarked on a trip to Washington that “Negro men dress very nicely, don’t they?”

My daughter, then in a liberal school and alive to any racial slight, immediately explained that word is now unacceptable, and that “African-American” and “person of colour” are the respectful terms.

Flushing, my mother said she’d been taught that “Negro” is what black people themselves consider polite, and that she just can’t keep up. (Remember, it’s still the United Negro College Fund, and it’s still the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.)

Acceptable terms seem to change every decade, she protested. Hard to argue with that. Change proceeds rapidly, along both arcs.

No doubt, my grandchildren will cringe when they hear that a football team was once called the Redskins, just as I do when I remember my father’s cylindrical pre-First World War recordings of minstrel acts like Darkie School Days.

And, as outrageous as it might sound right now, the term n-word may someday seem quaint and foolish, and the slur for which it stands will have lost its stunning power.

From Middle-Class to Minimum Wage. With No Way Back

21 May

By Michael Valpy

 

Eric Schuppert’s realization that he had left the middle class did not occur in 2008, when his $75,000-a-year salary with full benefits, pension and five weeks’ paid vacation vanished along with his job as a public-service manager for the municipality of Caledon.

It did not occur when, at age 46, he had to borrow money from his parents to meet his monthly living costs. It did not occur when he was forced to sell his house in nearby Alliston.

It did not even occur when he found himself behind a counter at his local Tim Hortons — “Standing there in that crappy uniform with that dinky little hat on serving my friends coffee” — at the minimum wage of $10.25 an hour, taking direction from kids 20 years younger.

It occurred when the fear came to him that he would never be back to where he had been, that he was looking at a slammed-shut door to anything that resembled progress.

And with that fear, Schuppert, now 51 and working in Toronto as a night-shift college porter earning $30,000 a year, became part of a new phenomenon in Canada that social scientists haven’t previously encountered: he self-deselected from the middle class.

Frank Graves, president of EKOS Research, says his firm’s surveys show that since the start of the 2000s, Canadians identifying themselves as middle class have declined from 70 per cent to about 60 per cent of the adult population and possibly much lower.

What that means is not something that can be calibrated simply by the metrics of median-income statistics. It is not really about numbers, and the bromides being offered by politicians in the U.S. and Canada about a healthy middle class being good for society miss the point.

Declining middle class in Canada

Middle class is a state of mind, an emotional state, a feeling of optimism, a feeling of belonging to the great swath of Canadian society that has been resolutely marching forward in the sunshine for decades. It is an important element of social cohesion.

When the level of income inequality rises — in tandem with a stagnant economy, which is what is happening in Canada — the relationship between income and class identity becomes stronger, says University of Toronto sociology doctoral candidate Josh Curtis, who studies class awareness and its links to political behaviour.

Inequality above all else is a profound social circumstance, a subjective sense of one’s status both in comparison to others and in relation to what one expects from oneself. Thus, especially in rich societies, a substantial income loss in an environment of inequality is more than apt to be construed as an assault on class identity.

And what EKOS finds, as inequality has risen, is powerful evidence that middle-class optimism that existed as recently as the end of the last century has crashed and burned, to be replaced by a pervasive, dark pessimism and a loss of faith in the ethic of progress.

Says Graves: “The dominant challenge of our time is to reverse this infectious belief that progress is over and produce a vibrant new liberal capitalism for the 21st century. Growing and invigorating the dormant middle class is task number one in any blueprint to a brighter future.”

A North American survey by EKOS and partner research firms in the U.S. and Mexico found that Americans who identified themselves as members of the middle class had declined from roughly 62 per cent in 2002 to 46 per cent at the end of 2013, a more precipitous plunge than in Canada, where the figures are 67 and 48 per cent respectively. But this isn’t grounds for complacency. Graves says rising inequality and a declining middle class in Canada have been driven by what’s going on in the U.S., and Canada is now sliding faster down the slope than its neighbour.

“When you don’t have people moving ahead, you have trouble,” he says. “And the trends in Canada are very, very clear. It’s the Acemoglu thesis.”

He is referring to the 2012 book Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty, in which economist Daron Acemoglu, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, argues that societies fail when they move from an inclusive to an extractive economy, meaning an economy “designed to extract incomes and wealth from one subset of society (the masses) to benefit a different subset (the governing elite).”

