Posts from our progressive community

A monster dies and the world mourns

Dawg's Blawg - Fri, 01/23/2015 - 13:50
A foul despot has just passed on, and the Western world is singing his praises. Speak no ill of the dead? There are always exceptions to that rule. And King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, one might have thought,... Dr.Dawg

Said the Man With the 145-Foot Yacht

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 01/23/2015 - 10:04

He made his billions in real estate but Jeff Greene could have had a great career in stand-up.

Greene's private jet was one of 1,700 that conveyed the rich and powerful to the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos now underway.

In an interview with Bloomberg, the real estate entrepreneur, 60, with an estimated wealth of $3 billion said Americans have too high expectations of how their lives should be.

"America’s lifestyle expectations are far too high and need to be adjusted so we have less things and a smaller, better existence," he said.

"We need to reinvent our whole system of life."

Greene, who is on the Forbes 400 list, lives in Palm Beach, Florida, where he founded Florida Sunshine Investments, but also owns a string of luxurious properties across the US.

He added: "I’m remarkably long for my level of pessimism.

"Our economy is in deep trouble. We need to be honest with ourselves. We’ve had a realistic level of job destruction, and those jobs aren’t coming back."

"A realistic level of job destruction" indeed.  Of course it's hard to tell just what that means to a guy who raked in billions by gaming the sub-prime mortgage markets.  I expect the world looks a lot different when you're on the top perch of the vaunted 1%.  

It's Three Minutes to Midnight

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 01/23/2015 - 09:40
The Cold War relic, the Doomsday Clock, has been moved two minutes and is now set at three minutes to midnight.

"Today, unchecked climate change and a nuclear arms race resulting from modernisation of huge arsenals pose extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity,” said Kennette Benedict, executive director of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in Chicago, the group of scientists which set the clock.

Although the clock is essentially a barometer, it is set by a team that includes 17 Nobel Prize winners and is taken extremely seriously.

The committee pointed out that greenhouse gas emissions have soared by 50 per cent since 1990, while more than £660bn of investment floods into fossil fuel infrastructure every year.

“The resulting climate change will harm millions of people and will threaten many key ecological systems on which civilisation relies. This threat looms over all of humanity,” said committee member Richard Somerville.

The report also raised considerable concerns about nuclear weapons.
“Since the end of the Cold War, there has been a cautious optimism about the ability of nuclear weapon states to keep the nuclear arms race in check and to walk back slowly from the precipice of nuclear destruction,” said Sharon Squassoni, a member of the clock committee.

“That optimism has essentially evaporated in the face of two trends: sweeping nuclear weapon modernisation programmes and a disarmament machinery that has ground to a halt,” she added.

The last time the clock read three minutes to midnight was in 1983 when “US-Soviet relations were at their iciest” according to the bulletin.

Friday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 01/23/2015 - 06:47
Assorted content to end your week.

- Crawford Kilian writes that growing inequality has been largely the product of deliberate engineering rather than any natural process, while Paul Krugman focuses on the preferential treatment of capital income in particular. And Simon Barrow discusses the sources and beneficiaries of the increasing wealth gap:
(T)he anti-change interests arrayed against any attempt to substantially reform global finance, block the privileging of huge corporate interests (TTIP being a prime example), ensure labour rights, address income and wealth gaps, stop tax evasion and tax dodging by the wealthiest on an industrial scale, legally enshrine transparency for governments and companies, guarantee public services become and remain public, end carbon subsidies, invest in a green future, abolish wasteful and immoral spending on WMDs, adopt redistributive fiscal and monetary policies, bail out debt slaves rather than debt enforcers, achieve a universal financial transaction tax – and many other policies that genuinely reverse inequality – are enormous, deep, entrenched and persistent.

For example, UK governments say, "we're all in this together", but pursue policies that have allowed income and wealth gaps to widen and foodbanks to proliferate. When criticism is issued and well-documented evidence proffered, they are swift to denounce it as "out of touch" and "factually incorrect". Beneath accommodating rhetoric about "hard working families" and "fairness" lies a continuing denial of the harsh realities of poverty and inequality by many of those in power.
It is also fashionable right now to say that inequality harms the wealthy as well as the poor, degrades social bonds, "inhibits growth" (of what kind?) and so on. This is true to a significant extent. But it hurts its victims much more: let's not forget this in an "it's still all about us" rush to avoid the conflict underling [sic] the gulf in wealth. For the simple reality is that inequality would not persist if it did not benefit those at the top of the economic ladder extravagantly. Which it does, as Oxfam's research (albeit nuanced by a closer look at the statistics from Channel 4) shows. Sure, the real damage caused by the gap between the haves and the have nots or have-much-lesses comes back to visit us all. But at that point the elites devise and popularise scapegoating mechanisms to evade far-reaching responsibility themselves.- Meanwhile, Kaja Whitehouse takes a first look at how Uber - one of the leading examples of the "on-demand" economy - is exacerbating the pattern by driving down the income of its drivers.

