Friday, 29 February 2008

Olbermann: Bush holds self-pleasing news conference

Tape casts doubt on Harper's claims

So, did Prime Minister Harper know about the alleged Conservative Party offer to provide Chuck Cadman with a million dollar life insurance policy in exchange for his vote to defeat the Paul Martin government?

Yes or no?

See this coverage of the matter by Alexander Panetta, from The Canadian Press

Transcript of the tape recorded interview:
"Transcript of author's tape of Harper sheds light on Cadman case

OTTAWA - Transcript of a portion of author Tom Zytaruk's tape of a 2005 interview with Stephen Harper, then leader of the Opposition, for his biography of the late Chuck Cadman:

Zytaruk: "I mean, there was an insurance policy for a million dollars. Do you know anything about that?"

Harper: "I don't know the details. I know that there were discussions, uh, this is not for publication?"

Zytaruk: "This (inaudible) for the book. Not for the newspaper. This is for the book."

Harper: "Um, I don't know the details. I can tell you that I had told the individuals, I mean, they wanted to do it. But I told them they were wasting their time. I said Chuck had made up his mind, he was going to vote with the Liberals and I knew why and I respected the decision. But they were just, they were convinced there was, there were financial issues. There may or may not have been, but I said that's not, you know, I mean, I, that's not going to change."

Zytaruk: "You said (inaudible) beforehand and stuff? It wasn't even a party guy, or maybe some friends, if it was people actually in the party?"

Harper: "No, no, they were legitimately representing the party. I said don't press him. I mean, you have this theory that it's, you know, financial insecurity and, you know, just, you know, if that's what you're saying, make that case but don't press it. I don't think, my view was, my view had been for two or three weeks preceding it, was that Chuck was not going to force an election. I just, we had all kinds of our guys were calling him, and trying to persuade him, I mean, but I just had concluded that's where he stood and respected that."

Zytaruk: "Thank you for that. And when (inaudible)."

Harper: "But the, uh, the offer to Chuck was that it was only to replace financial considerations he might lose due to an election."

Zytaruk: "Oh, OK."

Harper: "OK? That's my understanding of what they were talking about."

Zytaruk: "But, the thing is, though, you made it clear you weren't big on the idea in the first place?"

Harper: "Well, I just thought Chuck had made up his mind, in my own view ..."

Zytaruk: "Oh, okay. So, it's not like, he's like, (inaudible)."

Harper: "I talked to Chuck myself. I talked to (inaudible). You know, I talked to him, oh, two or three weeks before that, and then several weeks before that. I mean, you know, I kind of had a sense of where he was going."

Zytaruk: "Well, thank you very much."

The End of NAFTA?

Erin Weir, over at the Progressive Economics Forum has just posted a very rational and solid analysis of recent comments by U.S. Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama who both say that they want to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement NAFTA.

The posting is entitled: The End of NAFTA? and concludes:
"The much-maligned spectre of “American protectionism” promises significant benefits for Canada: fewer corporate challenges of our public policies, stronger labour and environmental standards, and less third-country competition in the US market. As an added bonus, it has Emerson talking about alternative energy policy options." (read more....)

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

What seems to be the problem here?

On February 6, 2008 I wrote this letter to Sask. Party Premier Brad Wall requesting that the provincial government refer Bills 5 and 6 to the Court of Appeal for determination as to their constitutionality under the Constitutional Questions Act of Saskatchewan.

On February 20, 2008 my office received this letter (dated February 8, 2008) from Premier Wall advising that Justice Minister and Attorney General, Don Morgan had already responded to my letter.

Because no response from Mr. Morgan had been received at the SFL Office, I asked the SFL staff to contact Mr. Morgan's office (late last week) to determine if a letter had been sent. The SFL staff was advised by someone in Mr. Morgan's office that the matter was being worked on.

Since nothing has arrived as of today (February 27, 2008) I phoned Mr. Morgan's office to find out when the response the Premier referred to in his letter would be forthcoming. Mr. Morgan's staff could not immediately respond, but subsequently left the following voice mail on my phone a few minutes later:

Voice Message from Don Morgan's Office (.wav format)

Voice Message from Don Morgan's Office (.mp3 format)

The message says:
"Hello Larry, ah, it’s Michelle calling back from Minister Morgan’s office. The Premier responded to your letter on February 8th and the Justice Ministry was copied on this letter. And the Minister Morgan will not be responding further. Again, Minister Morgan will not be responding any further as the Premier has …. has corresponded with you. Thank you. Bye."

