Federal Budget 2009: No Room For Women at the Table

by matttbastard

Following several days of strategically-timed leaks to the press, the Stephen Harper Party has finally tabled its stimulus budget, which, according to the Canadian Press, “submerges Canada in a sea of red ink after more than a decade of clear fiscal sailing.”  Indeed, it seems that Jim Flaherty has finally embraced his inner Keynesian, after years of hiding it beneath Milton Friedman’s long shadow:

The Tories are doling out nearly $20-billion – or half the stimulus package – to spur immediate spending on infrastructure projects and home construction.

Nearly $12-billion federal dollars will be made available for “shovel-ready” public works projects across Canada that can be commenced quickly, but there’s a catch. Provinces and municipalities will have to contribute nearly $9-billion more in order to get the roads, bridges and sewer upgrade work started.

Cost-shared projects the Tories are eying include: revitalizing Union Station in Toronto, the Evergreen transit line in Vancouver, road upgrades in Quebec City and the Summerside wind energy project on Prince Edward Island.

[…]

Infrastructure spending alone won’t keep all the building trades in Canada busy though and Ottawa has allocated $7.8-billion for other construction activity – to renovate and upgrade housing.

This includes $3-billion it expects to spend giving out tax breaks for the temporary home renovation credit as well as $1-billion in outlays to fund renovations and retrofits of social housing. Ottawa will also spend $400-million on new home construction for low-income seniors, $400-million on first nations reserve housing and $200-million for building northern residences.

Of course, all that spending (and tax cuts) comes at a cost (er…you know what I mean):

Ottawa is forecast to add $85-billion to the debt between now and 2012-13, eroding much of the debt-reduction achievements of the past decade. Current and former governments have shaved $105-billion from the national debt since the late 1990s by using surpluses to retire obligations owing.

Yet out of all the ‘pragmatic’ concessions made by the Harper conservatives that fly in the face of their purported ideological ‘principles’ (a practice the Harpercons have been perfecting recently) there’s still one policy area where old habits die harder than Bruce Willis, as the NDP (which, along with the Bloc, has already vowed to vote down the budget) points out in a press release (h/t The Regina Mom):

The budget…contains no mention of childcare spaces and maintains the attack on women’s ability to pursue pay equity complaints.

Via Antonia Zerbisias, YWCA Canada has also issued a press release with its response to the latest bird-flip to 51% of the population:

“The government has set up some very inclusive spending with this budget for First Nations, seniors and people with disabilities, but we don’t see an awareness that Canadian women are very vulnerable in hard times,” says YWCA Canada CEO Paulette Senior. “Two-thirds of Canadians working for minimum wage are women, many taking any work they can find to hold family and community together.  Government stimulus spending must take this into account.”

[…]

The hole in this budget is child care services. For Canadian women and their families, child care is missing, and it is vital,” says Senior. “Everything we know about building strong families says child care services are essential. And that goes double for women needing to leave violent situations. They need affordable, quality care for their children so they can go out and work. Childcare not only creates jobs but it supports women and their families. Now is the time.”   The budget announced $200 million for social housing in the north, a much needed investment.

Unlike the November economic update there was no mention of pay equity in the budget.  “We are very sorry to hear a resounding silence from the government on this issue,” says Paulette Senior. “Especially as job stimulus spending is concentrated in employment sectors heavily dominated by men. The government needs to rethink its position on this equality issue and take the advice of its own task force.”

Keep in mind that, according to CUPE National President Paul Moist, “[m]any of these measures have a shelf-life of only two years.”  Anyone who believes that we have witnessed the birth of a new era of post-partisan Conservative governance needs to stop downing so many goddamn Hope and Change cocktails and reset their GPS (hint: we’re still flying north of the US border, kids–even under NAFTA obligations, Obama’s transformative reach unfortunately stops at the customs desk).  Still, it’s all-too-telling that, even in the short term, demonstrative apathy (or, depending how you look at it, antipathy) towards the women of Canada is one principle that the Tories are entirely unwilling to sacrifice at the alter of (temporary) expediency.