- All of which leads to Guy Standing's proposal for a Precariat Charter to recognize the needs of a class which is otherwise excluded (in practice if not in theory) from political decision-making.

- Finally, Doug Cuthand reminds us of Canada's sad history of racism against First Nations. And Joe Friesen reports on just one example of continued systematic exclusion, as Canada's economic data is skewed by a deliberate choice to ignore people on First Nations reserves.

Going To War In His Armchair

Northern Reflections - Fri, 01/23/2015 - 06:21


Stephen Harper told us that there would be no boots on the ground. It turns out there are, and they're on the front lines. Michael Harris writes:

At some point, a Canadian soldier is going to be captured or killed in action. The prime minister will hold a sorrowful press conference — without taking any questions. The emotional dividend from these inevitable events will be used by his hawkish administration to justify a more “robust” response — i.e. more boots on the ground to protect our forces. And so on … until it’s Afghanistan Redux.
Those of us with longer memories might call it Vietnam Redux:

This, of course, is exactly how the Americans eased their way into the war in Vietnam after the French were whipped. That initial helping hand to the Army of the Republic of South Vietnam turned into a military operation that dropped more bombs on North Vietnam than were dropped in the entire Second World War — and the Americans still lost.

It ended on April 29, 1975, with a desperate airlift of U.S. citizens from the roof of the American Embassy in Saigon, as the Viet Cong overran the city. It was a war that started with trainers and advisers. It ended with the deaths of more than fifty thousand U.S. soldiers — and 3.8 million Vietnamese. So forgive me if the “trainer” explanation rings a little hollow.
And, if anyone in the Harper government actually read history, they might have paid attention to the Russian experience in Afghanistan:

Before the Americans showed up with their army, the Russians were the occupiers. They tried to force changes on an ancient society which didn’t see the world through western eyes. The result was a bitter war that the Russians lost to an alliance of local forces — including the Mujahideen, which gave the world the CIA’s most famous trainee: Osama Bin Laden.

It is instructive to read through the dispatches from Russian generals trying to tell Moscow it was losing the war. The Politburo ignored the warnings, wanting only good news from the front — the kind of news that reinforces the idea that the war is “working.”
But Mr. Harper is an armchair general. He knows nothing of war -- and nothing of history.

Stephen Harper and the Terrorist Trap

Montreal Simon - Fri, 01/23/2015 - 03:40

Well just I predicted, Stephen Harper is moving quickly to take political advantage of that skirmish between our special forces in Iraq, and a group of ISIS terrorists.

Using it to puff out his chest or his belly, and sound like a tough guy. 

"This is a robust mission, we're there to make those guys effective so they can take on the Islamic State and deal with them," he said in response to a question from CBC News during an appearance in St. Catharines, Ont. 

 "If those guys fire at us, we're going to fire back and we're going to kill them, just like those guys did — and we're very proud of them."

And setting it up as a blunt weapon, or wedge issue, to use against the opposition.
Read more »

On Hiatus

Politics and its Discontents - Fri, 01/23/2015 - 00:19

Time to head back to our favourite island before it is infiltrated by the Americans.

See you in about a week.Recommend this Post

the shift

Sister Sages Musings - Thu, 01/22/2015 - 22:48


needs a fundamental shift

from linear





Towards a lateral






CBC Management Surrenders and Bans Paid Appearances

Montreal Simon - Thu, 01/22/2015 - 18:44

It's taken them long enough, and it never should have happened in the first place.

But the useless managers at the CBC have finally surrendered, and banned paid appearances. 
Read more »

I see what you did there

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 01/22/2015 - 18:26
Let's face it: a broken Red Book promise, an ignored Kyoto Protocol commitment and zero policy action later, nobody would have had reason to believe any Lib policy promises on greenhouse gas emissions anyway. So why wouldn't Justin Trudeau try to spin continued neglect at the federal level as a feature rather than a bug?

