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The Problem We Won't Admit Even Exists

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 08/23/2016 - 09:32

There's a security scandal underway concerning the French manufacturer of the stealth submarine, Scorpene. The Australians, who recently ordered similar boats, are particularly vexed. From The Australian:

There is almost no breach of ­national security more serious than the disclosure of the stealth secrets of a country’s submarine fleet.

A submarine is only as effective as the secrets it keeps. If an enemy knows those secrets, the game is over. As the old wartime saying goes, “loose lips sink ships.”

That is why Australia should be deeply concerned by the Snowden-style leak of 22,400 secret documents written by the same French shipbuilder, DCNS, that will design Australia’s future submarine fleet.

The leaked DCNS documents describe in excruciating detail — line by line and bolt by bolt — the entire combat abilities of India’s new six-boat Scorpene submarine fleet. It has dealt a hammer blow to India’s national security and it begs the question; if it has happened to India, why couldn’t it happen to us?

Australia cannot afford to spend $50 billion on the biggest defence project in the nation’s history only to have it potentially compromised by sloppy security about confidential information.

Hmmm, sloppy security. Serious business. But not when it comes to another amazing bit of stealth warfighting gear, the Lockheed F-35 joint strike fighter.
Someone (everybody knows it's China) had a field day hacking Lockheed and British Aerospace computers downloading (stealing) massive amounts of data (secrets) and millions of lines of computer code (stealth operating system) of the F-35. Then Iran managed to hack a Lockheed RQ-170 super secret stealth drone, bringing it in for a crash landing. Chinese aerospace types didn't waste any time getting to Tehran. They scoured the drone for Lockheed's stealth secrets - shaping, materials, coatings and such and they went home with plenty of parting gifts, mainly the drone's electronic wizardry.
The hacks and the RQ-170 capture caused a big kerfuffle for a while but then the noise went silent and nobody has had much to say about it since. It's as though a blanket was thrown over it. After all the F-35, like American banks, is too big to fail.
The Australians are grappling with a legitimate security concern in the French sub leaks. It's a good thing, F-35 customers don't seem to care.

News Many Would Prefer Not To Know

Politics and its Discontents - Tue, 08/23/2016 - 06:31

For anyone who knows anything about climate change, the news is not good. There is a large and growing crack in the fourth-largest Antarctic ice shelf, known as the Larsen C.
Larsen C, according to the British Antarctic Survey, is “slightly smaller than Scotland.” It’s called an ice “shelf” because the entirety of this country-sized area is covered by 350-meter-thick ice that is floating on top of deep ocean waters.

The crack in Larsen C grew around 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) in length between 2011 and 2015. And as it grew, also became wider — by 2015, yawning some 200 meters in length. Since then, growth has only continued — and now, a team of researchers monitoring Larsen C say that with the intense winter polar night over Antarctica coming to an end, they’ve been able to catch of glimpse of what happened to the crack during the time when it could not be observed by satellite.What they found is deeply disturbing:
The rift had grown another 22 kilometers (13.67 miles) since it was last observed in March 2016, and has widened to about 350 meters, ... The full length of the rift is now 130 km, or over 80 miles.This means that at some time, likely in the next few years, another major chunk of ice will be lost, and ultimately that will be bad news for rising sea levels:
Researchers have estimated that the loss of all the ice that the Larsen C ice shelf currently holds back would raise global sea levels by 10 centimeters, or just under 4 inches.At least equal in consequence is the loss of reflective surface area, meaning that more and more heat will be absorbed by the ocean, adding to an already warming planet, the release of methane, etc. An ugly feedback loop.

