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Thomas Walkom on CETA

Politics and its Discontents - 38 min 18 sec ago

While it is disappointing to see that Wallonia has dropped its opposition to the CETA deal, thus paving the way for signing and ultimate ratification, all may not be lost, at least for the Europeans, according to Thomas Walkom. Morever, this imbroglio has brought forth some interesting facts, facts that again raise questions about Canada's underlying motivation in so aggressively pursuing the deal.
... the deal as written contains a fundamental imbalance. European firms would be able to challenge, at special investment courts, Canadian laws and regulations that interfere with profit-making.

But Canadian firms would have the same rights only in those EU countries that specifically allow such challenges. That’s because the EU treats the proposed Investment Court System as a matter of national, rather than Pan-European, concern.

In Canada, on the other hand, investment courts need only the imprimatur of the federal government to come into effect.Think about that for a moment. The EU has structural protections built in to permit or exclude such challenges, while our own federal government raises not one objection to them. Indeed, you may recall how International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeladn has described CETA as "gold-plated," after tinkering around the edges of the investor state dispute settlement process, tinkering that was, for all intents and purposes, cosmetic.

Walkom cites Osgoode Hall law professor and trade expert Gus Van Harten, who says,
Ottawa may want to put the investment court portion of the deal on ice until the EU nations decide which of them will agree to it.

The Guardian reports that as part of its deal with Wallonia, Belgium has agreed to ask the European Court of Justice whether the investment court dispute settlement proposal is even legal.However, investor rights are only the most egregious part of a very flawed deal:
A 2010 study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives estimated that removing tariffs on European cars and trucks would cost the Canadian auto industry between 28,000 and 150,000 jobs.

According to one 2013 estimate, drug patent rules envisioned by the treaty would end up costing both individual consumers and provincial governments up to $1.6 billion each year, making it even more difficult to set up a national pharmacare plan.

Canadian dairy farmers would be hurt as would fish processors. Canadian beef and pork producers would probably benefit from exporting more to Europe — although the scale of this has been called into question.So what does the deal come down to for Canadians?
The main economic benefit of CETA may be that it would allow Canadians to buy European luxury goods at marginally cheaper prices.

Otherwise, this never was a compelling deal. Even without CETA, the EU is already Canada’s second-largest trading partner.Ordinary Canadians have every right to demand an explanation for why Canada is so content with protecting the investor rights that will so hamper our sovereignty, as has been our experience with NAFTA.

Government rhetoric and neoliberal enthusiasms notwithstanding, we all deserve much, much better from the people we elected to protect and advance our interests.

Recommend this Post

New column day

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 10/27/2016 - 19:07
Here, comparing the Conservative Party's leadership race based on fear and division to the NDP's which looks set to bring a progressive coalition together.

For further reading...
- Bob Hepburn also notes that fear and hatred are the main themes emerging from the Cons' candidates so far. And while it's fair enough for Andrew Coyne to point out that there's room for the race to go in other directions, there's little evidence to suggest that will happen.
- Meanwhile, Ryan Maloney outlines the NDP's developing leadership contest in the wake of Peter Julian's announcement that he's stepping down as House leader to explore a campaign, while CBC's Pollcast discusses what's to come. Mohamed Omar points out Charlie Angus' work critiquing the Libs' failure to live up to their promises to First Nations. The NDP highlights Niki Ashton's national campaign to give precarious workers a voice here. Guy Caron's Huffington Post series on tax evasion can be found here. And Martin Regg Cohn discusses the prospective campaign of Jagmeet Singh.

It's Got Everything, Even a Sarah Palin Cameo

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 10/27/2016 - 14:39

If you liked "The Producers", you'll love this:

The Republican Civil War. It's Already Underway.

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 10/27/2016 - 11:47

Donald Trump has stopped fundraising for the Republican Party that he feels has openly betrayed him.

The Republican leadership is turning on the outsider candidate who captured their party, inflicted immeasurable damage to the brand, and is failing to defeat a Democratic rival the public neither likes nor trusts.

Trump loyalists, particularly Giuliani and Gingrich, are turning on the Republican leadership and the rightwing press, feverishly trying to deflect blame in advance of the trainwreck that is looming.

From Sydney Morning Herald columnist, Paul McGeough:

There's blood in the water. Traditionally, a losing party might go to the mattresses after an election, but just days before an election that was its to win, the Republican Party is already tearing itself apart.

Privately, Donald Trump is demanding that House Speaker Paul Ryan, the most senior elected Republican in the country, be forced to pay for his disloyalty, and on Tuesday Trump made clear he'll not take any blame for defeat – "the people are very angry with the leadership of this party, because this is an election that we [could] win if we had support from the top," he told Reuters.

Riven and demoralised, the party is splintering into two camps – an establishment-led faction that will disown Trump as it attempts to make peace with the minorities abandoned in his pitch to a shrinking white America; and the Trump and Tea Party diehards who cling to the candidate's ethno-nationalist xenophobia.

The GOP's post election dilemma is nerve-racking – a whole leadership generation will have been discredited for not pushing back hard enough as Trump emerged as the likely nominee – and in that, they created their own combustible Catch-22.

...Here's how New York Times columnist Ross Douthat parses it: "The party's leaders were afraid Trump would rage against them if they denied him the nomination; instead, he is raging against them for refusing to go to the mat for his caught-on-tape misogyny and pornographic boasts.

...Ryan is among a GOP who's-who of likely presidential candidates for the 2020 election.

But Trump, always a modest man, seemed to argue to a rally in Florida this week that that only he can defeat Clinton – "all these characters, they want to run in four years. They can forget it. They're wasting their time. You don't have even a little bit of a chance."

...If Trump is guided by a self-congratulatory claim he made in old audio-recorded interviews that surfaced this week – "I never had a failure, because I always turned a failure into a success" – he's likely to hang in with the GOP at a time when it must decide, in the words of conservative commentator and Never Trumper, Peter Wehner, whether it needs a dose of amoxicillin for a bout of pneumonia or chemotherapy to treat its cancer.