Monday, 25 February 2008

Calling on Call Centres

There's an interesting article posted on the Our Times website, entitled: Calling on Call Centres.

This article is about a union organizing drive, certification, and first agreement bargaining at a large (very anti-union) call centre in B.C. It's a first hand view of the process that was conducted under the extremely anti-union labour laws that were brought into B.C. by the Campbell government.

Without question, Saskatchewan's labour laws will be WORSE for workers than those in B.C. if Bill's 5 and 6 pass in the Saskatchewan Legislature this spring.

Some politicians and political parties think that workers' rights are disposable and that they get in the way of their business buddies. That is why they constantly attack workers.

The following excerpt from the article illustrates the kind of corporate behaviour we can expect if the Sask. Party's new labour laws are inacted. Why would any worker want to move to a place where this kind of corporate behaviour is prevalent and accepted (in fact encouraged) by the government?
"In response to the BCGEU's organizing efforts, RMH began an anti-union campaign that included projecting continuous slide shows with offensive anti-union messages onto different screens set up around the facility and providing gifts containing anti-union messages to workers. The company also installed video surveillance cameras to monitor employee contact with union organizers.

Complaints were filed with the B.C. Labour Relations Board that RMH was intimidating and coercing workers and initially the LRB ruled that there was no violation of B.C. labour law. The decision was appealed and finally, after many months, a reconsideration panel ruled that the law had in fact been broken. The panel found that the offensive company slide shows amounted to "forced listening" and "were so prominent, persistent and impossible to miss" that the behaviour constituted "coercive or intimidating" communication by the company with its employees. The panel also ruled that the company's so-called gifts to employees were so "improperly intrusive and persistent" that they too violated the labour code."

Given the changes planned by the Sask. Party government, it won't be long and Saskatchewan will have the WORST labour laws in Canada.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

No Legislation Without Consultation

CUPE Saskatchewan has recently launched a new web-site entitled: dontgiveuphope.ca. The purpose of the site is to raise awareness about the lack of public consultation and the refusal of the Brad Wall government to engage citizens in a serious and respectful dialogue around Bills 5 and 6.

The Sask Party government is also refusing to make public the transcripts of "so-called feedback sessions" being held with individuals and groups around their two anti-democratic, flawed pieces of legislation. These bills amount to an assault on the Charter Rights of working women and men in the province of Saskatchewan.

Since Brad Wall's government is refusing to be transparent about these bills, and is refusing make submissions public - I guess someone else will have to do it. If you would like to read some of the briefs which have been submitted you can download them by following this link: http://www.dontgiveuphope.ca/reports_and_briefs

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Sask. Party government continues it's assault on working people

The Sask. Party government has decided that there is no place on the Boards of Directors of Saskatchewan's Crown Corporations for a representative of the workers who are employed there.

According to this article in the Regina Leader-Post, the Sask. Party government will not appoint or re-appoint Board Members to the Crowns who are there on behalf of the unions representing the employees in those workplaces. That's a tad hypocritical, especially considering that they (the Sask. Party) have no problem ensuring a place for "labour" on the Board of their new "super board" known as "Enterprise Saskatchewan". In fact, the "Enterprise Saskatchewan" Board has a representative from labour on it written right into the legislation creating the entity.

The Crown Corporations in Saskatchewan belong to the citizens of this province. And that includes the people who work there. They do not belong to the Sask. Party caucus and their cronies.

Perhaps the real reason why they don't want any "labour" reps on the new boards of the Crowns is because they don't want anybody to know about their plans to "Privatize" them.

Premier Brad Wall continues to "reach out to labour".