Inequality, in other words.

And when EKOS asked Canadians which groups they thought had moved ahead, fallen behind, or stayed the same over the last 25 years, the results were a rabbit punch in the midriff.

Nearly 90 per cent of respondents said the CEOs of large companies had benefitted most; 63 per cent identified financial sector employees as the winners; 40 per cent chose public servants; 18 per cent chose blue collar workers, and just 8 per cent picked middle-class households.

Winners and losers

Eric Schuppert’s narrative, to be sure, is about income and struggling to earn enough money to survive. But primarily it’s about a place in society and his links to the connecting points of middle-class existence.

He’s a soft-spoken, thoughtful, well-read man. He tells his story without complaints, and yet a listener can hear very clearly the pain he’s experienced over the past five years.

He’d worked 22 years for Caledon, population 50,000, rising up the ladder from manager of aquatics to a senior recreation position to manager of customer services with a staff of 10. His job included being in charge of the municipal cafeteria, overseeing the municipality’s office supplies and managing the public reception services.

One the day he was fired — “restructured” in the language of the municipality’s human resources department — he asked his boss, the chief administration officer, if he’d done anything wrong and was told no, the municipality just figured they could do his job better and cheaper without him.

“It wasn’t a fun day,” says Schuppert. “But you can’t let something like that ruin 22 years associated with a wonderful community.”

The CAO sent out an email to the staff saying he was leaving “to pursue other opportunities.”

It was a bad time in the fall of 2008 to be out of a job.

Initially Schuppert says he felt marginalized but not hurt — an interesting word he chooses: without a job, he felt pushed to the sidelines of life.

End of progress

In the first six months after being restructured, he sent out about 100 resumés and got three interviews, none of which led to anything. By August 2009, he had run out of money and needed financial help from his parents. He realized at the same time he was going to have to take whatever job he could find and not wait for something commensurate with his skills and experience.

Within a week he had a job at a Tim Hortons outlet a five-minute walk from his house in Alliston, just north of Toronto. When his friends and neighbours came in, “I could see the click in their eyes when they recognized me, and then they moved on pretty quickly.”

In addition to standing for an eight-hour shift taking orders, Schuppert had to move boxes around. He has a bad back. The work gave him constant pain. He lasted a month and then quit.

The local McDonald’s offered him a job. He asked if there was a chance to move into management, was told yes, and was then assigned to be the overnight cleaner starting at midnight. He declined.

At this point he started to cut off his social connections.

He went to work for Swiss Chalet, again asking for an opportunity to move into management. He was told yes. He worked for nine months, was given periodic management training but never got beyond minimum wage.

He then went to Harvey’s, where he was actually offered a management position. He asked the owner for $16 an hour but never was paid more than the minimum wage of $10.25. Meanwhile, he had to put his house up for sale because he could no longer afford the mortgage payments.

“George saved me from full-blown depression,” Schuppert says. George was his dog, arthritic and going blind, and Schuppert loved and cared for him.

He’d saved for 20 years to buy his house. His house was part of who he was in his community, in his circle of friends. His house was where he once gave parties and cooked dinners until he could no longer afford to do either. The For Sale sign stood on the street in front of his house for eight months, proclaiming his downward journey.

“My emotional state was pretty bad, but I faked it,” he says.

And then the house sold and he decided to move to Toronto and live in the Beach neighbourhood because he had heard it was a good place for dogs.

Before he left, a neighbour offered him a one-month job building kitchen cabinets. “That was as fulfilled as I’d felt in a long time,” Schuppert says. “It was meaningful. In aquatics I had taught kids to save lives. That was meaningful.”

That’s what work is about. Either meaningful or not meaningful.

Schuppert found an apartment in the Beach where he could take George for long, healthy walks. He kept looking for a job. He was turned down for a City of Toronto posting that involved working on its 311 municipal service, which irritated him, because he had led the project to design the service at Caledon.

And then he got the college porter’s job.

The college staff, he says, are wonderful. The students he enjoys. He likes the opportunity to help people. He’s provided with dinner. “I’m underutilized but there’s dick-all elsewhere.”

