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Tuesday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Tue, 05/12/2015 - 08:04
This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Will McMartin highlights the fact that constant corporate tax slashing has done nothing other than hand ever-larger piles of money to businesses who have no idea what to do with it. But Josh Wingrove reports that Justin Trudeau is looking for excuses to keep up the handouts to the corporate sector.

- Joseph Stiglitz offers (PDF) a thorough review of our options in lessening corporate hegemony, while Elizabeth Warren and Rosa Delauro ask why citizens should accept trade agreements being written in secret by and for the corporate sector. And David Dayen lists some of the lies being told to try to push the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
- Meanwhile, James Fitz-Morris discusses the top-heavy giveaway arising out of the Cons' tax-free savings account scheme. And Stephen Tapp writes that an ill-advised balanced-budget law is aimed at a problem far less significant than the ones it will create.

- George Lakoff offers some messaging suggestions for progressives. And Luke Savage challenges the rhetoric of "aspiration" as a substitute for fairness:
The “aspirational middle class” is a soundbite engineered to be maximally inclusive and minimally concrete. It is Britain’s post-Thatcherite/New Labour analogue to “the American Dream” – that mythical journey of growth, personal prosperity, and self-creation which is theoretically open to all and practically open to few. The superficial elegance of this vision is that we all ostensibly have access to it, if we choose. The reality is that people belong to different classes, both social and economic, and aren’t more or less “aspirational” because of it (at least not in the commonly understood meaning of the word). Conceptualizing social disparities and economic structures in terms of personal aspiration is a convenient and very deliberate way of ignoring how these structures benefit some and constrain others. The built-in myth of self-sufficiency, in which the individual is always solely and completely responsible for her own outcome, also very deliberately neglects the inherently social nature of our lives: the schools which give us education, the libraries which give us books, the communities in which we are raised, the parents and others who give us care, the roads and transport networks on which we travel.
(I)t bears worth asking why we should privilege a particular kind of personal aspiration which mostly or wholly aspires to make and keep a small number of people extremely wealthy and which elevates the acquisition of personal wealth to the status of cardinal social value. - Finally, Dennis Raphael discusses how Canada's choice to shred its social safety net decades ago is producing harmful health outcomes today - and asks that we be pay more attention to the future effects of our actions.

On fitting results

accidentaldeliberations - Tue, 05/12/2015 - 07:51
It will be some time yet before we see how Rachel Notley translates the Alberta NDP's election triumph into policy. But we have had a chance to see Notley's response to frivolous attacks on the NDP's newly-elected MLAs - and she's had absolutely the right reaction so far in not letting those attacks undermine elected representatives:
Premier-designate Rachel Notley says she doesn’t see Drever’s Facebook photos as a big problem for the NDP.

“I think transition and the challenges that come with transition are what happens when governments change, which is something that happens in normal, healthy democracies,” Notley said.In other words (and as expanded on by other observers in the same report), Notley isn't about to let fabricated controversies get in the way of the NDP's work. And that looks to represent one more step along the road toward distinguishing between the trumped-up and the relevant in assessing candidates and MLAs.

Now, one might expect the opposition parties to take the hint that they're wasting their time scouring for meaningless personal details in the hope of driving MLAs out of public life. Unfortunately, the Wildrose Party has already made clear that all-out personal attacks on NDP MLAs represent a major part of its strategy.

But the more the Wildrose spends its time insulting elected officials and the constituents who voted for them, the better the NDP figures to look in comparison.

Creative, But Incomplete, Solutions

Politics and its Discontents - Tue, 05/12/2015 - 07:16

If you read The Mound of Sound regularly, you will understand that there is no quick fix for the myriad problems the world faces. As he has pointed out on more than one occasion, threats like climate change cannot be viewed in isolation. It is only part of a wide panoply of interrelated ills that the world faces, ills that include overpopulation, over consumption, and dwindling resources. Our lifestyles are growing well beyond the earth's capacity to sustain us.

With that proviso in mind, there are a number of developments that, while not a solution to our bloated lifestyles, nonetheless show us what is possible when we think "outside the box."

Last week, The Star's Edward Keenan wrote a thought-provoking piece asking whether or not there are straightforward solutions to intractable problems:
What happens when a serious problem we thought was incredibly complicated and nearly impossible to solve suddenly becomes easier to deal with?

