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Sunday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - dim, 05/29/2016 - 10:45
This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Andrea Germanos follows up on the IMF's realization that handing free money and power to corporations does nothing for the economy as it affects people's lives. And Susie Cagle examines the role of tech money - like other massive accumulations of wealth - in exacerbating inequalities in both wealth and political influence.

- Jeffrey Sachs points out that Bernie Sanders' economic policy prescriptions are exactly what the U.S. in particular needs in order to offer a more secure life for the population as a whole:
The United States unleashed the power of CEOs to enrich themselves with mega-salaries, weakened trade unions and gave massive tax breaks to the super-rich. Sanders’s policies would go after all of these unconscionable moves, bringing the United States back into line with the rest of the high-income world. He would, in short, end the age of impunity in which the rich and the powerful get their way, while the rest suffer. Sanders’s policies include higher taxes on the rich, strengthening unions, raising the minimum wage, supporting families, providing free tuition at public universities and cracking down on financial crimes.

There is nothing magical or utopian about Sanders’s recommendations. He is advocating policies of decency long ago adopted by other prosperous high-income countries. Our own neighbor, Canada, is a case in point. Canada has lower-cost health care, a life expectancy two years higher than in the United States, much lower college tuition, far lower poverty rates and, not surprisingly, more happiness (ranking sixth in the world in life satisfaction, behind Scandinavia and well ahead of the United States, which is 12th). 
Mainstream economists long ago lost the melody line. Their models are oriented to the status quo and underemphasize the benefits of public investment. They take America’s bloated health-care costs as a given, not as the result of the influence of the U.S. private health lobby. They treat low growth as natural (“secular stagnation”) rather than as the result of chronic underinvestment. They have come to accept cruelly rising income inequality and rampant impunity for financial crimes. Sanders knows better, based on worldwide experience, an abiding sense of decency and a strong and accurate vision for a brighter economic future. - Meanwhile, Robert Skidelsky discusses the futility of trying to boost a stalled economy solely through monetary policy when direct public spending figures to accomplish far more.

- Lawrence Mishel and Jessica Schieder chart the connection between union organization and income equality.

- Finally, Elizabeth Thompson reports on the federal government's lack of a clue as to how many temporary foreign workers are actually in Canada. And it's particularly worth contrasting that lax attitude toward workers brought in at the behest of employers against the detention of immigration detainees.

It's Time to Hang the Priests of Neoliberalism.

The Disaffected Lib - dim, 05/29/2016 - 10:29

Failing to fairly tax the rich reminds me of nothing so much as the stadium extortion game that major league teams now routinely play with municipal and state governments. Give me a new stadium and all the concession revenues or I'm taking my team and walking.

Why does that sort of shakedown work? Because there's another municipality somewhere willing to pay for the privilege of becoming the next shakedown victim. They're honing the knife they're going to hold to their own throat. Only it's not their own throat, it's some future mayor's throat. It's whomever is in power when the "stadium shakedown cycle" rolls over again.

We do the same thing when it comes to taxation. With the big and the powerful, we roll over.  The Globe's Eric Reguly says a new study on globalization and the free mobility of capital, means middle class Canadians are getting doubly screwed.

Western governments have been forcing the middle classes to shoulder more of the overall tax burden. Why? Because the middle classes are the easiest targets. Tax wealthy mobile professionals and they hit the road, moving to low-tax areas like Monaco. Ditto corporations; the recent tax-inversion craze has seen dozens of big companies use takeovers to shift their legal headquarters to tax havens such as Ireland.

In this sense, the Western middle-income classes are losing twice. Jobs are disappearing and their relative tax loads are rising.

By the mid-1990s, NAFTA was already in place. A few years later, most of the European countries opened their borders under the Schengen agreement and China joined the World Trade Organization. Dozens of countries signed bilateral free-trade agreements.

During that era, OECD governments came under enormous pressure to fund greater social welfare spending, partly to insure their workers against the economic shocks triggered by free trade. At the same time, the tax bases in some of these countries eroded, the result of the mobility of wealthy professionals and corporations. The governments’ response? “Between 1994 and 2007, the average OECD economy responded to higher [trade] openness by placing a higher tax burden on the relatively immobile middle-income classes,” the trio of authors said.

How will governments reduce the wealth divide if they have convinced themselves that open markets mean it’s difficult or impossible to boost the taxes on the mobile rich?

Endless surveys, including ones from Harvard Business School and the Pew Research Center, point to rising wealth inequality and middle-class stagnation as a top social and economic concern.

