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Trudeau ignores anti-Muslim video, attacks pro-Palestinian activist

Fri, 2018-09-28 01:08
GazaPolitics in CanadaWorld

We've become accustomed to the up-is-down, black-is-white nature of U.S. politics -- such as when Republican Senator Lindsey Graham suggested that Christine Blasey Ford's claim of being sexually assaulted amounted to a "drive-by shooting" of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Canadian politics usually seem less crazy. But then there's this.

Last month, two Toronto women posted a 20-minute video in which they denounce the "sewage, garbage" coming into the country, and call for the death of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, several Liberal MPs with Muslim and racial identities, as well as NDP leader Jagmeet Singh.

The video is alarming, possibly qualifying as hate speech.

But instead of Trudeau denouncing such racial vitriol, he ended up smearing pro-Palestinian activist Dimitri Lascaris who brought the video to public attention.

The episode highlights the extent to which debate over Palestinian rights has been all but shut down by our political leaders. Indeed, one advocates for Palestine at one's peril. 

Lascaris, a lawyer and former Green Party candidate, participated in a protest last month after the pro-Israel organization B'nai Brith criticized the Canadian Union of Postal Workers for siding with Palestinian postal workers.

A counter-protest was staged by the Jewish Defence League, and attended by high-profile white nationalist Faith Goldy. 

Two female supporters of B'nai Brith who attended the counter-protest later posted the video in which they openly denounce Palestinians, and call for them to "go home."

"We're traumatized by the kind of sewage, garbage, whatever, coming into our country," say the women, who seem middle-class, and declare themselves supporters of Doug Ford. 

"I just think we should bring in the death penalty … start with some of our politicians… Justin Trudeau, he'd be the first one to go. And [Maryam] Monsef. And Iqra Khalid. And Ahmed Hussen. And Omar Alghabra…And Singh, Singh, let's make him sing, you know, as he walks toward the guillotine!"

Let's just stop right there. Imagine the reaction if two Muslims made a video calling for the death of our prime minister and Jewish MPs. They'd be denounced, placed under surveillance or arrested. 

But nothing happened here. Instead, it was Lascaris who soon found himself under attack after he posted the video in a tweet and called on B'nai Brith and two leading pro-Israel Liberal MPs, Anthony Housefather and Michael Levitt, to denounce calls for the death of their Liberal colleagues. 

When there was no denunciation, Lascaris tweeted that the MPs seem "more devoted to apartheid Israel than to their own prime minister and colleagues in the Liberal caucus."

While the attacks on Muslims didn't provoke any reaction from our prime minister, that tweet did. Trudeau responded:

"Vile anti-Semitic smears like this are completely unacceptable, and should always be called out. Thank you @LevittMichael and @AHousefather for standing up to this, and for everything you do for your communities and our country."

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh joined in:

"Antisemitism has no place in Canada. I know what it's like to experience racism and discrimination, and to have my loyalty to Canada questioned. @LevittMichael and @AHousefather, I stand with you today."

Not a word from these party leaders about the anti-Muslim venom from the two B'nai Brith supporters.  

These reactions show how our political leaders have fallen in line behind the pro-Israel lobby in its attempt to stifle critics with charges of "anti-semitism."

Lascaris is a controversial figure because he -- along with groups like Independent Jewish Voices and Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East -- are trying to encourage a public debate over Ottawa's refusal to pressure Israel to stop its illegal settlements on Palestinian land.

They point out that Ottawa applies sanctions to 19 nations but not Israel, even though Canada acknowledges that Israel's settlements violate international law.

Interestingly, some 66 per cent of Canadians support sanctions against Israel, according to an EKOS poll, but the pro-Israel lobby has effectively banned this topic from political discourse in Canada. 

Maybe there's a good reason not to sanction Israel -- despite its violation of international law -- but then let's hear our political leaders articulate that reason, rather than simply smacking down anyone who dares to question their silence on the issue.

Linda McQuaig is a journalist and author. Her book Shooting the Hippo: Death by Deficit and Other Canadian Myths was among the books selected by the Literary Review of Canada as the "25 most influential Canadian books of the past 25 years." This column originally appeared in the Toronto Star.

