Harper and Seniors

Opposition accuses Harper of putting prisons before seniors – The Globe and Mail.

First I must admit, I am a senior. Have been for seven months. Before that I worked as a physician for forty years. I paid taxes on every penny. Taxes that paid for schools, roads, hospitals, hydro dams, and lately politicians’ gold-plated pensions. Also wars, expansions of prisons. and incentives to large corporations.

Yes, I and the others of my age paid for it all. When Harper was elected, another pair of seniors, Chretien and Martin, handed over a surplus. We, the elders paid for that too, enduring those years of restraints. Harper squandered it.

And now we have a government that has decided that those of us who paid for all that will be too big a drain on the economy, too big to carry on with the 540.12 each month, that is the total OAS that seniors receive. What is the total amount that the MP’s present and past receive?

Perhaps we could forgo the expansion of our prison system, and the required prison sentences that are forcing it. The crime rate is falling after all.

Mr. Harper knows that we’re coming, the seniors. I think he should remember that we all vote.

Fairness

John Ralston Saul, in his book, A Fair Country, talks about Canada as an aboriginal country, with one of its principle values, fairness. When I read it I remembered my father-in-law, who arrived here as a refugee from Slovakia in 1950, telling me about hearing children say to one another that something wasn’t fair. That was what was different about Canada, he said, even children knew things had to be fair.

In today’s Globe and Mail, Michael Ignatieff discusses the current economic disaster, and notes that things now are not fair. There are too many people who are excluded from Ralston Saul’s “big tent”. What follows is one of the final paragraphs:

A politics of fairness is also a politics of growth. Fair societies are more dynamic and more innovative. In fair societies, people don’t think the game is rigged before it begins. Success goes by what you know, not who you know. And people don’t waste emotions and energy on resentment and anger. They are too busy thinking up the next big thing.

He thinks that only by ensuring that everyone gets a fair chance can we overcome the current situation.

Happy New Year

Outrage

Saudi Arabia beheads woman for witchcraft – chicagotribune.com.

I am outraged by this. Capital punishment is appalling enough for capital crimes, but this, a state killing of a woman accused of sorcery. What did they think she could do, lay a spell on the ruling family?

The Chicago Tribune story goes on to explain the huge increase in executions in Saudi Arabia this year, several for “sorcery”, some even men.

The newspaper doesn’t comment, although it may have in the past, on the continued execution of people in the United States. Many of these are mentally challenged. Those convicted of killing white individuals are far more likely to be executed than those killing people of any other colour. Those killers who are women are highly unlikely to be executed. Even-handed justice? I think not.

Every country, including this one, has a number of the falsely accused, or wrongly convicted. Guy Paul Morin, Donald Marshall, Stephen Truscott. Those are the names we need to remember when politicians talk about bringing back the death penalty(for our falling murder rate) here. I don’t want innocent blood, shed by the government in my name and yours, on my hands. You can’t say sorry to a corpse.

http://freesakineh.org Please sign the petition.

Canadian Values and Prisons

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/immigrants-should-adopt-canadian-values-to-settle-here-survey-finds/article2237576

Solitary confinement Kingston PenitentiaryA view inside of one of the segregation cells at Kingston Penitentiary. - A view inside of one of the segregation cells at Kingston Penitentiary. | The Canadian Press

Two articles on opposite pages of the Globe and Mail this morning. One spoke of the tremendous support for Canadian values— tolerance for others and equality—that native Canadians and immigrants supported at the same level, the other of the conditions within our prisons, in particular the plan in the Omnibus Bill to deny visitors to people in solitary confinement. The Canadian Bar Association calls that “mean-spirited and counterproductive”. The article quotes  2008 Florida study as showing that prisoners who had family visitors were less likely to reoffend. The evidence against the punitive, unyielding nature of the measures in this bill continue to mount, yet the government remains committed to an approach that is being discredited and dismantled in the prototypic programmes in the US. Even a right-wing stalwart like Newt Gingrich has spoken against this approach, mainly because it is to expensive and it does not work.