Shifting the tax burden to the middle class as globalization continues apace – new trans-atlantic and transpacific trade negotiations are under way – will only make the wealth divide worse.

Now, none of this should come as a surprise. The studies Reguly cites are new but this wealth gap/inequality problem has been chronicled, in relentless and unassailable detail, by the best minds such as Nobel laureate economist Joe Stiglitz. Read his books, especially, Freefall; The Price of Inequality; and The
Great Divide: Unequal Societies and What We Can Do About Them.

The critical point to understand - and never forget - is that if you're on the wrong side of the wealth gap and the inequality problem, the party to blame is your government.
Stiglitz demonstrates that modern inequality is neither merit nor market driven. It is legislated. It is the hallmark of neoliberalism, the political and economic disease that has infected our legislators, our leaders. 
Canadian politicians don't come right out and say it but they subscribe to this "wealth creator/job creator" mantra that's embedded in the free market capitalism/globalization faith. Did I say "faith"? Why yes I did. That's because it's faith-based economics. It's an ideology, nothing more. It survives despite empirical evidence, facts, showing that it's failed us. Our political caste, the current management included, clings to it for one simple reason - they know nothing else. They don't have a fu#king clue of what else to do or how to change even if that's what they wanted. They're indentured to it and because of that, so are we.
Here are some helpful thoughts from John Ralston Saul on our economic disease: neoliberalism/free market fundamentalism/globalism. He writes that we are currently wallowing in, "a vacuum of economic thought, which adds an element of even greater uncertainty becAuse economics is a romantic, tempestuous business, rather theatrical, often dependent on the willing suspension of disbelief by the rest of us."
"Civilizations, religions, languages, cultures, nations, even nation-states tend to last centuries. For economic theories a quarter century is a good run. A half-century is unusual. More than that is something to boast about."
He goes on to point out that free trade flourished in earlier times and was at its zenith at the outbreak of the First World War:
"Keynes went on to demonstrate the extent of economic interdependence inside Europe in 1914. Germany had been the leading customer of Russia, Norway, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy and Austria-Hungary; the second best of Britain, Sweden and Denmark; the third best of France; and the primary supplier to Russia, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Switzerland, Italy, Austria-Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria, as well as the second largest to Britain, Belgium and France. Neither these investments nor this trade stopped these countries from slaughtering each other in an unprecedented way for five years."
"Instead the closest, most integrated of economic and trading partners went to war with each other in a particularly vicious manner. And immediately after that they variously embraced communism and fascism and the worst of racism and, almost incidentally, high tariff barriers. And then they went to war again.
The author has one chilling insight on how globalism was hijacked. He notes that "commerce" today has become the fiefdom of capital markets, not trade in goods and services as was intended at the outset.
"It isn't simply a matter of failures and unforeseen contradictory forces. The most revealing measurement is the system's own successes. Why? Because it increasingly feels as if even the promises fulfilled are not having the expected effect. A few questions will suggest the pattern."
"Most of the foreign exchange movements are about speculation, not investment or wealth creation. The amounts involved are forty to sixty times that of real trade. Serious supporters of Globalization like Jagdish Ghabwati and partial critics like the economist Joseph Stiglitz and a growing number of others are horrified by what they see as a hijacking of free trade movement to support open capital markets."
He argues that free trade and wealth, in the sense of national well being have become decoupled. His book is now ten years old but that's also a measure of how long we have wallowed in this interregnum, waiting for some new models of economics and governance. One point his book proves, convincingly, is that there's no foundational truth to globalism/market fundamentalism/neoliberalism that is rooted in inevitability as so many of us have been led to accept. It is an ideology, nothing more, akin to a religion and it is entirely faith-based.

Our previous prime minister, Shifty, was a true believer. Our current prime minister, Slick, goes to the same church. He's very much a neoliberal adherent of globalized free trade, the very ideology that preys so miserably on middle class Canadians. When the media were conducting their post mortem on the Trudeau government at six months, Justin held himself up foremost as an agent for international trade.

Trudeau has promised to increase taxes on the wealthiest Canadians and lower taxes for the middle classes but he confuses symptoms with the disease. Taxes, sure, but that's no lasting solution. It's power that Canadians need restored, power that successive governments have yielded through corporatism, globalization and its companion political apparatus, neoliberalism. Tax hikes here, tax breaks there -  that's a sop, gestural and nothing more. That changes budget to budget, election to election, government to government.

There is no sense, none, that Trudeau grasps the scourge that neoliberalism visits on ordinary Canadians.