There’s also the night shift. “I didn’t realize just how lost you are. I live at home alone. I get up in the morning and everyone else has gone to work. By the time I get home, it’s 11 o’clock and everyone else is in bed. I spend the whole day alone and that’s depressing.

There’s the fear — the fear that’s made him say he’s no longer middle class. “I still don’t see anything more than $30,000 a year in my future. That’s not a lot of money for a single person in Toronto. My biggest fear now that is that I’m going to wind up on the street. I’ve just got to get back to trying to find jobs. If I don’t I’m going to be well on the path to the working poor. I think progress has passed me by.”

There’s what Eric Schuppert identifies as the middle class things that are gone.

“I used to go out for dinner

“I used to throw dinner parties at home. I love to cook.

“I used to have parties all the time.

“Dating. How can I take someone out at 14 bucks an hour?

“I don’t get to see concerts and events any more. I used to see live music all the time.

“I have lost the ability to buy new clothes of some quality. I did get used to wearing a jacket and tie for 10 years and looking sharp. It is definitely a status thing.”

All things that middle class people do in middle class society.

“No house.”

Middle class people own houses, or at least a condo.

“I’m wondering if I’ll ever have a meaningful job using my skills and experience again.”

Middle class people have meaningful work.

George died two months ago. Schuppert is now looking for a smaller apartment “down the chain.”

Award-winning journalist Michael Valpy is this year’s recipient of the Atkinson Fellowship in Public Policy. He can be reached at michael.valpy@utoronto.ca

Veterans March on Washington 2013

12 Oct

Author: Robin

The last time veterans marched on Washington DC was May of 1932.  They marched then for the cash bonus for their service during World War I.  Most of the veterans had no problems with the stipulation given right after the war, that the pay wouldn’t actually touch their hands until some time in 1945.  During the “Roaring Twenties”, the economy was good, life was rosy, and no one minded the wait.

1932 march

On July 13, 1932, Brig. Gen. Pelham D. Glassford, superintendent of the Washington, D.C., police, asked a group of war veterans on the Capitol grounds to raise their hands if they had served in France and were 100 percent American.

Then the Great Depression hit.  Things were no longer ‘rosy’ for the veterans and their families.  That bonus money was needed for things like food and rent, electricity, and to pay the taxes on the family farm.  1945 was a long way off.

So they marched on DC.  Set up camp in the city.  Only to be ignored by Congress, and then forcibly evicted from the city by tanks and bayonet wielding active-duty soldiers, thanks to an order from Herbert Hoover, over-enthusiastically carried out by General Douglas MacArthur .   No doubt hearing from Hoover and MacArthur that the majority of the men were Communists, Anarchists, criminals and general trouble-makers was the only reason those soldiers obeyed, driving the men and their families from the shanty-town that had been erected.  Hungry, tired – defeated **, the men left the city in a slow parade of trucks.  Without their bonus pay.

bonus_march

In 1932, a group of WWI veterans in Portland, Ore., rallied the Bonus Army to Washington to lobby for early payment of their promised bonuses. They set up camp along the Anacostia River that May. But by July, officials lost patience and went into the camp to evict the marchers. It turned violent. A soldier torched a tent, and the Army began torching everything still standing.

Fast forward to October 13, 2013.  Veterans are again marching on Washington DC.   This time, however, they’re marching for their right to have access to the war memorials within the city.  Memorials that honor the fallen of the wars in which the US has been involved…for better, worse, or otherwise.  They’re marching specifically for access to the World War II Memorial.

The World War II Memorial, located on the National Mall in Washington DC, is a beautiful place to visit and pay your respects to World War II veterans. The memorial opened to the public on April 29, 2004. The Memorial is an oval shape with two 43-foot arches, representing the war’s Atlantic and Pacific theaters. Fifty-six pillars represent the states, territories and the District of Columbia at the time of the World War II. Two sculpted bronze wreaths adorn each pillar. Small fountains sit at the bases of the two arches. Waterfalls surround a wall of 4,000 gold stars, each one represents 100 U.S. deaths in the war. More than two-thirds of the memorial consists of grass, plants and water. A circular garden, called the “Circle of Remembrance,” is enclosed by a two-foot-high stone wall.

national-world-war-2-memorial

The reason for this march is because a group of children…er…oops…Republican ‘leaders’ (and I use that word loosely!) have decided that because they can’t have their way, they would shut down the government.  So shut it down, they did.

