Feed aggregator

Monday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - 42 min 18 sec ago
Miscellaneous material for your Monday reading.

- Michael Harris writes that the Cons' primary purpose while in power has been to hand further power and wealth to those who already have more than they know what to do with:
These corporations and their political mouthpiece, the Republican Party, are Stephen Harper’s heroes. He has spent his entire political career marching Canada down the same corporate road that leads to oligarchy. He is less the prime minister of a country, than a super-salesman of corporate interests. That’s why his policies often look so wacky but aren’t. They do exactly what they are intended to do.They are not designed for the country’s benefit, but for corporate interests. That’s what Nexen and Northern Gateway are about. That’s what Harper’s revenue-losing corporate tax cuts are all about. The [corporations] get break after break, and the public loses its mail service, veterans lose their service centres, and public servants get their pink slips.
...
We haven’t got far to go [to become an oligarchy]; 86 families in this country, representing .002 percent of the population, have accumulated more wealth than the poorest 11.4 million Canadians.

If it can be said that Stephen Harper has a vision at all, it is to keep it that way.- Paul Krugman responds to the observation that the U.S.' political class mostly addresses the preferences of the wealthy by pointing out that there's a meaningful difference between the major political parties in their respective handling of equality issues. But I'd go a step further and question whether the current influence of the wealthy means electoral politics are "irrelevant" or insufficiently relevant - and that if the answer is the latter, then there's all the more reason to pursue change through the political system.

- Meanwhile, Les Whittington reports that grassroots action is having a real effect on the Cons' attempts to place the oil industry ahead of all other interests. But Dean Beeby notes that the Cons' reaction has been to stop gathering the evidence which shows that the public has no interest in their spin - this time by refusing to test public reaction to publicly-funded political advertising (even as they continue to pour tens of millions of dollars into the ads themselves).

- Matthew Yglesias makes the case for taxes on extreme incomes for the purpose of addressing inequality - and notes that there's reason to pursue that end even if the result isn't an increase in revenue:
(T)he tax code structures even the "pre tax" incomes of very high earning people. Very high taxation of inheritances would mean fewer big inheritances, not more tax revenue. Very high taxation of labor income would mean fewer huge compensation packages, not more revenue. Precisely as Laffer pointed out decades ago, imposing a 90 percent tax rate on something is not really a way to tax it at all — it's a way to make sure it doesn't happen.

If you believe systematically lower CEO compensation packages would mean a mass withdrawal of talent from the business world and a collapse of American industry, then those smaller pay packages could be an economic disaster. But the more plausible theory is that systematically lower CEO compensation packages would mean systematically higher compensation spending elsewhere in the corporate structure. Either more frontline workers or better-paid ones. The new tax code would redistribute value inside the corporate structure without anyone actually paying the new sky-high taxes.- Finally, Ian Welsh suggests that we may need some significant regulation of online rent-seekers in order to ensure that the ability to exchange information in an instant actually leads to real opportunities for content creators.

Looking After Tom And Daisy's Interests

Northern Reflections - 2 hours 9 min ago


Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page have concluded in a recent study that democracy has been successfully subverted in the United States. That country, they write, is now an oligarchy.

The American Supreme Court has had a hand in establishing that oligarchy. In the Dred Scott decision of 1857, the court concluded that those whose skin was black were not people. In the Citizens United decision of 2010, the court decided that corporations were people. The consequence, Michael Harris writes, has been that those with more money have more free speech:

As U.S. neo-conservative consultant Arthur Finkelstein has always said, money is important because it determines who gets heard. It was exactly what bothered Thomas Jefferson when he warned against the dangers to American democracy posed by “the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations.”
Stephen Harper tried the same legal gambit back in 2004, when he headed the National Citizens Coalition:

Like his Republican brethren, Harper too went to court to lift spending limits in political campaigns. Like his Republican brethren, he too argued it was a free speech issue and wanted no spending limits on so-called third parties during elections. He went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, where he lost in 2004. The judges decided that setting limits on third-party political contributions during the writ period was not a free speech but a fair play issue.
Now Harper is trying to do legislatively -- through Bill C-23 -- what he could not do legally. The bill's objective is to entrench a Canadian oligarchy. Like his Republican brethren, Harper is looking after the interests of Tom and Daisy Buchanan  -- who got away with murder.