Of course, anybody who actually wants to rein in climate change might recognize that an opt-in approach to a collective action problem is set up to fail. But apparently, "anybody who actually wants to rein in climate change" isn't in the Libs' pool of target voters.

CBC Folds, Finally. On-Air Talent Barred from Paid Speaking Gigs.

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 01/22/2015 - 16:25
Was it Amanda Lang's excesses or the scolding Mother Corp got from the Guardian's George Monbiot?

In an email to CBC staff shared with, top management told reporters all staff must get approval to appear at conferences or to moderate debates or events. It also notes, “CBC/Radio-Canada will no longer approve paid appearances by its on-air journalistic employees.”

The news comes after a slew of controversies over stars at CBC taking money for speaking at events. From chief business correspondent Amanda Lang to chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge, the broadcaster has previously defended the practice as separate from their journalistic activities.

Is our children learning? A British Columbia FSA story.

A Creative Revolution - Thu, 01/22/2015 - 11:34


Is our Children learning? - G.W. Bush, during the push for the failed US No Child Left Behind debacle.


A couple weeks ago, I received a notice in my daughters backpack telling me about some testing that is to be done. Glowingly talking about how IMPORTANT it was......etc. But that these tests would not in fact make any difference to my kid's grades or anything, merely for statistical purposes. For magical funding that never arrives. There are a lot of questions as to what happens with these test results? But then......

My brain twigged....Oh Yes. The numbers that the Fraser Institute programs into their broken data sets to give one of their ideological "report cards". You may recall those? Where they "grade" schools based on the FSA numbers. Real estate is bought and sold based on these numbers by parents who mistakenly believe them.

Fraser Institute is an ACR favourite topic. If I mean in the same vein as spiders and other creepy crawlies

The next week, I received a sealed envelope that held an informational package from the teachers federation that confirmed my hunch. It included an opt out form which I signed and sent back.  Besides the massive waste of time from the actual curriculum and the incredibly stupid waste of money that could be used for books and other things the schools need.... I am not going to allow my child's hard work to be used as cannon fodder for a tobacco-big oil- conservative funded think tank. A think tank that is seeking to destroy the public school system on the altar of Milton Freidman. (here is a cute bunny picture to sooth your brain if you clicked that last link)

Today......The Principal called me to ask why I had signed, and I told her.

 But its the LAW. She said.

Pardon me? I will just keep her home during the test then I said.

So she interjected that the tests are being held from now until February the 20th. (So they they would lie in wait or something to force test her? Or, we would have to keep her home for a month?) She seemed to think it was important that I knew her kids took it. Why she thought this I have no idea, still puzzling over that one. It wasn't like we were talking about a possibly dangerous physical activity and I needed reassurance that no harm came to her kids? Or that she was being condescending and telling me it should be good enough for the likes of my kids? 

My next stop was the BC teachers federation where I spoke to a gentleman about the whole thing, to see what our rights are as parents.

Next up! the School superintendent. Condescending much? Heh.

He pushed all the wrong buttons. Big mistake. Big. HUGE.

At one point I asked what the repercussions of said "law" were if she decided not to take the test...... and he decided to attempt to shame me for my bad bad parenting. You would not want to embarrass her or anything would I? That is pretty much where the conversation left the rails. It was like talking to one of the converted. Hallehleuah!

Now, some parents pull their kids from stuff like sex ed, or field trips that are actually part of the school curriculum, but thats ok in our schools, because.....Personal values..... Its part of their morally held beleifs, or they don't feel comfortable.

But to not have your child tested because you actually know the damage this testing causes to all the schools of BC and you do not want to add to it? Apparently closely held ideas with actual proof,  and beliefs not of the squirmy/religious variety are not applicable.

But there is also this; kids who are "special needs" or in ESL classes, or who are having reading difficulties, are excused. Exceptionable circumstances. One of the people I did talk to today asked me if my kid is receiving extra supports. Nope. My kid is a bright little button with good marks, and really agreeable at school. (Not the latter at home. LOL ) And then it kinda made sense if you look at it from another angle. They don't always include the kids who won't get good marks if they have a label or who are struggling.  :) Marks would be higher ya think? (See this link for a HI-larious guide to the twisted gnarled paths that the Fraser Institute uses to get to their forgone conclusion) 

I was also made aware of the fact that some schools may have been holding cram sessions to ensure better results. Hours of valuable class time to practice for a test that is supposed to create a random snapshot of the education system to evaluate it- But that do nothing whatsoever for their grades..... Makes TOTAL sense.  Cheating or gaming the system is what some of us would call it.