Photo: Adam Scotti/PMO

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Israelanti-semitismLinda McQuaigSeptember 27, 2018Trudeau hesitates on funding for solar panels at Gaza hospitalsTarek Loubani, the Canadian doctor injured treating Palestinian victims of Israeli sniper fire, asked the Trudeau government last month for $15 million to help pay for solar panels at Gaza hospitals.Fuck antisemitism, but let's be clear: criticism of Israel is not antisemiticThe problem with careless politicized accusations of antisemitism is, like recent accusations against Dimitri Lascaris, that they undermine the truth: antisemitism is real and it hurts us all.Antisemitism is more complex than political criticism of IsraelMany don't understand that Israel/ עם ישראל (the Jewish collective identity), the State of Israel (founded in 1948), and the government of Israel are separate, although they sometimes overlap.
Categories: News for progressives

Bringing new voices and angles to readers

Thu, 2018-09-27 23:53
Monia Mazigh

Dear rabble reader,

I've been writing for rabble.ca since 2008 because rabble is a valuable source of information as well as of discussion and debate in Canadian media. It upholds the work of authentic journalism and grassroots social movements.

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Categories: News for progressives

Women are fighting for their lives in Trump's America

Thu, 2018-09-27 22:15
FeminismUS Politics

The mounting allegations of sexual assault against Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, demand a thorough FBI investigation, not a rush to judgment. To date, three women have made serious allegations about abusive and potentially criminal behaviour by Kavanaugh.

The Washington Post broke the story about the first woman, Christine Blasey Ford, reporting:

"Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she wore over it. When she tried to scream, she said, he put his hand over her mouth. 'I thought he might inadvertently kill me,' said Ford."

This week, Deborah Ramirez described the abuse she suffered at a dormitory room at Yale University, where fellow student Brett Kavanaugh exposed himself to her while she was drunk at a party. "I remember a penis being in front of my face," she told The New Yorker magazine, and that she next saw Kavanaugh pulling up his pants.

Julie Swetnick came forward next, saying that she was drugged and gang raped at a party where Brett Kavanaugh was present. She stated in an affidavit, "I also witnessed efforts by Mark Judge, Brett Kavanaugh and others to cause girls to become inebriated and disoriented so they could then be 'gang raped' in a side room or bedroom by a 'train' of numerous boys."

"In America, we have fairness," Kavanaugh said on his unprecedented Fox News interview this week. When asked if there should be an FBI investigation into these allegations, he skirted the issue. Of course he did, because that would delay any Senate hearing, and would involve more people testifying, eliminating his "he said, she said" defence. What, in Brett Kavanaugh's mind, amounts to fairness?

We need look no further than a case that Kavanaugh recently ruled on, regarding a 17-year-old woman referred to as "Jane Doe" who fled abuse in her home country only to discover she was pregnant while in U.S. immigration custody. She decided to terminate the pregnancy, which would have been routine during the Obama administration. But the Trump administration tried to stop her. Kavanaugh supported the effort.

The federal agency to which unaccompanied immigrant minors are entrusted, the Office of Refugee Resettlement, is run by Trump appointee Scott Lloyd. Lloyd had no experience with refugees. An anti-abortion zealot, he has described himself as the architect of late-term abortion restrictions. In the George W. Bush administration, he co-wrote a rule that allowed religious medical providers to deny patients contraception and abortions.

As head of Trump's ORR, Lloyd personally intervened to discourage young women under ORR control from having abortions, even attempting to force a rape victim who was impregnated by her rapist to carry the pregnancy to term against her will. In that case, Lloyd wrote that assisting the victim would lead to the "ultimate destruction of another human being."

ORR forced Jane Doe to go to a religious, anti-abortion "crisis pregnancy centre," where women are fed disinformation about abortion and are pressured to carry their fetus to term. She got legal representation from the American Civil Liberties Union and eventually got access to the procedure. "If not for court intervention," the ACLU wrote, "Ms. Doe would have been forced to carry her pregnancy to term and give birth against her will."