On the subject of great literature, I have one footnote. Over the weekend, Alistair MacLeod died. His novel, No Great Mischief is the finest rendering of Cape Breton and its people that we have.


Two Sentiments That Will Resonate With Many

Politics and its Discontents - 2 hours 15 min ago


Today's Star brings two letters, one on despotic rule and the other on electoral reform, that many would find hard to argue against:

Harper’s on a lonely road to political isolation, April 15

Aristotle once remarked that all forms of government — democracy, oligarchy, monarchy, tyranny — are inherently unstable, all political regimes are inherently transitional and that the stability of all regimes is corrupted by the corrosive power of time.

To prolong the viability of democratic form of government, his advice had been constant turnover of leaderships to renew the political process.
After eight years in power, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is clearly showing the signs of “the corrosive power of time,” as evident from the litany of problems outlined by Chantal Hebert.

He should, therefore, stand down, allowing a new leader to renew the political process. Time for change and renewal has arrived in Canada.


Mahmood Elahi, Ottawa


Why does anybody call Canada a democracy? It has taken nearly eight years for Stephen Harper’s stranglehold on his party and the country to start to loosen – and in all that time he has never enjoyed majority voter support.

We still can’t be sure Harper and Co. will be removed from office in 2015. It’s only a majority faint hope. Canadians will pay many millions to finance the federal election in 2015 — and then watch the pre-democratic voting system deliver, as usual, a House of Commons that bears no predictable relationship to what voters actually said and did. It could re-elect the Harper Conservatives with even less public support than they had last time.

The country needs new leaders who show real respect for citizens and taxpayers – by making a firm commitment to equal effective votes and proportional representation in the House of Commons. Representative democracy in Canada is 100 years overdue.


John Deverell, PickeringRecommend this Post

Edward Snowden and the Scary Secrets of Stephen Harper

Montreal Simon - Sun, 04/20/2014 - 23:47


I'm glad that The Guardian and the Washington Post have been awarded a Pulitzer Prize for their reporting on the out of control activities of the National Security Agency. 

And that Edward Snowden has been vindicated in his own country.

It has been nearly a year since a thin, pale computer whiz kid named Edward Snowden dramatically burst into our consciousness and became the most important whistleblower of modern times. As a result of his actions, we now live in a very different world and it is one — I would argue — that is better than before. At least now, we know.

Because thanks to him we do know so much more about the world we really live in. 

And so much more about the surveillance state that Stephen Harper is building...
Read more »

Happy Easter!

Cathie from Canada - Sun, 04/20/2014 - 15:12
I'm not sure how the Hallelujah Chorus became a Christmas song -- it's a much more logical as ab Easter celebration.

Here is the Hallelujah Chorus by the 5th grade class in Quinhagak, Alaska:

and a psychic too?

Trapped In a Whirlpool - Sun, 04/20/2014 - 13:59
We all know of Tommy Douglas' accomplishments but his psychic abilities? Here he is in 1978  predicting our fate today. We shoulda listened.
Read more »

On Laureen Harper, cats and #MMIW

Dawg's Blawg - Sun, 04/20/2014 - 12:55
Given the current insistence upon the equality of women and men, it’s a sobering surprise to hear from so many feminists that women are, in the final analysis, merely the projections of their spouses. Or so it would appear, at... Dr.Dawg http://drdawgsblawg.ca/