It was just this week that the High Temple of neoliberalism, the International Monetary Fund, shattered forty years of orthodoxy to admit that neoliberalism is fueling inequality and stunting economic growth. Will Trudeau heed the message, accept the obvious? Don't count on it. He, or more accurately his advisors, have invested their careers in this ideology. It's all they know. Even if they did want to chart another course, find a better economic model, they wouldn't know how to begin.

Yes, This IS Racist

The Disaffected Lib - dim, 05/29/2016 - 09:33
The manufacturer of a popular Chinese laundry detergent is blaming Westerners for making a fuss over a TV commercial that is hopelessly racist.

Methinks the Chinese need a few sessions in cultural awareness.

Well, That's Certainly Big of Them. Conservatives Back Down on Gay Marriage - Sort Of, In a Way, a Bit Maybe

The Disaffected Lib - dim, 05/29/2016 - 07:32

Sorry, but I still hear that sound of knuckles dragging on the ground.

The Conservatives, we're told, have removed a provision in their policy book that defined marriage as "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" or something along those lines.

Now this is apparently a seismic event, a real breakthrough in the Tory psyche, an unburdening of sorts, or something.

So, what does it really mean? Why not ask Tory leadership contender, Maxime Bernier.

It’s about telling Canadians that you can love whom you want.”
They're telling us, the plebs, that it's now okay to love whom we want. It's an act of political benevolence, of sorts. "Okay, be gay if you must."

Can We Trust Them? Don't Hold Your Breath.

The Disaffected Lib - dim, 05/29/2016 - 06:37

The G7 leaders have struck a pact to end fossil fuel subsidies by 2025. It sounds great, in principle, but do we have any reason to believe them?

In Canada our governments admit to annual subsidies of around 2.5 billion. Is that what will be ending? How much of that is provincial (a lot) and how will Ottawa get the western premiers to go along?

The real problem is that the amount our federal and provincial governments acknowledge is the tip of the iceberg. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) ran the numbers of all our direct and indirect subsidies - grants, deferrals, exemptions, the provision of natural capital (public property) either at no cost or below market values - and its total was just under $35 billion each and every year.

So what number are we going to be using? This is the sort of issue that Slick can get pretty weasley on. Until he acknowledges the IMF number there's absolutely no reason to believe that Ottawa will be making much of a dent in the subsidy scam.

There's no reason to think that he'll still be in charge by 2025 in any case and, besides, it's just a promise. We've heard a lot of promises from that fellow and we've learned that he doesn't always come through on his word.

As for America? Dream on.

The Weather Guy Says - It Ain't Your Grandpa's Weather Any More

The Disaffected Lib - dim, 05/29/2016 - 06:20

He's not your TV weather guy. When he gets it wrong he's in trouble. Paul Douglas owns a company that provides weather forecasts to Fortune 500 companies that need to know what's coming and can risk a lot of money on his advice. He also, it seems, is an evangelical.

Douglas has written an excellent piece in The Guardian. Here are a few excerpts, teasers:

Whatever happened to normal weather? Earth has always experienced epic storms, debilitating drought, and biblical floods. But lately it seems the treadmill of disruptive weather has been set to fast-forward. God’s grandiose Symphony of the Seasons, the natural ebb and flow of the atmosphere, is playing out of tune, sounding more like a talent-free second grade orchestra, with shrill horns, violins screeching off-key, cymbal crashes coming in at the wrong time. Something has changed. the turn of the 21st century this warming seemed to be flavoring much of the weather I was tracking, turning up the volume of extremes, loading the dice for weather weirding. Multiple strands of data confirm Earth has a low-grade fever, a warming trend that transcends periodic heat released from El Niño.

People ask “What’s a couple of degrees, Paul?” Well, when was the last time youwere a couple of degrees warmer? Chances are you felt miserable. And there were visible, tangible symptoms: sweating, chills, headaches, nausea. Your physician popped a thermometer in your mouth and confirmed you had a fever. Chances are you didn’t make a fuss, argue with the doctor, or deny the diagnosis.

Both NASA and local farmers confirm a longer growing seasons, with more allergens, pests and invasive species. Rainfall rates are increasing; wet areas trending even wetter. My home state of Minnesota has witnessed four separate 1-in-1,000 year floods since 2004.

A warmer atmosphere is increasing water vapor levels overhead, juicing storms, fueling an increase in flash floods in the summer, and heavier winter snows along the East Coast of the USA. “All storms are 5 to 10 percent stronger in terms of heavy rainfall” explained Dr. Kevin Trenberth, at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.