In shutting down the government, that action included shutting down the memorials to war veterans.  Wait…what?   The World War II memorial is open 24-hours per day, park rangers are on site from 9:30 am to 8 pm.  So, if the memorial is open continuously, there’s no actual requirement for the park rangers to be on site 24-hours a day.  Right?  Right!  So…why the hell are barricades being put up?  Why are the men who fought for this country, who gave up more than just a bit of their souls for this country, being denied access to a memorial that was open 24-hours a day, and only ‘manned’ 10 ½ hours per day?  Does this make sense to you?

Just Words by a politician?

It certainly doesn’t make sense to me!  In fact, I find it a slap in the face to those veterans!  It’s a political ploy.  Being used by President Obama.  Now, I happen to have voted for Obama.  Twice.  But I find this absolutely unacceptable.  “Cherry-picking” which memorials to close and which can remain open is so obviously political that it stinks.

But let’s all take a deep breath here.  What if…and this is just a theory, mind you…what if President Obama knew from the get-go that this would bring an incredible amount of attention to the whole government shutdown?  Not just mutterings and complaints among those who suddenly find themselves on unpaid vacation.  What if closing the WWII Memorial was a way of broadcasting to the entire nation…to the world…just what the result of a Republican temper tantrum looked like?

President Obama

I can’t believe for one minute that a man as smart (dare I say ‘brilliant’?) as President Obama would think that the American people, veterans in particular, would take this calmly.  I think he expected exactly what’s happening.  Perhaps he’s even counting on those veterans to once again serve their country.  By bringing to light what a childish, reprehensible act this government shutdown is.  What a political move it is.

Oh sure, there will be those who will counter that Obama is merely ticked off because the Republicans won’t accept his Affordable Health Care Plan.  Granted, the plan isn’t perfect, but it’s a good start to truly affordable healthcare for ALL Americans…not just those who can afford to pay for insurance premiums that rise on the whims of the insurance companies…and cover less with each cost increase.  Had the idiots in DC worked on it rather than trying to get rid of it (last vote count to bring down what is now a law – 42) it would be a better plan.  Probably a plan that everyone could get behind.  Well, not so much the drug companies or insurance companies.  After all, the limits being placed on them (which, by the way, are in place in every other country that has a national health care system!) will certainly put a damper on those triple and quadruple digit profits.

The facts of the matter are this:  the Republicans don’t like the Affordable Health Care Plan.  My theory is that their pharmaceutical and insurance company contributors are the well-paying voices behind this dissent.  They are so determined to appease these corporate masters that they’ll do anything…anything…to bring the plan to ruin.  Including shutting down the government.   President Obama, as a result, chooses to close down the World War II Memorial, among others.

The result will be a march on the capitol city by veterans and their families, planned for October 13, 2013.  It’s sure to be a media circus, with CNN and FoxNews spinning the story like crazy to fit their own agendas.

Harper Trade Deals Selling Off Canada’s Democracy

30 Sep

Written by: Murray Dobbin

Murray Dobbin is an author, broadcaster and journalist. He is the author of five books and is a former columnist with Financial Post and Winnipeg Free Press. He is a board member of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. He lives in Powell River, BC.

EUTradeComic

There seems virtually no limit to Stephen Harper’s efforts to diminish government and democracy in this country. The prime minister’s obvious contempt for democracy keeps getting underlined by the grotesque corruption of the people he appoints and surrounds himself with. If he had a modicum of genuine respect for democracy he would be more careful about who he appoints to the Senate and who he allows to run for the Conservatives. More importantly, he would create a political culture that unequivocally rejects the kind of unethical behaviour that has now become the trademark of his administration. These miscreants know exactly what Harper expects of them — power at any cost and a wink and a nod at personal graft, until you get caught, of course.

That corruption and moral turpitude is bad enough (the breaking of election rules across the country may even have determined the outcome of the last election). But even worse is Harper’s determination to make it as difficult as possible for future governments to actually govern. He does this in two ways.