If the conduct of Trump's presidential campaign is a guide, that is guaranteed to be brutal, self-destructive process.

If Paul McGeough's take is accurate, and he does have a pretty good record of getting things right, this is getting very ugly and could be a setback the GOP won't overcome anytime soon.
Would a Clinton presidency and a Democratic Senate seek to fan the flames of Republican discord? How could they not. If Republican solidarity collapses and their energy is diverted to internecine battles, that's all good news for the Dems.

Trade, Trade, Trade

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 10/27/2016 - 10:44

I recall an interview with prime minister Trudeau at the 6-month mark of his ascent to power. He told the interviewer that his overarching responsibility was to be an agent of trade. Trade to grow the economy. Trade to generate prosperity.

Trudeau's Harperesque pursuit of CETA and TPP demonstrates that he means business. This goes straight back to those mandate letters he issued to his freshly minted cabinet ministers as they were sworn in. Even Catherine McKenna's marching orders stipulate that her priorities are to be the economy and the environment. There's no doubt that she meant it when she said she was "as much an economic minister as an environmental minister."

Trade it is then. But, if you're going to make trade your priority, your dominant responsibility, then surely you have to accept full responsibility for the fallout from that pursuit. That's on you, Slick.

One element of that fallout is the rise of Canada's homegrown "precariat." It's a term used to describe the future this free-trading government has bequeathed to our youth. In case you're wondering, that's a future fraught with insecurity and economic peril.

Earlier this week, Trudeau finance minister, Bill Morneau, delivered the bad news telling Canadians that they would just have to get used to "job churn" - a future of intermittent employment and a constant scramble for the next job, that essential paycheque to meet the rent and heat the apartment.

Morneau defined his government's focus will be to train and retrain and retrain regularly laid off Canadians as they're tossed "from job to job to job."

What Morneau avoided was any mention of why he's consigned Canada's most vulnerable to a nomadic working life, always wondering when the current job will end and where they'll find the next temporary spot, how long it will take to find and how they'll avoid falling through the floorboards when that inevitable dislocation happens again and again and again.

Morneau won't mention how his own government and its predecessors laid the foundation for this upheaval and uncertainty through its obsessive pursuit of neoliberalism and global free trade, the constant downward spiral. He won't explain why, when even the World Bank and International Monetary Fund can no longer remain silent on the social and economic damage inflicted by globalism, his government remains a faithful adherent to this toxic ideology.

I'm sorry Morneau and you too, Trudeau, but, when you tell Canadians to forego their hopes and resign themselves to a future in the precariat, what you're really telling them is that you won't change course and liberal democracy be damned.

It wasn't always this way. Here are a few observations from two real American Idols - Lincoln and T. Roosevelt.

Let's begin with Abraham Lincoln who declared:

“I hold that while man exists it is his duty to improve not only his own condition, but to assist in ameliorating mankind.

“Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”
If it is, indeed, man's duty "to improve not only his own condition, but to assist in ameliorating mankind," how is he to do that when his government consigns him to the precariat and tells him to "get used to it"?
If Labour is "the superior of capital" how is it that your government chooses to stack the deck so that capital prevails at the direct cost and damage to labour and our society?
Now let's turn to Teddy Roosevelt who observed:
"In every wise struggle for human betterment one of the main objects, and often the only object, has been to achieve in large measure equality of opportunity. In the struggle for this great end, nations rise from barbarism to civilization, and through it people press forward from one stage of enlightenment to the next. One of the chief factors in progress is the destruction of special privilege. The essence of any struggle for healthy liberty has always been, and must always be, to take from some one man or class of men the right to enjoy power, or wealth, or position, or immunity, which has not been earned by service to his or their fellows."

"At many stages in the advance of humanity, this conflict between the men who possess more than they have earned and the men who have earned more than they possess is the central condition of progress. In our day it appears as the struggle of freemen to gain and hold the right of self-government as against the special interests, who twist the methods of free government into machinery for defeating the popular will. At every stage, and under all circumstances, the essence of the struggle is to equalize opportunity, destroy privilege, and give to the life and citizenship of every individual the highest possible value both to himself and to the commonwealth."

"Practical equality of opportunity for all citizens, when we achieve it, will have two great results. First, every man will have a fair chance to make of himself all that in him lies; to reach the highest point to which his capacities, unassisted by special privilege of his own and unhampered by the special privilege of others, can carry him, and to get for himself and his family substantially what he has earned. Second, equality of opportunity means that the commonwealth will get from every citizen the highest service of which he is capable. No man who carries the burden of the special privileges of another can give to the commonwealth that service to which it is fairly entitled."

"There is a wide-spread belief among our people that, under the methods of making tariffs which have hitherto obtained, the special interests are too influential. Probably this is true of both the big special interests and the little special interests. These methods have put a premium on selfishness, and, naturally, the selfish big interests have gotten more than their smaller, though equally selfish, brothers. The duty of Congress is to provide a method by which the interest of the whole people shall be all that receives consideration."

"Of conservation I shall speak more at length elsewhere. Conservation means development as much as it does protection. I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us. I ask nothing of the nation except that it so behave as each farmer here behaves with reference to his own children. That farmer is a poor creature who skins the land and leaves it worthless to his children. The farmer is a good farmer who, having enabled the land to support himself and to provide for the education of his children, leaves it to them a little better than he found it himself. I believe the same thing of a nation."