From the mega-blaze that swept across Fort McMurray, Alberta to repeated flooding of Houston, scorching heat in India, perpetual drought from California to Australia, and a record year for global hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones in 2015, the symptoms of a warming ecosystem are becoming harder to dismiss or deny.

In a day and age of scammers, hackers, hucksters and special interests it’s good to be skeptical. You should be skeptical about everything. Some of the biggest skeptics on the planet are scientists. In fact, science is organized skepticism. Climate and weather are flip-sides of the same coin; everything is interconnected. Climate scientists tell us the climate is warming and meteorologists are tracking the symptoms: freakish weather showing up with unsettling regularity. Even if you don’t believe the climate scientists or your local meteorologist do yourself and your kids a favor. Believe your own eyes.

A Pill For The Times

Politics and its Discontents - dim, 05/29/2016 - 05:32
Our American cousins and the Conservative Party of Canada (especially Kellie Leitch and Chris Alexander) could benefit from this prescription, but I suspect their response would be, "Just say no to drugs."

Recommend this Post

14 thoughts on watching how i met your mother (first time through so no spoilers please!)

we move to canada - dim, 05/29/2016 - 05:00
I was watching MASH when Netflix pulled the plug on our VPN. I found a new VPN... but now MASH is gone. One day I hope to finish the end-to-end rewatch. But right then, my comedy-before-bed slot was left hanging. I tried "How I Met Your Mother," and I was very happily surprised.

I have not watched or read ahead, so please do not even allude to the ending. I understand many fans hated it, ok? No need to fill me in.

How I love "How I Met Your Mother".

1. Smart, character-driven comedy. Not easy to find.

2. Great female characters. Generally non-sexist, even anti-sexist.

3. Around Season 5, I thought the show was going off the rails, as Barney's character became more outrageous and non-believable -- usually a sure sign that a show is struggling. Then I was very surprised and happy that it found a new groove.

4. Most good comedies have at least a little pathos mixed in, and this show was brave enough to go there. Revealing the pain behind Barney's bravado was a bold move. Allowing Barney to care about Robin, also bold and feels credible.

5. I find myself getting into the relationships the way I did with, say, "Veronica Mars". I actually no longer care how Ted meets his soulmate. I'm way more interested in Barney and Robin.

6. Canada jokes. Occasionally a bit overdone, but I love the theme. Plus it's often a way to work in US jokes.

7. This is one of the funniest moments I've seen on any sitcom. I watched it three times then made Allan watch it with me. (I am now officially banned from ever doing that again.)

8. I am obsessed with this. The mannerisms and movements are so exactly perfect for a band playing this kind of music. I would be embarrassed to tell you how many times I've watched it. The first Robin Sparkles video was also dead-on. (The other Robin Sparkles vids were lame and unnecessary.)

9. I'm a little obsessed with Neil Patrick Harris's acting ability.

10. The occasional self-referential moments are great and not over-done.

11. First musical number in a non-musical show that I ever liked: Nothing Suits Me Like a Suit. Hated the musical episodes in Xena, beyond hated them in Buffy (two shows I love). Rarely liked them in The Simpsons. Loved it here.

12. I still haven't decided if the Seinfeld references are homage or rip-off. In general I love how the show updates the friends-hang-out motif -- a bar instead of a coffee shop, alcohol, recreational drugs, references to same-sex attraction in seemingly heterosexual characters.

13. The only thing I don't like: I find the Lily-and-Marshall perfect-couple-monogamy overdone. Granted, everyone's relationship "thing" is overdone, but this one just doesn't work for me.

14. New York City. Nicely done. Although the it-takes-five-minutes-to-get-anywhere that Seinfeld abused (Yankee Stadium!) is way worse here. Staten Island, for crissakes! But still. Good NYC stuff.

Justin Trudeau and the New Liberal Movement

Montreal Simon - dim, 05/29/2016 - 03:29

I don't know how Justin Trudeau does it. Less than two days ago he was in Japan attending the G7 summit.

But there he was in Winnipeg yesterday, putting his leadership on the line.

Addressing the faithful at the Liberal convention.

And making Canadian political history.
Read more »

Pretty Thin, But . . .

Northern Reflections - dim, 05/29/2016 - 02:51

As prime minister, Stephen Harper didn't accomplish much. Andrew Coyne writes that Mr. Harper's legacy is pretty thin:

Any honest examination of Harper’s nine-odd years in office would find a government that wandered all over the intellectual map, boasting of its commitment to balanced budgets while adding $150 billion to the national debt, talking of its respect for free markets while launching 1970s-style industrial-subsidy programs, praising the military while denying it adequate equipment, and so on. 

