Tuesday, September 30, 2014

All governments are seduced by the expediency of secrecy!


Good Day Readers:

This is a most insightful article well worth a read. It makes the point governments, all governments, sooner or later are seduced by the expediency of secrecy. The counterbalance is that which is done in secret will be shouted from the rooftops. How often have you seen that?

The moral of the story? Beware of politicians who come bearing promises of greater transparency, openness and accountability for they too will fall prey to the seductress!

Stephen Harper. He came to power promising to upgrade federal Access to Information legislation. It hasn't happened. This past summer it celebrated its 30th anniversary. When introduced it was heralded as a leading edge model. Now it has slipped to 17th place in the world rankings.

Barack O'Bama. He too came to power with glazed over eyes promising a new way of doing business greater openness being its centrepiece. This has hardly happened. Au contraire. As the article documents quite the reverse has happened.

So next time a politician approaches you pandering for your vote by promising to deliver a greater brand of transparency and accountability, Tell them you're from Missouri show you.

Sincerely,
Clare L. Pieuk
Help put the spotlight on government secrecy

Enraged by redacted Freedom of Information Ststem? Baffled by backroom deals? Hashtag it #cdnfoi.

By Sean Holman
Friday, September 26, 2014

Spread the message. Spotlight examples of government secrecy with the hashtag #cdnfoi.

Partisans may not believe it, but Canada's "culture of secrecy" existed long before Stephen Harper moved into the prime minister's office. And it'll be around long after he moves out, unless Canadians do more than cast their ballots in the next election.

That's why four groups concerned about freedom of information, one of which I'm part of, are launching a campaign encouraging Canadians to take a small but vital step on social media that would raise more awareness of just how much is being hidden from us: spotlighting examples of government secrecy with the hashtag #cdnfoi.

Such secrecy has its roots in our political system, which has a tradition of strict party discipline. Because of that discipline, decisions made by the government behind closed doors -- in cabinet meetings, for example -- are rarely defeated in the House of Commons, making secret forums the principle arbiters of public policy.

To be sure, the Harper administration has done more than its share to cultivate a backroom state, frustrating access to government records and officials, as well as failing to fix our broken freedom of information system. But Canadian society is an especially fertile ground for the growth of policies that violate our right to know.

No exclusive defenders

In part, that's because our country doesn't have any groups that exclusively and routinely advocate for greater freedom of information at a national level. Probably the closest we have to that is the small British Columbia Freedom of Information and Privacy Association.

As its name implies, the association's two staff members toil on information and privacy issues in British Columbia and the rest of Canada from a tiny office above a beauty salon and spa in Vancouver.

Meanwhile, other organizations that care about our right to know have even more sprawling mandates. For example, Ottawa's DemocracyWatch stands on guard for democratic reform and corporate responsibility, as well as freedom of information. Meanwhile, Halifax's Centre for Law and Democracy deals with other human rights issues abroad.

By comparison, the United States has three umbrella organizations that exclusively safeguard Americans' right to know.

They include OpenTheGovernment.org, representing 94 groups; the National Freedom of Information Coalition, representing 30 dues-paying groups; and the Sunshine in Government Initiative, representing nine groups.

Longtime push for change

Such umbrella organizations have always been few and far between in Canada. In the 1970s, a coalition called ACCESS: a Canadian Committee for the Right to Public Information was established to lobby for greater freedom of information.

Reports from The Globe and Mail back then described the committee as having the backing of groups such as the Canadian Manufacturers' Association, the Canadian Labour Congress and the Canadian Daily Newspapers Association.

But long-time right to know researcher Ken Rubin said that ACCESS, which played a key role in the creation of Canada's current freedom of information law, was actually "primarily a group of diverse individuals" that included academics, activists and lawyers and had some "paper" affiliations with other organizations.

The committee had folded by the 1980s. According to Rubin, during the same decade, a loose coalition came together under the auspices of the Canadian Federation of Civil Liberties and Human Rights Associations to "monitor and improve" freedom of information. That coalition also "went by the wayside" once the federation "faded away."