Sunday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 04/20/2014 - 08:48
This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Charles Demers points out the impact Svend Robinson has had on Canadian politics - and suggests that he should be the model for fellow progressives:
Not only did Svend embody something different from the usual electioneering pabulum [sic] — a genuine belief in the righteousness and effectiveness of indigenous, environmentalist, and social movement direct action, for starters — but, as Truelove’s wonderful and readable and extremely well-researched book shows, he also showed how gadflies could still exercise real power and affect people’s lives. The episode in which Svend leads the successful campaign to keep “the right to enjoy property” from being enshrined in the Charter (Robinson worried that if it were, things like minimum wage laws and environmental legislation could be imperiled) is indicative; a recurring theme throughout the book is how a third party MP, sometimes even a backbencher, could make real and lasting legislative change. In the end, that might be what was scariest to conventional NDPers about Svend: not only that his radical politics and irreverence endangered the party’s ability to win enough votes to become official opposition or even government, but the fact that his own example showed that if they were smart enough, worked hard enough, and were willing to participate in and draw on social movements, they didn’t necessarily have to, if all they wanted to do was effect change (as opposed to winning). In a world of horse-race politics, where everyone’s killing themselves trying to get to the inside lane, Svend was off in the stables unionizing the jockeys and pointing out that the track was built on stolen land.[Update: Though of course it's also worth pointing out that the dichotomy between presenting progressive positions and earning electoral success may be a false one to begin with.]

- Peter Frase discusses the need to move beyond complaints about the status quo and propose an alternate model as to how things can be improved. And Dean Baker points out that Thomas Piketty's description of near-inevitable capital concentration may miss some obvious opportunities to turn technological developments into widespread gains - even if we're far from applying them to the extent possible.

- But it is worth documenting how capital is managing to perpetuate itself at the expense of mere people. And David Harvey's commentary on the spread of luxury services and the new "prosumer" model is worth a read on that front.

- Meanwhile, any assertion of the public interest over private profit-seeking looks rather remote at the moment. On that front, Theresa Tedesco and Jen Gerson report on the massive private interests being served by Canadian Senators - even as the same patronage appointees try to excuse their split loyalties by complaining about the insufficiency of six-figure public salaries. And David Pugliese notes that the Cons are willing to let the private sector decide which Arctic search and rescue capabilities are sufficiently profitable to be maintained as public safety is privatized.

- Finally, Alan Bowker asks the Cons to follow the post-war Robert Borden model of voluntarily working on a better democratic system - rather than the wartime philosophy of rigging the system in their favour on the assumption that democracy is dangerous. And Susan Delacourt proposes that a voter identity card could go a long way toward meeting the Cons' excuses for cracking down on voting while minimizing the damage to voting rights.

youth books, children's book edition #10, and the best part of my job

we move to canada - Sun, 04/20/2014 - 07:00
I thought readers' advisory was the best part of my job, but that was before I began running our library's teen book club.

Once a month, I spend an evening with a group of teens who choose to spend their evening at the library, talking about books. We hang out, eat snacks, talk about books, talk about life. Although I've never had an interest in book clubs for myself, facilitating these young people's enjoyment of reading is a joy and a privilege.

The teens themselves come from diverse backgrounds and experiences. Most are the first generation of their family born in Canada. Some lead pressured, overly scheduled lives. Others are relatively independent and mature. Some are bursting with ideas and enthusiasm. Some are quiet and speak very little. All of them listen respectfully to each other and encourage each other. This is what I love best. Always, they are kind to each other.

I've read that reading helps people develop empathy and compassion, that readers exhibit a higher degree of empathy than non-readers. I don't know if these teens are such nice people because they read, or if they read because they're nice people, or if it's just a random coincidence. But on the last Monday of every month, these kids make me love my job even more.

* * * *

TBC is also an opportunity for me to venture out of my reading comfort zone and try books I wouldn't normally pick up.

Many TBC members, including me, thought they wouldn't enjoy Cinder, a dystopian-future take on the Cinderella fairytale, by Marissa Meyer. We all ended up tearing through it, cheering for the strong, independent, but damaged main character, hanging on suspense and plot twists, and not guessing the ending.

TBC gave me an excuse to read Coraline, Neil Gaiman's modern classic children's horror novel. I normally don't read horror, and I really had no idea what constituted horror for children. Coraline seems like just the right amount of scary for kids - and me! It's creepy and shivery, in a way that makes you want to keep reading, not in a way that gives you nightmares.

