Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Time To Be Atwitter?

I couldn't help but think of this story concerning trolls spreading fake news about Black Panther-related violence when I saw this:

Do I detect a pattern developing?

Monday, February 19, 2018

Is Black Panther A Band Aid?

For the past several days, much media attention has been devoted to the film Black Panther, hailed by many as a break-through cinematic achievement featuring an all-Black cast and depicting a fictitious futuristic African nation, Wakanda, which never experienced the scourge of colonialism. That, plus a cast of powerful Black women who form the backbone of the nation. All of this has propelled the movie into stratospheric earnings and a 97% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

All of the above is certainly noteworthy and impressive, and far be it for me to disparage such an accomplishment. I enjoy a solid diverting film as much as the next person, but I cannot help but wonder whether that very diversionary quality is something all should be concerned about. To follow my logic, I ask that you watch two brief news clips, one from an American and one from a Canadian source:

It is nice that high-profile people like Serena Williams and Octavia Spencer are providing the means for young Black people to see the film, and, as made clear in the second clip, little Julian now has a black superhero to look up to and inspire him. Indeed, in Canada a group in Calgary is fundraising to reserve an entire theatre of 350 seats, to take children, tweens and teens to the movie, which has been called historic, on Feb. 24.

The message, to me, is clear: Black people are hungry for role models, those who can inspire them in their own lives. As the one young fellow in the first clip says, "It's our time to shine."

All of which strikes me as both deeply sad and disturbing. Think about it for a moment: a fictional cinematic superhero is the basis upon which people are building their hopes for a more fulfilling life. While not wholly baseless (the employment and empowerment of black actors and a multitude of ancillary businesses), the truth is they are finding self-worth and meaning in something that doesn't exist, a cinematic chimera.

And, I would argue, that particular media hype and slant is making it easier to ignore the underlying issues that make Black lives so difficult, both in Canada and the United States.

Think, for example, of the systemic racism that makes it harder for Black people to find good, sustaining jobs than their white counterparts. Think, as well, of the culture of poverty and the ghettoization that have kept too many from mainstream society for far too long. Think of police checks, carding, etc. etc., all institutional barriers to equality and success.

And yet, the dark subtext of the media coverage of Black Panther seems to be that if young Black people can be inspired by a movie, by God, they will have the capability of picking themselves up by their bootstraps and making something of their lives. In other words, they are ultimately the authors of their own misfortunes.

Victim blaming, anyone?

The media response to movies like Black Panther, it seems to me, simply encourages old stereotypes about Black people and does nothing to address the need for systemic change, equality of opportunity and other measures that would make both the United States and Canada truly countries of opportunity for all.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

On Political Prostitution

As the spectacle of political prostitution plays out in the Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership race (Carbon tax? Absolutely not!) (New efficiencies - not new taxes!) Star letter writer Norah Downey of Midland appears to have taken the full measures of the candidates:
PC party sitting down to eat itself alive, Cohn, Feb. 16

After hearing the Progressive Conservative leadership candidates present their arguments indicating why he or she is best to lead their party into the next election — nicely summed up in Martin Regg Cohn’s column — I have a suggestion for the party.

Along with voting to choose a leader on March 10, party members should vote to change the official name of the party. “Progressive” needs to be dropped. It really is just the “Conservative” party, or perhaps the “Stuck in the Past Conservative” party — because things were so much better in the past when Mike Harris trimmed the fat by slashing welfare payments and freezing minimum wage.

It’s 2018, with challenges such as climate change, precarious employment, people unable to find affordable housing and daycare, a growing dependency on food banks and our youth often misinformed about sex learned from the internet and social media.

We need leaders who are prepared to tackle these problems for the betterment of our society. I fear none of these four dinosaurs are up to the challenge.

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Ugly American

I'll let the oleaginous Republican Senator Ted Cruz stand in for the rest of his ilk:

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Less Than Meets The Eye?

Given its recent rather dubious pursuits of lost tax revenue, I readily admit that I don't know what to make of the latest report that the CRA has actually begun to pursue monies lost to offshore tax havens.

Zach Dubinsky reports the following:
Canada Revenue Agency officers, backed up by police, raided locations in three provinces Wednesday as part of a criminal tax-evasion probe stemming from the Panama Papers, the agency said.

