Saturday, November 28, 2009

It's not a strike, it's a LOCKOUT

When a company tells it's unionized employees that it plans to unilaterally disregard the negotiation process and when they show up to work the next day they will be working under new imposed non-negotiated terms and the employees refuse to do so that is not a strike. It's a lock out.

The engineers have been working without a contract for close to 11 months. Their union says a strike could have been postponed had the railway agreed to negotiate and not impose a 1.5 per cent wage increase, along with higher mileage caps.

"Well, it’s truly unfortunate, but the situation started on Monday when Canadian National arbitrarily imposed changes to our collective agreement that imposed more hours on our members," Teamsters Canada Rail Conference president Daniel Shewchuk said Saturday.

"And then reluctantly we had to serve strike notice after that to protect our members from further changes to the collective agreement," he said.

But of course there's been lots of comment about how the union is being unreasonable and radical.

Tell me, as an employee can you dictate terms to your employer? Can a union say 'As of Monday these are the terms we work under. This is what we get paid and this is the hours we work.'? No, of course not.

Why is it that the reverse is acceptable?

CN has been following a policy of demanding ever faster work from ever less employees. Safety and good employee relations has taken a back seat to speed and 'efficiency'.

The results have been as predictable as they have been gruesome.
Deregulation and safety cutbacks make a major disaster on Canada's railways virtually inevitable says The Canada Safety Council. They advocate returning Transport Canada's authority over safety standards - since 1999 the industry has been under 'self managed safety'.
The council's Emile Therien told CTV News that one possible result could be the "major evacuation of a major urban area ... and all the attendant cost that goes along with that."
This has personal resonance for me as I have a family cabin literally about 40 yards from the site of the CN Wabamun disaster in the summer of 2005. 40 yards uphill from it fortunately, or I probably wouldn't have a cabin anymore. As it is, tons of tarry Bunker C oil poured into the beautiful lake that my family has considered our second home since the 1930's.

We had to force CN to take the accident seriously and start cleaning the damage - once they had cleared the tracks enough to resume train passage they showed no urgency about dealing with the rivers of oil sludge flowing from the shattered tank cars into the lake. I was locked out and on the picket line in front of my Telus office when I got a phone call from my mother, who had been the first person on the scene dialling 911 on her cell after the accident nearly tossed her out of bed in the pre-dawn hours.
My direct experience of the behavior of the management of this corporation is one of lying contempt, arrogant entitlement and the unquestioned assumption that they can get their own way.

It is my hope that the Teamsters prove them wrong about that.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Keep the Faith, you betcha!

God bless Marg Delahunty/Mary Walsh!

She got Sarah Palin's expression of support on camera for Canadian's just letting Canada's Conservatives get down to business and 'reform' healthcare in Canada by dismantling our public system and giving it to private business to run.

"We're in a bookstore, at a public event, in a place one would think was a bastion of free speech. And no one was allowed to ask questions. What are they afraid of?"

That would be you Mary.

UPDATE 2: Yes, that's right, 90%.

The Mean-Spirited ugliness at the heart of the Conservative Party

OTTAWA–Comments by Conservative MPs deriding homeless people and describing abortion as a procedure that makes women more available to men demonstrate the party's true colours, opposition critics say.

Nova Scotia Conservative MP Gerald Keddy has apologized for describing unemployed Nova Scotians as "those no-good bastards sitting on the sidewalk in Halifax that can't get work."

There has been no such apology from Saskatchewan MP Maurice Vellacott for his unflattering depiction of women seeking abortions, which also applauded Saskatoon doctors for restricting access to abortion services.

"Pro-life feminists have ... come to see abortion as part of a male agenda to have women more sexually available," said the controversial MP in an anti-abortion news release sent out Nov. 20.

Vellacott just this week had to apologize for a flyer wrongly accusing Nova Scotia NDP MP Peter Stoffer of supporting the long-gun registry.

Nova Scotia Liberal MP Scott Brison said Keddy's remarks reflect the kind of mean-spirited attitude that Canadians have come to expect from the Conservative government.

"This is from a Conservative party under Stephen Harper that has referred to Atlantic Canadians as being defeatist," he told reporters.

"This Conservative party has a deep vein of meanness to it. It's a party that kicks people when they are down," he said.

It's not like comments like these are anomalous either. If we actually tried to sit down and catalogue every example of Conservative backbenchers or Ministers saying something hateful and bigoted about natives, gays, immigrants uppity women or anyone who doesn't share their views - we'll still be doing it a month from now.