That’s a question raised by a recent blog post by economics professor John Quiggin, who sits on the board of the Australian Climate Change Authority. With the announcement this week by Elon Musk of Tesla Motors electric car fame that his company would be mass-producing a home and utility battery to store solar energy at a fraction of the price of existing similar batteries, combined with developments in electric cars, “we now have just about everything we need for a technological fix for climate change, based on a combination of renewable energy and energy efficiency, at a cost that’s a small fraction of global income …”But one of the big obstacles to such developments is the way we think:
Quiggin notes, correctly I think, that the long-standing seeming intractability of climate change has led people to draw some distinct conclusions, and based on them gather in warring political camps: those who think dealing with it requires ending capitalism and reshaping virtually all of society; those who think the first group is perpetrating an elaborate hoax; and those in competing camps who think the solutions require very big carbon taxes, or massive investments in nuclear energy or “clean coal.”
Therefore, there is real resistance to the notion that a quick fix is possible. This, Keenan says, is the same mentality that led doctors in the mid-1800s to resist the simple measure of washing their hands and their equipment to reduce maternal and child mortality:
Doctors had their own accepted theories about the cause of such deaths and refused to think they could be causing the problem.And so it is with other developments which, more than anything else, seem to require an open mind and a willingness to move beyond a rigidly fixed world view. Take, for example, solar roadways:

This technology was put to the test near Amsterdam, where a bike path was lined with SolaRoad:
SolaRoad has generated more than 3,000 kilowatt hours of electricity since the 70-metre-long strip officially opened in November 2014, in Krommenie, a village northwest of Amsterdam, the project reported late last week. It said that was enough to power a single-person household for a year.

"We did not expect a yield as high as this so quickly," said Sten de Wit, spokesman for the public-private partnership project, in a statement that deemed the first half-year of a three-year pilot a success.

Based on what it has produced so far, the bike path is expected to generate more than 70 kilowatt hours per square metre per year, close to the upper limit predicted based on lab tests.Creative thinking has also led to a development dealing with the millions of cigarette butts littering our streets and parks:
TerraCycle is one of a handful of companies that is working to collect and recycle spent butts, by turning them into plastic lumber that can be used for benches, pallets, and other uses.

Another company, EcoTech Displays, is working on a system to recycle butts into insulation, clothing, and even jewelry.You can watch a video of the process by clicking on the above link.

Will any of these developments save our world? Not in themselves. But they do show us what is possible when we resolve to break out of old modes of thinking, sadly a task perhaps as difficult as the process involved in developing new technologies.
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Reform? Forget It.

Northern Reflections - Tue, 05/12/2015 - 06:22

Michael Chong's Reform Act is about to die in the Senate. Andrew Coyne writes:

The private member’s bill, introduced by Conservative MP Michael Chong, is popular with the public, as the first serious attempt to free MPs, even a little, from the iron grip of the party leadership.

Moreover, it passed with all-party support in the House of Commons — by a vote of 260-17 — albeit in substantially watered-down form.
So it wouldn’t do to actually vote it down. Bad form, old chap. And anyway, unnecessary.

Instead it will simply never come to a vote. The Senate rises for the summer June 23, not to return until after the election. That’s just six weeks from now: 18 sitting days, by the Senate’s leisurely calendar. If the bill is not passed by then, it dies, along with every other piece of legislation still on the order paper.
You can bet that Bill C-51 -- the Anti Terror Bill -- will be passed quickly. But the Senate simply doesn't talk about what it doesn't want to talk about. And the Conservative dominated Senate doesn't want to talk about Chong's bill:

The first Liberal to speak on the bill, Sen. Joan Fraser, did not get to her feet until May 7, two months after its introduction; a motion to adjourn quickly followed. It has not been debated since.

Perhaps the bill may yet pass second reading, at this pace. Perhaps it might even be reported back from the Senate’s standing committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament. But it’s a safe bet that it will fall just short of passing before the Senate closes up shop. So near and yet so far. Sorry, old bean.
Not that there was much to discuss. As it made its way through the House, the bill was gutted:

The Reform Act, in its present form, already represents something of a defeat for reformers. It was modest enough as first drafted (its two key measures: removing the requirement for a candidate to obtain the party leader’s signature on his nomination paper, at the same time as it set out a process for MPs to remove their leader). But when that met with resistance from the leaders’ offices, it was amended, and amended again, until there was very little left.
If you had hoped we would return to Responsible Government, forget it.

The Con Regime and the First Shadows of a Police State

Montreal Simon - Tue, 05/12/2015 - 03:58

When I saw this photo during the hearings into Bill C-51 it sent a chill down my spine.

Because that posse is a horrible combination of stupidity and brute force, it looks like something out of a police state, or Pinochet's Chile.

And I knew those three amigos would lead us to a bad place.

And sure enough, now that their totalitarian bill has cleared parliament, they're smiling like cats who just ate a bucket of mice.

And threatening those who would peacefully protest against the policies of Benjamin Netanyahu's racist settler regime.  
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