Gaiman follows some standard children's-lit conventions - the child of absent or neglectful parents as a solo adventurer, forced to rescue herself and others from the clutches of something evil - but energizes them with lyrical language and unexpected twists. One member of TBC shares my avoidance of all things scary, so I'm looking forward to seeing what she thought.

Other upcoming TBC selections: The Maze Runner by James Dashner (which I wrote about here), It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini (here), Epic by Conor Kostick, the first book of the favourite adventure series of one of our members, Hate List by Jennifer Brown, and Gauntlgrym by R. A. Salvatore. At our next meeting, we're voting by secret ballot for the last two titles of the year.

Stephen Marois?

Northern Reflections - Sun, 04/20/2014 - 05:34


On the surface, Stephen Harper and Pauline Marois  couldn't be more different. They have diametrically opposed visions of what is best for this country. But, Haroon Siddiqui writes, they are disturbingly alike:

  • Both use phony wedge issues to consolidate their base and polarize the public. Neither cares for the long-term consequences of deeply dividing society. Her charter of Quebec values dealt with a crisis that did not exist. He spent billions on “tough-on-crime” initiatives when crime has been going down.
  • Both exploit prejudices against minorities. Marois was crude in going after Muslims, Jews and Sikhs in the name of secularism. He is clever in isolating Canada’s one million Muslims in the name of fighting terrorism. Both use the same tactics of hand-picking totally unrepresentative Muslims to attack the community.
  • Both copy the Republican Party’s dirty tactics of suppressing the votes of groups that are likely to vote for the opposition. For years, the GOP has been making it nearly impossible for blacks, Latinos and the young to vote. The PQ government made it difficult for Anglos, especially students, in Montreal to vote. The Harper government is changing election laws to try to disenfranchise about 500,000 people who are not likely to vote Conservative.
  • Both use Orwellian terminology to peddle their wares. She called her signature issue the charter of secular values when, in fact, it violated the most fundamental secular value, the right to religion. He calls his plan to make elections unfair “the Fair Elections Act.”

  •  Siddiqui adds to the list:

  • Both Marois and Harper spend government money on advertising campaigns promoting programs that advance their partisan purposes — she in pushing the charter, he in spending at least $200 million on his Economic Action Plan and other initiatives central to the fortunes of the Conservative party.
  • Both treat the opposition not as adversaries but enemies. Anyone who does not agree with her is not a true Quebecer; anyone who does not agree with Harper is not a Canadian patriot.

  • You get the idea. In fact, when it comes to doing politics, Harper and Marois come from the same gene pool.  In the last election, Quebecers took back the keys to Marois' kingdom. Siddiqui wonders if Canadians will eventually do the same for Harper.

    Perhaps -- with two caveats: First: Marois was defeated by an opposition which was sustained and focused. And, second: Campaigns matter. Besides having to deal with relentless opposition, Marois was disorganized and anything but focused.

    We shall see.


    what i'm reading: eleanor & park, another truly great youth book for readers of all ages

    we move to canada - Sun, 04/20/2014 - 05:00
    If you enjoy youth novels of the realistic (non-fantasy) variety, Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell, is just about as good as it gets.

    Who else might enjoy Eleanor & Park? Readers who like beautifully drawn, believable, yet quirky and unique characters. Readers who are teens. Readers who have ever been teens. People who have fallen in love. People who dream of falling in love. People who like to read.

    Eleanor & Park is about two people who don't fit in slowly and tenderly finding their way to each other. It's about the horrors that ordinary young people endure, adults who make their lives hell, and adults who are there to support them, whether or not they understand them. It's a book full of music, and the discovery of music and art that, as a teen, might just save your life. It's a book about love.

    Last year in The New York Times, Eleanor & Park was reviewed by none other than John Green, far and away the most popular and famous author of realistic youth fiction of his generation. Green wrote:
    When I began reading contemporary fiction in high school, I remember feeling that each book was an absolute revelation. Whether I was reading Michael Crichton or Amy Tan or Tom Robbins, there had never been anything like it before in my life. The novel’s novelty passes, of course. I’m 35 now. I’ve read a dozen “we brought back the dinosaurs and they are mad” books. I’ve seen the conventions, and I’ve seen them interrogated.