If Harper thinks that he must continue with this because he believes he has a mandate to do so, he needs to think again. Those people who supported Canadian values in the survey quoted above, a vast majority, are not likely to long support a prison run on the recommendations of jail guards and their unions alone. Solitary confinement and the punitive instincts of prison administrators led to the death of Ashley Smith in a Kitchener prison. Four years have passed and this “mean-spirited” bill is the result. How many more people have to die?

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/mean-spirited-crime-bill-would-deny-visitors-to-punish-inmates/article2237630/

http://alterwords.wordpress.com/2008/06/21/agnes-mcphail-prison-reform/

Agnes McPhail one of the Famous Five, whose statues confront the politicians every day on the Hill, led the demand for prison reform in this country. Prisons in that unenlightened time were based on principles of retribution, not rehabilitation. Are we returning to that, not only inhumane but useless, expensive and unconscionable in a time of economic uncertainty and falling crime?

Guards are afraid of prisoners’ anger and violence. Measures which increase that anger make them less rather than more secure.

I wonder if the Prime Minister should make an unannounced visit to the Kingston Pen or to the prison here in Lindsay, as Agnes McPhail did in 1935. What she saw ignited a crusade that brought down the Conservative Government of R.B. Bennett later that same year. On second thought, maybe one of the opposition leaders should be making that visit.

Famous Five on Parliament Hill

Toronto Taxes

I live in a small town in Ontario, part of a so-called city. The taxes on our home are easily twice that of those homes with similar values in North York, as far as I can determine from real estate listings. So I know about paying taxes and worrying where all the money is going.

I would welcome a KPMG review in my city, especially if it found that yes indeed, all the money was needed and wasn’t being wasted, as apparently the firm found in Toronto.

What is upsetting is listening to the Ford brothers, who seem to planning to turn the city into a gutted version of itself, in order to “save taxpayers money.” Never mind that the taxpayers didn’t elect them to save money, but to eliminate the waste. The citizens seemed to like their city and their services; they just thought, because Rob Ford told them so, that it was riddled with excess.

Today, the news reports that “buy-outs” of police or library workers, will help cut this 10% the mayor is demanding from the budgets of these services. Check out this story in the Globe and Mail for the numbers.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/toronto/toronto-could-lose-400-police-officers-to-buyouts/article2158774/

It seems odd to me that first the mayor decided that there should be a 10% cut. I’m not sure why—just a nice round number I suppose—and then all the departments had to find areas to cut cost without cutting service. So I suppose that means that all the workers will have to spend 10% more time at work to make up for their lost co-workers. How likely is that? Or have the extra 10% been bone-idle all this time?

At the same time, if the Fords can find a way to spend money to help the BIG developers, and play Lego with the city—ferris wheel indeed—, then that’s the way they choose, and money be damned. If I were a resident of Toronto I’d be annoyed at having all the money spent to ensure environmentally sound and citizen-friendly development wasted because some junior politician decides that he knows better. And have to pay all that money for environmental assessments again because the plans have been changed.

Did someone elect Doug Ford co-mayor or maybe king of Toronto when I wasn’t looking? How can an official elected by just one area make decisions for the city because he’s brother of the mayor?

It’s too bad the election is so far away. Perhaps the council will decide that the emperor has no clothes in time to save the city.

Jack’s Death

It seemed as though an old friend had died, even though I had never met him, never seen him except on television, knew only the public man, with his smile and his civilized approach to politics. I think that’s what I valued most about him: his civilized approach, his belief that we, collectively can do better, can be better than we are at present. And his great good humour, especially in the House of Commons, at a time when the general level of debate was wretched, and mean-spirited. We have lost a fine man.

I thought he was one election away from being Prime Minister.

Ottawa cancels funding for Toronto theatre festival

Ottawa cancels funding for Toronto theatre festival that presented terrorist play – The Globe and Mail.

Cost cutting is one thing; denying funding because a bureaucrat or politician is making decisions based on what some one said about a piece of art without actually seeing it is quite another. The first is just the way it goes; the second is a governmental attempt to control the arts, and indeed freedom of speech. Does the Harper government think that it was elected to make artistic judgements for all of us?