Then, in Jan. 2000, investigative reporter Robert Cribb announced the formation of Open Government Canada -- a "national forum for FOI networking, education and advocacy pushing for legislative changes that grant greater access to public information."

Spread the message. Spotlight exampeos of government secrecy with the hashtag #cdnfoi.

More than 25 groups were represented at its founding conference in March of that year. However, in an email Cribb stated the coalition "died a regretful death."

The reason: "It proved to be impossible to lure financial support for such an endeavour -- part of the perplexing lack of concern, engagement or righteous indignation in Canada around issues such as freedom of information and the public's right to know."

Those concerns aside, in 2011 DemocracyWatch launched the Open Government Coalition. So far, the coalition is made up of three groups not counting DemocracyWatch and an affiliated charity, although founder Duff Conacher plans to expand it this fall.

In the meantime, the New Democrats and the Liberals have proposed laws and policies that would open up government. They should be applauded for doing so. And if the past is a predictor of the future, they may even act on some of those proposals if they win power -- just as the Conservatives did.

No monopoly on secrecy

But eventually the expediency of secrecy seems to seduce every government, regardless of its political stripe. Which means a New Democrat or Liberal administration will likely become as tight with information as the Conservatives -- albeit, perhaps, with more of a velvet glove covering that clenched, iron fist.

Don't believe me? Well, look no further than the United States where Democrat president Barack Obama swept into office promising an "unprecedented level of openness in Government."

Five years later, an Associated Press analysis found that in 2013 his administration "more often than ever censored government files or outright denied access to them last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act."

More recently, the agency also listed "eight ways the Obama administration is blocking information."

Meanwhile, for his part New York Times reporter James Risen has called Obama "the greatest enemy of press freedom in a generation."

Just as neither the right nor the left has a monopoly on the truth, neither has a monopoly on secrecy.

As a result, it's vital for Canadians to start paying better attention to our information rights so we can better safeguard them.

Help your fellow citizens

That's why the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, the Canadian Association of Journalists, DeSmog Canada and IntegrityBC are now encouraging Canadians tweet about threats to their right to know using the hashtag #cdnfoi.

Those threats include everything from backroom government meetings and frustrated freedom of information requests to inaccessible officials and nonexistent public records, whether at the federal, provincial or local level.

Spread the message. Spotlight examples of government secrecy with the hashtag #cdnfoi.



At present, the use of that hashtag isn't widespread, making it more difficult for Canadians to know about such threats.

So, by just tagging stories about government secrecy with #cdnfoi, you can help your fellow citizens know about what they aren't being allowed to know.

And you can encourage others to take up the fight by sharing graphics that promote #cdnfoi -- helping change Canada's culture of secrecy in the process.

Read more: Rights + Justice, Politics, Media

Sean Holman is a journalism professor at Mount Royal University, award-winning investigative reporter and Director of the documentary Whipped: the secret world of party discipline. You can find more of his writing at Unknowable Country.

Monday, September 29, 2014


How do you know how stupid you are?

One minute of brilliance by John Cleese

You see, if you're very, very stupid, how can you possibly realize that you're very, very stupid? You have to be relatively intelligent to realize how stupid you are


Friday, September 26, 2014

Drink a little too much eh ...? BTW, how's the pot supply?

Think you drink a lot? This chart will tell you!

By Christopher Ingraham
Thursday, September 25, 2014

Do you drink a glass of wine with dinner every night? That puts you in the top 30 percent of American adults in terms of per-capita alcohol consumption. If you drink two glasses, that would put you in the top 20 percent.

But in order to break into the top 10 percent of American drinkers, you would need to drink more than two bottles of wine with every dinner. And you'd still be below-average among those top 10 percenters.

The top 10 percent of American drinkers - 24 million adults over age 18 - consume, on average, 74 alcoholic drinks per week. That works out to a little more than four-and-a-half 750 ml bottles of Jack Daniels, 18 bottles of wine, or three 24-can cases of beer. In one week.

Or, if you prefer, 10 drinks per day.

These figures come from Philip J. Cook's "Paying the Tab," an economically-minded examination of the costs and benefits of alcohol control in the U.S. Specifically, they're calculations made using the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) data.