And, if anyone really thinks that we’re going to see this budget get killed, as Mark Taylor recommends, or even substantively modified before passage,  Brodie Fenlon of the Globe and Mail puts things into perspective with the following lede:

The fate of the Harper Conservative’s massive stimulus plan and its minority government now rests in the hands of Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, as does the future of the fledgling Liberal-NDP coalition.”

In other words, progressives and coalition supporters shouldn’t even bother inhaling, much less holding it in.  Still, if the spirit of futile optimism moves you to act despite the long odds (as, um, it always does to yours truly), contact info for Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff is as follows:

Ottawa Parliamentary Office

Room 435-S, Centre Block
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Tel: (613) 995 – 9364
Fax: (613) 992 – 5880
Email: Ignatieff.M@parl.gc.ca

Alternatively,  folks who are more new media saavy can send their thoughts via Iggy’s 1337 Web 2.0 hub.

Related: Various reponses from First Nation leader Phil Fontaine, James Laxer, and Marc Lee of the Progressive Economics Forum, who dismisses the “leakiest budget in Canadian history” as “more of a communications strategy than a serious budget for tough times.”

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‘A Place of Jarring Juxtapositions’

by matttbastard

Toronto Star national security reporter Michelle Shephard, who, over the course of her career, has visited the detention facility at sunny Guantanamo Bay, Cuba fifteen times, gives an essential summation today of what she calls “a place of jarring juxtapositions”:

Suicides of the detainees became “asymmetric warfare” and force-feeding prisoners on hunger strikes was “assisted feeding.” Captives did not have “interrogations” but had “reservations.” And signs posted on the road to the camps listed the “Value of the Week” as “Pride” or “Respect” even as Washington debated the definition of torture.

[…]Journalists have been the public’s eyes and ears at the base for the last seven years and the ever-changing rules have at times hampered our efforts to tell the whole story.

Security regulations surrounding photos and videos were perhaps the most confounding.

Last week, censors erased a photographer’s shots of the tents at “Camp Justice” where journalists reside because there were more than three tents in the frame. A television reporter’s clip was deleted because the shot showed her talking with an orange barricade in the background. No one could explain why that was a problem.

Tight shots of razor wire were okay, except if it surrounded the courthouse, even if the courthouse wasn’t shown. I tried to point out that I didn’t think Al Qaeda would be surprised that razor wire was being used as security.

Detainees couldn’t be interviewed or identified in photographs because of the Geneva Conventions, Pentagon spokespeople and military commanders told us.

The international treaties state that prisoners of war must “at all times be protected … against insult and public curiosity.” The PoWs should be afforded “respect for their persons and their honour.”

But the Bush administration created this offshore prison in an effort to sidestep those same Geneva Conventions. U.S. President George W. Bush, who left office last week, famously stated that only the “spirit of” the Geneva Conventions would be respected at Guantanamo.

Our military escorts would correct us if we referred to captives as prisoners because these were not “prisoners of war” but “detainees.”

And if the reason for censoring photos was to protect a captive’s right to privacy and honour, then the Pentagon violated its own rules when it released Guantanamo’s most famous picture. The photo, taken in 2002, showing shackled prisoners in orange jumpsuits kneeling in the hot Cuban sun while dogs and soldiers bark at them, was actually taken by a U.S. sailor.

When international furor erupted, the Pentagon quickly labelled the photos “For Official Use Only” in an attempt to prevent further distribution. But it was too late.

The entire article is a must-read, if only to counter revisionist attempts to distort the legacy of Guantanamo, such as this unfortunately (if tellingly) titled op-ed from Sunday’s Washington Post, ‘When Gitmo Was (Relatively) Good,’ in which writer Karen J. Greenberg tries to construct a ‘One Good German’ counternarrative lauding “small initial efforts at decency” on the part of detention officials.