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Why the US has really gone broke

Here's a long, but worthwhile read on Le Monde diplomatique web-site:
"THE ECONOMIC DISASTER THAT IS MILITARY KEYNESIANSIM

Why the US has really gone broke

Global confidence in the US economy has reached zero, as was proved by last month’s stock market meltdown. But there is an enormous anomaly in the US economy above and beyond the subprime mortgage crisis, the housing bubble and the prospect of recession: 60 years of misallocation of resources, and borrowings, to the establishment and maintenance of a military industrial complex as the basis of the nation’s economic life

By Chalmers Johnson

The military adventurers in the Bush administration have much in common with the corporate leaders of the defunct energy company Enron. Both groups thought that they were the “smartest guys in the room” — the title of Alex Gibney’s prize-winning film on what went wrong at Enron. The neoconservatives in the White House and the Pentagon outsmarted themselves. They failed even to address the problem of how to finance their schemes of imperialist wars and global domination." (read more....)

Nonprofit Journalism on the Rise

From truthout.org:
"Nonprofit Journalism on the Rise
By Randy Dotinga
The Christian Science Monitor
Tuesday 12 February 2008

At a time of layoffs and budget cuts at traditional newspapers, foundations and donors are funding new journalism ventures.

San Diego - The police chief's rosy crime statistics were a lie, it turned out. The councilman who urged water conservation was discovered to use 80,000 gallons a month at his home, morethan five of his colleagues put together. And the school board president, according to an investigation, spent a full third of his time out of town and out of touch.

The Voice of San Diego, a nonprofit online media outlet, doesn't have enough journalists to field a softball team. Yet it has managed to take on the powerful with the panache of a scrappy big-city paper."
(read more....)

Monday, 11 February 2008

The Folly of Attacking Iran: Lessons from History

Watch this video and then go to: justforeignpolicy.org

Clinton defends labor unions as essential

Earlier on this blog I posted a YouTube video of Hillary Clinton and her role on Wal-Mart's Board of Directors. Since then she has renounced Wal-Mart's anti union views. See below:
"NEW YORK, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- Sen. Hillary Clinton says she no longer shares Wal-Mart's anti-union views and believes that labor unions "have been essential to our nation's success."

The New York Democrat and presidential contender, in a 6-year stint on the retail giant's board of directors, reportedly made no defense of labor unions attempting to organize Wal-Mart workers, ABC News said during its "Good Morning, America" broadcast.

As a presidential candidate, Clinton has been endorsed by more than a dozen unions, according to her campaign Web site biography which makes no reference to Wal-Mart." (read more....)

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Writers Reach Tentative Deal With Producers

There is a tentative agreement between the Writer' Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

See the New York Times coverage here.


Photo: Fred Prouser/Reuters

Labour has always had to fight an uphill battle for public opinion

The Saturday February 9, 2008 issues of the Regina Leader-Post and Saskatoon StarPhoenix both ran a column written by Leader-Post political columnist Murray Mandryk.

In the Leader-Post the column has the headline: Labour blind to its image problem.
In the StarPhoenix it's title is: Method behind seeming madness.

The column is primarily rooted in the SFL's request to Sask. Party Premier Brad Wall that the provincial government refer its two anti-union, anti-worker, unconstitutional, and anti-democratic labour law Bills (5 and 6) to the Sask. Court of Appeal for determination as to their constitutionality. (The request has been made pursuant to the Saskatchewan Constitutional Questions Act.)

I really enjoy having a conversation (some would call it an interview) with Mr. Mandryk. It's always very intellectually stimulating, interspersed with humour, emotion and passion. In fact, sometimes the process could just as easily be described as sport, or a debate - and Murray is a very capable opponent. No pushover this guy.

As our recent chat concluded (which resulted in the aforementioned column), Mandryk quipped, "you will probably like 50% of the column and dislike the other 50%" - (my paraphrase, I didn't write the exact words down). To which I responded, "Oh, I'll just blog about it!" He laughed.

So Murray, if you're reading this blog [and I know that you do ;-)] - the best I can rate the column is 1/3 good, 2/3 not-so-good. A friend of mine could only bring himself to rate it 20% - 80%.

The biggest problem with the column is that it's rooted in the assumption that what government is saying is "accurate" - which it is not; and that Mr. Mandryk has accurately identified the labour movement's motive, objective, strategy and purpose - which he has not.

Just a quick example to illustrate. Murray writes:
"However, the government points out that all jurisdictions but Quebec and Newfoundland allow communication. Similarly, all jurisdictions have some form of essential services legislation."
Actually, Saskatchewan already allows for employer communication too. There is no prohibition against an employer communicating with an employee during a union drive. They just can't attempt to influence the employee's decision - that violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The amendments proposed by Brad Wall and company attempt to make legal what has already been determined to be illegal by the Supreme Court of Canada.