"Now, with the water power, with the forests, with the mines, we are brought face to face with the fact that there are many people who will go with us in conserving the resources only if they are to be allowed to exploit them for their benefit. That is one of the fundamental reasons why the special interests should be driven out of politics. Of all the questions which can come before this nation, short of the actual preservation of its existence in a great war, there is none which compares in importance with the great central task of leaving this land even a better land for our descendants than it is for us, and training them into a better race to inhabit the land and pass it on. Conservation is a great moral issue, for it involves the patriotic duty of insuring the safety and continuance of the nation. Let me add that the health and vitality of our people are at least as well worth conserving as their forests, waters, lands, and minerals, and in this great work the national government must bear a most important part."

"The right to regulate the use of wealth in the public interest is universally admitted. Let us admit also the right to regulate the terms and conditions of labor, which is the chief element of wealth, directly in the interest of the common good. The fundamental thing to do for every man is to give him a chance to reach a place in which he will make the greatest possible contribution to the public welfare. Understand what I say there. Give him a chance, not push him up if he will not be pushed. Help any man who stumbles; if he lies down, it is a poor job to try to carry him; but if he is a worthy man, try your best to see that he gets a chance to show the worth that is in him. No man can be a good citizen unless he has a wage more than sufficient to cover the bare cost of living, and hours of labor short enough so after his day’s work is done he will have time and energy to bear his share in the management of the community, to help in carrying the general load. We keep countless men from being good citizens by the conditions of life by which we surround them."

"The object of government is the welfare of the people. The material progress and prosperity of a nation are desirable chiefly so long as they lead to the moral and material welfare of all good citizens. Just in proportion as the average man and woman are honest, capable of sound judgment and high ideals, active in public affairs, — but, first of all, sound in their home, and the father and mother of healthy children whom they bring up well, — just so far, and no farther, we may count our civilization a success."

Now, I know these passages carry a certain homespun-ness that can seem awkward but I dare you to tell me - whether you're a Conservative, New Democrat, Liberal or Green - would you really prefer a government that doesn't embrace every one of these principles? What would you give to have a government that did, a genuinely progressive party?
Climate change is, or should be, a non-partisan issue. It's the ultimate scientific question spanning the gamut of Earth sciences - geology, climatology, atmospherics and meteorology, hydrology and oceanography, physics, agronomy, epidemiology, on and on and on. Those disciplines are all separate voices. They have their own scientific focus, their own scientific history, and they each test the "hypothesis" against the best research, analysis and knowledge of their own discipline. Discipline, by discipline, by discipline - without exception - they have all tested the theory of climate change against their own strictures and found in that ever more corroboration.
Progressivism, like climate change, can and should be a non-partisan issue. You shouldn't have to be a Conservative or Liberal or, even, New Democrat to reach out and grab these precepts and notions. Even Edmund Burke wrote of matters progressive.
And so how do our Latter Day Liberals and Conservatives justify so abandoning the Canadian people and, especially, our younger generations? Who elected them to give the future the finger?
This, of course, brings us back to Morneau's finger to young and future Canadians to just "suck it up." If you were one of those kids, you might look at us and the governments we imposed on them as truly predatory acts.
I can only defend some of what we've done by claiming "we didn't know." We really didn't know the scope or the nature or the self-destructive qualities of neoliberalism. But we've had our eyes opened now,  at least other than those who chose to turn their heads, and we don't have any excuse to keep tolerating the Morneau's and the Trudeau's and Harper's of this world who see no obligation to ensure the Canada bequeathed to our young and future generations won't be a much degraded remnant of the country we have exploited for our ease and comfort.

It's not unfair to say that Morneau's dystopian vision is, in a word, revolting. That's "revolting" as in justifying resistance, civil disobedience, perhaps even upheaval. If this government isn't leaving our young people and generations to come the best possible future it can provide, if it isn't even attempting to fix this crisis of our own making, why should any young person accept it? Why should they find any legitimacy in such a government?

If I stumbled across an act of civil disobedience underway today, I would be very tempted just to look the other way. This form of governance is not legitimate to me either.

Where Has All the Wildlife Gone?

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 10/27/2016 - 10:03

The latest Living Planet Report has been released.

A few years ago the World Wildlife Fund in conjunction with the London Zoological Society and other groups issued a LPR that found terrestrial life on Earth had declined 50% in total since 1970, The following year's Living Planet Report surveyed marine life - fish, marine mammals, sea birds - and found a similar 50% decline since 1970.

The 2016 Living Planet Report finds that global wildlife has now dropped by 58%  and is on track to reach 67% by 2020.

Global wildlife could plunge to a 67 per cent level of decline in just the fifty-year period ending this decade as a result of human activities, according to WWF’s Living Planet Report 2016. The report shows how people are overpowering the planet for the first time in Earth’s history and highlights the changes needed in the way society is fed and fuelled.

According to the report, global populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles have already declined by 58 per cent between 1970 and 2012, the most recent year with available data. This places the world on a trajectory of a potential two-thirds decline within a span of the half-century ending in 2020.

“Wildlife is disappearing within our lifetimes at an unprecedented rate,” said Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International. “This is not just about the wonderful species we all love; Take away species, and these ecosystems will collapse along with biodiversity forms the foundation of healthy forests, rivers and oceans. the clean air, water, food and climate services that they provide us. We have the tools to fix this problem and we need to start using them now if we are serious about preserving a living planet for our own survival and prosperity.

Human behaviour continues to drive the decline of wildlife populations globally, with particular impact in freshwater habitats. Importantly however, these are declines, they are not yet extinctions – and this should be a wake-up call to marshal efforts to promote the recovery of these populations,” said Professor Ken Norris, Director of Science at ZSL.

We really have to wake up. On a civilizational scale, this massive decline carries ecological impacts that may not be survivable. It's like nature is trying to call and get our attention but nobody's listening.

CETA: The Real Deal

Politics and its Discontents - Thu, 10/27/2016 - 08:27

While it looks, unfortunately, like the Belgian opposition to CETA is dissolving, it is perhaps instructive to understand the core of Wallonia's concerns about it. While some of it revolves around the hit that some of its domestic industries will take if it is ratified, of much greater concern is the power it gives corporations through the investor state dispute settlement mechanism. They are objections that most reasonable Canadians, I believe, would share if they were more familiar with the 'trojan horse' that will compromise national sovereignty on a much wider scale than NAFTA already has.