Closer to home, there are these worrisome images of a world in the grips of dangerous, if not yet runaway, climate change:

Why do I continue to post such material? In many ways, considering who reads my blog, I am preaching to the converted. But on the other hand, perhaps someone will send a link to a skeptic, at least causing him or her a moment or two of introspection. If that is too far-fetched an aspiration, it at least provides, I hope, a little bit more information for those keen to understand how our world is being destroyed while our 'leaders' mouth platitudes and we blithely continue our indulgent, self-destructive and heedless ways.Recommend this Post

That's What Leadership Is About

Northern Reflections - Tue, 08/23/2016 - 05:05

Elizabeth May has announced that she will stay on as leader of the Green Party. That will make Linda McQuaig happy. She had advised May to stay put. But she's also advising May not to walk away from the BDS resolution which the party passed at its recent convention:

Whether you agree with the boycott strategy or not, it is a peaceful way to protest a serious violation of human rights: the fact that millions of Palestinians have been living under Israeli military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza for almost 50 years, with Israel effectively annexing their land.
Some commentators have suggested that it’s OK to criticize Israel, but a boycott goes too far.
In the end, words will not change things. Action is required -- the kind of action which Brian Mulroney took against South Africa's apartheid regime: 
Back in the 1980s, it was divisive when Prime Minister Brian Mulroney imposed sanctions against the white-minority regime in South Africa.
Today, everyone agrees that Mulroney’s stance was laudable. But at the time it was highly controversial, with Mulroney acting in defiance of business leaders, members of his own cabinet and caucus, as well as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and U.S. President Ronald Reagan. 
Some are uncomfortable comparing Israel to South Africa. Not so Desmond Tutu:
Archbishop Desmond Tutu considers the comparison valid. In a 2010 letter to students urging the University of California to divest from Israel, Tutu wrote: “[D]espite what detractors may allege, you are doing the right thing. You are doing the moral thing…I have been in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and I have witnessed the racially segregated roads and housing that reminded me so much of the conditions we experienced in South Africa under the racist system of Apartheid.”
May is in a difficult position. But that's what leadership is about. 
Image: Patrick Doyle/Canadian Press

Tuesday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Tue, 08/23/2016 - 04:59
This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Owen Jones discusses the importance of the labour movement in ensuring that workers can get ahead in life, rather than drowning in debt:
Nights spent staring at the ceiling as worries dance manically around the brain. Taking a deep breath before opening the gas bill. Sacrificing a hot meal so your children don’t need to. Living with personal debt can be draining and emotionally exhausting, and it is the everyday experience of all too many Britons. According to a new TUC report, 3.2m British households face problem debt, meaning they spend more than a quarter of their overall income repaying unsecured borrowings (ie, excluding mortgages). For 1.6m households in extreme debt, the picture is even bleaker: more than 40% of their income goes to creditors.

This is the lived experience of Britain’s working poor, those who keep the country ticking with their hard graft and are rewarded with poverty and insecurity. British workers have suffered the longest fall in wages since Queen Victoria sat on the throne. Between 2007 and 2015, real wages fell by an astonishing 10.4% - the worst fall in any advanced nation other than Greece. Growing personal debt is the price many British workers have paid for the disastrous economic failure of George Osborne and his colleagues – one of whom is now the nation’s prime minister.
In Nordic countries, it is the norm for workers to be unionised. Better living standards and more equality than we have in Britain are two of the byproducts. Jeremy Corbyn – near-certain to be re-elected Labour leader next month – has unveiled policies such as compulsory collective bargaining for companies with more than 250 workers. Such an approach would help lift the wages of workers, not only for their own good, but for the good of the British economy, too. But the positive case for trade unionism cannot just be left to politicians: it needs to be made by all of us. It needs to be put in a language that resonates with the millions of non-unionised workers, and particularly for younger people for whom the very notion of trade unionism seems culturally alien. Personal debt is a blight in modern Britain – and trade unionism is one of its cures. - And PressProgress highlights how Canada's youth are also facing an unprecedented combination of large debt and minimal employment opportunities.

- Tom Parkin notes that under the Trudeau Libs, Canada's real economy isn't keeping up with the "like economy" - and that we need strong government action to improve matters at all. And the New York Times' editorial board highlights the role an affordable child care system can play in improving outcomes for parents and children alike.