    But I have never seen anything quite like “Eleanor & Park.” Rainbow Rowell’s first novel for young adults is a beautiful, haunting love story — but I have seen those. It’s set in 1986, and God knows I’ve seen that. There’s bullying, sibling rivalry, salvation through music and comics, a monstrous stepparent — and I know, we’ve seen all this stuff. But you’ve never seen “Eleanor & Park.” Its observational precision and richness make for very special reading.Green closed his review with a ready-made jacket-blurb, and it's not even an exaggeration.
    “Eleanor & Park” reminded me not just what it’s like to be young and in love with a girl, but also what it’s like to be young and in love with a book.

    Harperland and the Winds of Change

    Montreal Simon - Sun, 04/20/2014 - 02:44


    Sometimes I think that getting Canadians to take any kind of political action is like that swan trying to get the wooden ones to follow.

    Because we must be one of the most democratically complacent people on Earth.
    But even in this frigid spring, even in Harperland, the winds of change are blowing. 

    Read more »

    Leveraging Laureen

    Dammit Janet - Sat, 04/19/2014 - 12:23



    Last night when the story of Laureen Harper first, hosting/sponsoring a cat video fundraising thingy -- in kitty ears to boot -- then dismissing a question from a young woman on missing and murdered indigenous women at that event hit the news, I was enraged but couldn't put my finger on exactly why.

    Watch.



    Then I read this:

    Somebody needs to tell Laureen Harper that missing and murdered indigenous women isn't a cause... It's a national shame. #mmiw #cdnpoli

    — Allison Fenske (@AllisonFenske) April 18, 2014

    Yes.

    True, I don't like cats. The time, attention, and money spent on them -- and pets in general -- makes me want to hurl. Laureen Harper is repeatedly referred to as a "cat foster-mom" though it's not clear that she herself does.

    So, there's that on one side. People who go gooey over animals and whistle past a homeless person with a cap out on the sidewalk.

    And on the other, the immense, ongoing national shame of at least 824 murdered and missing indigenous women in Canada. This government not only repeatedly and routinely dismisses any calls for action or inquiry, its treatment of indigenous peoples -- here and everywhere it or its minions have interaction with them -- is simply disgusting.

    Laureen's callousness is not surprising then, but breathtaking nonetheless.

    “We’re raising money for animals tonight. If you’d like to donate to animals, we’d love to take your money,” she said to lots of clapping, before suggesting dealing with the issue a different night: “tonight we’re here for homeless cats.”
    So, now we come to Laureen Harper. I frankly don't give a rat's ass if she's living with her husband or the hunkiest RCMP officer -- of any gender -- in the land. I don't give a flying fuck what she wears, what she eats, what she says.

    Because in Canada, mercifully, she is a complete nonentity, no matter what some sycophants would like.
    Some commentators have tried to style prime ministers' wives as "First Lady of Canada", similar to the style of First Lady used in republics, but this is not a recognized title. Use of the term is based on the pervasive influence of American media and not a defined public role or title for the prime minister's spouse. In any case, both the spouse of the Canadian monarch and that of the Governor General of Canada take precedence over a prime minister's spouse, rendering the notion untenable.
    We just do not *do* First Ladies in Canada (check the wiki link for some interesting people who have wrestled with the role).

    Plus, there's that oh-so-Canajan thing of leaving families of politicians alone. "They weren't elected," the manners police sniff. "It just isn't done to attack them."

    Unless, of course, the family members chose to become part of the political pageant. Like this.

    The federal Conservatives have plotted a road map to a 2015 election campaign that counts on a massive donor- and voter-targeting effort, a communications onslaught, and a bid to “leverage” the popularity of Laureen Harper, the prime minister’s wife, according to documents obtained by the Star.The simple fact is that Stephen Harper is perceived to be at the very least, a cold, controlling micro-manager, and at worst -- by a scarily increasing number of Canadians -- an outright psychopath.