As for "all jurisdictions having some form of essential services legislation". That statement is just not factually true.

There are other examples similar to the above throughout the article.

Further, as for the suggestion that the labour movement is "oblivious to the fact that they are simply on the wrong side of public opinion" -- hardly. We know exactly where public opinion is on this matter, and why it's there. It's because people are being fed a steady diet of biased, inaccurate, one-sided and distorted information. By the government, by their big business backers, and by a sympathetic and supportive corporate owned media.

Labour has always had to fight an uphill battle for public opinion - the deck is stacked against us. Nothing new here.

Here's an idea, I challenge Mr. Norris or Mr. Wall (or both) to a Public Debate on the issue of labour laws in Saskatchewan. It can even be with a specific focus on these two bills. Murray, you can be the moderator. Any takers?

p.s. We must be getting to the government on this file - they've decided they need to have the new part-time Minister of Labour post a bunch of cheesy video responses to a few questions about the new WORST labour laws in Canada on the government web-site.

p.s.s. We might just have to serve up some of our own cheese. Stay tuned.

Corporate Bullying Tactics??

There's a very interesting article in the February 5, 2008 issue of the New York Times which describes a tactic being used by corporate giant Smithfield Foods. Smithfield is suing the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), alleging racketeering - because UFCW has been exposing "labour, environmental and safety issues" at Smithfield to the public. And Smithfield doesn't like it.

The New York Times article is captioned: "A Corporate View of Mafia Tactics: Protesting, Lobbying and Citing Upton Sinclair".

Excerpt below:
"Smithfield Foods, which raises, kills and processes more pigs than any company on earth, does not like some of the things a union has been saying about conditions at its giant slaughterhouse in Tar Heel, N.C., where 4,650 people work and 32,000 hogs die every day.

So Smithfield has filed a racketeering lawsuit against the union, on the theory that speaking out about labor, environmental and safety issues in order to pressure the company to unionize amounts to extortion like that used by organized crime."

More and more people, including MSNBC's Keith Olbermann (see 2:30 point on the linked video) are suggesting that what we are witnessing is actually fascism. Here's an interesting definition: What is Fascism?

What are we witnessing here: Corporate Bullying, or Facsism?

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Essential Services Legislation: Will it facilitate or impair industrial relations? - CCPA

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Saskatchewan Branch has just released a new commentary by Dan Cameron from the Hill School of Business at the University of Regina respecting the Sask. Party's anti-democratic, and heavy handed introduction of so-called "Essential Services Legislation".

His commentary concludes with the following paragraph:

"It is unfortunate that the Essential Services Act has been introduced in acrimony, described in some circles as a settling of old scores with the labour movement and of favouring one collective bargaining party over another. The creation of a toxic relationship between government and labour is not a proper foundation for protecting the people of Saskatchewan from threats to their health, safety and security."
The entire article can be downloaded here in Adobe PDF format and is entitled: Essential Services Legislation: Will it facilitate or impair industrial relations?

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

SFL asks Government to refer Bills to Court of Appeal

Today, (February 6, 2008) the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour wrote to Sask. Party Premier Brad Wall asking that the Government refer two controversial labour bills to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal to determine their constitutionality. The following media advisory was issued by the SFL.

Media Advisory

"For Immediate Release February 6th, 2008

Today the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL) asked Premier Brad Wall to refer Bills 5 and 6 to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal for a determination as to the constitutionality of the Bills. The request was made pursuant to The Constitutional Questions Act of Saskatchewan.

If the government agrees to refer these Bills, the Court would be asked to determine whether or not the Bills violate workers’ rights under the freedom of association and the freedom of expression provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Bill 5 is titled
An Act respecting Essential Public Services and Bill 6 is An Act to amend The Trade Union Act.

In order to explain this request, the SFL will hold a news conference:

February 7th at 9:30 a.m.
at the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour office
#220-2445 13th Avenue, Regina

The SFL represents about 95,000 unionized workers across the province in 37 affiliated unions."

Monday, 4 February 2008

Olbermann: Special Comment: On FYCA and the Telecoms

Proposed Essential Services Legislation - Has the government gone too far?