- Scott Santens surveys a UK review as to how means-testing can create fatal holes in a social safety net. But Noah Zon raises some important questions as to whether a basic income represents the best way to strengthen our social supports.

- Johnny SanPhillippo points out that poverty and precarity are important factors shaping individual well-being even in the areas (mostly suburbs) which are all too often considered to be immune.

- Finally, Brooke Harrington discusses the utter futility of expecting any positive social or economic outcomes from tax haven status. 

Stephen Harper, Jason Kenney, and the Pension Pigs

Montreal Simon - Tue, 08/23/2016 - 03:59

As we know Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney have been in the same leaky boat, or the same sweaty closet, from the day the Con regime was crushed and humiliated.

Still collecting their big fat MP pay cheques, while doing nothing to deserve them.

With Harper setting up his own business, and Kenney campaigning for another job in Alberta.

But now at last it seems they are finally about to summon up the courage to resign.

And it turns out it won't be THAT painful.
Read more »

Hamsterkaufe, Bitte

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 08/22/2016 - 21:53

Nobody is sure what this is about but the German government is urging residents to stockpile food and water - Hamsterkaufe - in the event of a national emergency.

Citizens are advised to store enough food to last them 10 days, because initially a disaster might put national emergency services beyond reach.

Five days' water - two litres (half a gallon) per person daily - is advised.

The German news website Frankfurter Allgemeine (FAZ) said the new concept was set out in a 69-page German Interior Ministry document.

The document said "an attack on German territory, requiring conventional defence of the nation, is unlikely". But, it said, a major security threat to the nation in future could not be ruled out, so civil defence measures were necessary.

Stephane Dion Dropped from Environment Committee

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 08/22/2016 - 18:26

The Liberal who is probably most associated with environmentalism has been dumped from the Commons environment committee.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has removed Global Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion from the environment, climate change and energy committee which he chaired.

 Although he will continue to serve on some cabinet committees studying other issues, Dion's removal from the environment committee was notable. He is a renowned environmentalist and advocate for climate action, and was among the team of delegates who attended the Paris climate summit in 2015, during which Canada endorsed a 1.5 degree limit to global warming. As Liberal party leader in the 2008 federal election, he campaigned for a "green shift" carbon tax as part of a strategy to combat climate change. Dion was defeated by Stephen Harper who formed a minority government.

Maybe Uncle Steffie was seen as a potential problem to the government's bitumen-pimping policies.

May Stays

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 08/22/2016 - 11:28

Elizabeth May has chosen to remain leader of the Green Party. It's not entirely clear what that means to the party or Green members.

She said that while many well-intentioned groups (i.e. the United Church of Canada and the Quakers) have supported the BDS movement, it's no place for a "serious" federal political party. Ouch, wince.

Elizabeth May's Cop Out

Rusty Idols - Mon, 08/22/2016 - 10:16
How come Elizabeth May isn't standing up for Canadians who disapprove of the illegal occupation of Palestinian land and abuses of Palestinian rights against the insulting and false accusation of antisemitism?

 Its a despicable slur, the definition of a blood libel.

She is deeply distressed that 'some people think' the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement is antisemitic. That's an opportunity to respect the democratic will of her members and use her public profile to educate people and push back against a despicable lying slander.  Instead she starts from the position of accepting the slur as fact and is clearly working behind the scenes to reverse the members votes in a way designed to keep them reversed.

BDS is a peaceful, legitimate attempt to hold a state that styles itself as a liberal democracy to the standards of behavior expected from a liberal democracy.

But she's more concerned with acting like a public drama queen and treating a democratic vote as somehow illegitimate because it gives her the sads.

The Green Party has always been a faux progressive joke, a way to blunt the power of the progressive vote and throw elections to the Liberals and with the panicked efforts to overturn a real progressive resolution by members who fell for the pose that just gets more blatant all the time.sdnxry5z7g

Was It Something I Said?