I have no idea how many Canadians are aware of the abysmal results in the US with the teach to the test methodology of schooling. The ensuing awful result, is something they have attempted to tie around the necks of teachers with pay cuts based on myriad standardized tests. Many schools can no longer offer any sort of Art, PE or fun activities into school. It's all about the tests. See this nine year study that found testing was caused more harm than good.  Kids who are not engaged will leave school before graduation, the good teachers will resign in disgust.

We are no where near that here, even though it appears that many conservative types in Canada would love to emulate failure.

The FI would love us to base teacher pay on merit pay. IE: student performance. The schools that perform the lowest are usually in socio-economically depressed areas, and that would be the main driver for how kids learn. We have studied this many times and we know this as a fact, perhaps those administering the FI need some remedial edumacation themselves. They don't read too good. :)

Charter Schools are big in the US, school vouchers. Ask Sweden about that too.

A few years back, the FI gave the polygamous school at Bountiful top marks.  Bountiful teaches creationism as science, and cannot offer graduation certificates. Rather disturbing, no?

Blast from the past.....Recall when the FI tried to interject their climate change denial in the schools?  OHHH! Do you also remember the time they told us second hand smoke was ok, in a study that was funded by tobacco companies? Ah. Oh, and I just recalled the FI "study" that concluded... 

Obesity isn’t an epidemic so we don’t need more government regulation, the study concludes, and besides, the obese die younger, saving us precious health care dollars. Nothing to worry about. 

So. At the end of all of this; we are asking our smart, wonderful, kind little girl if she would prefer to just read a book during this hoopla. This is the same kid who tells her little sister that we will not be buying Littlest pet shops at Amazon, because Amazon the company is bad to their workers. Who knows that Walmart is the same, and who also knows what poverty and hardship does to children and families. The same wonderful person who takes spiders outside, and cried when her bean plant passed away. 

Teachable lessons. Honour, respect and standing up for what is right. That is our job, and the BC Government should consider this a lesson as well.

Wonder if they take lessons very well? 

I think the answer to that is obvious.  They don't even follow the laws of the land. 

Bonus giggle. The film Rock n Roll high school popped into my head last night. The subplot other than the awesomeness of the Ramones; The principal wanted the school to become a place of boredom and no fun. 

Crank it. 



Is Harper Collaborating With the Saudi Princes to Crush Their Shiite Minority?

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 01/22/2015 - 09:59

Stephen Harper is beginning to catch a bit of flack over the sale of 15-billion dollars worth of Canadian-built light armoured fighting vehicles to Saudi Arabia.

At first blush it's hard to understand what Saudi Arabia, that already has a significant armoured force but shows no inclination to use it except to suppress pro-democracy dissidents in places like Bahrain, wants with those LAVs.  Maybe it's got something to do with this, the simmering religious conflict between the Sunni House of Saud and Shiite Iran.  Could the Saudis be gearing up to crush their own Shiite minority?

Last October, Saudi Arabia’s Special Criminal Court sentenced Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr — a popular Shi’ite cleric and outspoken political dissident — to death.

This was not an ordinary criminal trial, even considering Saudi Arabia’s liberal use of capital punishment. Among other charges, the prosecutor sought to convict al-Nimr of “waging war on God” and “aiding terrorists,” even calling for the cleric to be publicly executed by “crucifixion.” In Saudi Arabia, this rare method of execution entails beheading the individual before publicly displaying his decapitated body.

The widely revered Shi’ite cleric was ultimately convicted of “disobeying” the king, waging violence against the state, inviting “foreign meddling” in the kingdom, inciting vandalism and sectarian violence, and insulting the Prophet Muhammad’s relatives. However, al-Nimr’s family and supportersclaim that the ruling was politically driven and insist that the cleric led a non-violent movement committed to promoting Shi’ite rights, women’s rights, and democratic reform in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabian Shi’ites have long complained of state-sponsored discrimination and human rights abuses by conservative Sunni authorities.According to Human Rights Watch, Saudi Arabian Shi’ites “face systematic discrimination in religion, education, justice, and employment.”

