Looking good, Justin?

As the voices of the jubilant singers of the Lullaby League and the Lollipop Guild begin to fade away a week after the Canadian federal election, we move from the genuinely comforting realization that Stephen Harper is not merely gone but really quite sincerely gone to speculation about what happens now.

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Whose values does this Pope really represent?

I don’t know whether to call it “Pope Power” or “Francis Frenzy,” but whatever it was, I wasn’t impressed.

You’d think that I would be. After all, I like what the guy has to say about capitalism, global warming, and international conflict. Hey, anybody who channels his namesake, Francis of Assisi, and calls money “dung” has at least a few points coming.

But what I can’t get past is that, for all his quasi-neo-liberation theology, His Holiness Francis I is also the latest supreme earthly embodiment of an institution that has at its heart a sacralized, hierarchical, and authoritarian doctrine that spins in a direct line from the Council of Nicea in 325 CE.

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Shucking off the costs of the effects of climate change

As wildfires burn in British Columbia and rage in California, now is a good time to contemplate one of the nastiest results of the collision —  collusion? — of the corporatist’s insatiable love of profit and the neoliberal’s deification of small government.

Both of these stances zero in on the same fundamental target: taxation, in all of its forms. Not just direct taxes, graduated or not, but also those “extra” costs of doing business forced on industry by government regulation. The target is the same, for more than anything else the corporatist hates the loss of potential profit, and more than anything else the neoliberal hates the intrusion of “big government” into the marketplace.

Why is now such a good time to consider the consequences of this unholy alliance of the economic elite and the politicians it has purchased? Just look at the under-reported results.

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Shameless is as shameless does

Good news, Canadians! Our federal government, better known as “The Harper Government,” has sent you some of your own money!

We know that it’s “The Harper Government” (THG) because the federal Employment Minister made the announcement in a snappy, blue Conservative Party of Canada tee shirt. I hear that this shirt will replace the Maple Leaf as Canada’s official symbol if the Conservatives win again in October.


And by the most unexplainable of coincidences, the bonus cheques for a program first announced eight months ago come just weeks before the anticipated start of the federal election campaign. The credit was announced back then, but it wasn’t implemented until now, for some vague reason, so that the redistribution of taxpayer money could come not as an annual credit starting then, but as a “retroactive” cash outlay now. In other words, families are getting next year’s tax break now, as an electoral — I mean “economic” –incentive.

Since I anticipate getting a modest tax refund next April, will THG please send the “retroactive” portion of it to me now? I’d like to make a political contribution, and I could use the money.

Critics are lining up to point out the parts of the cash distribution that THG doesn’t emphasize. Among other things, the new tax rule replaces an existing tax benefit, making its net benefit hundreds of dollars a year less than it appears at first glance. It does little to help the poorest families afford child care so that both parents can keep working to feed the kids. Every family with children gets the same benefit, no matter how little or how much income the parents have. And it’s taxable, so that a good chunk of it will be clawed back next spring.

Just how stupid does THG think we are, anyway?

More Notes from Aboveground

pierre-poilievreGood news, Canadians! Our federal government, better known as “The Harper Government,” has sent you some of your own money!

We know that it’s “The Harper Government” (THG) because the federal Employment Minister made the announcement in a snappy, blue Conservative Party of Canada tee shirt. I hear that this shirt will replace the Maple Leaf as Canada’s official symbol if the Conservatives win again in October.

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“Your poverty is hurting my profits!”

Apparently, Jeb Bush now is urging Americans to work longer hours to help the economy. It seems that working Americans aren’t spending enough, which means that corporations aren’t making enough money. Financial disaster looms!

Talk about blaming the victims! First you gut the earning power of the working classes, then you scold them for not having the full-time, living wage jobs that fuel spending across the economy.

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No flags for me this patriotic week

Confederate battle flags unfurled at state capitals. Ten Commandments monuments in courthouses. Swastika tattoos on the forearms of skinheads.

It’s pretty easy to dislike and descry totems like these, isn’t it?

The first is a sad remnant of not just a lost war but a morally bankrupt way of life, one based on the false presumption of the inherent inequality of different iterations of our single species. The second enforces the desire to impose the majority mythology on the personal, social, and political lives of everyone, believer or not. And the last is nothing else than a declaration of ignorance, hatred, and violence.

This week, with Canada Day on the Tuesday and U. S. Independence Day on Saturday, one question begs to be asked: How about adding the Maple Leaf and the Star Spangled Banner? Do they belong on the same list of evil influences as the others?

Most people will say no, and many will find the very question offensive, if not nonsensical.

Not me.

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Dancing around the truth of Charleston

At the core of the right’s self-serving reactions to the Charleston massacre is one truth that’s so obvious that it must be its blinding clarity that keeps conservatives from seeing it. America’s racism is so deeply engrained in the culture that to many people it has become invisible.

How else to comprehend explanations like Mike Huckabee’s, that a young, male white supremacist’s slaughter of nine black churchgoers is most importantly another secularist attack on Americans’ right to pray? Or the NRA’s loathsome cry for — what else? — more guns, so that those targeted churchgoers could have gone all O.K. Corral on the perp’s ass?

This mass murder — no, it’s not an “incident” or an “event” — highlights how hard it is for some white people to admit the widespread reality of racism. No, it hasn’t gone away. And ignoring it won’t make it go away. Continue reading