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 08/22/2016 - 09:07

This whole Ryan Lochte business really got under my skin. I haven't paid much attention to the aquatic buffoon until he got into a mess of his own making in Rio. Even as video emerged proving he'd lied, he refused to admit he'd lied - passing it off as a mere excess of exaggeration by another privileged Yank. Even Americans were infuriated with this bozo.

And so I read about Lochte's sponsorship deals. Apparently there was a valuable endorsement deal with Speedo - makes sense. That led me to fire off an indignant email to Speedo warning that if they didn't drop Lochte, his scandal would be their scandal.

Seems that email worked. Speedo has dumped Lochte.

And Now a Few Words from John Maynard Keynes

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 08/22/2016 - 09:00

As a follow up to my previous post about the futility of defining "normal" in this age of rapid and constant change, here are a few delightful musings from legendary economist, John Maynard Keynes.

The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones. 

The day is not far off when the economic problem will take the back seat where it belongs, and the arena of the heart and the head will be occupied or reoccupied, by our real problems - the problems of life and of human relations, of creation and behavior and religion.

Most men love money and security more, and creation and construction less, as they get older.

I do not know which makes a man more conservative - to know nothing but the present, or nothing but the past.

For at least another hundred years we must pretend to ourselves and to every one that fair is foul and foul is fair; for foul is useful and fair is not. Avarice and usury and precaution must be our gods for a little longer still.

Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.

It is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous for good or evil.

Americans are apt to be unduly interested in discovering what average opinion believes average opinion to be.

Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assaults of thoughts on the unthinking.

Would that we had Keynes with us today for much of his thinking goes to the dynamic changes now overtaking us. One of his ideas was to euthanize the rentier class (we now call them the "1%") as unproductive and a drag on society. Sounds reasonable.

Monday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Mon, 08/22/2016 - 07:55
Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Martin Jacques writes about the inescapable failings of neoliberalism, along with the question of what alternative will come next:
(B)y historical standards, the neoliberal era has not had a particularly good track record. The most dynamic period of postwar western growth was that between the end of the war and the early 70s, the era of welfare capitalism and Keynesianism, when the growth rate was double that of the neoliberal period from 1980 to the present.

But by far the most disastrous feature of the neoliberal period has been the huge growth in inequality. Until very recently, this had been virtually ignored. With extraordinary speed, however, it has emerged as one of, if not the most important political issue on both sides of the Atlantic, most dramatically in the US. It is, bar none, the issue that is driving the political discontent that is now engulfing the west. Given the statistical evidence, it is puzzling, shocking even, that it has been disregarded for so long; the explanation can only lie in the sheer extent of the hegemony of neoliberalism and its values.
...The hyper-globalisation era has been systematically stacked in favour of capital against labour: international trading agreements, drawn up in great secrecy, with business on the inside and the unions and citizens excluded, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) being but the latest examples; the politico-legal attack on the unions; the encouragement of large-scale immigration in both the US and Europe that helped to undermine the bargaining power of the domestic workforce; and the failure to retrain displaced workers in any meaningful way.
The neoliberal era is being undermined from two directions. First, if its record of economic growth has never been particularly strong, it is now dismal. Europe is barely larger than it was on the eve of the financial crisis in 2007; the United States has done better but even its growth has been anaemic. Economists such as Larry Summers believe that the prospect for the future is most likely one of secular stagnation.

Worse, because the recovery has been so weak and fragile, there is a widespread belief that another financial crisis may well beckon. In other words, the neoliberal era has delivered the west back into the kind of crisis-ridden world that we last experienced in the 1930s. With this background, it is hardly surprising that a majority in the west now believe their children will be worse off than they were. Second, those who have lost out in the neoliberal era are no longer prepared to acquiesce in their fate – they are increasingly in open revolt. We are witnessing the end of the neoliberal era. - Philipp Lepenies reminds us of the dangers in evaluating an economy based solely on GDP rather than rather than measures of economic development which actually have a direct impact on people's lives. And Terry Etam takes a look at how the Alberta PCs' failure to understand the difference has left a mess for Rachel Notley to clean up.