I double-checked these figures with Cook, just to make sure I wasn't reading them wrong. "I agree that it’s hard to imagine consuming 10 drinks a day," he told me. But, "there are a remarkable number of people who drink a couple of six packs a day, or a pint of whiskey."

As Cook notes in his book, the top 10 percent of drinkers account for well over half of the alcohol consumed in any given year. On the other hand, people in the bottom three deciles don't drink at all, and even the median consumption among those who do drink is just three beverages per week.

The shape of this usage curve isn't exactly unique. The Pareto Law states that "the top 20 percent of buyers for most any consumer product account for fully 80 percent of sales," according to Cook. The rule can be applied to everything from hair care products to X-Boxes.

But the consequences of the Pareto Law are different when it comes to industries like alcohol, tobacco, and now marijuana. If you consume 10+ drinks per day, for instance, you almost certainly have a drinking problem. But the beverage industry is heavily dependent on you for their profits.

"One consequence is that the heaviest drinkers are of greatly disproportionate importance to the sales and profitability of the alcoholic-beverage industry," he writes writes. "If the top decile somehow could be induced to curb their consumption level to that of the next lower group (the ninth decile), then total ethanol sales would fall by 60 percent."

More from Wonkblog on the economics of drinking:

The Wonkblog Guide to Efficient Drinking »

The Beverage Curve: How to Get the Most Buzz for Your Buck »

Christopher Ingraham is a data journalist focusing primarily on issues of politics, policy and economics. He previously worked at the Brookings Institution and the Pew Research Center.

The return of 'Puffy Duffy' April 7-May 19 and June 1-19, 2015!


Postscript

Whatever happened to 'Hurricane Pam' (Wallin)? The RCMP have been ....-balling around with that file for over a year now. It needs to pee or get off the pot!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Harper government takes the cake for producing low wage, crappy jobs! Do you have one of them?


Canada among world leaders for creating crappy jobs

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Canada has the third-highest proportion of low-paying jobs among the world’s wealthy countries, investment bank Morgan Stanley says.
In an analysis of data from the OECD, Morgan Stanley economists Ellen Zentner and Paula Campbell found that only the U.S. and Ireland have a higher percentage of low-paying jobs than Canada.
On average, about 16 per cent of jobs in the 35 advanced economies of the OECD are counted as low-paying, but in Canada that number is around 22 per cent, and in the U.S. it’s above 25 per cent.
The analysts define a low-paying job as one that pays less than two-thirds the median wage. According to StatsCan, Canada’s median wage for individuals was $27,600 as of the latest national household survey.
Many observers of Canada’s job market have been growing worried about the quality (and quantity) of jobs being created in recent years.
2013 report from CIBC found that employment quality in Canada has been in a long-term decline. The bank’s job quality index was 14 per cent lower last year than it was in the late 1980s, and CIBC says the largest part of that is due to the fact that low-end jobs have been growing much faster than high-end jobs.
The report also noted that the number of part-time jobs has grown by 56 per cent since the late 1980s, compared to growth of 37 per cent for full-time jobs. Growth in the number of people declaring themselves “self-employed” also outstripped growth in full-time jobs.
But not everyone agrees Canada is becoming “a nation of part-timers.” TD Bank economists Randall Bartlett and Derek Burleton wrote earlier this year that the weakness in job quality is a temporary pull-back following strong job growth in the years following the financial crisis.
But the report noted that, with an ever-larger proportion of women in the workforce and many aging baby boomers partially retiring or reducing their work hours, part-time employment may still outgrow full-time employment for some years.
The quantity of jobs has also been problematic. With job growth over the past year being concentrated pretty much entirely in one province (Alberta), the rest of the country has seen a stagnating job market.
Bank of Canada deputy governor Carolyn Wilkins told an audience this week that the country is not creating the number of jobs it needs to generate before the economy can be said to be healthy.
Wilkins noted that the average monthly employment gain of about 6,800 jobs over the past year is “just a little bit over half of what we need.
— With files from Kevin Short, Huffington Post U.S.

"Let me tell you a story about my two daughters' Natalie 5 and Olivier 7 who had a lemonade stand ....."