First, by gutting the government’s capacity to raise revenue while demonizing taxes.

His right-wing storm troopers in the media and think-tanks have made raising taxes tantamount to political suicide — even though a strong majority of Canadians say they would pay more. Harper’s strategy is much the same as that of the influential American tax-cut activist Grover Norquist, famous for saying; “Our goal is to shrink government to the size where we can drown it in a bathtub.”

Investment myths

The second front of this war on democracy is the plethora of so-called trade deals — really Corporate Rights Deals (CRDs) — that Harper is busy negotiating. These odious agreements are always touted for their job creating prowess — the Big Lie technique repeated over and over again. They typically jettison the best jobs. Their promoters rarely talk about the most important aspect of these constitution-busting agreements: their investment provisions.

stephen_harper-400Investment is always portrayed as a good thing, period. It creates jobs, increases tax revenues, grows the economy. But the conditions under which investment takes place can quickly cancel out many of those benefits. Just look at any Third World country and the other side of the coin: starvation wages, terrible working conditions, horrendous pollution, environmental destruction and political corruption.

While we are a long way from enduring the worst conditions of investment, the principle aim of these CRDs is to make it more and more difficult for governments to regulate and determine the conditions under which investment happens in Canada. The key provision now finds its way into virtually every bilateral investment agreement.

Since signing the pattern agreement NAFTA, Canada has signed 24 of these deals, mostly with small countries. But perhaps the most egregious of them all is the one already signed, in complete secrecy, with China: The Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA).

What we’re poised to give China

FIPA has not been ratified yet but it threatens to give the enormous, often corrupt, always secretive state-owned corporations of China enormous power — power to hoover up dozens of energy and resource companies and prairie farm land as well as challenge any new law that attempts to ensure the public interest is being met.

It is stunningly one-sided. It is almost as if Harper is using the deal not for trade or investment at all, but to deliberately poison the legislative well so that future governments will be unable to act. The notion that this was deal was “negotiated” seems a euphemism — it might just as well have been written by China without consultation. (Come to think of it, that pretty much describes the initial Free Trade Agreement with the US, too: “Okay Sam, we’ll give you everything but that’s our final offer.”)

stephenharper_siegheil

The deal theoretically provides some protection for Canadian investment — though the corruption and discrimination against foreign companies in China is actually getting worse. But there is very little Canadian investment targeting China. One reason: According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), China is one of the most restrictive places in the world to invest, and last year it passed new restrictions based on “national security.”

Most CRDs do not bind governments for long periods of time. Canada could get out of NAFTA by giving six months notice. But the FIPA will last for 31 years — almost eight normal government mandates. We can only get out after 15 years, with one year’s notice, and all the provisions implemented to that date remain in effect for another 15 years. Did China bargain hard for this outrageous time frame — or was it the Harper government’s idea?

Crumbs for Canada

If China did bargain hard for the 31 years, why would the Harper government not demand in return something resembling fair access for Canadian investors to China? In past agreements, Canadian corporations actually helped write the provisions. Are they sanguine about getting nothing in the way of preferred access for investments and Canadian exports?

Whatever the case, Canadian governments got virtually nothing for the long timeline. It may be that Harper’s fawning commitment to the oil and gas industry is behind it. Harper’s elimination of environmental review on 99 per cent of the waterways of the country is an outrage that other political parties would be pressured to reverse if elected. FIPA, anticipating China’s increased interest on energy, would make that reversal so expensive if challenged by China that it would be all but impossible to implement.

Stephen Harper

Thanks to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s clever negotiating, China gets all of Canada’s natural resources and agriculture and Canada gets….a Panda! Great job, Stephen!

One faint hope of environmentalists after the passing of Bills C-38 and C-45 (withdrawing federal protection of lakes and waterways) was that pressure could be applied to provinces to step up and replace the law with provincial regulations. Provinces share constitutional authority over the environment with the federal government. But FIPA would allow Chinese corporations to sue all levels of government that pass legislation or regulations that reduce its expected profits. And of all the corporations in the world likely to use investor-state provisions, Chinese state-owned entities carrying out Chinese foreign policy would be at the front of the line.