Given that Canada has been sued many times under NAFTA, we should all be very, very wary of ensconcing those rights further, despite the unalloyed enthusiasm the Justin Trudeau government has for such deals.1. RAGE AGAINST THE MULTINATIONAL CORPORATION
While the Walloons are worried their agriculture sector will suffer under the deal, they are increasingly concerned about the investor-state dispute settlement system (ISDS) as well. The region’s socialist government has adopted many of the concerns of the civil society groups that oppose the free trade deal: they say it gives multinational corporations too much power to sue governments if they make regulations that affect their ability to turn a profit.

The Walloons want changes to the ISDS provisions of the treaty, specifically the tribunals that would settle disputes. They want them to be more transparent to eliminate the possibility of bias or conflict of interests by the people appointed to adjudicate disputes.

The Walloons want to see loopholes closed that they say would allow U.S. multinationals with offices in Canada to use the treaty to sue governments in Europe, says Osgoode Hall law professor Gus Van Harten.

Van Harten also says the Walloons want stronger language in the treaty that would preserve the jurisdiction of domestic courts in individual countries to hear disputes, instead of turning them over to the new tribunal system envisioned by the treaty.

In a parliamentary debate last week, Wallonian President Paul Magnette used an interesting metaphor to describe what he says is the opaque nature of the tribunals. He said it was like buying “a cat in a bag.”

Magnette has also said that “we have to say no so we can negotiate” better labour, environmental and legal standards.

Some have said that the five-page “joint interpretative declaration” that is to be added to the CETA text could be given the force of law and could clarify some of what the Walloons view as objectionable in the treaty.As they say, stay tuned for further developments, but in the meantime, all of us as Canadian citizens have an obligation to educate ourselves on these issues and decide on them for themselves, rather than placing unearned confidence in Mr. Trudeau and his sunny smile.Recommend this Post

Turning our Backs on Prime Ministers, the necessity of Protest. . . .

kirbycairo - Thu, 10/27/2016 - 07:47

"When we revolt it's not for a particular culture. We simply revolt because, for many reasons, we can no longer breath." 

-Franz Fanon 

Years ago (so long ago that I can't even find the post anymore), I wrote about the democratic deficits of modern democracy. The argument went like this - though democracy in general, and capitalist democracy in particular, is supposed to function on certain principles of equality, it fails to live up to these because power inevitably infects the process in such a way that some people's rights are not properly appreciated, or more importantly governments becomes expressions of elite interests rather than an expression of some kind of generalized will. Democratic deficits are visibly more noticeable when governments and courts fail to live up to basic principles of equality before the law. For example, for generations Canada has failed utterly to adjudicate fairly on the rights of indigenous people. Instead of upholding the law, judges have expressed their own white privilege in the way that they have decided on land-claims, equality of funding, energy issues, etc. Similarly, for a long time, even after the Charter of Rights and freedoms was enshrined, Canadian courts and politicians failed to properly recognize rights of the LGBTQ community.

I wrote in my original post that where democratic deficits exist, I believe people have the moral right (and even obligation) to use supra-democratic strategies to make their cases heard. Perhaps the greatest example of this was the Suffragette movement. Women actively disobeyed the law in their struggle for the vote because they felt that this was the only way to make themselves heard. Men (and many women) criticized the suffragettes, saying that their antics demonstrated that they weren't fit to have the vote; that they were criminals, or idiotic, or childish. The problem is, of course, those with privilege don't usually suffer from the effects of democratic deficits so they are really in no position to judge how those who do should express their dissent. Today, the Black Lives Matter movement is in a similar position. It easy for privileged white people to say that these activist are overdoing it, are "going to far," are "trouble makers," etc. But when people are suffering from fundamental injustices, they necessarily decide for themselves the pattern of their dissent.

The kind of privilege that I am talking about doesn't only express itself in such extreme examples. As a white, well-educated, man I have access to the kind of "disinterested," rational argumentation that makes it relatively easy for me to express myself. I am part of a very long tradition of privileged white men who have access this kind of discourse. It would be easy for me to demand that other people conform to my standards of dissent and rebellion, but it isn't reasonable or revolutionary, rather it would be and expression of my privilege.

This is not to suggest that I have no "right" to comment on the strategies or actions of a dissenting or marginalized group. What it does mean is that I have to be extra sensitive to the challenges that such groups face and make sure that I don't simply condemn the actions of others because they don't fit my own notion (as a privileged white man) of what constitutes "acceptable" dissent. It is really easy, even for progressives, to fall into this kind of tacit privilege. The extreme left has been doing it for generations, particularly in the intellectual Marxist traditions.

When any group is fighting for a more socially, politically, and economically equal and just society, I try to put my privilege and biases aside as much as possible and let them define their path of dissent. Because I know that even the best democracies are deeply flawed and protest and dissent are a necessary part of progress.

Politicians, no matter how much they smile, or claim that they are in favour of dialogue, or pretend to sympathize with a marginalized or progressive group, still represent the establishment in many ways. Thus they cannot always be spared from loud, messy, sometimes gut-wrenching protest just because it might not, at this historical moment, seem "appropriate."

I, for one, will try to remember this over the next few years as I watch millennials in particular find sometimes outrageous ways to overcome the democratic deficits that seem to have become endemic in our society. Others seem to have already forgotten the lessons of history.

The Great Divide

Northern Reflections - Thu, 10/27/2016 - 06:42

Thomas Edsall has an interesting column in this  morning's New York Times. This election, he writes, has turned the two parties on their heads:

According to the Oct. 20 Reuters-IPSOS tracking survey, Hillary Clinton now leads Donald Trump by 5.6 points among all whites earning $75,000 or more. This is a substantial improvement on the previous Democratic record of support among upscale white voters, set in 2008 when Barack Obama lost to John McCain among such voters by 11 points.