Its defenders point to all the things other governments might have done — a national daycare program, say — that Harper’s didn’t. But we could as well list all of the conservative policies it failed to enact, from privatization to deregulation to reform of social programs. We might talk of how the party’s social conservatives were gagged, or how the party of democratic conservatism became the party of one-man rule.

There was much that it did that it shouldn’t have — a long list that would include abusing the prerogatives of Parliament, packing the Senate with spendthrifts and cronies, and attempting to skew elections via the Fair Elections Act — and much else that it tried to do but failed, from reforming the Senate to building pipelines.
And, Coyne admits, the Liberals are rapidly undoing what Harper left on the books. However, he gives Harper credit for uniting a party which tends to self destruct:

The Diefenbaker sweep in 1958 was reduced to a minority in just four years. The Mulroney sweep in 1984, likewise, carried within it the seeds of its later demise. Both were too sudden to last.
Time will tell whether the Harper Party survives this weekend's convention and beyond.


Hey, You Wanna Talk Dirt?

The Disaffected Lib - sam, 05/28/2016 - 10:03

It's a pretty simple proposition. If there are three things that will probably kill you and you put your efforts into fighting one of them the other two that you ignored will probably kill you. If your house is on fire and you put all your efforts into fighting the fire in the kitchen your house is still going to burn to the ground.

By now most sentient people accept that climate change poses a mortal threat to human civilization, if not immediately, in two or three decades. That realization has become sufficiently widespread that our political caste, those to whom we've entrusted the reins of power, are talking of doing something about it. Maybe they will, maybe they won't. That's a cornucopia of "ifs" and "buts".

Yesterday I wrote about how humans aren't particularly well suited to dealing with existential threats. Human nature has a number of mechanisms, flaws that leave us pretty vulnerable. Sometimes we do the right thing. Sometimes we don't - ask the Maya, the Anasazi, the Easter Islanders, the Greenland Norse.

In yesterday's post I concluded by mentioning a chilling observation by Jared Diamond in the closing chapters of his book, "Collapse." Diamond argues, very convincingly, that when you have existential threats you must solve them all or you'll fail to rectify any of them. That's why I contend that if we're to tackle climate change it won't work unless we also deal with overpopulation and our massive over-consumption of Earth's resources.

Humanity is growing in total numbers and in per capita consumption. There are increasingly more of us, each consuming a growing quantity of resources - water, energy, agricultural products, goods of all descriptions. That means we're rapidly spooling up economic activity.

Our roster now stands at 7+ billion, heading to 9+ billion perhaps as soon as the middle of this century. To put that in perspective, we were at 3 billion in the 60s. Mankind didn't reach 1 billion until somewhere around 1814. In other words it took us 11,000 years of civilization to reach 1 billion and just another 200 years in which to multiply seven fold.

50%, that's the number bandied about. The International Energy Agency says humans will need some 50% more energy by 2050. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization and several other august bodies figure we'll need 50% more agricultural production to feed the global herd by 2050.

Which leads me to a problem rarely mentioned in polite company - the rapid decline in our agricultural capacity. As a follow up to some courses I've done in war studies, I became curious about food security issues. In reading some of the assigned materials on global food supply I came across a paper that I found sufficiently interesting to read in its entirety. That was my introduction to the problem of loss of farmland - soil degradation, desertification and so on.

It was just one paper and I had other things to do so I moved on to other things. The issue didn't seem to have a lot of traction, perhaps the danger was overstated.

Then, in December, 2014, Scientific American published an item about a UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) report warning that mankind had about 60 years of farmland left. What a mind-boggling thing to say. 60 years of farmland left, what could that possibly mean? Preposterous!

Yet the UN agency warning was consistent with what I had read previously through independent study. So I followed up and found all sorts of research coming to that same conclusion. Here's the thing. Yes, we grew to 7+ billion mouths but, to fill those mouths, we had to resort to the parlour tricks of the Green Revolution - intensive exploitation of surface and groundwater resources, ever increasing applications of soil exhausting chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, and industrial-scale agricultural farming practices.

Think of it as the old-time farmer who pushes his plough horse to exhaustion until it collapses and dies. That's about where we're at with our stocks of farmland.

Then there's the spreading problem of salination. A lot of groundwater contains trace amounts of salt. Groundwater evaporates, leaving the salts behind. Over time the level of salt in the topsoil increases until it will no longer support plant life. That's what took down the Mesopotamians and our growing dependence on groundwater for irrigation has brought the problem back.