The chill effect of these investor state regimes is already with us. Not a single new law protecting the environment has been passed by Ottawa since NAFTA was signed 20 years ago. Canada has already paid some $160 million in these corporate law suits and the latest one ups the ante. Pharma giant Eli Lilly is suing Canada for $500 million in compensation over a court decision that invalidated two of its drug patents because they failed to meet the legal standard of “inventive promise.” If that suit is successful, public interest legislation of any kind that affects a corporation could simply die in its crib.

Courageous Hupacasath First Nation

And it’s not just legislation that is threatened. China has been buying farm land all over the world including New Zealand and Africa (where heated controversy has resulted). Most recently, China purchased five per cent of Ukraine’s farmland. They reportedly have their eye on Saskatchewan and there is little its government could do. The provinces don’t have legislation dealing with foreign ownership of farmland and now that the treaty has been signed, it could be too late.

Stop FIPA donation page

Except, it is quite plausible that FIPA is unconstitutional given that provinces have jurisdictions under the British North America Act that cannot be tampered with by Ottawa. The provinces are not party to the treaty, and yet their legislation could be challenged and overturned by a panel of three trade lawyers operating completely outside the political and legal institutions of the country — and in complete secrecy. Efforts have been made to lobby the provinces to formally reject FIPA. But so far — despite the posturing of premiers as mini-prime ministers for the past 20 years — not one of them has had the sense or courage to protect their own jurisdictions. (State governments in the U.S., even one far to the right, have vigorously challenged World Trade Oragnization provisions that affect them and actually prevailed.)

Perhaps they think they can get away with not paying for the judgments against their laws. They should think again. While the Harper government paid the $130-million AbitibiBowater NAFTA judgement against Newfoundland, Harper has warned he won’t do it again. “I have indicated that in future, should provincial actions cause significant legal obligations for the government of Canada, the government of Canada will create a mechanism so that it can reclaim monies lost through international trade processes.”

Who will save us from this repugnant, anti-democratic initiative? Probably no one. The only player to come to the plate has been the tiny Hupacasath First Nation of B.C., which challenged FIPA in federal court. Unfortunately the judge not only found for the government, he assessed costs to the band of over $100,000. They are appealing and are down to the wire seeking donations to help with the case.

But ultimately it is the provinces which hold the real power to save democracy.

What are they waiting for?  [Tyee]

Speaking Out by Esai Morales

24 Sep

The 26th Annual William S. Paley Television Festival: "Battlestar Galactica/Caprica"

Reposted by permission of Esai Morales and Espada PR.

FINALLY SOMEONE ASKED HIM THE QUESTION!
ON “ABC-TV” DURING THE “NETWORK SPECIAL ON HEALTH CARE”…. OBAMA WAS ASKED:
“MR. PRESIDENT WILL YOU AND YOUR FAMILY GIVE UP YOUR CURRENT HEALTH CARE PROGRAM
AND JOIN THE NEW ‘UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE PROGRAM’ THAT THE REST OF US WILL BE ON ????”
THERE WAS A STONEY SILENCE AS <>OBAMA IGNORED THE QUESTION AND CHOSE NOT TO ANSWER IT !!!
IN ADDITION, A NUMBER OF SENATORS WERE ASKED THE SAME QUESTION AND THEIR RESPONSE WAS.”WE WILL THINK ABOUT IT.”
President ObamaAND THEY DID. IT WAS ANNOUNCED TODAY ON THE NEWS THAT THE “KENNEDY HEALTH CARE BILL” WAS WRITTEN INTO THE NEW HEALTH CARE REFORM INITIATIVE ENSURING THAT THAT CONGRESS WILL BE 100% EXEMPT !
SO, THIS GREAT NEW HEALTH CARE PLAN THAT IS GOOD FOR YOU AND I… IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR OBAMA, HIS FAMILY OR CONGRESS…??
WE (THE AMERICAN PUBLIC) NEED TO STOP THIS PROPOSED DEBACLE ASAP !!!! THIS IS TOTALLY WRONG !!!!!
PERSONALLY, I CAN ONLY ACCEPT A UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE OVERHAUL THAT EXTENDS TO EVERYONE… NOT JUST US LOWLY CITIZENS…. WHILE THE WASHINGTON “ELITE” KEEP RIGHT ON WITH THEIR GOLD-PLATED HEALTH CARE COVERAGES.