Saskatchewan Union of Nurses Lawyer, Ronni Nordal has written an article in the most recent issue of the union's official newsletter - SUNSpots - Winter 2008 - under the following heading: "Proposed Essential Services legislation amounts to a denial of SUN members' right to strike". (Download is in Adobe PDF format).

"If passed, this legislation could amount to a denial of the right to strike for SUN members. Debate will commence on Bill No. 5 when the legislature next sits in March, 2008. If passed, SUN will be required to either negotiate an Essential Services Agreement, or run the risk of the Employer serving Section 9 notice and only having the ability to argue against the number of employees required before the Labour Relations Board. SUN is considering all of its options, including a legal challenge under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms." (Full article available here.)

Bolivia and democracy - Conflict over fundamental change in Bolivia

Part 1


Part 2

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Taxi to the Dark Side



Official Website: TaxitotheDarkSide.com

Yahoo Canada Movies Link: Click here

200,000 protestors take to the streets in Mexico City to protest NAFTA

Reproduced from the Common Frontiers Canada website:
"February 1, 2008

200,000 protestors take to the streets in Mexico City to protest NAFTA

Rally organizers for the march from the Angel of Independence to the Zocalo estimated that more than 200,000 people took part to demand that the Agricultural Chapter of NAFTA be renegotiated. Marchers also demanded that the privatization of the energy sector be halted, and that the new Social Security law be repealed.

Side note: The Globe and Mail has a mention of the march in today's Report on Business section (Page B6 - Reuters) where the crowd is described as "Thousands of mexican farmers...". The Toronto Star didn't carry the story at all.

- Report filed by Common Frontiers' Executive Director Rick Arnold, who is in Mexico for meetings with the four civil society networks.

- Foto by María Meléndrez Parada".
(read more....)

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Doublespeak!

According to Wikipedia "doublespeak" is described as follows:
"Doublespeak is language deliberately constructed to disguise or distort its actual meaning, often resulting in a communication bypass. Such language is often associated with governmental, military, political, religious, secular, interest group and corporate institutions and its deliberate use by these is what distinguishes it from other euphemisms."

There is an excellent new posting over on the "Owls and Roosters Blog" posted Feb. 1, 2008 entitled: "Graham Parsons & Prairie Policy Centre: economist and think tank push conservative message; major players contributed to Sask. Party". The article pulls the covers off of the Saskatchewan based "ultra-hard-right-wing propaganda machine" called the "Prairie Policy Centre".

Owls and Roosters Blog owner Joe Kuchta does a masterful job of weaving together and exposing the organization, it's key players, the hard-right ideology, the contradictions, and the political connections. It's well worth reading.

Is what we are seeing right now from organizations such as the Prairie Policy Centre, and others on the hard-right, classic Doublespeak?

Friday, 1 February 2008

Big Business Is Even More Unpopular Than You Think

The Multinational Monitor has an interesting article posted on it's blog about how unpopular Big Business is in the United States. I expect similar numbers would result from a survey of Canadians:
"Big Business Is Even More Unpopular Than You Think

The U.S. public holds Big Business in shockingly low regard.

A
November 2007 Harris poll found that less than 15 percent of the population believes each of the following industries to be "generally honest and trustworthy:" tobacco companies (3 percent); oil companies (3 percent); managed care companies such as HMOs (5 percent); health insurance companies (7 percent); telephone companies (10 percent); life insurance companies (10 percent); online retailers (10 percent); pharmaceutical and drug companies (11 percent); car manufacturers (11 percent); airlines (11 percent); packaged food companies (12 percent); electric and gas utilities (15 percent). Only 32 percent of adults said they trusted the best-rated industry about which Harris surveyed, supermarkets.

These are remarkable numbers. It is very hard to get this degree of agreement about anything. By way of comparison, 79 percent of adults believe the earth revolves around the sun; 18 percent say it is the other way around.The Harris results are not an aberration. The results have not varied considerably over the past five years -- although overall trust levels have actually declined from the already very low threshold in 2003.

The Harris results are also in line with an array of polling data showing deep concern about concentrated corporate power."
(read more....)

February 2, 2008 - Energy Day of Action

Maude Barlow, Chairperson of The Council of Canadians, encourages everyone to get involved with a National Day of Action in support of a Canadian Energy Strategy on February 2, 2008. For more information, please visit http://www.canadians.org/energy/action/