This is who they are. This is what they are about. As a party, what holds the Conservatives together is scapegoating, contempt and bile.

This is the stuff that comes out while they are being gagged by a leader obsessed with message discipline. This is the stuff they say while they're in a minority and are soft-peddling the social conservatism and trying to accentuate their fiscal and policy positions.

I live in Alberta, anybody who has been around Conservative-Reform-Alliance members and politicians when they are unguarded and believe they are in the presence of like minded believers, knows these kind of comments are only the very tip of a very ugly iceberg.

If they ever got a majority the mask would slip even more, the social conservative block, chafing under the degree of message and policy discipline Harper has demanded would insist on being let off the chain. This kind of seething hatred and contempt would become official policy.

It would become legislation.

Be very clear: If you belong to a religion they disapprove of, if you have sex they think is icky, if you're a woman who thinks you ought to have the final say abut what happens to your body, if you believe we have a responsibility to make painful decisions about greenhouse gasses, if you are poor, if you don't plan to ever vote for them - they hate you.

They fucking hate you.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Give it to a Yank you love


Teabaggers in Chicago mock, laugh and shout down weeping, grieving woman talking about how lack of health insurance resulted in the death of her daughter and grandaughter:

"You can laugh at me, that's okay," she said, crying. "But I lost two people, and I know you think that's funny, that's okay."

Ceding the Left

"One major question mark in all this will be the Liberal leadership contest,already under way in sub rosa fashion. Will a leader emerge who is willing to take a chance and be ready to embrace, indeed take a lead in forming, a different kind of political constellation? Or will there be a push by that faction of the party that believes a return to right-of-centre politics will offset the present Conservative advantage.
To this death wish, I am reminded of the comment of Keith Davey, renowned Liberal party organizer, who said that Canadians given a choice will always vote for a real Tory, not a pseudo-Tory in Liberal clothing. "
-Lloyd Axworthy

"By refusing the historic coalition that would have placed it at the helm of the left, it (The Liberal Party) will be punished by history"
-Janine Krieber, spouse of Stephane Dion

Keep telling yourselves that right leaning Canadians are just looking for a reason to vote Liberal and dismissing the concerns of Progressives, Liberals. It really seems to be working well for you.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

1600th Post

Damn. I knew there had been a lot, but... damn.

I may need to get out more.

Sunday Linkblast - Nov 22

Saturday, November 21, 2009

"All of this has happened before..."

"...and all of it will happen again."
In October 2002, on becoming concerned that torture and extra-judicial killings were taking place in Uzbekistan, Craig Murray made a controversial speech at a human rights conference in Tashkent, in which he claimed that "Uzbekistan is not a functioning democracy" and saying of the boiling to death of two men, "all of us know that this is not an isolated incident." The speech was cleared by the Foreign Office, but not before a dispute over its content. Later, Kofi Annan confronted Uzbekistan president Islam Karimov with Murray's claims.
The result of this principled stand revealing western participation in torture and abuse?
Murray was dismissed from his position as ambassador in 2004, following his first public allegations that the British government relied on torture in Uzbekistan for intelligence.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Unintentional admission?

Defence Minister Peter MacKay said the Conservatives will not try to remove Richard Colvin from his post in Washington, even though they question the credibility of his testimony on Afghan prisoners.

MacKay, speaking at a news conference at the opening of the Halifax International Security Forum on Friday, was asked how the Tories could keep Colvin in his role as a senior intelligence official at the Canadian Embassy in Washington if they have issues with his evidence.

“Decisions about promotions and placement of civil servants is not a partisan exercise,” MacKay told reporters. ”Those are decisions that are taken internally. I think there would be outrage if the government simply started hiring and firing based on politics.”
So does that mean he's admitting that the Conservatives full court press to impugn the honesty and credibility of Mr Colvin is in fact a 'partisan exercise based on politics'?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I just called to say...

Punk Rawk the way God intended: hostile, juvenile and loud. Keep staring at your shoes and whining about how girls don't understand you Emoschmucks.


Does The Globe and Mail's Christie Blatchford ever write about anything but brave and innocent white skinned people being horrifically abused by vicious and underhanded dark skinned people?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Get down off the cross Deniers, we need the wood

Global warming deniers, massively financed by industry and feted by right wing pressure groups and politicians though they are, are eager to claim the role of martyrs, shrieking endlessly that the contrary view on anthropogenic global warming is 'suppressed'.

Ask for examples though, and the list is short and deeply suspect.

If you want to know what real censorship looks like, let me show you what has been happening on the other side of the fence. Scientists whose research demonstrates that climate change is taking place have been repeatedly threatened and silenced and their findings edited or suppressed.