- Seth Klein, Marc Jaccard and Clean Energy Canada are among the many looking at the B.C. Libs' new exercise in climate change deflection and procrastination (featuring backsliding from previous targets and a glaring lack of policy to meet the ones now put forward) as a cynical pre-election PR stunt.

- Courtney Bowman discusses the need for a meaningful effort to eliminate the over-incarceration of aboriginal people, while noting that the Wall government is slashing the resources needed for the task. And Michael Spratt notes that the federal Libs are looking at exacerbating the Cons' use of pointless mandatory minimum sentences.

- Finally, Kathryn Doyle reports on new research showing how food advertising affects children's eating habits.

House Of Cards

Northern Reflections - Mon, 08/22/2016 - 05:34

Deep Throat advised Woodward and Bernstein to follow the money. In the case of Donald Trump, reporters are beginning to take the same advice. Michael Harris writes:

Suzanne Craig of the New York Times reported in the paper’s international edition that Trump’s heavily-marketed self-image is as phoney as a degree from Trump University. Trump-owned companies carry a debt of $650 million, which, as the Times reports, is “twice the amount than can be gleaned from public filings he has made as part of his bid for the White House.” It’s pretty clear why he won’t disclose his income taxes, and why he will never allow any independent valuation of his net worth. It kind of looks like he’s up to his assets in debt?
They followed the same advice when they looked into the finances of Paul Manafort, Trump's campaign manager:

What kind of a dude was he? The kind whose name showed up on a secret ledger in Ukraine that listed $12.7 million in cash payments to Manafort from the political party of deposed Ukrainian President and Russian puppet Viktor Yanukovych. When the New York Times reported that, Manafort still thought that he could hold on.

But then the second shoe dropped: the Associated Press reported that in 2012, Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, had secretly channeled $2.2 million to a pair of Washington lobbying firms to boost the image of the Kremlin-backed Ukrainian president in a way intended to circumvent disclosure requirements.
So, Manafort had to go. But, then, Trump made a name for himself by firing people. Still, all this merely underscores a point which should have been clear from the beginning: Trump -- and Trump Tower -- is a House of Cards.


Donald Trump and the Pseudo Medical War on Hillary Clinton

Montreal Simon - Mon, 08/22/2016 - 03:34

It couldn't be a more bizarre allegation, considering the way Donald Trump has been behaving recently.

Or his advanced state of desperation.

But believe it or not, Trump and his RepubliCon clowns are now suggesting that Hillary Clinton is suffering from some kind of mysterious illness, that makes her, not him, unfit to be President.

As his pathetic stooge Rudy Giuliani was claiming last night on Fox News.
Read more »

Define "Normal"

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 08/21/2016 - 14:34

As I've explored issues from globalism to climate change, one aspect that stands out is our concept of "normal." What is normal?

It's curious how quickly and resolutely we embrace ideas as orthodoxy, imbuing them with the status of some law of nature. Take GDP growth. Western leaders (and most others) see steady, constant GDP growth as a measure of their nation's economic health and a testament to their own prowess at governance. It's as though GDP growth was inscribed on tablets someone brought back from a stroll up some mountain. That's bollocks.

GDP growth is a concept hatched in the wake of WWII. It wasn't "a thing" when the Wright brothers took to the skies or when Dillinger terrorized the mid-west. No, it was a post-war idea. That's a good thing. Why? Because our enshrined goal of 3% annual GDP growth is lethally exponential. 3% annual GDP growth over 50 years expands the economy by a factor of 4.4. After a century your economy has swelled by a factor of more than 19 times. A century and a half and your overall production and consumption is 84 times greater than your GDP in Year One. Two centuries and it's 369 times greater. You, your society, your economy - it's all going to implode and it's not going to be pretty.