Purported good intentions aside, Guantanamo was an immediately tainted effort once the decision was made to, according to Greenberg, “act in a manner “consistent with” the conventions (as the mantra went) but not to feel bound by them [emphasis added].”  As soon as the US untied itself from binding international law, specifically and deliberately design a detention facility in order to sidestep regulation and oversight,  the entire enterprise was doomed to debasement, no mater how hard officials initially tried to voluntarily (key word) “go with the Geneva Conventions,” as Staff Sgt. Anthony Gallegos, quoted by Greenberg, put it.

Keep that statement–“not to feel bound by them“–in mind as the new administration ties itself in knots trying to untangle the legal and moral mess left behind by the previous–and, as GOP leaders like John Boehner continue to peddle the Club Gitmo myth,  also remember Shephard’s stark recounting of Guantanamo’s true legacy.

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The Damage Done

by matttbastard

Apparently The Dark Side was only the iceberg’s tip:

“President Obama’s plans to expeditiously determine the fates of about 245 terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and quickly close the military prison there were set back last week when incoming legal and national security officials — barred until the inauguration from examining classified material on the detainees — discovered that there were no comprehensive case files on many of them.

Let’s pause for a moment to let that sink in: “there were no comprehensive case files on many of them.”

Ok, moving on:

Instead, they found that information on individual prisoners is “scattered throughout the executive branch,” a senior administration official said. The executive order Obama signed Thursday orders the prison closed within one year, and a Cabinet-level panel named to review each case separately will have to spend its initial weeks and perhaps months scouring the corners of the federal government in search of relevant material.

Several former Bush administration officials agreed that the files are incomplete and that no single government entity was charged with pulling together all the facts and the range of options for each prisoner. They said that the CIA and other intelligence agencies were reluctant to share information, and that the Bush administration’s focus on detention and interrogation made preparation of viable prosecutions a far lower priority.

Rewind my selekta: “[T]he Bush administration’s focus on detention and interrogation made preparation of viable prosectutions a far lower priorty

A far lower priorty.

Of course, DeYoung and Finn wouldn’t be “objective” if they didn’t (falsely) balance things out with the requisite mealy-mouthed partisan broadsides from–wait for it, kiddies–some unnamed former Bush administration assbaskets who nostalgically break out their by-now-rusty bullshit shovels:

But other former officials took issue with the criticism and suggested that the new team has begun to appreciate the complexity and dangers of the issue and is looking for excuses.

After promising quick solutions, one former senior official said, the Obama administration is now “backpedaling and trying to buy time” by blaming its predecessor. Unless political appointees decide to overrule the recommendations of the career bureaucrats handling the issue under both administrations, he predicted, the new review will reach the same conclusion as the last: that most of the detainees can be neither released nor easily tried in this country.

“All but about 60 who have been approved for release,” assuming countries can be found to accept them, “are either high-level al-Qaeda people responsible for 9/11 or bombings, or were high-level Taliban or al-Qaeda facilitators or money people,” said the former official who, like others, insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters about such matters. He acknowledged that he relied on Pentagon assurances that the files were comprehensive and in order rather than reading them himself.”

Well, isn’t that cute!  He never read the (um, non-existent files) that the Pentagon claimed are comprehensive (and are, um, non-existent),  yet somehow still remains completely confident that all Gitmo detainees (apart from the 60 designated for release–oopsie!) are lawfully detained and cannot ever be released, because, um, well, because — hey, look! A Wookie from the planet Kashyyyk!

It does not. make. sense.

Ok, say what you want about the Nazis, but at least they had the *ahem* decency to keep oh-so-impeccable records on their detainees; would that the former administration have shown similar consideration.

Hilzoy (h/t) lays it out on the table:

It takes, well, a special kind of administration to detain people for years on end without bothering to assemble case files on them. I’m just glad they’re finally gone.