The Union of Concerned Scientists found that 58% of the 279 climate scientists working at federal agencies in the US who responded to its survey reported that they had experienced one of the following constraints: 1. Pressure to eliminate the words "climate change", "global warming", or other similar terms from their communications; 2. Editing of scientific reports by their superiors that "changed the meaning of scientific findings"; 3. Statements by officials at their agencies that misrepresented their findings; 4. The disappearance or unusual delay of websites, reports, or other science-based materials relating to climate; 5. New or unusual administrative requirements that impair climate-related work; 6. Situations in which scientists have actively objected to, resigned from, or removed themselves from a project because of pressure to change scientific findings. They reported 435 incidents of political interference over the past five years.

In 2003, the White House gutted the climate-change section of a report by the Environmental Protection Agency. It deleted references to studies showing that global warming is caused by manmade emissions. It added a reference to a study, partly funded by the American Petroleum Institute, that suggested that temperatures are not rising. Eventually the agency decided to drop the section altogether.

After Thomas Knutson at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) published a paper in 2004 linking rising emissions with more intense tropical cyclones, he was blocked by his superiors from speaking to the media. He agreed to one request to appear on MSNBC, but a public affairs officer at NOAA rang the station and said that Knutson was "too tired" to conduct the interview. The official explained to him that the "White House said no". All media inquiries were to be routed instead to a scientist who believed there was no connection between global warming and hurricanes.

Last year Nasa's top climate scientist, James Hansen, reported that his bosses were trying to censor his lectures, papers and web postings. He was told by Nasa's PR officials that there would be "dire consequences" if he continued to call for rapid reductions in greenhouse gases.

Last month, the Alaskan branch of the US fish and wildlife service told its scientists that anyone travelling to the Arctic must understand "the administration's position on climate change, polar bears, and sea ice and will not be speaking on or responding to these issues".

At hearings in the US Congress three weeks ago, Philip Cooney, a former White House aide who had previously worked at the American Petroleum Institute, admitted he had made hundreds of changes to government reports about climate change on behalf of the Bush administration. Though not a scientist, he had struck out evidence that glaciers were retreating and inserted phrases suggesting that there was serious scientific doubt about global warming.

UPDATE: With friends like these... The Orwellian named Calgary based 'Friends of Science' deny they are financed by the oil and gas industry in their deceptive attempts to muddy the waters on global warming, but of course they refuse to reveal who actually is funding them. They encourage you not to draw any obvious conclusions though.

Friday, November 13, 2009

File-sharing winners and losers

Yes the profits of music companies are dropping, but at the same time the revenue share for the actual artists is increasing.

It’s interesting too that, overall, industry revenues have grown in the period - though admittedly not by much - which arguably adds strength to the notion that, when the BPI releases its annual report claiming how much ‘the music industry’ has suffered from the growth in illegal file-sharing, what it perhaps should be saying is how much the record labels have suffered.

For other people in the industry, not least artists, the future arguably holds more promise.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Stelmach: Unemployed need to 'change their attitude'

It's not because of an economic collapse brought on and made worse by mindless right wing policies of deregulation and insufficient stimulus spending, according to Special Ed, the thousands who've lost their jobs since the economic collapse just need to improve their attitude.

The president of Alberta’s largest labour union is blasting Premier Ed Stelmach’s suggestion that some victims of the recession need to change their attitudes.

During a lunch time address to the St. Albert Chamber of Commerce today, Stelmach said Alberta is poised to rebound from the economic turmoil and will benefit from a deep labour pool, but only for those with the right outlook.

“The A and B Crews are working and the C Crew is at home until they change their attitude,” he said, during prepared remarks.

“This is the new reality in a time of recession.”

But Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan said workers who found themselves unemployed through no fault of their own deserve a better fate than to have their attitudes questioned by their leader.

“This is a disturbing comment coming from the premier in a time of recession — he seems to be blaming the unemployed for being unemployed,” he said.

Hopefully working Albertans remember this scornful contempt next election.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Gone to Kentucky to badmouth Canada

Nadeem Esmail, the Fraser Institute's healthcare hack in residence is taking his dog and pony show on the road to the deep south. He knows his insurance industry paid for polemics against Canada's public health system will be alternately picked apart and hooted out of the room here in Canada, but the American tea partiers will eat them up with a spoon.

National health care reform will be the focus of a daylong conference in Lexington on Friday.