According to an Oct. 23 ABC News poll, Clinton also leads among all white college graduates, 52-36. She has an unprecedented gender gap among these voters, leading 62-30 among college-educated white women and tying among college educated white men, 42-42.
What these figures suggest is that the 2016 election will represent a complete inversion of the New Deal order among white voters. From the 1930s into the 1980s and early 1990s, majorities of downscale whites voted Democratic and upscale whites voted Republican. Now, looking at combined male and female vote totals, the opposite is true. 
Donald Trump's supporters -- downscale whites -- used to be a Democratic constituency. But now:
Nearly half say they feel alienated from contemporary America (“a stranger in their own land”), that they have little or no power to change the course of events — 84.4 percent believe public officials do not care “what people like me think.” 83.5 percent agreed that “in general, Americans lived more moral and ethical lives 50 year ago.”
These voters are convinced (72.6 percent) that they can no longer get ahead in America through hard work, and that the government in Washington threatens the freedom of “ordinary Americans” (75.3 percent). In a nation where same-sex marriage has gained public acceptance and gays routinely appear in television and movies, 54.9 percent of these voters say their own “beliefs and values” are different from those of gays and lesbians, and 66.2 percent oppose requiring every state to permit same-sex marriages.
If the United States doesn't resemble the country we used to know, it's because education and wealth have become the great dividers. Those who have an education and money feel they have a future. Those who don't have those advantages see a country where everything looks dark.
Image: When You're Ready

Thursday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 10/27/2016 - 06:36
This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Jordan Brennan points out why Nova Scotia (and other jurisdictions) should move past austerity economics:
The McNeil Liberals appear set to rack up budgetary surpluses through a strategy of public sector wage suppression. This is likely to backfire. It is an elementary insight of economic analysis that, just as one person's expenditure is necessarily another person's income, one sector's expenditure (in this case, the government) is necessarily another sector's income (namely, households and businesses).

By limiting public sector wage increases below prevailing inflation rates, the government will shrink household purchasing power and weaken aggregate demand. Furthermore, a strategy of public sector wage restraint may spill over into the private sector insofar as it signals to employers that they can scale back on wage increases without risking retention.

With GDP growth rates in Nova Scotia running at half the Canadian average and with income inequality hovering at a four-decade high it would take an impressive contortion of logic to assert that Nova Scotia's workforce is in need of a pay cut.
In the context of weak economic growth, the IMF has recently stated that budgetary deficits are preferable to surpluses and debt reduction. Austerity measures, the IMF continues, reduce human well-being, weaken aggregate demand and worsen unemployment.

Job creation should be made the top economic priority, not balancing the budget. The government should take advantage of ultra-low interest rates and invest in critical social and physical infrastructure such as health care, childcare, education and the transition to a low-carbon economy.

These measures will not only strengthen aggregate demand, but they will improve the quality of life for Nova Scotians. And from a fiscal standpoint, the increased debt needed to finance these investments can be reduced through organic growth. - The Equality Trust examines the increasingly precarious financial state of many households in Great Britain. But Angella MacEwen writes that Alberta's increasing minimum wage represents an important step toward income security for workers (along with a stronger economy for everybody).

- In contrast, PressProgress points out that the Liberals have chosen to let the value of their much-ballyhooed child tax benefit erode - particularly for lower-income families.

- Hilary Beaumont reports on the lack of action toward the Libs' campaign promise to ensure that First Nations have safe drinking water. And CTV reports on the NDP's work to get the Libs to comply with their obligation to stop discriminating in funding child services.

- Finally, Jerry Dias writes that Canada is arriving at a moment of truth on electoral reform - and that there's no reason for MPs not to work on giving effect to widespread support for a proportional electoral system.

Justin Trudeau and the Farcical Youth Summit Protest

Montreal Simon - Thu, 10/27/2016 - 03:12

I have to admit it was a great photo-op, and a sure way to get the attention of the Con media.

A small group of demonstrators at the CLC's Young Workers Summit turning their backs on Justin Trudeau. 

"Honour your promises!" hollered some in the crowd, as event moderators tried to keep the peace. "We don't have dialogue with liars!" "Shame! Shame!"

While shooting selfies of themselves, with Justin peering over their shoulders.

But although I am all in favour of young Canadians getting politically involved, and if necessary giving the Prime Minister a rough ride.

I thought their behaviour was appalling.
Read more »

So-called "Free Trade" and the Presidential Election. . .

kirbycairo - Wed, 10/26/2016 - 13:53
Trade is one of the stranger political issues in recent years. For more than two decades now the left has been saying that the trade deals (even going back before the Uruguay Round of GATT negotiations), are not really "free-trade" deals at all, but are rather 'corporate rights' deals that are intended to strengthen the power of multinational corporations to set the economic agenda at national and international levels. There has always been plenty of evidence for this and the recent kerfuffle over CETA has demonstrated this remarkably well. These deals almost all contain clauses that strengthen the ability for foreign or multinational organizations to determine domestic economic and even social policy.

The main political parties in many Western nations have overwhelmingly supported these deals and done a great deal to hide the fact that these deals are not really concerned with open trade per se, but with the suppression of national governments' ability to institute policies that will protect their populations from outside forces. The Democrats and the Republicans in the US, for example, have always, with few exceptions, promoted these deals. Thus it comes as some surprise that a guy like Trump, who as far as I can tell never spoke against these deals until the past year or so (and has certainly taken advantage of these deals to increase his own wealth), is suddenly telling people that NAFTA and other such "trade deals" have been bad. (It is not, of course surprising that Bernie Sanders has spoken against such deals; he has been consistent on this issue throughout his career) It is predictable that much of the Republican establishment is upset by Trump's critique in this regard, given that the Republicans (even more than the Democrats) have promoted and benefited from these deals.