    In short, he has a teensy problem with that whole "human" shtick.

    Enter Laureen, who it is hoped/prayed can if not "humanize" him, at least "demonsterfy" him.

    It's been tried repeatedly, to little success, whether in an awkward kiss or in sketchy panda embrace.

    But hope springs eternal in the CON sausage factory. They're at it again -- now with homeless cats.

    Pro tip: If you're going to try to "leverage" someone with as little natural charm as Laureen, get her some fucking media/public speaking training. Try to get her to understand in advance that all "good causes" are not equivalent, and in particular that 800+ missing and murdered women are not a "good cause" just like spaying stray cats.

    (Hm. Maybe the issues are analogous in such twisted brains.)

    To sum up: Laureen is NOT First Lady. She IS fair game. She DID put herself in a totally frivolous situation. She DID fuck up. In CAT ears. (Imagine the withering look an aide would get with: "Hey, Mrs. Obama, we want you to wear these really cute cat ears.")

    But maybe the whole exercise was not for naught. On the YouTube page with the Shit Harper Did video, there was this comment from someone named Paul Gillett.
     
    Before reading about this in the news today, I wasn't aware of the problem of murder in the Indigenous community. Though I don't fully agree with this activists' tactics, I have to say, good job. I also think it is troubling that the conservatives would use the Prime Minister's wife to manipulate Canadians.
    I end with this tweet. This was tongue-in-cheek from a friend, but I got many other similar ones -- not so cheeky -- last night.


    @fernhilldammit “Shut up about #MMIW, we’re talking about homeless cats” - Laureen Harper’s legacy @Collyw0bbles

    — Johnny B (@MayorJeebus) April 18, 2014

    Vladimir Putin basically told Stephen Harper to go and take a hike

    LeDaro - Sat, 04/19/2014 - 11:29
    Stephen Harper thinks he is a world leader. He has been prominent in criticizing Russia over Ukraine and promised Ukraine some military help. Putin primarily told him to go and 'screw yourself'.

    A toast to Stevie
    "The Conservative government's tough rhetoric over Russia’s actions in Ukraine may play well to some voters domestically, but analysts doubt it will have any impact on curtailing Moscow's policies in the region.

    "I think the only people Putin’s going to pay any attention to, if he pays any attention at all, are going to be the United States and the European Union, above all Germany," said Randall Hansen, director of the University of Toronto's Centre for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies."
    Read more here.

    Air travel woes

    Cathie from Canada - Sat, 04/19/2014 - 10:05
    Air Canada apologizes for luggage toss caught on video - Toronto - CBC News:

    In spite of Air Canada saying that tossing bags down the stairs isn't their policy, its pretty clear from the video that there is nothing unusual for either of the gate staff doing this.
    Then again, on our recent trip to the coast, I was surprised at the size of some of the bags people were trying to carry on, particularly for the puddle-jumper jet we were on from Calgary to Saskatoon.
    And the woman sitting in front of us was shocked SHOCKED that her loaded, bulging bag just would not fit in the overhead compartment!
     This video is a lot more fun:

    But it isn't so much the airplanes that are awful these days, its the airports:

    Our own trip was certainly better than this -- planes on time, no problems either way.

    Guest Post: The Mound Of Sound On Oligarchy

    Politics and its Discontents - Sat, 04/19/2014 - 09:45
    I am pleased to present to you this second guest post by the Mound of Sound, a.k.a. The Disaffected Lib:

    When the "Greatest Democracy on Earth" closes up shop and re-opens as an oligarchy every other supposed democracy, including our own, better sit up and take notice.

    The United States of America has proven that the ballot box does not guarantee the health or even the survival of democracy. Citizens can vote to their hearts' content and it doesn't matter if economic and political power resides elsewhere.

    Remember that old joke about the Golden Rule? He who has the gold, rules. That's not a joke any longer. It's called "political capture", the process by which political power is taken from the electorate and vested in a group of oligarchs who, through their influence over legislators, call the shots.