About 30 criminal investigators from the CRA executed three search warrants in the Toronto area, Calgary and West Vancouver, with assistance from the RCMP and the West Vancouver police, the CRA said in a statement online.
My first reaction, upon reading this, was that it was bloody-well about time. However, then I started wondering whether or not this was a move intended more for public consumption than fiscal rectitude in advance of the upcoming federal budget, full of sound and fury and perhaps signifying little.

Consider the evidence.
Last year, CRA assistant commissioner Ted Gallivan told the Star his priority was going after lawyers and accountants who orchestrated offshore tax evasion schemes for “dozens” of clients.

Last month, the Star reported that tax authorities around the world had recovered more than half a billion dollars in tax through their investigations into the Panama Papers.
By contrast, Canada has recovered nothing.

Additionally, in recent months, the CRA has had domestic targets in its sights, targets that in some cases seem like easy, even dishonorable, pickings.

The Guardian from Prince Edward Island reports that citizens, some among our most vulnerable, are feeling the tax man's wrath:
A 25-year-old Stratford woman struggling to pay off her student debt has been hit with a $15,000 tax bill by the Canada Revenue Agency over her tips.

Anita Casey is one of dozens of servers with the Murphy Hospitality Group who received letters three weeks ago saying they were being audited over their tips, retroactive two years.

“It’s pretty crazy that they’re coming after the poor young population who are in school and just trying to support themselves,’’ Casey told The Guardian.
Then there is the CRA operation targeting people's postal codes:
The Canada Revenue Agency's Postal Code Project is targeting the wealthiest neighbourhoods in all regions of the country, those with gold-plated postal codes, where auditors will pore through the tax filings of every well-heeled resident, address by address.

They're looking for undeclared wealth, signs that a taxpayer is actually richer than their income tax filings suggest.

"Comparing someone's lifestyle — cars, boats, houses — to their reported income helps us identify people who are non-compliant," said CRA spokesperson Zoltan Csepregi.
A well-publicized initiative, it has the whiff of class-warfare about it, one that will inevitably prompt some to look upon the wealthy with suspicion and disdain. And perhaps yet another effort at misdirection, given their singular absence of progress on bringing the offshore havens to account?

Our country is renowned for its "snow washing," a testiment to the ease with which money can be hidden and laundered thanks to Canada's laws facilitating shell companies. It will therefore take more than a well-publicized raid to convince me that the Trudeau government and the Canada Revenue Agency are serious about making corporate evaders pay their fair share.

As Fox Mulder would say, "I want to believe." However, I shall wait to see the money before I am convinced that serious changes are underway.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Ain't Love Grand?

A little something for you incurable romantics on this most 'sacred' of days.

H/t Theo Moudakis

Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

A Parochial Post?

While I realize that a post about Ontario politics is likely of little interest to those living elsewhere, I believe what has happened in my province serves as a solid object lesson about the creeping privatization of public assets.

I have written in the past about Premier Kathleen Wynne's betrayal of the province. Upon winning a majority in the last election (after the holder of the balance of power, the NDP's Andrea Horwath, decided to go for the gold and triggered an unnecessary election), Wynne announced the sell-off of 60% of one of the province's crown jewels, Hydro One, despite the fact that it generated just under $1 billion in annual revenue. Her avowed purpose was to "broaden ownership" (how much broader can public ownership be?) and use revenues from the sale to finance transportation and other infrastructure projects.

Now, a report by the Financial Accountability Office (FAO) confirms the folly of that sale:

To sum up, as Rob Ferguson reports,
It would have been $1.8 billion cheaper for Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government to borrow money for transit and infrastructure projects than sell a 53-per-cent stake in Hydro One.
Even more distressing,
...the provincial treasury will lose $1.1 billion in dividends from Hydro One this year and an average of $264 million annually until the 2024-25 fiscal year.
So one has to ask, why didn't Wynne simply borrow the money for these infrastructure projects? My belief is that, despite some progressive policies, hers is essentially a neoliberal regime, committed to the notion that government should play only a supporting role so that the depredations of the corporate agenda can prevail. That, and, as New Democrat MPP Peter Tabuns observed,
“It was all about making the books look good [i.e., a balanced budget] for the election".
What can the rest of Canada learn from this debacle? If nothing else, it teaches all of us to remain vigilant about our public assets, and to keep a steady eye, for example, on the Trudeau government, which is currently studying privatization of our major airports.

In the latter case, my prediction is we will hear nothing more about it until after the next federal election. Should the Liberals secure another majority, be ready for the next round of corporate nest-feathering at the expense of our federal treasures.