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Saturday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sat, 12/06/2014 - 09:14
This and that for your weekend reading.

- Reviewing Darrell West's Billionaires, Michael Lewis discusses how extreme wealth doesn't make anybody better off - including the people fighting for position at the top of the wealth spectrum:
A team of researchers at the New York State Psychiatric Institute surveyed 43,000 Americans and found that, by some wide margin, the rich were more likely to shoplift than the poor. Another study, by a coalition of nonprofits called the Independent Sector, revealed that people with incomes below twenty-five grand give away, on average, 4.2 percent of their income, while those earning more than 150 grand a year give away only 2.7 percent. A UCLA neuroscientist named Keely Muscatell has published an interesting paper showing that wealth quiets the nerves in the brain associated with empathy: if you show rich people and poor people pictures of kids with cancer, the poor people’s brains exhibit a great deal more activity than the rich people’s. (An inability to empathize with others has just got to be a disadvantage for any rich person seeking political office, at least outside of New York City.) “As you move up the class ladder,” says Keltner, “you are more likely to violate the rules of the road, to lie, to cheat, to take candy from kids, to shoplift, and to be tightfisted in giving to others. Straightforward economic analyses have trouble making sense of this pattern of results.”

There is an obvious chicken-and-egg question to ask here. But it is beginning to seem that the problem isn’t that the kind of people who wind up on the pleasant side of inequality suffer from some moral disability that gives them a market edge. The problem is caused by the inequality itself: it triggers a chemical reaction in the privileged few. It tilts their brains. It causes them to be less likely to care about anyone but themselves or to experience the moral sentiments needed to be a decent citizen. 
Or even a happy one. Not long ago an enterprising professor at the Harvard Business School named Mike Norton persuaded a big investment bank to let him survey the bank’s rich clients. (The poor people in the survey were millionaires.) In a forthcoming paper, Norton and his colleagues track the effects of getting money on the happiness of people who already have a lot of it: a rich person getting even richer experiences zero gain in happiness. That’s not all that surprising; it’s what Norton asked next that led to an interesting insight. He asked these rich people how happy they were at any given moment. Then he asked them how much money they would need to be even happier. “All of them said they needed two to three times more than they had to feel happier,” says Norton. The evidence overwhelmingly suggests that money, above a certain modest sum, does not have the power to buy happiness, and yet even very rich people continue to believe that it does: the happiness will come from the money they don’t yet have. To the general rule that money, above a certain low level, cannot buy happiness there is one exception. “While spending money upon oneself does nothing for one’s happiness,” says Norton, “spending it on others increases happiness.” - Lucinda Platt discusses the devastating effects of poverty on childhood development - while noting that more than half of children experience poverty at some point.

- CBC News reports on the continued growth of food bank use in Saskatchewan - a fact which seems to be entirely in keeping with Brad Wall's plans. And Will Chabun reports on a new CCPA/Parkland Institute study showing that the Sask Party's determination to privatize liquor sales will make it far more difficult to fund adequate social programs or other public priorities in the future. 

- Meanwhile, thwap highlights how we face both constant demands to borrow for the sake of meeting consumer expectations, and severe punishments for giving in to that pressure.

- Kathleen Mogelgaard examines what's needed for a climate change summit to be successful. And the Cons' familiar distraction tactics (with the obvious goal of continuing to facilitate pollution from the tar sands) have absolutely no place in accomplishing anything useful - while their international lobbying to avoid having anybody else make up for the Cons' negligence may not be working out as planned.

- Finally, Ian Welsh writes that while it might seem obvious that police violence should be discouraged and punished, the complete lack of consequences for police officers killing civilians reflects an authoritarian culture working as intended rather than a failure of the system in its present form.

One May Smile And Be A Villain

Northern Reflections - Sat, 12/06/2014 - 07:16

With Industry Canada's approval of Burger King's takeover of Tim Horton's, Oakville officially became the home of the Whopper. But Gerald Caplan writes that the real home of the Whopper is Ottawa. And, while several past governments might lay claim to telling  the biggest whoppers, the Harper government is certainly in the running for the gold medal:

But last week the government finally won the gold medal for perhaps the most despicable act ever of deceit and outright lying. And wouldn’t you just know, given the Harper record, that it was Canada’s veterans they lied to.

Stephen Harper and his government have seemed inexplicably indifferent to vets returning from war zones with post-traumatic stress disorder. According to the latest Defence Department stats, 160 military personnel committed suicide between 2004 and March 31, 2014. That compares to the 138 Canadian soldiers killed in combat in Afghanistan between 2002 and 2014. It’s a stunning comparison, isn’t it? By any measure it’s a crisis of epidemic proportions, and yet the government refused to take it seriously. Rhetoric? Of course; a great deal. Money? Some. Yet no serious attempt to deal with the problem. It’s truly baffling.
So, two days before the auditor general lambasted the Harperites for the delays in getting services to the victims of PTSD, Julian Fantino announced that $200 million dollars were going to be spent on providing those services. However:

The $200-million money is not for the next six years at all. It’s for the next 50 years, as the government was soon forced to acknowledge, maybe $4-million a year. According to Scott Maxwell, executive director of the activist Wounded Warriors Canada, the 50-year figure “has never been mentioned in any briefing, in any press release or conference.” The government wilfully covered up the truth from beginning to end.
Othello got it right.  One may smile and smile and be a villain.