Yes, gone, but their tainted legacy, unfortunately, festers, like black mold spreading contamination throughout the structure of US and international law.

Steve Benen puts these latest revelations in context:

The previous administration a) tortured detainees, making it harder to prosecute dangerous terrorists; b) released bad guys while detaining good guys; and c) neglected to keep comprehensive files on possible terrorists who’ve been in U.S. custody for several years. As if the fiasco at Gitmo weren’t hard enough to clean up.

And in order to completely mitigate the rot that, over the past 8 years, has almost completely eaten away at the rule of law in the US, Sylvia/M believes that the Obama administration must subcontract the restoration of  justice to the Hague:

If Obama really wants to restore our standing in the international community and to reinstate the rule of law here in the United States, now is the time to bind ourselves to the Rome Statute, submit to international justice, and start cleaning up the deeply entrenched messes our previous partisan warhawk regime has wrought.  The damage is growing too deep and too great for our national court systems to fix alone.

At the very least, this latest postscript from The Dark Side further underscores how vital it is for the Obama administration to hold accountable those who, whether deliberately or by virture of willful indifference, chose–chose–to napalm all progress Western Civilization has made since the Magna Carta was signed.

Torching our value system, in order to save it.

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Lilly Ledbetter Act (Finally) Passes US Senate

by matttbastard

Well it’s about damn time:

The Senate approved landmark worker rights legislation on Thursday that will make it easier for those who think they’ve endured pay discrimination to seek legal help. The vote was 61-36.

The House of Representatives approved a similar measure on January 9, three days after the 111th Congress convened. Because the Senate made modest changes in the House version, the House must pass it again. Once it does, as is assured, this will be one of the first bills that President Barack Obama signs into law.

Steve Benen patiently explains why this is a good thing (just in case it wasn’t immediately obvious):

To hear opponents of the bill tell it, making it easier to challenge pay discrimination will lead to more lawsuits. That’s almost certainly true. But therein lies the point — if American workers are facing unjust wage discrimination, there should be more lawsuits. Those are worthwhile lawsuits, challenging an injustice. Ideally, employers would stop discriminating, as most already do, and in turn, there’d be fewer lawsuits.

Liss says that “Lilly Ledbetter has reportedly already been invited by President Obama to appear at the White House for the signing ceremony.” If so, that would be yet another politically astute symbolic gesture on the part of the new executive.  Let’s hope it works out.  Ledbetter has more than  earned a place at the President’s side.

Oh, and to the 36 Republicans who voted against this bill and in favour of discrimination against 51% of the US population, a message of post-partisan comity and respect for ideological difference, on behalf of the women of America:

natodutch

Now that gives me hope for the future.

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Like I.F. Stone, Only, um, Not.

by matttbastard

If there’s one thing the corporate media marketplace needs, it’s more lazy, arm-chair psychoanalytic trolling masquerading as muckraking (snicker) via the conflict-starved (and unrelentingly trivial) beltway press corps, especially from our friends at the new Capitol Hill Blue, aka Politico:

President Obama made a surprise visit to the White House press corps Thursday night, but got agitated when he was faced with a substantive question.

Asked how he could reconcile a strict ban on lobbyists in his administration with a Deputy Defense Secretary nominee who lobbied for Raytheon, Obama interrupted with a knowing smile on his face.

“Ahh, see,” he said, “I came down here to visit. See this is what happens. I can’t end up visiting with you guys and shaking hands if I’m going to get grilled every time I come down here.”

Pressed further by the Politico reporter about his Pentagon nominee, William J. Lynn III, Obama turned more serious, putting his hand on the reporter’s shoulder and staring him in the eye.

“Alright, come on” he said, with obvious irritation in his voice. “We will be having a press conference at which time you can feel free to [ask] questions. Right now, I just wanted to say hello and introduce myself to you guys – that’s all I was trying to do.”