We think this concept of continual GDP growth is normal but it's not. It's self-defeating, self-destructive but you won't find a leader in the western world who is not committed to growth as the solution to all problems. You can't blame them all. It was a fine idea back when there was a huge surplus of resources and demand never exceeded supply.  We didn't know it at the time but we passed that point somewhere in the early to mid-70s. Since then our idea of normal has been steering us into trouble.

Our leaders continue to cling to globalism as normal. Even Trudeau is toying with the Trans Pacific Partnership. He'll do whatever the Americans do. You, you're just a pawn, inconsequential.  These are solemn deals between world leaders to surrender elements of national sovereignty to the globalized corporate sec tor for supposed benefits that do not materialize where they're promised. These deals were supposed to benefit the general public - more jobs, better wages. Instead they delivered fewer jobs, lower wages, economic stagnation for most, massive wealth redistribution for the benefit of the few and yet our leaders failed to act. Even as the International Monetary Fund rebukes globalism as a rotten system that stagnates economies and fuels inequality, our leaders keep their pens at the ready to ink the next toxic deal. It is, after all, their "normal."

The Weather Network has a story today about a NASA report on Arctic sea ice that speaks to an emerging term, a "new normal."

“A decade ago, this year’s sea ice extent would have set a new record low and by a fair amount. Now, we’re kind of used to these low levels of sea ice – it’s the new normal.”

Surely it robs "normal" of all useful meaning if it doesn't reflect elements of equilibrium, permanence.  Merriam-Webster suggests as much with this definition:
a : according with, constituting, or not deviating from a norm, rule, or principle b : conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern.

What's going on in the Arctic isn't a matter of conformity to any norm, rule, or principle. It is a process of deviation from normal, a small component of a far greater, all-encompassing deviation from what we ever knew as normal.
Exponential GDP growth isn't normal. There's no equilibrium or permanence to it. We're running out of stuff, running into walls. That can't be normal. Nothing that's inherently self-destructive, including globalism, can be considered normal. To the contrary, it's the foundation of chaos, now and to come.
How perverse is it that our political caste should treat as normal models that are so inherently chaotic and self-defeating? To me they resemble nothing so much as these sailors who failed to let go of the mooring lines of the USS Akron.

Needless to say, hanging on too long was a death sentence for those sailors. Hanging on too long to outdated and failed models of trade and other "normal" policies by our leaders will have different consequences but they'll be visited upon the population as a whole.
There is no normal to climate change either. We are transitioning from one geological epoch, the Holocene, to a man-made geological epoch, the Anthropocene. We have gone from one steady-state that lasted an abbreviated 11,000 years but it will take centuries, if not millennia, before we reach the next steady-state. Even as we toy with ideas for reclaiming control of our environment, through geo-engineering perhaps, it races further beyond our reach.
Humans like certainty, I understand that. Yet, when you're in an indefinite era of chaos, what good can come of even trying to define normal?
Like a person swept away in the torrent of a flash flood and grasping for tree branches, you can try to cling to normalcy but it's an illusion abetted by our tendency to ignore the past. We cease to connect conditions 20, 30 or 50 years in the past with our notion of normal. In the process, normal loses most of its meaning and nearly all of its utility.
Politicians use the term "creeping normalcy" to refer to slow trends concealed within noisy fluctuations. If the economy, schools, traffic congestion, or anything else is deteriorating only slowly, it's difficult to recognize that each successive year is on the average slightly worse than the year before, so one's baseline standard for what constitutes "normalcy" shifts gradually and imperceptibly. 
If the embrace of normalcy has indeed become a potentially dangerous and disruptive illusion, perhaps it is time to adopt more agile frameworks better suited to conditions of chaos. This calls for taking a hard look and identifying what has outlived its usefulness. This would extend into all our modes of organization - political, social, economic, industrial and environmental. In each there are feet of clay - globalism, neoliberalism, consumerism and such that prevent us from responding quickly and effectively to sometimes rapid and dramatic change. Identify what doesn't work and why and then acknowledge that for ignoring it or kicking it down the road can be disastrous.
With enough time societies would move past globalism, neoliberalism and consumerism whether by choice or by necessity or both. The problem is that time was a luxury that may have been part of the Holocene but is in scarce supply in this transition to the Anthropocene. Time in the Anthropocene has become as precious as access to clean drinking water or clean air. We can't afford to waste it.