The Montreal Massacre and the Con War on Women

Montreal Simon - Sat, 12/06/2014 - 05:19

And now it has been twenty five years, since that that snowy day in Montreal, when a man with a gun stole the lives of so many young women.

And this year that sad anniversary has never seemed so poignant and painful, with all the stories in the news about the never-ending violence against women.

As if we had learned nothing, as if they had died for nothing.

As if we had forgotten that it was that same bestial, senseless, cowardly hatred that drove their killer to unleash his murderous violence upon them...
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Political speech : Support the troops

Creekside - Sat, 12/06/2014 - 03:03

In May 2012, David Pugliese wrote about how senior managers at Veterans Affairs Canada received almost $700,000 in bonuses and extra pay in 2011 "even as their department came under fire for failing to help former soldiers." A Con official advised him the bonuses are set by the Treasury Board and senior management at Veterans Affairs. Pugliese : 
"Next year's payouts could be even larger, since the government is tying those to the savings managers can find in their departments. An estimated 800 jobs will be lost at Veterans Affairs over the next three years."Chronicle Herald, yesterday : Veterans Affairs: Managers reaped rewards after cuts"Veterans Affairs Canada managers made hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses for cutting costs as the department shed hundreds of jobs.In 2011-12, the department paid $343,000 to 60 managers under what appears to be a new program for “Savings/Spending Targets.Bonuses ranged from $2,376 up to $14,728, and averaged about $5,700 per person. The following year, $243,000 was paid out to 55 managers, an average of $4,400 each."
Chronicle Herald, Dec 4 : Harper dismisses massive job cuts at Veterans Affairs amid calls for Fantino’s removal 
"According to departmental performance reports filed with the Treasury Board, Veterans Affairs had the equivalent of 4,039 full-time employees in 2008-09. That number fell to 3,050 by 2013-14.More than half of those cuts came from a program called Health Care and Re-Establishment Benefits and Services.The program is in charge of helping with the physical, mental and social well-being of veterans and to “provide access to employment support, health benefits, home care and long-term care.”Last year, there were 1,536 employees in that division, down 619, or almost 30 per cent, from 2009."
Vancouver Sun, May 2014 : Tories spending $4M more on veterans ads to counter 'misinformation': Fantino"Veterans Affairs is spending an additional $4 million on advertising this year — including television spots throughout the NHL playoffs ... The TV ads emphasize efforts to move soldiers smoothly from military to civilian life...."
David Pugliese : Wounded vets asked to sign form saying they won’t criticize the military on social media"The Canadian Forces is requiring physically and mentally wounded soldiers to sign a form acknowledging they won’t criticize senior officers or discourage others in uniform with their comments on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.The form, given to military personnel who are transferred to the Joint Personnel Support Unit, was sent to the Citizen by military members upset with what they see as a threat to their right to speak out about the failure of the Department of National Defence and Canadian Forces to take care of the wounded."CBC, March 2014 : Veterans don't have social contract, Ottawa says in lawsuit response

This month - December - the government is again attempting to have the vets' case in the British Columbia Court Of Appeal dismissed on the grounds that they have no particular social contract or covenant with returning troops because the promise made by Tory PM Robert Borden in 1917 was just "political speech":"The defendant pleads that the statements made by Sir Robert Borden and the coalition government in 1917 were political speeches that reflected the policy positions of the government at the time and were never imended to create a contract or covenant."Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino's office released a statement Wednesday saying the government doesn't comment on issues that are before the court..

The Main Reason Stephen Harper Hates Kathleen Wynne So Much

Montreal Simon - Sat, 12/06/2014 - 01:21

I can only guess why Stephen Harper hates Kathleen Wynne with a passion that makes you want to pick up the phone, and call the police. 

Because I'm not a psychiatrist specializing in the treatment of clinical psychopaths, who can't feel the pain of others. Or be rehabilitated.

But I know do enough about him and his morally depraved Con cult to come up with a short list of possible reasons:
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Are there no workhouses?

Creekside - Fri, 12/05/2014 - 23:59
Some holiday cheer from the Canadian neo-liberal think tank, Frontier Centre for Public Policy :

 Transcript :
"Labour laws in Canada are supposed to protect workers from exploitation and ensure their safety. But they are not always helping teenagers who are entering the workforce for the first time. Most provinces require that anyone younger than 16 or 14 obtain a permit to work or have written permission from their parents. Children under 12 are almost never allowed to work unless they might be helping on a family farm.  Teens who do work face many restrictions, including how many hours and which hours they're allowed to work. Some of these rules seem rather unnecessary. In Alberta, 12 to 14 year olds are forbidden from working more than 2 hours on a schoolday. Two hour workshifts four days a week are more disruptive than 4 hour shifts two days a week.
Minimum wage laws also make it more difficult for young people with no experience to find their first job. In the UK there's a lower minimum wage for people between the ages of 18 and 20 and for those under 18.  Teenagers who live at home are often able to accept lower wages than adults.
It's time for governments to show more consideration for the needs of young people when developing labour policies."Yes, why aren't more 12 year olds working four days a week for less than minimum wage?