    It's pretty dismal when you have to realize that whether you vote or how you vote doesn't matter. The day after the election those individuals that have just been 'hired' by your vote will go to work for someone else. Thank you very much. See you in four years or six years or - well, whatever. And, remember, don't call us, we'll call you.

    Thanks to a study from Princeton, we now have confirmation that the United States has transformed from democracy to oligarchy. Many of us knew it at a gut level but the study meticulously documents what we suspected. Now, here's the thing. America remains notionally a democracy, one citizen - one vote sort of thing. It has a constitution and bill of rights that reflect democracy, not some other form of political organization. What that means is that the rise of oligarchy is a subversion of democracy and powerful, prima facie evidence of a thoroughly corrupted political process. It reeks of wholesale corruption and, given its once lofty perch atop Mount Democracy, it proclaims America one of the most corrupted states on the planet.

    The massive and steadily widening gap between rich and poor in America is no accident. Nor is it the natural outcome of merit-based or market forces. It is the bastard child of the incestuous bedding of the oligarchs and the political classes. Government that pledges to serve the people instead serves them up on a legislative platter to its real masters.

    Now we learn, via Paul Krugman and Bill Moyers, that America's oligarchy is in the process of the next stage of its ascendancy, the establishment of a perpetual, inheritance-based aristocracy.



    Recommend this Post

    Saturday Morning Links

    accidentaldeliberations - Sat, 04/19/2014 - 09:31
    Assorted content for your weekend reading.

    - Paul Krugman explains how one's political values figure to affect one's view of evidence as to the success or failure of a policy:
    (T)he liberal and conservative movements are not at all symmetric in their goals. Conservatives want smaller government as an end in itself; liberals don’t seek bigger government per se — they want government to achieve certain things, which is quite different. You’ll never see liberals boasting about raising the share of government spending in GDP the way conservatives talk proudly about bringing that share down. Because liberals want government to accomplish something, they want to know whether government programs are actually working; because conservatives don’t want the government doing anything except defense and law enforcement, they aren’t really interested in evidence about success or failure. True, they may seize on alleged evidence of failure to reinforce their case, but it’s about political strategy, not genuine interest in the facts.

    One side consequence of this great divide, by the way, is the way conservatives project their own style onto their opponents — insisting that climate researchers are just trying to rationalize government intervention, that liberals like trains because they destroy individualism....
    (A)nother factor is the lack of a comprehensive liberal media environment comparable to the closed conservative universe. If you lean right, you can swaddle yourself 24/7 in Fox News and talk radio, never hearing anything that disturbs your preconceptions. (If you were getting your “news” from Fox, you were told that the hugely encouraging Rand survey was nothing but bad news for Obamacare.) If you lean left, you might watch MSNBC, but the allegedly liberal network at least tries to make a distinction between news and opinion — and if you watch in the morning, what you get is right-wing conspiracy theorizing more or less indistinguishable from Fox.

    Yet another factor may be the different incentives of opinion leaders, which in turn go back to the huge difference in resources. Strange to say, there are more conservative than liberal billionaires, and it shows in think-tank funding. As a result, I like to say that there are three kinds of economists: Liberal professional economists, conservative professional economists, and professional conservative economists. The other box isn’t entirely empty, but there just isn’t enough money on the left to close the hack gap.- Linda McQuaig discusses the Cons' combination of elitist operations and populist messaging. Don Lenihan considers populism to be merely a particularly cynical form of elitism - which often serves to divert needed accountability by replacing the public's role in keeping an eye on its leaders with the promise of a savior to take on the job. And Jim Coyle questions how children of privilege like Rob Ford and Justin Trudeau can keep a straight face while claiming to stand up for the little guy - while comparing the respective plausibility of their pitches.

    - Of course, elitism in the ranks of our political leaders is all the worse when it's accepted by other institutions which should protect the public interest. On that front, Michael Harris wonders whether the RCMP is doing the bidding of the PMO rather than pursuing justice in electing not to pursue charges against Nigel Wright, while suggesting that we're at least owed an explanation for the choice.