Sunday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 08/21/2016 - 10:47
This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Paolo Giuliano and Antonio Spilimbergo study (PDF) how the economic conditions an individual's youth influence enduring values - and find that the experience of an economic shock tends to lead to a greater appreciation of a fair redistribution of resources:
Consistent with theories of social psychology, this paper shows that large macroeconomic shocks experienced during the critical years of adolescence and early adulthood, between the ages of 18 and 25, shape preferences for redistribution and that this effect is statistically and economically significant.
Our findings are consistent with three broad interpretations. First, evidence from social psychology (and also neuroscience) shows that young adults are particularly responsive to the external environment, implying that later experiences are less relevant in shaping behavior.

A second interpretation regarding the persistent effect of macroeconomic shocks on beliefs is consistent with Cogley and Sargent (2008). The authors argue, in reference to the Great Depression, that macroeconomic shocks are “beliefs-twisting events,” whose influence can last long, because it takes a long time to correct the pessimistic beliefs induced by the depression, through the observation of macroeconomic data.

A third interpretation is consistent with theoretical work by Piketty (1995): the author argues that shocks could change people’s belief about the relative importance of luck versus effort as a driver of success. This belief, in his model, is related to the amount of taxes that people vote for and their preferences for government intervention. We find evidence consistent with his theory: the uncertainty created by macroeconomic shocks makes people believe that luck is more relevant than effort and, as a result, increases their desire for government intervention.- And Esteban Ortiz-Ospina and Max Roser discuss the strong correlation between trust and long-term growth - signalling how much damage is done to everybody's interests when elites instead focus on short-term extraction of wealth for themselves.

- Jon Schwarz rightly lambastes Apple for refusing to pay corporate taxes to the U.S. until it's able to extract what it considers a satisfactory discount, while the UK has announced what may be a significant move to limit the tax avoidance industry. Mike Bird, Vipal Mongaand and Aaron Kuriloff report on the trend of corporations handing out massive dividends - in many cases borrowing to hand shareholders more than a business has earned in income. And Gary Fooks, Karen West and Kevin Farnsworth trace the ballooning of executive pay to a concerted effort to transfer income from other workers to the executive class.

- Michael Walker and Sarah Kaine note that a strike at the UK delivery service Deliveroo offers an important example as to how workers with precarious jobs can engage in successful collective action. And Roger Baird discusses the potential for organization throughout the gig economy.

- Meanwhile, Dean Beeby reports on the misuse of unpaid interns by the federal government - though as with the failure to pay workers under the Phoenix pay scandal, the Libs' inclination seems to be toward prolonged study rather than quickly rectifying gross violations of employment law. And Alicia Bridges reports on the continued lack of workplace safety standard compliance in Saskatchewan.

- Finally, Christo Aivalis discusses how a postal banking system would fit into the values that should inform all of our decisions about the future of public services in Canada.

A Lesson In Living

Politics and its Discontents - Sun, 08/21/2016 - 07:02
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

-Dylan Thomas

Although I am of an earlier time musically, and cannot say that outside of about two songs I am familiar with the Tragically Hip's oeuvre, I watched almost all of last night's concert from Kingston, televised by the CBC. I watched because I wanted to see how a man deals with the knowledge of impending death, and I wanted to partake in something that, no matter where we live, links all of us together. The latter is a fact that the CBC clearly recognized, broadcasting the show entirely commercial free, doing exactly what a public broadcaster should do, promoting the kind of experience that unites a country, breaking down some of the silly barriers that separate far too many of us.