What is a little bit surprising is to see some Republican operatives (people who have supported so-called free trade for years or even decades) try to criticize Hillary Clinton for being in favour of them. Many Republicans have tried to use leaked speeches given by Clinton in which she talks of "open boarders" as a strike against her, even though what she has actually said matches exactly what the Republicans have always said. The problem is, of course, that the phrase "open boarders," a phrase that used to be associated specifically with the freer movement of goods and services, has now become associated with the movement of people. This is because of the way the rightwing in the US has been talking about the issue of undocumented workers and the perception among many Republicans that Democrats just want to fling open the boarders with Mexico and let everyone stream across into the US. (Whether any Republicans actually believe that any Democrats sincerely want this, is somewhat irrelevant. What is important is that they have used the idea as a political tool) But when Ms. Clinton used the phrase "open boarders" there is no reason to believe that she meant the free movement of people (in economic theory terms we can read the word "labour" here). Because with the exception of the European Union, no modern trade deal has ever included the free movement of people as individuals who are trading the commodity of their own labour power.  The kinds of deals that Clinton and the Republicans have supported for decades are never concerned with the most common and most traded commodity in the world: labour power.

Thus when Trump's various surrogates (particularly men like Newt Gingrich and Rudi Giuliani) criticize Clinton for 'secretly' wanting to open the boarders to anyone in North and South American who wants to come the the US and work, they are knowingly misleading people, and being supremely hypocritical. They are fully aware that Clinton's agenda is the expansion of already existing "free-trade" deals that are concerned with a) reducing trade barriers, and b) (and more importantly) giving corporations and other nations the ability to suppress social and economic programs in other countries.  But even if Clinton were talking about a North/South American Union similar to the EU, where people were allowed to cross boarders to work in different countries (and there is absolutely no reason to believe that she has ever promoted this), this would, in fact, be the logical outcome of any real notion of actual 'free-trade,' since to exclude the free movement of labour from a trade deal actually means to exclude the most important and commonly traded of all commodities.

Either way, if you look carefully, you can see Donald Trump's pant on fire.

The banality of evil: a case study

Dawg's Blawg - Wed, 10/26/2016 - 13:05
Adam Capay, a young First Nations man, has spent four years in solitary confinement, in a plexiglass cell where the lights are kept on 24 hours a day. He has not had a trial. He is now likely to be... Dr.Dawg

The Rise of Canada's Precariat. Thanks Morneau.

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 10/26/2016 - 12:04

The natives are restless. There's a powerful anger simmering among the masses echoing a great and persistent discontent. Like the motto of that TV show, "winter is coming."

Just for a lark I went through the post captions on ProgBlog going back several days. Not a lot of happy campers there. Even the banishment of Beelzebub no longer is enough to lift spirits. The Selfie Sprite's wings are beginning to falter.

It's not hard to understand. There aren't may rays of sunshine these days. Most things seem to be trending the wrong way.

Now we've got a finance minister, some guy named Morneau, telling the kids that their job security is going to be a lot like the Arctic sea ice - vanishing and then gone. "Sorry kids, but you're fucked. Thanks for playing." Then, like Pilate, he washes his hands of their plight.

The rise of Canada's "precariat" is a lot like the rise of inequality in that it's engineered, legislated. Nobel laureate economist, Joe Stiglitz, demonstrates that inequality is not neither merit nor market-based. It's legislated. It's the inevitable side effect of government policy. If you're not familiar with it, check out his woefully under read book, "The Price of Inequality."

Precarity is both hammer and anvil. Those who fall into it are crushed between the two scourges of employment insecurity and financial insecurity. They live paycheque to paycheque, a lot of them chasing two or more jobs to make ends meet.

Morneau's announcement is a capitulation, a brazen dereliction of duty. He didn't say, "This is a nightmare for our kids. We have to deal with this." No, the Trudeau government's response is a simple, "Sorry kids, you're fucked."

Which brings me back to Osawatomie, Kansas in the summer of 1910 when Roosevelt delivered his Square Deal speech. A good part of that speech dealt with the struggle between labour and capital. He observed that a good worker was an asset to the employer but, more importantly, an asset to his family, to his community and, ultimately, to his nation. The wellbeing of the worker was the foundation of democratic governance. The duty of a democratic government was to regulate the struggle between labour and capital in accordance with Lincoln's declaration that, of the two, labour must be "by far the superior" of capital.

It strikes me that doesn't sound anything like what came out of the mouth of that guy, Morneau. Just what kind of a country does he think we will have when this precariat becomes the new normal? Let's face facts. The name "Liberal" has no meaning. This is a government in the "movement conservative" model. Laissez-faire leaches, the whores of neoliberalism.

If this government doesn't make bile rise in your throat, consider these passages scavenged from this blog and beginning with a 2012 piece on remarks by Noam Chomsky:

"In 2005, Citigroup came out with a brochure for investors called “Plutonomy: Buying Luxury, Explaining Global Imbalances.” It urged investors to put money into a “plutonomy index.” The brochure says, “The World is dividing into two blocs -- the Plutonomy and the rest.

"Plutonomy refers to the rich, those who buy luxury goods and so on, and that’s where the action is. They claimed that their plutonomy index was way outperforming the stock market. As for the rest, we set them adrift. We don’t really care about them. We don’t really need them. They have to be around to provide a powerful state, which will protect us and bail us out when we get into trouble, but other than that they essentially have no function. These days they’re sometimes called the “precariat” -- people who live a precarious existence at the periphery of society. Only it’s not the periphery anymore. It’s becoming a very substantial part of society in the United States and indeed elsewhere. And this is considered a good thing.