The president was quickly saved by a cameraman in the room who called out: “I’d like to say it one more time: ‘Mr. President.’

Yes, thank heavens the Angry Black President was “saved” by another member of his loyal base!!!1 the SCLM (said cameraman has “obviously” been gulping gallons of the Hope and Change Kool-Aid).  Why, he might have been driven to tears by the Murrow-like dedication to the craft of journamalism [sic] on display.  Or, conversely, pulled out his gat and popped a cap in Jonathan Martin’s punk ass–just ask Jeff Zeleny (who is lucky to be alive!) about the smoldering wrath of Barack Hoo-saayn Obama.

Seriously–check out the full 05:17 clip of Obama’s meet ‘n’ greet, and judge for yourself, since Politco, for *ahem* whatever reason, instead chose (until 12:40 PM EST, at least) to embed a 30-second clip entirely unrelated to their breathless lede:

Oh my–03:21 is when the action goes down. Just look at the Negro-in-Chief as he barely restrains himself from goin’ South Side on poor Martin, the Only Real Journalist in the room (he said with a knowing smile and a flash of “obvious” irritation.)

As Wonkette’s Jim Newell puts it in a devestating post (unfortunately marred by a residually Gawker-like self-aware-and-“ironically”-sexist headline and the gratuitous use of a term highly derogatory to people with disabilities–yes, yes, I’m a humourless PC killjoy. Bite me):

Do Jonathan Martin and Carrie Budoff Brown, the co-authors of this whiny, vapid bullshit, think that anyone else cares how hard they have to work to get information? Why do we even link to this vulgar asshole of a publication anymore, now that the election’s over? We’re keeping people like Roger Simon and Mike Allen and Jonathan Martin employed by doing this! Enough.

Yes.  Enough.

Bonus: For shits and giggles, check out the hilariously aggreived comments from feets-stampin’, librul-meeedia-hatin’ conservatives, demonstratively corresponding from the wilderness.  Us progressi-commies should take up a collection to start up an inflatable donut cushion fund for our distinguished friends on the right side of the intertoobz (oh, and make sure to throw one in for Martin, too).

"gurgle, gurgle, puke, puke, vomit, vomit, barf, barf." Wingnut wisdom at its finest.

Must be highly uncomfortable being perpetually butt-hurt.

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Dear Politico

Is it really a ‘slam’ if the new administration (new administration!) has simply offered an honest account of how the previous administration (previous administration!) conducted itself during Katrina?

Ok, given your status as “ground zero for inside-the-beltway conventional wisdom,” as Howard Weaver put it, I suppose a superficial, conflict-pimping relay of the new approach towards NOLA being proposed by the Obama team is to be expected (to say nothing of the subsequent frothing gumbo of fauxtrage bubbling in the lunatic wing of the blogosphere).  Still, one would hope that one of the greatest disasters  in the history of the union to ever hit the US would warrant a more responsible treatment from the Fourth Estate, regardless of how much time has passed.

Yeah, I know — the pony is already in the mail.

With that said, I must admit that this kind of strained attempt to gin up a transition mini-scandal is a welcome change from the Whitewater 2.0 bollocks y’all tried hitching to the already-antiquated Blagobamarahmbogate nontroversy. If there’s one thing Washington definitely needs, it’s yet another beltway media outlet trying to carve a market niche as a (slightly) less-specious Capitol Hill Blue. Please, keep up the, um, good work.

wishing you hope in this era of commodified ‘change’,

matttbastard

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44.

by matttbastard

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them – that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works – whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account – to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day – because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Electronic Village: Barack Obama: Inauguration Speech (Full Text)

Related: Carmen Van Kerckove–Why we must talk about race now, more than ever before:

There are hundreds of years of oppression to undo, thousands of laws and unspoken hiring biases to uncover and bring into the light. Fifty years is just the beginning of a protracted struggle to level the playing field.