Saudi women: Some brave women of Saudi Arabia continue to make incursions against the status quo, the latest one aided by her husband, an imam, who taught her how to drive. It still astounds me that countries need to have religious police. Not that the same thing didn’t happen in the history of western nations, but it was several hundred years ago. This is the 21st century, and a woman in Saudi Arabia can’t leave the house without the permission of some one with male genitalia, her guardian, lest the dreaded religious police intervene and cart her off to jail.

A lovely weekend here, warm and sunny with a breeze to keep the bugs away, and a country to live in without fear. Happy Canada Day.

Old-time Politics

Auditor blasts lack of transparency in doling out generous G8 funds – The Globe and Mail.

In the Ottawa Valley, prior to elections, the spending on the roads, where unemployed men could find some summer work, increased so much that locals knew before the writ was dropped that an election was coming. All of those men were expected to vote and did, for the party in power, that had bought the votes with road work, much of it un-needed–or so it was said.

The Globe and Mail article above gives details from the report, some of which are below, along with my opinion.

The Conservatives have taken it to a new level. In the Auditor-General’s report on G8 expenditures, tabled conveniently after the election, it becomes clear(as the process of funding was not) that large sums of money were dispensed by politicians alone. Not one civil servant was involved in the decisions. The civil service of course has to follow the rules. As Bob Rae said, quoted in the Globe  article above, “they just basically go  in a back room and cut up the funds.) They hid it, burying it in a bill to provide funds to relieve border congestion.

Now the Minister who spent all that money in his riding, Tony Clement, is the Minister responsible for forcing governmental cuts so they can balance the books. First they spend the money, then they use the deficit as an excuse to cut programmes they don’t like. It’s your money they’re playing these games with, and your services they’re going to cut. Does it sound fiscally prudent to you?

About that new level, it’s low. And it’s for four more years.

Saudi Women’s Rights

http://www.amnesty.ca/SaudiArabia/5.php

A woman in Saudi Arabia, who had started or joined an online movement to allow women to drive, has been detained, along with her brother, after she put a video of herself driving on the internet. In 1990 a group of religious scholars issued a fatwah(edict) against women driving. Why? Who knows? Just another example of the inequality women endure in that country. The abhorrent guardianship  system that restricts women’s movements unless accompanied by a male “guardian” is another of the human right abuses that continue there.

I think the men of Saudi Arabia should be embarrassed and ashamed that they treat the women of their country like children, and allow religious police to arrest them, abuse them, beat them, force them into false confessions and sentence them to such inhumane punishments as lashing for such crimes as wearing “indecent” ie western clothing.

Sakineh

Sakineh remains in prison.

http://www.ceskenoviny.cz/news/zpravy/havel-launches-ai-campaign-in-support-of-political-prisoners/638683

The link above details the Amnesty campaign to free her and two other political prisoners. Havel, of the Czech republic, himself a former political prisoner believes his own release came much sooner because of voices raised from outside.

http://freesakineh.org/

Please sign the petition.

Saudi Women

‘Saudi Women Revolution’ makes a stand for equal rights – CNN.com.

http://www.hrw.org/en/world-report-2011/saudi-arabia

The laws as they pertain in women in Saudi Arabia have so much potential for harm it’s difficult to know where to start. I fear for the safety of the brave women in the Saudi Women Revolution movement. It is intolerable in the 21st century that women, all the women in a country, are placed under the guardianship of a man. It doesn’t matter how competent she is, or how incompetent, avaricious, cruel or self-serving her brother, husband, father or son happen to be. The potential for all kinds of abuse is very high.

State-sponsered abuse as detailed in the Human Rights Watch report, such as lashing for the crime of “appearing in court without a male guardian” is abhorrent and primitive.  That woman went to jail as well as receiving 300 lashes. The male population treats its female population as though they were slaves. Some poor women actually seem to have a variation of Stockholm syndrome, claiming to “love their guardianship.”

I think we need to speak out against such human rights abuses whenever we can, as we did over the case of Sakineh in Iran.