I first got interested in FCPP back in 2007 when the Cons tapped them for policy advice on electoral reform. This was amusing because FCPP didn't seem very keen on electoral reform, although they were pretty big on private health care, denying the existence of climate change, disbanding the Canadian Wheat Board, and promoting bulk exports of water to the US.
Harper liked them well enough to give a guest speech at one of their fundraisers in Winnipeg in 2009 . This was the same year FCPP and the Fraser Institute co-sponsored the first Canadian tour of Lord Christopher "Global Warming is a Hoax" Monkton 
Currently on their main page they are featuring one of their research fellows, Wendell Cox,  also a fellow at the Heritage Foundation and Heartland Institute, and author of The Wal-Mart Revolution: How Big-Box Stores Benefit Consumers, Workers, and the Economy.
These free marketeers are pretty ubiquitous in our media. From just the past few days :
CBC : 'Greenpeace dropout' Patrick Moore defends Kinder Morgan pipeline   Climate change denier and not founder of Greenpeace Patrick Moore is environment chair at FCPP
Financial Post : When emissions disappear, so do jobs by a senior FCPP research fellow
Global News is running a half-hour weekly podcast on Alberta politics with the VP of FCPP 

So, who are you getting your news from lately?.

Deep thought

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 12/05/2014 - 19:29
In general, we should be appalled by the idea of letting catastrophic climate change run amok and force people to abandon their homes and communities.

But for a few self-selected people, it's tough not to see some poetic justice in the possibility.

December 6, 2014

Dawg's Blawg - Fri, 12/05/2014 - 18:46
It’s the 25th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre. Everyone knows the name of the misogynist bastard who did this. Perhaps readers might want to take the time to memorize, say, three of the names of his fourteen victims.... Dr.Dawg

Musical interlude

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 12/05/2014 - 17:51
Activa - Antimatter

Thug life in Edmonton

Dawg's Blawg - Fri, 12/05/2014 - 13:59
Officer Darren Wilson of Ferguson, MO, has reportedly made his first million by gunning down an unarmed Black kid. In Edmonton, AB, Constable Mike Wasylyshen has just become a Sergeant. Who is Mike Wasylyshen? He’s the son of a former... Dr.Dawg

Friday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 12/05/2014 - 06:37
Assorted content to end your week.

- Manuel Perez-Rocha writes about the corrosive effect of allowing businesses to dictate public policy through trade agreements:
(C)orporations are increasingly using investment and trade agreements — specifically, the investor-state dispute settlement provisions in them — to bring opportunistic cases in arbitral courts, circumventing decisions states deem in their best interest. And now investor-state dispute settlement provisions may be enshrined in two new treaties: the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and Trans-Pacific Partnership, currently under negotiation between, respectively, the United States and the European Union, and the United States and 11 Asia-Pacific nations. If the final agreements contain these mechanisms, we can expect a flood of cases like Pacific Rim v. El Salvador.

Investor-state dispute settlement provisions feature in many significant pacts, including the North American Free Trade Agreement, and nine U.S.-E.U. bilateral investment treaties. Foreign investors can sue over alleged violations of myriad “investor protections,” including public-interest regulations that would reduce their profits. But it doesn’t cut both ways: Governments or communities affected by foreign investors cannot bring claims. Equally troublesome, tribunal operations are often opaque....The investor-state dispute settlement mechanism is like playing soccer on half the field. Corporations are free to sue, and nations must defend themselves at enormous cost — and the best a government can hope for is a scoreless game. As the T.T.I.P. and T.P.P. negotiations continue, Pacific Rim vs. El Salvador should remind us not to privilege foreign investors to the detriment of the national — or global — good.- And that corporate privilege stands in particularly stark contrast to the limited rights of citizens - as evidenced by the Ontario Court of Appeal's recent decision that individuals can't even make out an arguable case for a Charter right to housing.

- Joseph Heath examines the reality that dirty and hard-to-extract oil reserves should be seen as stranded assets for the sake of our planet, rather than relied on as a source of future wealth.

- Keith Neuman and Ian Bruce comment on the growing consensus that we need to take strong action to fight climate change. Martin Lukacs suggests that public ownership within the energy industry would go a long way toward getting greenhouse gas emissions in check. And the Fraser Institute helpfully points out that the alternative to mitigating climate change is to abandon cities built in locations which will suffer its most extreme effects.

- Finally, Thomas Walkom discusses the Cons' habit of cultivating foreign enemies in order to paper over their lack of interest in governing in the interest of Canadians.


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