The case was argued "en banc," before nine judges on the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Judge Merrick Garland, who was denied a hearing by the Senate Republicans when he was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Barack Obama, was the chief judge on the case. The court found in favour of Jane Doe by a six-to-three majority. Brett Kavanaugh wrote the dissent in which he said allowing Jane Doe access to a safe, legal, constitutionally protected abortion was tantamount to granting "a right to immediate abortion on demand."

This is a historic week in the United States. President Trump is pushing for the confirmation of a Supreme Court justice who has been repeatedly accused of sexual misconduct. "I'm in favour of law enforcement," Trump declared at his news conference Wednesday, only his second solo news conference since he's taken office. Then why doesn't he authorize the FBI to investigate the allegations against Kavanaugh? Could it be that over a dozen other women have accused the president himself of sexual assault or misconduct?

From women's control over their own reproductive rights, to sexual assault and abuse, we'll know we have made progress when women's bodies are no longer a battleground, when women share power equally, and abusive men are held to account.

Amy Goodman is the host of Democracy Now!, a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 1,300 stations. She is the co-author, with Denis Moynihan, of The Silenced Majority, a New York Times bestseller. This column originally appeared on Truthdig.

Photo: Phil Roeder/Flickr

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women's rightsU.S. Supreme Courttrump administrationsexual assaultAmy GoodmanDenis MoynihanSeptember 27, 2018'I am woman, hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore'Helen Reddy sang those words in 1972, providing an anthem to the women's movement. Forty-five years later, it could serve as the score to a movie documenting the abrupt demise of Harvey Weinstein.To understand sexual assault, we still need to listen to Donald TrumpSurvivors, primarily women, have been speaking out about Trump and other sexually aggressive men for decades. Why is it that we don't pay attention until these men speak themselves?Trudeau gaslights Canadian women and ignores their safetyFor a self-proclaimed feminist prime minister, Justin Trudeau has utterly failed in his government's efforts to protect the national security of women.
Categories: News for progressives

Police technology vs. civil liberties -- science fiction or current reality?

Thu, 2018-09-27 21:28
Anti-RacismCivil Liberties WatchTechnology

I enjoy reading science fiction, especially when it considers humanity's struggle to deal with new technologies. Often these stories present a cautionary tale about how new technologies can be misused to oppress people. This idea of science fiction as cautionary tales was summed up by author Ray Bradbury, who wrote: "The function of science fiction is not only to predict the future, but to prevent it."

One of my favourite science fiction writers is Philip K. Dick, who wrote a number of these cautionary tales. One of them, "The Minority Report" (which you may know instead as a Tom Cruise movie -- the short story is better) presented a future where police did not investigate crimes that had occurred; instead, the "PreCrime" unit stops crimes before they occur, based on predictions from precognitive mutants.

Reality imitates fiction

So imagine my surprise when I came upon an article discussing police use of a computer program called PredPol (short for predictive policing) to identify areas that are more likely to experience crimes and to direct police resources to those areas. This program and others like it are apparently used by about 50 police forces across the United States. While Canadian police are watching what American forces are doing with this sort of technology, they have not yet adopted the use of the technology, at least in part because of the civil liberties concerns that it raises.

While PredPol focuses on identifying geographic areas that are allegedly more prone to crime, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) is taking things one step further. The LAPD has developed a program called Los Angeles Strategic Extraction and Restoration (LASER) that assigns scores for individuals to try to identify people who are likely to commit crimes in the future. LASER assigns points for certain occurrences, including what the LAPD calls "field interviews" -- the practice that we call carding in Canada. As a result, an individual who is targeted by this arbitrary practice will be assessed points in a determination that the individual is at higher risk of committing crimes. 

This result is problematic enough simply because of the arbitrary nature of carding, but when you consider the racial profiling that was an undercurrent of the carding practice it becomes a much more significant problem (and if you doubt that racial profiling was an element of carding, take a look at the regulation enacted in Ontario to try to rein in the practice. The drafters of the regulation felt that in addition to prohibiting police checks that were "arbitrary," it was necessary to specifically prohibit such checks based on the fact that the individual in question is perceived to be a member of a particular racialized group, except where the officer is looking for a specific individual, part of the description of the individual is that they are a member of that racialized group, and the officer has additional information that further narrows down the description of the individual they are looking for).