Tune in later today to hear all about his daughters' lemonade stand.

Nonight live from Ottawa it's the Paul Calandra Show with special guest star Tom Mulcair!




"Stephen Harper, unlike the House of Commons, do you solemnly swear the evidence you shall give will be the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you you know who?" ..... "Jeezus, I don't know I can't remember, I have no recollection I'm a politician!"

Good Day Readers:

Prior to the next federal election voters could well we treated to Stephen Harper not once but twice trying to squirm, slither and wiggle out of trouble. Problem is, you always know the bottom line - taxpayers will pay.

Sincerely,
Clare L. Pieuk
The other trial Stephen Harper would rather avoid

Michelle Zilio
Thursday, September 25, 2014

The prime minister’s legal team is attempting to shield Stephen Harper in a defamation lawsuit launched against him by a national Muslim group, according to new court documents obtained by iPolitics.

But the National Council of Canadian Muslims’ (NCCM) lawyer says he expects Harper will be questioned, as he remains a party in the organization’s case against him and his director of communications, Jason MacDonald.

In a statement of defence filed June 24, lawyers representing Harper argued he should not be named in a lawsuit filed by the NCCM against him, MacDonald and the Crown.

“Prime Minister Harper is not vicariously liable for the actions of staff members in his office,” reads the statement.

In the statement, Harper and MacDonald’s lawyer, Peter Downard, called for the dismissal of the NCCM’s case.


In January, the NCCM wrote an open letter criticizing the inclusion of a controversial rabbi — Daniel Korobkin — in Harper’s delegation for his trip to the Middle East. MacDonald responded by telling the Sun News Network, “We will not take seriously criticism from an organization with documented ties to a terrorist organization such as Hamas.” The NCCM loudly denied MacDonald’s claim and demanded a public apology and retraction from him and Harper.

After failing to get an apology or retraction, the NCCM filed a statement of claim in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in April accusing MacDonald of acting maliciously when he accused the organization of having ties to the militant group Hamas. (See court documents below.) In the statement, the NCCM’s lawyer, Jeff Saikaley, said the organization had a public record of consistently condemning terrorism and denouncing terrorist groups, including Hamas and al-Qaida. It claimed MacDonald purposely ignored those facts and made no effort to contact the NCCM to verify his claims.

In response to the NCCM’s claims, the statement of defence pointed out that Harper did not “publish” nor “participate in, direct, authorize or approve the publication” of MacDonald’s statement.

The statement highlights that it was MacDonald who responded to the NCCM’s criticism. However, it also notes that “MacDonald made this statement and honesty in good faith” and that, as outlined in law, he has the right to a “privileged response” to the criticism as a matter of public interest.

“Jason MacDonald’s response was, in effect, that the NCCM was in no position to make such an extreme criticism on the basis of an association between the Prime Minister’s Government and Rabbi Korobkin when there was documentary evidence that the NCCM was an organization that had ties to Hamas. He offered, in effect, the familiar defence that the NCCM was throwing stones when it lived in a glass house,” reads the statement.

The statement of defence goes into great detail backing up MacDonald’s claim that the NCCM has documented ties to Hamas.

In sum, Downard cites a 2007 court case, U.S.A. v. Holy Land, in which the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, a large Islamic charity in the U.S., was accused of providing “material support” to Hamas. That same year, the U.S. government filed with a district court in Texas a list of unindicted co-conspirators in U.S.A. v. Holy Land which included the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). The statement claims that CAIR-Canada, which later changed its name to the NCCM, was “closely associated” with CAIR in the U.S. However, as outlined in the NCCM’s reply to the defence, CAIR was never charged.

“The 2007 U.S.A. v. Holy Land Foundation case has no relevance to the conduct of the NCCM as a federal Canadian corporation,” read the reply. “No allegation of unlawful activity was ever made against CAIR.”

Downard’s statement of defence denies that the NCCM’s reputation was damaged as a result of MacDonald’s comments. Even if damages were incurred, Downard argues, the NCCM would have mitigated those through a number of “widely publicized media campaigns” responding to MacDonald’s comments. Those campaigns, Downard said, included an NCCM press conference on Jan. 28 publicizing their notice of libel and media interviews, in which the organization repeatedly republished MacDonald’s comments.