"So, for example, Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, at the time when he was still “Saint Alan” -- hailed by the economics profession as one of the greatest economists of all time (this was before the crash for which he was substantially responsible) -- was testifying to Congress in the Clinton years, and he explained the wonders of the great economy that he was supervising. He said a lot of its success was based substantially on what he called “growing worker insecurity.” If working people are insecure, if they’re part of the precariat, living precarious existences, they’re not going to make demands, they’re not going to try to get better wages, they won’t get improved benefits. We can kick ’em out, if we don’t need ’em. And that’s what’s called a “healthy” economy, technically speaking. And he was highly praised for this, greatly admired."

"As for the rest, we set them adrift." That sounds exactly like what Morneau was saying. And notice what Chomsky was divining from Greenspan's remarks? Capital has now learned how powerfully it can monetize precarity. Not forever perhaps, but for long enough. You can read the complete Chomsky piece here.
In June, 2015, Brian Stewart did a piece on a UN report on the rise of the global precariat
[The UN report] warns of "widespread insecurity" spreading as momentum shifts from societies with full-time jobs to shaky short-term employment across much of the globe.

Another scary fact the study unearths is how many people these days have stable work contracts of any kind. That's barely one in four of the globe's workforce.

The overwhelming majority of people on the planet struggle with temporary work, informal or illegal jobs, long spells of unemployment and unpaid family work.

In other words, most are caught in a disadvantageous spiral where exploitation is a real risk.

...What was once viewed as a passing crisis now seems to be the new normal, producing deep psychological unease within the workforce and growing inequality between those with stable incomes and those without.

Global financial officials are worried to the point they've again started using the term "hysteresis," borrowed from physics, to warn that long-established unemployment is becoming "structural" and therefore harder to correct, as the jobless lose skills and companies grow addicted to cheaper, temporary labour.

...It's hard to escape the feeling that even as our societies grow richer we are, bizarrely, looping backwards.

"The GDP per capita keeps going up. The problem is that we're not sharing the wealth at all equitably," says Wayne Lewchuk of McMaster University who researches precarious employment. "In many ways we've gone back to a 1920s mentality."

The Twenties did not have an encouraging outcome, as we know.

Still, looking at these striking global trends in joblessness and precarious work, as well as at the soaring refugee numbers and widening inequality, it's difficult to get around the nagging feeling that this century's forward movement has stalled and is on slippery ground.

The critical point is that, as Morneau throws our kids to the unregulated wolves of the market place and into the precariat, this has knock-on effects of an even greater magnitude. You throw in the towel, as this Liberal government has so shamefully done, and this malignancy becomes truly structural, an integral part of your economy. As that happens, it is accompanied by a structural shift in governance, the gradual and quiet end of democracy making way for the inevitable rise of plutocracy. 
Morneau is signalling Trudeau's refusal to defend Canada's democracy and the wellbeing of our society. Plain and simple. I'll end with a few remarks I wrote just before our 2015 election:
Look at what's happened in the States and realize that's where we're headed too if we continue to lay on these tracks waiting for the train.

If you want to get up off those tracks, you had better do it soon. What do you really know about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, TPP? Personally I don't know that much about it but I know someone who does, Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz, and he's written a dandy warning for all of us in The New York Times.

Read his warning. Then read his book, "The Price of Inequality." Learn what we're up against, what awaits us and our kids, and who is really responsible for making servitude our reality. Then, when you've had your fill, go to your stooge of choice - Tommy Boy or Junior - and ask them how they're going to undo this national headache before it becomes a full blown and permanent migraine.

If they won't act, don't vote for them. If you do, don't complain about what you've got coming.

The Uberization of Charitable Giving

Dammit Janet - Wed, 10/26/2016 - 11:22

Like most "disruptive" new ideas, at first the "100 Who Care" movement -- if it can be called that -- seems marvellously simple.

There's a good cause in your community. It needs a dose of cash. Call a few friends, who call a few friends, you get the idea. All get together and each write a cheque directly to the worthy cause and BAM!


That's what a woman named Karen Dunigan did.

The first 100 Women Who Care group was formed in November 2006 by Karen Dunigan of Jackson, Michigan, USA. At their first one-hour meeting, the Jackson 100 Women Who Care group raised $10,000 to buy 300 new baby cribs for an organization in their city! Their membership has now grown to nearly 300 members and many other cities across the United States and Canada have formed groups as well.
Indeed, now there's an alliance of these 350 loose groups.

While it started with women, now there are men who care, kids who care, and people who care groups.

Here is an account from the Star on 100 Women Who Care Toronto.

In describing the meeting, the writer says: "Think Dragon’s Den meets crowdfunding."

Local charities -- they must be registered charities for the tax receipts -- are nominated by members. Three charities are chosen at random to make their pitch to the assembled group. They vote, one is chosen, and they all whip out cheque books and BAM! $10,000 (or $100 times the number of members) is raised.

Direct, efficient, laudable.

But there's a problem. We call it the uberization of charitable giving.

By cutting out vetting, oversight, and ethical guidelines, and relying solely on the charities' pitches -- and their government-sanctioned charitable status -- these groups may achieve efficiency at the cost of responsibility and accountability.

I'm sure everyone walks out feeling great, but do they all know exactly what they're supporting?

We have identified five fake clinics, aka crisis pregnancy centres, who have benefitted from these groups.

We reported a few days ago on 100 Guys Who Share - Yarmouth County who donated $11,600 to the Tri-County Pregnancy Care Centre.

Since then, we've found four more.

Women Who Care Norfolk were persuaded by a fake-clinic pitch. (Look how the work is described.)
Outstanding!  The Norfolk Pregnancy Centre will receive $14,600 to purchase additional programming material and expand their services into Delhi. This organization provides leadership, guidance and support to young women and men as they embark on a new phase of life.  Professional volunteers are available to offer assistance on an as needed basis.[I wonder what a "professional volunteer" is.]

Women Who Care Stouffville chose the Markham/Stouffvillle Crisis Pregnancy Centre for a windfall gift.