Bias in, bias out

One argument that some might make to justify the use of these sorts of programs is that they will take such biases out of police work. The problem with that argument is best summed up by the computer science saying, "garbage in, garbage out." In other words, any program, no matter how sophisticated or well constructed it is, is reliant on the data that is inputted into the program. If that data is faulty, then the program will produce faulty output. If the data going into the program is affected by systemic or institutional bias, then the results produced by the program will reflect that bias as well. So if the information fed to the program leans toward a bias that racialized people, or areas in which racialized people live, are more likely to be involved in crimes, one should expect that the program will "predict" that those people or areas are more prone to criminal activity. And the data will be faulty. It is a fiction to think that the police, and society at large, are not affected by institutional or systemic bias. Just last year, Ontario's government passed the Anti‑Racism Act (which I have previously blogged about), whose entire goal is to recognize the existence of and to address systemic racism in Ontario (as distinct from addressing specific instances of discrimination, which is the purpose of the Human Rights Code).

Even if we accept that the development and use of these programs are motivated by the best of intentions, they are not acceptable if they have an adverse effect. It is well established in Canada that a discriminatory act or result is still discriminatory whether or not the discrimination was intended (see the case of Esposito v. BC, for one example). To apply this concept to the use of programs such as PredPol and LASER, if those programs generate results that targets racialized groups or individuals, then there will be a strong argument that the use of the programs is discriminatory toward those groups or individuals.

Until the institutional bias that exists in society is addressed, the use of programs such as PredPol and LASER will not help to eliminate bias in police work. Instead, they will continue the bias, but it will be hidden behind the faulty argument that a logical, dispassionate computer program cannot be affected by such bias. And, if those results are perceived as being unbiased (even though they are implicitly biased because the data fed into the programs is itself affected by institutional bias), the effect could be to undermine the argument that institutional bias exists and needs to be addressed.

In a world where the police need to work to gain the trust of racialized groups, and institutional bias needs to be opposed, we cannot afford to miss the cautionary tale of this science fiction story.

Photo: Jeso Carneiro/Flickr

Iler Campbell LLP is a law firm serving co-ops, not-for-profits, charities and socially-minded small business and individuals in Ontario.

Pro Bono provides legal information designed to educate and entertain readers. But legal information is not the same as legal advice -- the application of law to an individual's specific circumstances. While efforts are made to ensure the legal information provided through these columns is useful, we strongly recommend you consult a lawyer for assistance with your particular situation to obtain accurate advice.

Submit requests for future Pro Bono topics to probono@rabble.ca. Read past Pro Bono columns here.

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pro bonoscience fictionPolice Cardingracial profilingDiscriminationpolicingPro BonoMichael HacklSeptember 27, 2018Carding and civilian control of policeCarding, the infamous police practice of stopping individuals for questioning, is back with a vengeance in Toronto. Who's holding police activities accountable to the community?Transparency shouldn't be optional -- especially when you carry a gunStrategic silences, Twitter feuds, and poor accountability mark the Toronto Police.The time has come to start policing Canada's policeMany police officers and departments across the country act as if they are above the law and answer to no one. When is anyone with any political power or authority going to do something about it?
Categories: News for progressives

Ottawa-Gatineau tornadoes show we must take climate action

Thu, 2018-09-27 19:56
September 27, 2018Doug Ford rolls back climate policies while unprecedented tornadoes ravage his provinceWhile climate change related events ravage citizens' lives, Ontario Premier Ford and his enablers gleefully attack virtually all measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Categories: News for progressives

Doug Ford rolls back climate policies while unprecedented tornadoes ravage his province

Thu, 2018-09-27 19:40
Karl Nerenberg

On Friday September 21, the most violent and destructive weather event in recent memory hit the Ottawa-Gatineau region. It consisted of not one, not two, not three, but six tornadoes, accompanied by vicious thunderstorms, rainfall that turned quiet streets into torrential rivers and winds that reached 260 kilometres per hour. It was an unprecedented weather catastrophe by any measure.