Even our most productive and well-managed agricultural areas are already degraded. Here's a map based on UN FAO data that shows you what we're dealing with - today.

I should mention that this is a commonly accepted graphic. You'll find it pretty much everywhere the subject is discussed. Now think of it, especially the red parts, in the context of human settlement. The major farming zones of the world, in China, India and the US, are in the red.

So why don't we hear about this? I came across an article in, of all places, Time Magazine where a soils expert dealt with that question. He said we don't hear about it because "it's not sexy." We're only talking about dirt. Dirt's everywhere. Don't you ever mop your floor?

Which brings us to a brief discussion about where soil comes from and where it's been going. Soil is a creation of nature. It comes from the effects of wind and sun and rain and lichens eating away at rock. Nature takes its sweet time making soil. It produces roughly one millimetre every hundred years. That's one centimetre, less than half an inch, every thousand years.

Human activity is depleting that fertile top soil at around 40-times its rate of natural generation. Think of the Dust Bowl of the Dirty 30s. You deplete the soil, drought finishes the job, winds blow it away, you're screwed so you gather up the kids, load up as much furniture as you can carry on the truck and move to greener pastures.

Soil experts think that rate of relative loss of fertile soil is going to increase, markedly so, in the next couple of decades. Whereas we're told we'll need about 50% more production to feed "the herd" our agricultural capacity is set to decline by an estimated 30% in that same interval.

Now if you look on the chart above you'll see the vast tracts of yellow territory, stable soil. Canada's sitting pretty. So is Russia. The rest not so much.

Unfortunately the yellow zones are boreal forest, tundra and bare rock. There is soil there but most of the biomass is in the plants themselves, not in the thin soil. And, as was driven home by the ongoing Fort Mac wildfires, the region is susceptible to sustained drought.

Climate change will extend normal growing temperatures northward, to be sure. What it will not do is tilt the Earth's axis of rotation to expose those northern tracts to the same sunlight exposure that supports photosynthesis in more temperate regions. In other words when it comes to the north being our salvation, you're confronted by a soils problem, a drought problem and a sunlight problem. There'll be some gain but it won't offset the damage done in our traditional agricultural areas.

There are some things that Canada and Russia can do but they're costly and dislocative and it would be hard to find the political will necessary to act. I've been working on a couple of ideas but it's not yet time to get into them. The truth is it may never be time, not before the options are foreclosed.

Saturday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - sam, 05/28/2016 - 09:58
Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Eric Reguly highlights the growing possibility of a global revolt against corporate-centred trade agreements:
(A) funny thing happened on the way to the free trade free-for-all: A lot of people were becoming less rich and more angry, to the point that globalization seems set to go into reverse.

Maybe it should. The shocks unleashed by globalization have yet to be absorbed. The senseless deregulation of financial services and the globalization that went with it set the stage for the 2008 financial crisis, whose damage remains. Real average wages for low and middle-income earners have stagnated for decades in North America and Europe. Jobs continue to shift to countries, notably China, where costs are lower and industries are moving up the value chain. Disinflation is turning into outright deflation – falling prices – in some regions.
Western governments did virtually nothing constructive to manage the worst effects of globalization on their populations, such as the loss of millions of jobs.
No wonder more and more Europeans and North Americans are not buying the free-trade hype any more. The marginal trade gains could be more than offset by greater pressure on working-class jobs or laxer regulations on, say, food quality. Europeans also fear that both TTIP and CETA are essentially undemocratic. They were negotiated almost entirely behind closed doors, and both have dispute resolution mechanisms that would allow companies to sue governments for damages if profits are hit because of changes in government policy or regulations. In effect, the provisions would rob their governments of their sovereignty.- Ed Finn reminds us of the role citizens need to play in shaping our own future. And Cheryl Santa Maria examines the flip side to misplaced anger about leaving oil in the ground by discussing the climate chaos that would result if (for whatever perverse reason) all available fossil fuels were actually burned.

- Chris Havergal reports on Christopher Martin's advocacy for a post-secondary education based on making further learning available to facilitate social involvement, rather than on the accumulation of massive debt which narrows students' future opportunities.

- Trevor Hancock discusses the policy choices around different retirement ages - and particularly the need to take into account an individual's type of employment and life expectancy, rather than raising an overall retirement age based on unequally increased lifespans.

- Finally, the Star makes the case for a review of Canada's tax code to make sure we're not bleeding needed revenues without some important policy purpose. 