Like Gord Downie, my brother-in-law suffered from glioblastoma, succumbing to the disease almost eight years ago. He lived the last year of his life with grace, refusing to succumb to the kind of self-pity that I think many of us would be all too prone to. And like my brother-in-law, Gord Downie showed the same resilience and strength of spirit in his final performance. He showed us what dying with dignity really means; he showed us the awesome strength that human beings can muster in the face of tragedy.

What he is contending with is perhaps epitomized here:

So I watched to be part of a pan-Canadian event, and I watched, not out of morbid curiosity or disrespect for the man's mortality, but to take a lesson in living life until the end. May I have at least a small amount of Downie's fortitude, class and strength of spirit when my time comes.
Recommend this Post

Gord Downie, the Tragically Hip, and the Canada I Love

Montreal Simon - Sun, 08/21/2016 - 03:53

It took me a few years to  fall in love with the Tragically Hip. I always loved their name, I thought it was so cool hip.

And when I heard that their lead singer was a poet I was even more impressed.

But it wasn't until my big brother took me to one of their shows, that I realized what a great band they were.

And their final performance last night was the best and most moving show I have ever seen.

Read more »

Not Good Days

Northern Reflections - Sun, 08/21/2016 - 03:05

Jack Layton was a perpetual optimist. But Chantal Hebert believes he'd find in hard to be optimistic about his party's current state of affairs. Perhaps that's because the party under Layton made the Harper government possible:

At the last national convention Layton presided over, less than two months after the party’s historic breakthrough in Quebec, he was rightly celebrated for his election performance. But it was not all rainbows and roses. Among NDP members, elation over the party’s accession to the rank of official Opposition was often tempered by dismay at the advent of a Harper majority.

Just as the Conservatives are having a hard time living down the stain of the Harper years, the Dippers have to contend with a public which holds the NDP responsible -- at least partially -- for Harper's ascension.

But there is a bigger problem. Unlike the Liberals, the next generation in the party is in no mood to take the reins:

The reluctance of the next generation of New Democrats to step up to the leadership plate would trouble him. He would not be particularly thrilled by speculation that Green Party Leader Elizabeth May could or should jump ship to come lead the NDP. She always seemed to click more with her Liberal counterparts (and vice-versa).
And the enthusiasm Layton generated in Quebec isn't there any more:

I live in Laurier-Ste-Marie, a riding the NDP twice won against no less than then-Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe. This week something that looked like an in-store raffle ticket was slipped into my mail slot. It was MP Hélène Laverdière’s latest correspondence.
It would be an exaggeration to call it a householder for it gave no sense of the NDP’s plans for the next sitting of Parliament. Instead it was a straw poll designed to produce a list of priorities for the party to tackle. One can only wonder what Layton would make of the NDP turning itself into a blank slate.
These are not good days for the New Democrats. 

Oh Look, It's Prime Minister Showboat !!

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 08/21/2016 - 00:22
I'm sorry, maybe it's just me. I'm a bit irked at how our prime minister, who seems to disappoint on the tough issues, never passes up a photo-op even when it comes to insinuating himself at a concert, perhaps the final concert, of a great Canadian band, the Tragically Hip.

Sure, the Hip's lead singer, Gord Downie, is dying of brain cancer. Sure this may be the band's final concert. That doesn't mean that prime minister Showboat can't stage an appearance, grab a bit of the limelight.

His staff posted the prime ministerial marquee days in advance. Justin Trudeau would be appearing at the Tragically Hip concert. And sure enough, there he was, surrounded by his security, cool as fuck.

Narcissism seems to run pretty deep with world leaders and wannabes alike these days  - Erdogan, Trump, Trudeau. It's all "look'it me, loot'it me."

I just wish he did half as good a job at governing as he does at photo-ops.


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