In early 2011, anti-government protests erupted in the Qatif district of Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, which is home to nearly all of Saudi Arabia’s 3 million Shi’ite citizens and nearly one-fifth of the world’s oil supply. Throughout 2011 and 2012, al-Nimr was a leader in these protests, in which activists demanded the release of the “forgotten prisoners” — a reference to nine political prisoners who had been detained then for some 16 years.

After Saudi Arabian, Emirati, and Kuwaiti forces entered Bahrain to help quell a non-violent Shi’ite uprising in the tiny island kingdom, Saudi Shi’ites expressed solidarity with their Bahraini counterparts. This prompted officials in Riyadh to fear that growing Shi’ite dissent could trigger a crisis in the strategically vital Eastern Province, which borders several other countries with sizeable Shi’ite populations. So between March 2011 and August 2012, the Saudi government waged a harsh crackdown on Shi’ite protestors, killing over 20, injuring several dozen, and detaining over 1,000 others, including 24 children.

When you supply 15-billion dollars worth of armoured fighting vehicles to a gang of cutthroats like the House of Saud, you're complicit in whatever they do with them.  Prominent Saudis like Prince Bandar bin Sultan have openly stated that the Saudis are gearing up to exterminate Shia Islam.

Some time before 9/11, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, once the powerful Saudi ambassador in Washington and head of Saudi intelligence until a few months ago, had a revealing and ominous conversation with the head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove. Prince Bandar told him: "The time is not far off in the Middle East, Richard, when it will be literally 'God help the Shia'. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them."
More here, here and here.

Salvaging Order Out of Chaos

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 01/22/2015 - 09:26

I don't want to blame America for this but, somehow, on its unipolar watch, much of the world was set ablaze.

It's not just Afghanistan (along with neighbouring Pakistan) and Iraq although they're both beset by violence by non-state actors they simply cannot quell. Syria, ditto.  Libya, same same.  Lebanon, it's on the cusp.  Yemen, who can tell what's going on there.

Then you've got the African charnel houses.  Central African Republic, check. Congo, check.  Somalia and Sudan, check.

Did I mention Mexico?  Well there's some wholesale carnage going on there.  As for Guatemala and Honduras, they're pretty much out of sight, out of mind for the West.

Southeast and East Asia.  Order more or less prevails, for now, but it's a seller's market for modern instruments of mayhem, especially submarines.  Why the city state of Singapore needs six modern submarines, I'm not sure.  Vietnam is deploying modern Russian u-boats with missile capability and the open secret is they're intended to deter China.  Japan may be on the verge of shredding the last vestiges of its post-WWII pacifism, especially if it can score an order from Australia for new submarines.  The F-35?  Korea's in, so are Japan and Australia. Can't imagine what they've got in mind for those.

Sorry about this but I'm just working off the top of my head.  Apologies to all the hell holes I inadvertently overlooked, places like Ukraine and the Stans.

The bedeviling part of this is that most of these conflicts are what are termed "new wars" to distinguish them from "old wars" of the sort we're familiar with that were typically conducted between state-actors.  New wars are like a floor party at an asylum, everyone's invited and the cutlery drawer is unlocked. They're a melange of state-actors, quasi-state actors, non-state actors and a smattering of garden variety criminals and thugs.

Old wars tended to have winners and losers.  Wars past were ordinarily fought for something discernible that could define victory for the winner and defeat for the less fortunate side.  And there were "sides" which, we're finding, really helps keep the conflict focused.  New wars can be pretty wobbly with the participants pursuing their own objectives that might not be compatible with lasting alliances. Yesterday's ally can be today's adversary.  It's like herding seriously feral cats that are armed to the teeth and are equally skilled in assassination and improvised explosive devices.  In other words it's best not to rely too heavily on the old "my enemy's enemy" rule.

The overall situation is, well, chaotic.  There's really no better word for it.  The global litter box is getting pretty ripe and there are a lot of repeat customers lining up for their next turn.  A report prepared for the World Economic Forum meeting now underway in Davos, Switzerland, warns that the risk of inter-state conflict over resources is looming.  And the focus is on water - who will get it and who will have to go without.

We may have to wait a few years to discover whether those will be fought as new wars or old wars.  Wars of subsistence, wars of survival, resource wars.  It brings a new dimension to "losing."  What do you do after your neighbour gets control of your water?  Move, I suppose, if you can.  Try to get your kids to some place where they've still got water.  Migration.