Sunrise Pregnancy Centre was the recipient of a donation from Women Who Care Uxbridge

And Women Who Care Ottawa picked First Place Options, also the choice of the ill-fated fundraiser by the wives and girlfriends of the Ottawa Senators.

Given that Canada is overwhelmingly pro-choice, we have to question whether all these good, generous people understood that their hard-earned dough was going to anti-choice, anti-contraceptive, religious gangs who lie to and manipulate pregnant people out of choosing abortion as a response to a "crisis pregnancy."

Revisiting the Ottawa Senators' schmozzle, under the title Donor Beware, we pointed out that people need to check out what their money is supporting.


Most people see a charitable registration number and think "OK, fine. This group has been checked out by the government. It is accountable to the Canada Revenue Agency, who monitors its activities and finances."

And they write their cheques (under a bit of group pressure perhaps).

Maybe they all did know exactly what they were supporting. Great.

But we seriously doubt it.

#yqrvotes - Election Day Resources

accidentaldeliberations - Wed, 10/26/2016 - 08:20
While I haven't written much about Regina's municipal election (except for the column linked here), I'll point out a few of the resources worth considering before casting ballots today.

Again, Elections Regina's official information is here.

The Queen City Improvement Bureau's blog offers an opportunity to hear some of the candidates in action, while its latest podcast includes some analysis and predictions. CBC summarizes a few of the stories it's covered, while also pointing out how a lack of party structure leads to apathy at the municipal level. John Klein offers his choices among the candidates.

And while I won't put together a full set of endorsements or predictions, some of the candidates I'll encourage people to give a closer look include:
- Ward 3 - Andrew Stevens
- Ward 4 - Asfaw Debia
- Ward 6 - Shelley LaVallee
- Ward 7 - Leanne McKay
- Ward 9 - Aidan Wotherspoon
- Ward 10 - Brian Sklar
- Subdivision 2 - Aleana Young
- Subdivision 3 - Nathaniel Cole
- Subdivision 4 - Misty Longman
- Separate School Board - Wendy Gervais, Marg Romanow

Wednesday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Wed, 10/26/2016 - 06:57
Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Terry Pedwell reports that young workers who were apparently expected to provide Justin Trudeau with a public relations backdrop instead delivered an important dose of reality by protesting his appearance. And Angella MacEwen points out that contrary to the Libs' spin, there's in fact plenty a government can do to combat precarious work and financial insecurity:
I would advise the economic council to take a look at Senator Bellemare’s work on full employment, and Professor Marc Lavoie’s work on wage led growth. It might lead them in a policy direction that will benefit both growth and well-being.

For example, transfers such as the Canada Child Benefit will help to reduce poverty and inequality. Expanding the Working Income Tax Benefit would help make work pay, and make life a little easier for the working poor.

Expanding the social safety net by improving CPP will help down the road, and it absolutely reduces the stress of precarity when workers know they will have that pension when they retire.  The current design of Employment Insurance amplifies and exacerbates labour market inequalities, and ideally a social insurance system would work to dampen existing inequalities. A lower entrance requirement & minimum benefit level would go a long way to doing that.

The federal government could use Labour Market Development Agreements (LMDAs) with the provinces to provide more opportunities for training and re-training – and better supports for non-EI eligible workers who need access to basic numeracy and literacy training through Labour Market Agreements (LMAs).

High quality public services and social services are critical. I cannot overstate the need for more affordable childcare spaces in Canada, and the beneficial impact this would have on precarious workers.- Thomas Walkom suggests that some of the federal-provincial tension on health care can be alleviated by including home care under the list of core services administered under the Canada Health Act.

- But sadly (if less than surprisingly), the Libs couldn't seem less interested in public solutions to social problems - as Brent Patterson highlights the latest indication that Justin Trudeau has decided to ignore the anti-social nature of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, while David McDonald points out that the Libs' push toward privatization and outsourcing is contrary to the international trend in public service delivery.

- Susan Delacourt notes that amidst plenty of valid concern about the influence of money on politics, we could substantially eliminate that problem by restoring public funding.

- Finally, Monia Mazigh rightly argues that it's long past time to repeal Bill C-51. Craig Forcese examines (and offers some important warnings about) the use of secret national security laws in Canada. And Jeremy Nuttall offers some suggestions to modernize public access to information.

The Youth Voice is Our Voice

Politics and its Discontents - Wed, 10/26/2016 - 06:51
If ever there was ever any doubt about the neoliberal agenda being pursued by our 'new' government, Finance Minister Bill Morneau's recent comments removed all uncertainty. He asserted that precarious work is here to stay and Canadians must adapt to having a variety of jobs throughout their lives as they experience the euphemistically phrased 'job churn.' Never have I read a more bald admission of submission to the corporatocracy agenda.

The above was just one of the frustrations about the Trudeau government that a group of youth was voicing yesterday as a number of them turned their backs on the Prime Minister at the Canadian Labour Congress National Young Workers Summit in Ottawa. While precarious work is the problem they most immediately feel, they also did not forget about climate change, pipelines, and a litany of other issues that reveal the disparity between Trudeau's lofty rhetoric and the reality of the Harperesque policies the Liberals are following.

In my mind, we owe these young people a debt of gratitude for their refusal to be polite and pretending all is well. They are the voice of all who care about our world.

Recommend this Post

The Day Donald Trump Revealed His Inner Demons

Montreal Simon - Wed, 10/26/2016 - 05:07

As we all know, it's sometimes hard to tell whether Donald Trump is an extreme narcissist, or a clinical psychopath, or a sexual predator, or a raging maniac.

Or all of the above. 

But now we find out that on a rare occasion when Trump revealed his inner demons, they turned out to be more pathetic than frightening.
Read more »

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

accidentaldeliberations - Tue, 10/25/2016 - 16:20
Lounging cats.


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