On that same day, National Post columnist Rex Murphy unloaded a full bore attack on one of his favourite targets: anybody who evinces the slightest concern for the environment. Murphy was notionally praising his new hero, Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who had just cancelled Ontario's Green Energy Act. In reality, Murphy was attacking the very fundament of current scientific thinking, to wit, that human activity can (and frequently does) have a devastating impact on the environment, including the climate, of planet Earth.

"It's quite queasy being a green," Murphy wrote, just as multiple tornadoes were closing in on Ottawa's western suburbs.

"The story of the McGuinty/Wynne crusade to impose, at any cost, full green moralism on Ontarians should serve as a drastic caution to politicians everywhere that 'going green' isn't innocent, costless Boy-Scoutism … It is never quite enough to keep telling your citizens in the condescending tones of the Sunday morning TV evangelists to 'take your medicine,' it's for your own good."

In Murphy's view, the governments we elect should not raise their heads above the parapets and concern themselves with the health and well-being of this planet we all share. They should narrowly stick to their knitting, leaving the fate of the Earth, one presumes, in the hands of higher and unseen powers.

"It is an amazing thing," Murphy fulminated, "how often politicians elected to serve a particular jurisdiction … set themselves these grand, glorious and green global agendas. If you can't run the city, leave the planet saving for another day."

The National Post's resident climate-change-denier then noted that the Ontario Liberals paid a steep electoral price for daring to be green.  The Liberals, who had ruled for nearly a decade and a half, were reduced to a rump in the recent election.

Rex did not add that the equally green NDP won a near record number of seats; that the very incarnation of environmental elitism, the Green Party, won its first seat ever; and that, combined, the three green-hued parties won about 60 per cent of the vote to Mr. Ford's 40.

Murphy ended his panegyric to Ontario's new Duce with a warning to any politician who still dares to even express concern for the environment, let alone act on that concern. In particular, he cited Justin Trudeau's Environment Minister Catherine McKenna for having the gall to suggest that the environment and the economy go "hand in hand."

"If any politician wants to see how greenism works out in the real world," the columnist oozed, "note well … that a Mr. Doug Ford -- 'I am become Destroyer of Carbon Taxes' -- is Ontario Premier."

Flawed Liberal green program not an excuse to do nothing

It is true that the Ontario Liberal government's green energy program was neither well conceived nor equitably executed. It was, in essence, an effort to shock the province's electric power system; to quickly transform the system from a major emitter of greenhouse gasses to a carbon-neutral utility. That goal, even with the shock strategy, was laudable. However, the program was too tied in with a select group of private sector actors, and, worse, was insufficiently concerned with its impact on small-scale consumers of electricity, especially in rural areas.

Having said that, it would be a vast overreach to conclude that the flaws in the Ontario Liberal green program prove there is nothing any government can or should do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Those who urge a course of blithe non-action on the climate often point out that Canada contributes less than two per cent of global carbon emissions. They fail to add that, per capita, Canada's emissions are among the highest in the world.

Canada emits 15.3 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person, about the same as the United States and Australia, and a bit less than the leading per capita emitter, Saudi Arabia. Canada's total (not per person) emissions for 37 million people are one-fifth greater than Indonesia's for 260 million people. On a per capita basis, Canada's emissions are nearly 10 times those of Indonesia.

If Canada were to succeed in significantly reducing emissions it would have a measurable and significant impact on the rate of global warming. More important, serious action by Canada would provide a measure of global leadership. It would show that at least some among the world's richest countries were willing to step up and do their part. In addition, last week's unprecedented tornadoes underscore the fact that here on the home front we are also experiencing the deadly impact of climate change.

Scientists must be cautious but political leaders must be bold

Those who take science seriously describe the relationship between global warming and tornadoes with nuance, as did Brent Patterson in rabble.ca last Saturday. The bottom line is that scientists say they do not have sufficient historic information on tornadoes, going back far enough in time, to allow them to draw definitive conclusions. What is certain is that global warming contributes to increased moisture in the atmosphere, which, in turn, engenders more, and more violent, thunderstorms. Tornadoes very often develop as a sort of side effect of thunderstorms. Such was the case with the six Ottawa-Gatineau-area tornadoes.