The World Economic Forum has even released a lovely chart as part of its Global Risks 2015 report that lists threats according to their impact and probability.  It makes pulling double shifts in an ebola ward seem not all that bad.

Surely this is somehow futuristic.  These identified troubles lie well off on the horizon.  Actually, no.  The WEF report is based on a 10-year time frame.  These are calamitous, catastrophic events you can expect to read about over the next decade.

Some of the countries at risk of resource war are already immersed in conflict, usually religion or ethnic-driven.  Others are on the cusp of conflict.  New meat for the butcher.

For a while I hoped this chaos might lead to the emergence of a new, bi-polar world order.  Impaired little states would seek the patronage of either the US or China and we'd be back to something resembling the good old days before the Soviet Union imploded.  I no longer think that's going to happen.

The major players, the US and China, are facing enormous environmental challenges at home.  Both are very vulnerable to catastrophic sea level rise.  Both have major, low-lying coastal cities and infrastructure.  Both face dwindling freshwater reserves.  China has an enormous pollution and contamination threat affecting air, water and its soil.  The United States is bracing for a probable mass-migration out of Central America.  Russia fears China has plans to relocate excess population to sparsely populated Siberia. India and Pakistan fear that China has plans to scoop their shared resource, the Himalayan headwaters.

As for Canada, it might be wise to give up our fantasies of foreign intervention. We have a lot of turf to protect, a lot of resources to secure with, by world standards, a minuscule population.  We must revisit our priorities and perhaps focus more on long-term goals like overhauling and upgrading our essential infrastructure to meet the demands of the harsher climate era, the anthropocene, we're now entering.  We can't even begin to secure our own borders against a determined challenger.  We could start by looking at the world as it is, not the world we delude ourselves into believing we can make it.

Another Compelling Video From Operation Maple

Politics and its Discontents - Thu, 01/22/2015 - 07:56
Operation Maple (Take Canada Back) is continuing its fine job of reminding us of the terrible way we are governed, offering us frequent and compelling evidence that demonstrates how the neo-liberal agenda, pursued with such diabolical glee by the Harper regime, is continuing to undermine our country. I suspect its resources, and others (the Salamander, for example, has some interesting ideas in this regard which I shall soon write about) will become increasingly important as we move ever closer to the next federal election. Please visit their site and disseminate their material as you see fit.

The following video explores the history of the free trade agreement and its costly consequences, consequences that continue to this day and promise to grow even more grave under the Canada-China Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) and the Canada-Eu (CETA) deal.

Our sovereignty as a nation continues to erode thanks to these agreements, brokered with such secrecy, with the only true beneficiaries the corporate elites and the multinationals.

Recommend this Post

New column day

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 01/22/2015 - 07:02
Here, on how the now-infamous story of Eric and Ilsa bears a disturbing resemblance to how Brad Wall has handled Saskatchewan's finances.

For further reading...
- Again, the original Eric and Ilsa story is here, with Rob Carrick following up here. And the story was picked up (with appropriate criticism) here, here and here among other places.
- I've also commented in this post, and I'll note that the point applies equally when it comes to Saskatchewan: in fact, Saskatchewan's GDP has more than tripled since 1990 without generating much more than the insistence that we keep prioritizing GDP growth over doing anything useful with it.
- Other GDP and income references within the article are here on a global basis, and here for Canadian provincial numbers. 
- Finally, CBC reported on then-Provincial Auditor Bonnie Lysyk's findings as to how the Wall government has managed to run deficits even in boom times here.

Thursday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 01/22/2015 - 06:37
This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Amy Goodman discusses Barack Obama's call to reverse the spread of inequality in the U.S. And Seumas Milne writes that the effort will inevitably challenge the world oligarchs have built up to further their own wealth and power at everybody else's expense:
In most of the world, labour’s share of national income has fallen continuously and wages have stagnated under this regime of privatisation, deregulation and low taxes on the rich. At the same time finance has sucked wealth from the public realm into the hands of a small minority, even as it has laid waste the rest of the economy. Now the evidence has piled up that not only is such appropriation of wealth a moral and social outrage, but it is fuelling social and climate conflict, wars, mass migration and political corruption, stunting health and life chances, increasing poverty, and widening gender and ethnic divides.