“The NCCM has republished the words complained of to an extent vastly greater than the extent of the original publication of words,” read the statement of defence.

In its reply to the defence July 10, the NCCM said it was forced to publicly deny MacDonald’s “defamatory words … in order to mitigate its damages.”

As the case moves forward, there is still a possibility Harper could be called to the stand, as he is listed in the NCCM’s reply to the statement of defence. In that reply, the NCCM claimed that MacDonald was speaking for Harper when he made the comments against the council and, thus, Harper is liable.

“Mr. MacDonald’s response to the media indicated that he was speaking on behalf of himself and the Prime Minister. As such, the Prime Minister is vicariously liable for the acts of his employee and/or agent Mr. MacDonald,” read the reply.

In an email to iPolitics, Saikaley said he expects Harper will be examined. He noted the parliamentary privilege rule that prevents him from being examined in the 40 days before and after a Parliamentary session.

There have been questions lately about whether Harper will be called to testify in another high-profile case — against suspended Senator Mike Duffy, who has been charged by the RCMP with 31 counts related to his Senate expense claims. While the Prime Minister’s Office has said it would be “difficult to imagine” why Harper would testify in the Duffy trial, thesuspended senator’s lawyer has not ruled out calling the prime minister to the stand.

Talk of potential testimony from the prime minister comes just over a year before the legislated federal election date of Oct. 19, 2015.

The venue for the NCCM trial also was a subject of debate in the court documents. In the statement of claim, Saikaley appears to have suggested originally that the case be tried in Ottawa. But in the official submission to the courts, the typed words “City of Ottawa” are struck out and replaced with “Village of L’Orignal” in handwriting.

While Saikaley refused to comment on the choice of venue for the trial, other lawyers said the case likely would go to trial faster in L’Orignal, which is located near Hawkesbury, Ont., than in Ottawa.

In the statement of defence, Downard objected to holding the trial in L’Orignal, saying the appropriate venue is Ottawa.

Looking ahead, Saikaley said the examinations for discovery are next. Although there is no deadline set, he said he is hoping the examinations are scheduled this fall.

The NCCM describes itself a a “federally incorporated, independent, non-partisan, non-profit organization working for fourteen years in the area of human rights and civil liberties, media relations and public advocacy on behalf of Canadian Muslims.” It claims to have intervened in landmark cases at the Supreme Court of Canada and participated in major commissions of public inquiry.

twitter.com/michellezilio
michellezilio@ipolitics.ca

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

"All hail the Latte-in-Chief!"


President Obama:

What a sloppy, disrespectful excuse for a salute! These are the same people you order into harm's way some of whom do not return home or if they do with life long injuries and that's the best you can do?

And BTW, immediately dispense with the practice of having a service person hold an umbrella for you if it's raining on the White House lawn. You have two perfectly good hands and should be doing that for yourself. You are not God. At least the Queen of England has an excuse she's over 80 what's your's?

Sincerely,
Clare L. Pieuk

"New House of Commons Speaker required immediately apply within!"

Good Day Readers:

Yesterday saw yet another disgraceful performance in the House of Commons by Speaker Andrew Scheer.

Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair got up to ask what should have been a simple, routine question, "Will the Canadian government commit more resources to the struggle against ISIS including troops beyond the 30 days it has already announced. Simple query eh? Stephen Harper would normally answer such but he's off on another taxpayer junket wherever so it fell to his Parliamentary Secretary Mouthpiece Paul "Liar, Liar Toaster's on Fire!"Calandra.

Toaster's skill as an obfuscator is very well known in Parliament the least of whom should be Andrew Scheer. So what did the Speaker do when Mouthpiece went off on a tangent talking about Israel? Nothing. It was Mr. Mulcair who had to remind Toaster the question began with an "I" as in Iraq not "I" as in Israel. Nevertheless, off he went again meanwhile Mr. Scheer was still sitting on his ass and not intervening.

