Monday, December 24, 2012

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your Monday reading.

- Michael Harris asks why Stephen Harper is afraid to look Theresa Spence in the eye:
(Harper) believes that the government’s lying about all these things is far less important than the fact that it is the government. Incumbency is a magic potion. Under its influence, people are supposed to swoon. All too often, they do. That’s the way oligarchs think. Richard Nixon put it in a nutshell when he famously said that if the president did it, then it wasn’t a crime.

Stephen Harper has arrived at the exalted position of Tricky Dick. He thinks that the necessity to tell the truth binds other people, not him. He doesn’t adjust to facts, he manufactures them, and when that doesn’t work, he defies them. The F-35 doesn’t just prove his gross incompetence in the expenditure of mountains of tax dollars — it also shows the arrogant belief that he doesn’t have to explain himself to people he believes would be baffled by an elevated game of checkers.
The PM’s view is that you win some, you lose some. Actually, he’s lost quite a few and will probably lose more in 2013 because of the alleged unconstitutionality of much of his justice legislation as contained in poorly-debated omnibus bills. And that is a universe the prime minister is comfortable in — the winner-take-all world of expensive court rulings and a grinding process — life as an elitist joust where he with the longest lance usually prevails.

Which is why Stephen Harper can’t understand Chief Theresa Spence. She is trying to get things done in the old way, using a habit of liberty not well understood by oligarchs or by people who are demoralized by the state of Canadian politics. She is asking for a face-to-face meeting with the man who is supposed to be working for her, for the people, not just his chosen people. She is asking for something Stephen Harper is not much good at giving — personal answers.

Chief Spence’s request might be the fatigue of a front-line respondent to the worst poverty in the country. It might be dismay at how Harper’s promise to forge a new relationship with Canada’s aboriginals has utterly failed to materialize. It might be the Harper government’s statutory war on the environment without bothering to get aboriginal approval for profound legislative change. It might be cuts to native health care or the abominable state of reserve education. Whatever it is, it has put Stephen Harper in an unfamiliar place — on the defensive.
- But then, Boris notes that if Harper manages to make matters worse by refusing to meet with Spence, he may only use the resulting popular outcry to consolidate his own power. And the fact that Idle No More is receiving plenty of attention on the world stage might not dissuade him from seeing that as an entirely acceptable outcome.

- Jeremy Nuttall takes a look behind the shadowy mining corporation responsible for deliberately establishing a long-term workforce of "temporary" workers:

"Extensive research by United Steelworkers employing sources in China indicates that while Huiyong does hold investments in mines in Shanxi province and the vice general manager of Huiyong, Ma Zhifu, is also the president of the board of a Shanxi mine, there is no publicly-available evidence that the company actually operates any mines," reads the report.

"The company itself seems to consist of little more than an email address, phone number and street address located in a modest building in a Beijing suburb. It has no obvious website -- none in Chinese, none in English."
Recently The Tyee phoned Huiyong Holding's headquarters in Beijing looking for information about the firm, but was told by a receptionist only the company's head could answer such queries.

The receptionist refused to help The Tyee contact the company head or give the person's name.
- Finally, Cameron Dearlove points out how social determinants of health can be applied in an individual's life. But to me, the most important takeaway from the list is that the determinants themselves aren't of much use unless they're applied on a social level: indeed, a belief that it's enough to personally avoid poverty, low-paying jobs or poor housing may be part of the reason why so many people accept similar problems for others.

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