Escalating inequality has also been a crucial factor in the economic crisis of the past seven years, squeezing demand and fuelling the credit boom. We don’t just know that from the research of the French economist Thomas Piketty or the British authors of the social study The Spirit Level. After years of promoting Washington orthodoxy, even the western-dominated OECD and IMF argue that the widening income and wealth gap has been key to the slow growth of the past two neoliberal decades. The British economy would have been almost 10% larger if inequality hadn’t mushroomed. Now the richest are using austerity to help themselves to an even larger share of the cake.
Perhaps a section of the worried elite might be prepared to pay a bit more tax. What they won’t accept is any change in the balance of social power – which is why, in one country after another, they resist any attempt to strengthen trade unions, even though weaker unions have been a crucial factor in the rise of inequality in the industrialised world.

It’s only through a challenge to the entrenched interests that have dined off a dysfunctional economic order that the tide of inequality will be reversed. The anti-austerity Syriza party, favourite to win the Greek elections this weekend, is attempting to do just that – as the Latin American left has succeeded in doing over the past decade and a half. Even to get to that point demands stronger social and political movements to break down or bypass the blockage in a colonised political mainstream. Crocodile tears about inequality are a symptom of a fearful elite. But change will only come from unrelenting social pressure and political challenge.- Meanwhile, Helena Smith sees the public revolt against ill-advised austerity in Greece as the first step in pushing back.

- Lisa McKenzie discusses the vilification of the working class in the UK. And Carol Goar notes that Canada's workers of all classes see little hope of improving their lives with time and effort:
It is true that the 52 per cent of Canadians who describe themselves as middle class are concerned about their jobs, their ability to pay their bills, their lack of retirement savings and their children’s prospects. The Liberal leader has put his finger on a real problem.

But it is bigger than he thinks. A substantial chunk of the adult population — 45 per cent — is trapped below the middle class. They think they’re stuck there for life, no matter how hard they work.

“The key finding (of the poll) is that Canadians have very low confidence in their social mobility,” Worden said. “They don’t think they can move up.”- Finally, Delavene Diaz examines some of the economic costs of climate change. And Alison shines a spotlight on the National Energy Board members recruited by the Harper Cons to impose as many of those costs as possible on Canada in the name of oil extraction, while Andy Blatchford reports on what our federal and provincial governments are losing in their bets on fossil fuels.

Tearing Away At the Nation's Core

Northern Reflections - Thu, 01/22/2015 - 06:29

The Harper government is busy preparing new anti-terror legislation. But, Colin Kenny writes in today's Toronto Star, we don't need new legislation. We need adequate funding of the institutions which apply the laws we already have:

No less than eight pieces of anti-terrorism legislation have successfully passed through Parliament since the Twin Towers fell. These laws made comprehensive changes to Canada’s legal landscape to ensure the country has the powers it needs to prevent terrorism.Harper himself has acknowledged this, stating just recently to the press that, “the reality is that our security agencies are able, in the vast majority of cases, to identify threats that are out there and to prevent them from coming to fruition.”
So why the new legislation? The prime minister believes it is an all important a wedge issue:

Harper sees the passage of further counterterrorism legislation in Parliament, no matter how unnecessary, as a valuable wedge issue that will help with his re-election. Last year, the prime minister’s handlers went to great lengths casting him as a reincarnated Ronald Reagan on the world stage, unafraid in staring down the Russian bear.

Now, they’re trying to burnish this tough guy image by having Harper pretend he’s making big strides in combating terrorists by passing superfluous laws.
It's all about votes at home. It's always been about votes at home.

Mr. Harper's economic strategy has also always been about votes at home. Yesterday, the Bank of Canada drove another nail into his economic strategy. While he has been buying votes, he has also been shredding the nation's core principles -- something he will continue to do with his new anti-terror legislation.

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Politics and its Discontents - Thu, 01/22/2015 - 05:55
As usual, Mr. Mercer does us all proud as he yet again lambastes the obdurate, arrogant Mr. Harper, this time over the fact that he doesn't play well with others (a.k.a. the provincial premiers).

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Stephen Harper and the Fall of the Oily Messiah

Montreal Simon - Thu, 01/22/2015 - 04:47

For almost a decade he was able to fool countless Canadians into believing that he was the Oily Messiah.

The Great Economist Leader who would lead us to prosperity down the tarry road to Greater Alberta.

Even if he left the rest of the country in ruins, and the planet in flames.

But yesterday that myth was officially shattered by the Governor of the Bank of Canada. 
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