By this time Thomas Mulcair was clearly and rightly frustrated angrily suggesting the Speaker's neutrality, or more correctly lack thereof , was most evident.. What does "The Honourable" Mr. Scheer do? Takes Mr. Mulcair's last two questions away from him as a punishment to give to Justin Trudeau.

Andrew Scheer your actions were shameful. You should be censured because it was your lack of leadership and direction that resulted in this situation. Give back Mr. Mulcair's two questions and apologize to him - now!

Sincerely,
Clare L. Pieuk

Postscript

The Golden Arse Award is being given to Manitoba Member of Parliament James Bezan who most insightfully said yesterday on CBC Television's Power & Politics Question Period is for asking questions. Good Jimmy that's really good! With your Party's secret weapon (The Toaster) the Opposition will never have to worry about getting any answers.

Jeezus, we sure have some losers coming out of Manitoba these days.

Monday, September 22, 2014

You should be paying voters for your stupidity!

Good Day Readers:

Have you ever heard of anythng so ....-ing stupid?

Mentioning your name in the House of Commons for every $50 donation to her online fundraising  campaign? For $1,000 she will use the phrase, "Resistance is Futile." Twenty-five dollars will get you a handwritten thank-you note from her; $100 a picture of her and NDP leader Thomas Mulcair; and $500 dinner with her.

CyberSmokeBlog suggests the pictures be mounted on a double sided dart board. On one side you could practice throwing darts between their eyes and in end of their big, stupid noses - in the other their asses.

Stupid, stupid, stupid! What's the descriptive for beyond asinine?

Clare L. Pieuk
NDP apologizes, withdraws unusual crowdsourcing perks

By Karolyn Coorsh
Monday, September 22, 2014

In this file image, NDP MP Charmaine Borg asks a question during question periond in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill on Monday, December 9, 2013. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

A Quebec NDP MP is apologizing on Monday after offering a bizarre perk to anyone who donated $50 to her online fundraising campaign.

Charmaine Borg, who represents the riding of Terrebonne-Blainville in Quebec, came under fire over social media when her crowdsourcing platform came to light over Twitter.

For a $50 donation, she promised to say the name of the campaign donor aloud in the House of Commons.

Borg posted the fundraising campaign on crowdsourcing website FundRazr.com. In it, the NDP critic for Digital Issues asks potential contributors to “Help Charmaine Borg be your voice in the tech era.”

Under the original listing of contribution “perks,” which has since been removed, Borg promised to say the donor’s name in Parliament for every contribution of $50.

For a contribution of $1,000, Borg promised to speak the phrase “Resistance is Futile” in Parliament, in an apparent reference to the catchphrase made popular by the fictional Borg villains on the “Star Trek” TV series.

Some suggested Borg’s offer was an inappropriate use of the powers that elected representatives hold while in public office.

Borg quickly apologized over Twitter, and both “perks” have since been removed from the fundraising webpage. $25, $100 and $500 donation requests remain, with those perks ranging from a handwritten thank-you note to a dinner with Borg.

“So regarding my crowdfunding campaign I apologize for anyone who got offended with the perks. I didn’t see it that way and am changing it," Borg tweeted.

The crowdsourcing campaign, which had yet to raise any money on Monday afternoon, is scheduled to end on Oct. 22.

But the matter also raised questions about the legitimacy of using a crowdfunding site for apparent election fundraising purposes.

On the fundraiser page, Borg hyped her work on social media and privacy issues, and asks donors to keep her in Parliament.

“Any donation, no matter how big or small, will go a long way to keeping me in Parliament and to keep fighting for what matters most to you in the digital age.”

In an email to CTV News, an NDP caucus spokesperson said the use of crowdfunding websites was cleared for compliance with Elections Canada regulations.

“Ms. Borg, like many others, is exploring the possibilities offered by new social media techniques,” wrote Greta K. Levy. “She removed the potential problems from her fundraising appeal as soon as questions of appropriateness arose. No money has been raised using them and she acted and apologized immediately once she was aware of the problem.”

Borg was first elected to Parliament in 2011.

A federal election is expected to take place in 2015.

OMG woman do you ever have it back asswards!

Up next .....

Sunday, September 21, 2014