    - Meanwhile, Erik Loomis asks why we treat employer wage theft as an administrative matter to be met with a slap on the wrist, rather than an abuse just as deserving of criminal intervention as an employee's stealing from the till. And the Star-Phoenix editorial board duly slams the Cons' "victims' rights" legislation which once again uses a misleading title to introduce regressive changes to the criminal justice system.

    - Kim Nursall reports on TD's study examining the long-term costs of climate change - which include both tens of billions in losses to Canadian GDP, and human costs going far beyond what can be easily quantified. And Leilani Farha and Michele Biss look at the numbers we're missing in discussing homelessness in Canada, while pointing out that we already know plenty which should push us to act.

    - Finally, Rob Nagai suggests that the NDP should change its attitude to take a more positive view of fund-raising. But I'd note some distinction between the view of the party apparatus (which has done plenty to work on the issue) and the grassroots (which probably does better fit Nagai's description of preferring issue advocacy to fund-raising) - and suggest that if the NDP is going to find a find-raising advantage, the longer-term goal should be to better build fund-raising into its member-driven activities.

    A Brief Programming Note

    Politics and its Discontents - Sat, 04/19/2014 - 09:04


    Since spring finally seems to be arriving in my place on the planet, it seems like a propitious time to take a day or two off from this blog and contemplate other matters. In the interim, I recommend the following for your perusal:

    The Star's Thomas Walkom writes about democracy, voting and past democratic reform measures in his column today.

    A series of thoughtful letters from Star readers provides an ample basis for some serious contemplation of climate change.

    And finally, on the oligarchy that has essentially subverted supplanted democracy, the Mound of Sound recommends this interview with Thomas Krugman, who discusses a new book by French economist Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Pikey argues that modern capitalism has put the world "on the road not just to a highly unequal society, but to a society of an oligarchy—a society of inherited wealth."

    See you shortly, and enjoy the long weekend.
    Recommend this Post

    Smelling A Skunk

    Northern Reflections - Sat, 04/19/2014 - 06:47


    Eric Grenier writes that, the more Canadians learn about the Fair Elections Act, the less they like it:

    Opposition to the Conservative government's proposed Fair Elections Act (Bill C-23) is widespread and growing, according to a new poll by Angus Reid Global.

    The survey, conducted online from April 14-15 and surveying 1,505 Canadians, found that 59 per cent of Canadians who said they were very or fairly familiar with the proposed legislation were opposed to it, an increase of three points since Angus Reid last polled Canadians on the topic in February.

    Unfortunately, there is still a significant number of Canadians who haven't bothered to look into what the Harperites are selling:

    Nevertheless, a majority of Canadians (69 per cent) said they were not familiar with the bill, including 27 per cent who said they had not heard of it before Angus Reid polled them. That did decrease by 11 points from February, however, as the number of people saying they were very familiar with the bill increased by three points to eight per cent, and the proportion who said they were fairly familiar jumped by eight points to 23 per cent.

    There was an important difference in support for Bill C-23 between those who knew something about it and those who said they didn't. And why not? It is called the "Fair Elections Act" after all. Whereas just 41 per cent of Canadians who said they were familiar with the proposed legislation supported it, 52 per cent who said they knew little to nothing about it were in favour. 
    And therein lies the rub. The government is depending on ignorance and apathy to finesse its future. But Tom Walkom warns that fixing Canadian democracy will take more than defeating the Fair Elections Act:

    But the real problems of Canadian democracy are much deeper. They centre on the fact that, even without these new impediments to voting so few Canadians bother to cast ballots.In 2011, only 61 per cent of those eligible to vote did so.

    Harper’s Conservatives are right about one thing: Feel-good ads from Elections Canada won’t persuade non-voters to vote. People will vote only if they are inspired to do so, presumably by those seeking office.
    And that will only happen when Canadians begin to smell a skunk in the woodpile.


    Pages

    Subscribe to canadianprogressives.ca aggregator