Unlike Rex Murphy, and other climate-change-denying polemicists, scientists have to be scrupulous about facts and evidence. And so, they must patiently accumulate more data before making definite pronouncements on a causal connection between global warming and tornadoes.

The rest of us, and especially political leaders and policy makers, do not have the luxury of waiting years for more data. Doing nothing is not a reasonable option. It is not responsible to simply dismiss unprecedented and violent climate events as mysterious and inexplicable acts of God.

At the very least, this would seem to be the worst time for any government to not only sit on its hands but to aggressively roll back the clock on any and all policies designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the devastating impact of global warming.  That, however, is exactly what Donald Trump is doing south of the border, what Doug Ford is doing in Ontario, and what Andrew Scheer (and/or Maxime Bernier) promise to do if elected to power federally.

Karl Nerenberg has been a journalist and filmmaker for over 25 years. He is rabble's politics reporter.

Photo credit: John Wilson/Facebook

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Categories: News for progressives

NAFTA's fate remains unknown as trade talks approach deadline

Thu, 2018-09-27 18:16
Brent Patterson

The renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is approaching a significant deadline on September 30.

Trade analyst Candace Sider says, "That's the date set out by Washington to deliver the text of a deal with or without Canada before making public (within 30 days) the text to the bilateral trade deal the United States struck with Mexico on August 30."

CBC trade reporter Janyce McGregor adds, "The U.S. Congress needs to see text 60 days before Trump would be authorized to sign anything with outgoing Mexican President Enrique Peña ​Nieto, who leaves office on Dec. 1."

On this rapidly approaching deadline, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer says, "We're going to go ahead with Mexico. If Canada comes along now, that would be the best. If Canada comes along later, then that's what will happen. We're sort of running out of time."

But Lighthizer's threat may be hollow given former U.S. trade official Jennifer Hillman told CBC that the deal those countries reached was predicated on Canada joining and that "Whether Canada is in or out, either way, you can't get the text done by Sept. 30."

Theoretically though, if the Trump administration were to put forward a U.S.-Mexico "free trade" deal on September 30, that could also include the activation of the six-month termination clause in NAFTA. That six-month countdown would take us to March 30, 2019 (which again, hypothetically and with numerous variables still at play) could mean a scenario in which NAFTA is terminated not long prior to the October 21, 2019 federal election in Canada.

McGregor notes various possible escape hatches: Congress could stop Trump from withdrawing the United States from NAFTA, there could be a court challenge, or the U.S. Commerce Department might not impose the 25 per cent tariff on automobiles as has been threatened by Trump.

Less dramatically, it could also be that yet another publicly announced key deadline passes and that NAFTA talks continue into 2019.

Another reason the September 30 deadline might not be met is the October 1 election in Quebec.

Sider comments, "Speculation has emerged the Canadian delegation is loath to publicly accept a deal that most believe will contain concessions on access to the Canadian dairy market before the provincial election on October 1 in Quebec, where much of Canada's dairy is produced."

A little further down the road it may also be hard in an election year for Trudeau to maintain that he is committed to implementing a universal pharmacare plan if he agrees to the U.S. demand that the "data exclusivity" period for biologic drugs be extended to 10 years (two more years of patent protection in Canada would cost tens of millions of dollars a year).

Part of this political calendar and calculation is also that president-elect of Mexico, Andres Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), will be sworn into office (as noted above) on December 1.

While there have been either contradictory or vague statements coming from AMLO and his transition team, former Mexican ambassador Jorge Guajardo has commented in The Atlantic, "Even though he has spoken favorably about NAFTA, he is not a free-trader by heart. If Trump pulls out of NAFTA, AMLO likely won't feel obligated to offer concessions in hopes of bringing him back."

And while the outgoing Mexican president wanted to entrench his "energy reforms" in NAFTA, AMLO has been publicly critical of this liberalization.

As such, depending on what is in the deal reached in August between Trump and Nieto, AMLO could object to various provisions if it's not signed by November 30, thus potentially forcing continued negotiations on the agreement.