Straight Talk From the Senate

The Disaffected Lib - sam, 05/28/2016 - 08:30

A number of Liberal senators say they'll oppose the Trudeau government's assisted dying legislation when it reaches the upper chamber.

Senator Jim Cowan put the argument as plainly as possible: "The wording in Carter is very clear ... there is nothing in there about it being a terminal illness, nothing about age. Any attempt by Parliament to take away rights that have been granted and confirmed by the Supreme Court is out of order and I think the bill falls short."

Senator Andre Pratte put it this way: "The bill as it's written now tries to restrict the Supreme Court ruling and ... tries to limit doctor assisted death to people who suffer from terminal illness, and that's not what the court said."  

The Trudeau government, perhaps showing instincts better associated with its predecessor, seems to have trouble fully accepting the rule of law. It's trying to squirm out from under the Charter ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada.

The SCC didn't create the Charter. Trudeau's stalwart dad did that to enshrine the rights of all Canadians and restrain government from intruding on those rights. The Court's function is to interpret the legislation and that's just what they did in the Carter case. They spoke and they spoke clearly. Trudeau is playing politics with the ruling, trying to water it down, promising he may obey the law at some time in the future. Trudeau is using a political ploy to undermine every Canadian's rights under the Charter.

Sorry, Justin, you may be a prince but you're no king.

Some Fascinating Speculation

Politics and its Discontents - sam, 05/28/2016 - 06:29

I readily admit to not following U.S. politics too closely; my emotional resilience has limits. However, given the American media saturation coverage of Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton, it has been hard to ignore the run-up to their respective parties' presidential nominations. Never, it seems, has either party offered such unpopular and unpalatable mainstream candidates.

In his column today, Tony Burman says there is ultimately little cause for concern if, as many are suggesting, Hillary Clinton will be forced to withdraw from the race should she be indicted for her unauthorized use of a private email server while serving as Barack Obama's Secretary of State.

Dismissing Bernie Sanders as unacceptable to the party establishment, Burman points out that unlike the Republicans, delegates to the Democratic convention are free to vote for any candidate, regardless of primary results, and he suggests that candidate may very well be Vice-President Joe Biden:
He originally declined to run due to the death of his son, but has told friends that he regrets that decision.

In early May, a story appeared on the Politico website that created considerable buzz. It quoted sources close to Biden indicating that, had he decided to run, Biden would have chosen Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren as his running mate. Warren is a widely respected financial authority who supports breaking up the big banks to prevent another global crisis. On Tuesday, she enthralled a Washington audience by tearing into Trump, calling him a “small, insecure money-grubber.” It was a devastating performance — a real carving up of Trump — that gave some indication of how effective she would be on the campaign trail.Whether any of this comes to fruition is anyone's guess. I suspect, however, that given the impressiveness and integrity of Elizabeth Warren, she will be a force to be reckoned with in the years to come.Recommend this Post

Stephen Harper and the Verdict of History

Montreal Simon - sam, 05/28/2016 - 06:24

I'm going to spend some time this weekend filing away or deleting some of the more than a thousand photoshop creations I made of Stephen Harper during his hideous years in power.

Because after his pathetic speech the other night, even I am now convinced that he really is gone, and that he won't ever be back.

So after so many years I can finally relax, settle back in my hammock, and await the verdict of history.

Because I'm sure it will be a harsh one.
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Will The Conservatives Move Left?

Northern Reflections - sam, 05/28/2016 - 04:34

Not very likely, says David Orchard, who was betrayed by Peter Mackay, when Orchard threw his support behind Mackay's bid for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party. Mackay threw in his lot with Stephen Harper. And Progressive Conservatism went out the window:

The party's leadership will likely continue to hew hard right, says a prominent member of the former Progressive Conservatives, David Orchard.

Orchard was famously misled by Peter MacKay in 2003 when the Canadian Alliance merged with the Progressive Conservatives to created the modern Conservative Party.

Orchard was running for the party leadership and dropped out to throw his support behind MacKay on the condition MacKay would not allow the merger of the two parties. Later that year MacKay sealed the deal with Stephen Harper's party.

Those who helped MacKay twist the knife still hold most of the power in the Conservative Party, Orchard told the Tyee, and that will prevent the party from shifting towards the centre.

As Harper existed stage right on Thursday night, there was no sign that the party would reject what he stood for. And that's a big problem:

Studies show younger voters in Canada, and in much of the western world, lean more to the left than in previous decades and tend to be more populist.

Meanwhile, Conservatives are trying to rebuild their popularity after Stephen Harper's long, hard shift of the movement rightwards.