While no one can deny that progress is being made (pat yourselves on the back for that!), until people of all backgrounds are allowed the opportunity to make a decent living, to buy a home, to send children to college, to receive adequate health care, and to live as equals among all others, we must continue to challenge the powers-that-be which still block equal opportunity.

Also, Obama admin takes over Whitehouse.gov (h/t Jay Rosen via tweet)

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Al Jazeera English: Israeli electioneering gathers pace

by matttbastard

Related: JPost: Likud, Kadima escalate mutual attacks:

The Likud and Kadima parties intensified their attacks against each other on Sunday after the cease-fire took effect in the Gaza Strip, formally ending Operation Cast Lead and restarting the election campaign.

The first polls taken after the cease-fire took effect indicated that the Right in general and the Likud in particular had been helped by the war.

A Channel 2/Ma’agar Mohot poll predicted that the Right-Center bloc would win 65 seats and the Left-Center bloc 55. A Channel 10/Dialog poll put the divide at 64-56. The first poll predicted a 31-23 Likud victory over Kadima, while the latter said Likud would win 29-26.

The Channel 2 poll found that 36 percent of Israelis wanted Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu to become prime minister, 21% preferred Kadima leader Tzipi Livni and 14% Labor chairman Ehud Barak.

In an effort to build on its lead, the Likud announced Sunday night that it would begin a new campaign under the slogan, “Netanyahu: Strong on security, strong on the economy.” The party will make a decision in upcoming days about whether to also renew its negative campaign with the slogan “Tzipi Livni: Out of her league.”

[…]

On a visit to Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba, Netanyahu was careful to offer veiled criticism of the cease-fire while extolling the virtues of the IDF.

“We have a strong people and a strong military that dealt a harsh blow to the Hamas, but unfortunately the work is still not done,” Netanyahu said. “The Hamas still controls Gaza and will still try to smuggle weapons into Gaza via the Philadelphi Corridor. We cannot show weakness against Hamas and its Iranian supporters. We need a strong, unwavering, persistent hand until the threat is eliminated.”

Elsewhere: Eyal Press, blogging at Ta-Nehisi Coates’ pad, on the “generational rift” in the US that was exposed by the War in Gaza between “the likes of Alan Dershowitz and William Kristol” and “a growing circle of young Jewish bloggers: Spencer Ackerman, Ezra Klein, Matthew Yglesias, Dana Goldstein.”

Also see Beijing York and (she’s back!) Godammitkitty on Gaza, Israel and the subjectivity of ‘terrorism’ and Faiz Shakir of Think Progress, who details how Israel is readying the post-war propaganda battle for international public opinion.

Flashback: Haaretz:

The Foreign Ministry has created a special task force to prepare for the aftermath of the Israel Defense Forces’ Gaza operation. The team will submit proposals for two of the army’s main concerns – Iran and Hamas taking control of Gaza’s postwar reconstruction, and the harm the offensive might cause to Israel’s image abroad.

One of the task force’s missions is to draft recommendations for the Strip’s rehabilitation. The ministry hopes to avoid a situation similar to the one in southern Lebanon after the 2006 Second Lebanon War. There, Iran sent hundreds of millions of dollars to Hezbollah to transfer to families whose homes had been destroyed, burnishing the militant group’s reputation among the population.

The goal is to allow the Palestinian Authority, as well as Arab and international entities, to lead reconstruction efforts and funding, taking credit for Gaza’s rehabilitation in place of Hamas or Iran.

The task force will also be charged with repairing damage to Israel’s image abroad as a result of the Gaza operation. The working assumption is that Israel has suffered a blow to its image in the West in the wake of heavy civilian casualties in the Strip.

Israeli officials believe after the fighting stops and foreign journalists are allowed entry into the territory that negative sentiment toward Israel will only grow as the full picture of destruction emerges.

h/t Alison @ BnR

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