NAFTA is part of the architecture of corporate rule and is harmful to people, the planet, democracy and the public good.

Civil society's critique of it at this juncture has been somewhat muted by movement allies who have emphasized the job displacement that would be caused by the disruption of economies that have been increasingly integrated since the deal came into force on January 1, 1994.

That doesn't make NAFTA a good deal -- it makes an omelette that can't easily be fit back into broken eggshells.

Stay tuned to see what happens in just a few days from now.

Brent Patterson is a political activist and writer.

Photo: Shealah Craighead/Office of the President of the United States/Wikimedia Commons

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Categories: News for progressives

Electoral reform under attack as B.C. prepares for referendum

Thu, 2018-09-27 09:48
Linda Leon

British Columbia will be holding a referendum on electoral reform in November. B.C. voters are asked two questions.

The first question asks whether B.C. should keep its first-past-the-post system or change it.

The second question asks which of three different proportional representative (PR) options British Columbians should choose: dual member proportional (DMP), mixed member proportional (MMP), or rural-urban proportional representation, where urbanites elect representatives using single transferable vote and rural voters elect representatives using mixed member proportional.

One important criteria for a fair electoral system is resistance to undo influence by power groups. Under our current first-past-the-post electoral system there is considerable influence exerted by corporate and other groups on political parties. Through political contributions, exchange of favours and lobbying, policy and legislation can be disproportionately influenced.

For example, Bill C-38, the Conservative omnibus budget bill, which vandalized most of our environmental regulations and repealed the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, reflected the shopping list of requests made by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), in a letter sent to the Harper government in 2011

Undo influence indeed!

Most proportional representational electoral systems have built-in resistance to influence by power groups. An organization like CAPP would have to seek influence with more than one or two mainstream political parties. They would have to spread their political donation dollars thinner. And how likely is it that a group like CAPP could conspire with the minority or coalition governments which are often the result of elections using PR?

Much rides on the continuation of an unfair electoral system like first past the post. Many influencers see real democracy as a barrier to their aspirations. It is not a surprise to see them organized against electoral reform in B.C. Nor is it a surprise to see them colluding with mainstream political parties to prevent electoral reform. 

Influencers claim to be concerned about democracy. In a similar fashion, foxes express concern about the well-being of hens.

Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA) have asked the courts to put an injunction on the referendum. They have also mounted an anti-electoral reform advertisement campaign, spreading misinformation, slandering reformers and ramping up fear.

Jim Shepard, former CEO of CANFOR (a lumber and wood corporation) and adviser to the Liberal Leader Christie Clarke, launched a group known as KNOWB4UVOTE.COM Society. They have a website and have purchased full-page ads claiming the "David Eby is trying to manipulate you." David Eby is B.C.'s attorney general.

On Saturday September 22, in response to the campaign of misinformation against proportional representation, Fair Vote Canada launched a fact-checking website, Proportional Representation Fact Checker Site. Within hours the website was shut down by an amateur hacker. Fair Vote was able to get the site back up quickly only to have it hacked a second time in a denial-of-service attack. Their IT staff have identified the attack as "sophisticated."

Professional hackers capable of sophisticated hack jobs are very expensive. Only those with deep pockets can afford them.

Fair Vote Canada is a grassroots organization dependent on volunteers and with limited funding. My husband and I donated to them today. 

Here is the link to Fair Vote Canada.

Here is another link should you wish to donate.

P.S. It is 18:06 on Wednesday September 26, 2018. As I write this, the Proportional Representative Fact Checker site just went down again.

Yukon is full of artists, thinkers, eccentrics and rabble-rousing political trouble makers. From the windows of her Acting Out Studio, Linda Leon observes the view from North.

Photo: Dennis Sylvester Hurd/Flickr

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1,000 Apologies, but I had to remove my actual e-mail address from this page. I'm afraid I got pretty tired of the sock puppets offering me free sexual favours. (And NO! I don't know how many of them were Russian, but it won't change my vote, I promise!) So here's one of those crappy contact forms that I really hate. Did I say "Sorry"?
Contact ME! (or don't)