Harper prioritized the oil industry, passed the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act, refused to fund abortions in developing countries and proposed a telephone line for Canadians to snitch on each other if they saw a suspected a barbaric cultural practice was committed.

"The past is no place to linger," Harper told his audience on Thursday night. But that is where the Conservatives plan to plant their flag.


The Day Rona Ambrose Called Justin Trudeau a Woman

Montreal Simon - sam, 05/28/2016 - 00:35

It was a bizarre apparition. At the Con convention yesterday during a discussion on how to modernize the Harper Party, MP Marilyn Gladu came out dressed as the Grim Reaper. 

In what was apparently an attempt to make fun of the idea that the Cons are doomed after losing the last election.

But as it turns out maybe Gladu did choose the right costume. And the right words.

Because today the loser party will discuss same-sex marriage.
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America Suspends Supply of Cluster Bombs to Saudi Arabia

The Disaffected Lib - ven, 05/27/2016 - 18:06

Thank God Canada doesn't produce cluster bombs or else Steffie Dion would have writer's cramp signing the contracts. From Foreign Policy:

Frustrated by a growing death toll, the White House has quietly placed a hold on the transfer of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia as the Sunni ally continues its bloody war on Shiite rebels in Yemen, U.S. officials tell Foreign Policy. It’s the first concrete step the United States has taken to demonstrate its unease with the Saudi bombing campaign that human rights activists say has killed and injured hundreds of Yemeni civilians, many of them children.

The move follows rising criticism by U.S. lawmakers of America’s support for the oil-rich monarchy in the year-long conflict. Washington has sold weapons and provided training, targeting information, and aerial refueling support to the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen. It has also sold Riyadh millions of dollars’ worth of cluster bombs in recent years.

You know who else has a fondness for using cluster weapons against civilian areas? Our other really good ally, Israel.

Musical interlude

accidentaldeliberations - ven, 05/27/2016 - 17:20
Seven Lions feat. Kerli - Worlds Apart

National Observer - How Canadian Journalists Have Failed to Solve the Murder of Their Own Profession

The Disaffected Lib - ven, 05/27/2016 - 17:09
Vancouver's alternative media outlet, the National Observer, says that Canada needs to go after Facebook and Google for millions of dollars in unpaid taxes.

Canada's newspapers are bleeding money. The problem is a slump in advertising revenue.  When Harper came to power the feds were spending 18% of their advertising budget on the papers. Today it's just 1%.

While the print media bleeds out, 27% of the government's ad budget is now spent online. The kings of online advertising are - you guessed it - Google and Facebook.

Yet despite their substantial sales and marketing operations in Canada, both companies process all transactions in US dollars directly to their US headquarters.

Neither charges GST.

So here are the Panama Papers questions Canadians should be asking:

Do Google and Facebook receive federal government ad revenue, and if so, are they taxed on that income?

Do they pay any tax here on their Canadian earnings?

Last year the Guardian reported that Facebook’s total 2014 UK tax remittance was less than $7000, which happens to be less than the tax bill of the average British wage-earner. Using its network of corporate entities in Ireland and Cayman, Facebook had reportedly collected more than $1 billion in UK earnings tax-free out of the country, according to the Daily Mail.
Facebook pays $7,000 tax to UK, hands out $534 million in employee bonuses

That same year, according to Reuters, Google sheltered some $15 billion (CAD) in Bermuda. Its corporate tax rate has been reported as low as 2.4 per cent. And it's not paid to the countries that generate the income.

The Guardian reported in March that the European Commission is set to table legislation forcing Google, Facebook, Apple and other large multinationals to publicly disclose their profit and tax arrangements with each of the EU governments where they operate.

When overwhelming public outcry drove tax reforms in the UK, Google wascompelled to pay $240 million in back taxes. This deal still drew harsh criticism. Meantime, Facebook has similarly been forced to invoice most sales through Facebook UK rather than the Irish affiliate.

Although that arrangement was expected to yield hundreds of millions in tax to UK coffers going forward, Facebook immediately offset its UK tax liability by declaring an award of $534 million (CAD) in bonuses to its UK employees over the next three years.

When asked to provide details about its tax planning in Canada and abroad, Facebook told National Observer in a statement: “We have always, and will continue, to meet our tax obligations everywhere we operate.”

France’s Tuesday gambit is a signal that Europe has had it with the shell games.

Canada should join them.

Instead of asking the federal government to provide his own company with tax incentives and subsidies, Paul Godfrey should ask them to level the playing field and tax Facebook and Google.


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