Stock Photo of the Consitution of the United States and Feather QuillIf you don’t pass this around, may you enjoy his Plan!

WHAT???
The Republic has a CONSTITUTION???

Amendment 28

Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators or Representatives, and Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators or Representatives that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States .

Imagine what we could do if everybody passed this around.
Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators or Representatives, and Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators or Representatives that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States .

Imagine what we could do if everybody passed this around.

Esai Morales – Speaking Out

3 Sep

The 26th Annual William S. Paley Television Festival: "Battlestar Galactica/Caprica"

Reposted by permission of Esai Morales and Espada PR.

Esai Morales, is an award winning actor from New York. Some of his most memorable theater performances include; Oscar Wilde’s Salome with Al Pacino on Broadway; Joe Papp‘s production of The Tempest with Raul Julia for New York’s Shakespeare in the Park Festival; Tamer Of Horses for the Los Angeles Theater Center, for which he was awarded the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award; and the San Francisco run of the musical The Mambo Kings-Morales’ musical theater debut.


His television appearances have included top shows such as Miami Vice, The Twilight Zone, Outer limits, American Family, NYPD Blue, Vanished, 24, Burn Notice, CSI: Miami, Caprica, Jericho,  La Bamba and an upcoming appearance on Criminal Minds.

Jericho - Season 2, "Condor"- Skeet Ulrich as Jake, Esai Morales as Beck
Esai is co-founder, with Sonia Braga and Jimmy Smitts, of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts. A self-described “actorvist,” Morales has combined his passion and understanding of the human condition to build bridges across and beyond ethnic lines. Throughout his career, Morales has been an advocate for countless charities and causes. These causes include literacy, environment, health, immigration, arts funding and social justice issues as well as his consistent evolutionary message inspiring youth to strive towards a higher purpose and meaningful life.

Eric Stoltz and Esai Morales in Caprica
He has kindly agreed to permit some of his thoughts to be posted on this blog and to write the occasional article for us.

From Esai:

On Walmart: I loved this reply to someone defending the Wallmart business model on a Huffpost article detailing brand damage of it’s workers strikes:

walmart-satan“Walmart’s refusal to pay their workers a decent wage is actually costing YOU (and me and every other American taxpayer). Because Walmart does not pay their employees enough their employees file for government assistance like section 8 housing and food stamps. So it is costing us $2.6 BILLION in tax dollars every year. If Walmart paid $2.6 billion more to their workers they’d still make $13.1 billion in profit every year and would still be one of the most profitable companies on the planet. So if you are happy having the federal government take money out of YOUR pocket so that one of the world’s most profitable companies can rake in a few extra billion dollars just keep maintaining that opinion of yours.”


On JP Morgan: To be precise, JPMorgan receives a government subsidy worth about $14 billion a year, according to research published by the International Monetary Fund and our own analysis of bank balance sheets. The money helps the bank pay big salaries and bonuses. More important, it distorts markets, fueling crises such as the recent subprime-lending disaster and the sovereign-debt debacle that is now threatening to destroy the euro and sink the global economy.

Thomas Jefferson quote

On perseverance:
DONT QUIT!
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow–
You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than,
It seems to a faint and faltering man,
Often the struggler has given up,
When he might have captured the victor’s cup,
And he learned too late when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out–
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far,
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit–
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

– Author unknown

facebook_cartoons

On his Facebook posts: I love sharing knowledge and varied perspectives with all of you. Somehow I have to find a way to feed my family with all the time I spend here. Wondering if I should start my own News Site ala Huffington Post but without all the fluff that poses as information. On second thought, I guess people want fluff by the looks of the posts that go viral on here. A cute Chihuahua got more love on my other page than anything true and important I’ve ever posted combined. I know, I’ll start a fluff site dedicated to nothing serious at all. Ahhh, I can feel the money gearing up to roll in already… (sigh)

Facebook Privacy Policy Cartoon

On war and revolution: Saw this and HAD to share tho I’m not sure who it is written by:

“War is when the government tells you who the bad guy is.
Revolution is when you decide that for yourself.”