The third annual Conference for Healthcare Transparency and Patient Advocacy will be held at Lexington's Four Points Sheraton, 1938 Stanton Way, starting at 8:45 a.m.


Nadeem Esmail, an analyst with the Fraser Institute in Alberta, Canada, will talk about his work, which he says shows that Canada's system delivers care inefficiently.

He says, for example, that the average Canadian waits 34 weeks for joint-replacement surgery. Esmail says that's because Canada's government program lacks private competition, and that the free care it offers causes demand to outstrip supply.

"Canada's system doesn't guarantee access to care; it guarantees access to a waiting list," Esmail said. Other universal-access programs, such as those in France, Germany and Switzerland do a better job, he said.

Dr. Garrett Adams of Louisville, representing Physicians for a National Healthcare Program, said he'll paint a more positive picture of Canada's system.

So fortunately someone will be there to counter the spin and Esmail won't have his preferred unchallenged venue to spread the half truths and outright lies that are the Fraser Institute's bread and butter.

The Fraser Institute has all but given up selling Canadians on their long campaign to kill public healthcare. Now their primary role on behalf of their various big money backers is to represent the right wing anti-public good message on any public endeavor to Americans unfamiliar with their noxious history and unambiguous bias.

Esmail won't be telling his Kentucky audience how limited the credibility of Der Institute is in Canada or that the overwhelming majority of Canadians - even in Alberta the most right wing province in Canada - staunchly support the Canadian public system and fiercely resist any attempts to move it towards the American model. He certainly won't be promoting the fact that it costs less per capita and as a percentage of GDP than the American model, and don't expect even a paragraph on superior results like lower infant mortality, longer lifespans, a healthier public overall and a more competitive economy.

Nope, he'll just focus on wait times - without ever once mentioning that they are overblown, dropping rapidly in recent years and to the extent they exist, the wholly predictable result of cutbacks promoted by the Fraser Institute themselves.

The Fraser Institute is an industry funded PR firm disguised as an independent think tank and Esmail is just there to earn his paycheck badmouthing Canadian healthcare for his clients.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Sunday Linkblast - Nov 8

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Using Healthcare in Alberta

Some of you have noticed my extended absence - it was only partly being sad over the death of our cat - mostly its been some pretty severe health issues.

My lady D, came down with a bad case of flu in the week before Halloween. By Wednesday most of the symptoms had faded but she couldn't get enough air, she was weak and getting weaker and most worryingly her lips and finger tips started to acquire a blueish tinge.

We went to the downtown walk-in clinic, the Sheldon Chumir, who diagnosed her with double pneumonia with a possible H1N1 chaser, put her on oxygen and antibiotics immediately and then transferred her via ambulance to the Rockyview hospital. Her blood ox was 86% - its supposed to be in the high 90's.

She spent a night in isolation in Emergency and then was admitted to a room where we spent the rest of the weekend. She fairly quickly started to get better with tubes bringing her blood oxygen up and antibiotics and Tamiflu clearing out her lungs.

On Sunday, after a weekend of truly excellent care she had recovered enough to be allowed to go home.

Oh, and I got the normal seasonal flu jab about a week before D got sick and never even got the sniffles while breathing her air or the air in the isolation ward, so yay flu shot!

We were dealing with a system under strain from a major flu outbreak, a system mistreated, underfunded and attacked by a provincial government ideologically opposed to the idea of the public good. We talked to nurses and other staff who were deeply frustrated by Alberta Health's recent attempts to gag any and all criticism from front line staff.

Despite all these pressures D got care that was professional, timely, efficient and successful, including warm and friendly interaction from staff despite the fact they were clearly being worked off their feet. Even under severe strain the Canadian public healthcare system worked for us extremely well. It did so while controlling costs in a way no American hospital could have done and providing care to anybody and everybody who needed it.

Meanwhile the usual suspects were busily undermining the system that was treating us so well. Que jumping in the line for H1N1 vaccine was occurring. Hockey teams like The Flames got the press but even more egregious were the private fee clinics that allowed those who could afford their brand of cash and carry healthcare to get vaccinated ahead of those who arguably would need it more.

It is impossible to express how utterly this is a betrayal of the founding principles of public healthcare in Canada.

There were muted criticisms, promises of inquiries a few token firings, but ultimately this kind of unfair, privileged access to basic healthcare is exactly the point of of the incremental attacks Canada's public system has been subjected to for many years now.

Que jumping isn't a bug of cash and carry two-tier healthcare, it's a feature.

And this past weekend, my lady and I had a first hand experience of the system those pushing for more privatization are betraying. It's very definitely worth protecting.

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