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New column day

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 04/10/2014 - 07:35
Here, on the distance Canada has yet to travel in meeting even the basic needs of our fellow citizens - as well as the promise that Housing First and other new models may help to bridge that gap.

For further reading...
- Michael Green commented on the Social Progress Index here, while Canada's results can be found here.
- By way of comparison to the Social Progress Index, see my earlier post and linked column on other means of going beyond GDP in measuring development, with particular emphasis on the Canadian Index of Wellbeing.
- And CTV reported on the success of Housing First here, while the Mental Health Commission of Canada's summary and detailed report (PDF) are both available for review.

Thursday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 04/10/2014 - 07:26
This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Paul Krugman's review of Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century includes his commentary on our new gilded age:
Still, today’s economic elite is very different from that of the nineteenth century, isn’t it? Back then, great wealth tended to be inherited; aren’t today’s economic elite people who earned their position? Well, Piketty tells us that this isn’t as true as you think, and that in any case this state of affairs may prove no more durable than the middle-class society that flourished for a generation after World War II. The big idea of Capital in the Twenty-First Century is that we haven’t just gone back to nineteenth-century levels of income inequality, we’re also on a path back to “patrimonial capitalism,” in which the commanding heights of the economy are controlled not by talented individuals but by family dynasties.

It’s a remarkable claim—and precisely because it’s so remarkable, it needs to be examined carefully and critically.
...
(I)t turns out that Vautrin was right: being in the top one percent of nineteenth-century heirs and simply living off your inherited wealth gave you around two and a half times the standard of living you could achieve by clawing your way into the top one percent of paid workers.

You might be tempted to say that modern society is nothing like that. In fact, however, both capital income and inherited wealth, though less important than they were in the Belle Époque, are still powerful drivers of inequality—and their importance is growing. In France, Piketty shows, the inherited share of total wealth dropped sharply during the era of wars and postwar fast growth; circa 1970 it was less than 50 percent. But it’s now back up to 70 percent, and rising. Correspondingly, there has been a fall and then a rise in the importance of inheritance in conferring elite status: the living standard of the top one percent of heirs fell below that of the top one percent of earners between 1910 and 1950, but began rising again after 1970. It’s not all the way back to Rasti-gnac levels, but once again it’s generally more valuable to have the right parents (or to marry into having the right in-laws) than to have the right job.

And this may only be the beginning. Figure 1 on this page shows Piketty’s estimates of global r and g over the long haul, suggesting that the era of equalization now lies behind us, and that the conditions are now ripe for the reestablishment of patrimonial capitalism.- Meanwhile, Sam Ro interviews Gerald Minack about the long-term damage to business as wages get pushed downward in the name of temporary profits. And Don Cayo is the latest to expose the CCCE's dishonest tax contribution spin.

- Tim Harford discusses the corrosive effects of long-term unemployment, noting that people who have been unemployed for six months or more are effectively shut out of the job market afterwards. Kate McInturff points out the continued gender imbalance in hiring both between and within professions. And Armine Yalnizyan highlights what the federal government could do to help younger workers get a foot in the door if it was actually interested in reducing youth unemployment.

- But there's plenty of reason for concern that the needs and preferences of the public aren't generally finding their way into law - as Larry Bartels writes in comparing the relative influence of public opinion and different types of pressure groups:
forthcoming article in Perspectives on Politics by (my former colleague) Martin Gilens and (my sometime collaborator) Benjamin Page marks a notable step in that process. Drawing on the same extensive evidence employed by Gilens in his landmark book “Affluence and Influence,” Gilens and Page analyze 1,779 policy outcomes over a period of more than 20 years. They conclude that “economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.”

Average citizens have “little or no independent influence” on the policy-making process? This must be an overstatement of Gilens’s and Page’s findings, no?

Alas, no. In their primary statistical analysis, the collective preferences of ordinary citizens had only a negligible estimated effect on policy outcomes, while the collective preferences of “economic elites” (roughly proxied by citizens at the 90th percentile of the income distribution) were 15 times as important. “Mass-based interest groups” mattered, too, but only about half as much as business interest groups — and the preferences of those public interest groups were only weakly correlated (.12) with the preferences of the public as measured in opinion surveys.- Finally, Paul Adams asks whether Stephen Harper is done for as a political force.

Time To Shut This Show Down

Northern Reflections - Thu, 04/10/2014 - 06:15


It was a remarkable display of arrogance. In yesterday's question period, Thomas Mulcair asked Stephen Harper if he would apologize for Pierre Poilivere's "cowardly and baseless attack" on Marc Mayrand. The prime minister rose, congratulated Philippe Couillard on his electoral victory and then sat down. And the barking seals honked and applauded.

It's clear that Mr. Harper believes he need not answer any questions -- from the Leader of the Opposition or any of the "self styled experts" who have criticized his so called "Fair" Elections Act.  Andrew Coyne writes:

Unable to answer its critics’ objections, the government has lately shifted into attacking their character. Mr. Poilievre told a Senate committee Tuesday the CEO, Marc Mayrand, is motivated by nothing but a desire for “more power, a bigger budget and less accountability.” The former Auditor General, Sheila Fraser, other government members hinted, was on the take: hadn’t she accepted payment to sit as co-chair of Elections Canada’s Advisory Board? The board’s other members, among them some of the country’s most widely respected political and legal figures, were dismissed by a Tory senator as “celebrities.” The provincial chief electoral officers, political scientists, law professors and other specialists who have denounced the bill were derided as “self-styled” experts. The only people, it would seem, with the integrity or the expertise to comment on the bill are the people who have drafted it to their own advantage.

There’s precedent for this, sadly. It is of a piece with the government’s previous attacks on the former parliamentary budget officer, Kevin Page, and the current Auditor General, Michael Ferguson. Like the CEO, their criticisms were dismissed as incompetent at best, partisan at worst — though, like the CEO, both were appointed by this government. This is more than a baseless smear on three conscientious public servants. It is an assault on their independence and authority as officers of Parliament.
Stephen Harper came to Ottawa to wreak vengeance -- first on the Liberal Party, then on civil servants, and finally on government itself. Even Mr. Harper's former director of communications, Geoff Norquay, has suggested that Mr. Harper is getting even for the "In and Out Affair."

Stephen Harper and his trained seals have been singing the same songs since opening night. Clearly, the time has come to shut this show down.


A Tip And An Idea From The Salamander

Politics and its Discontents - Thu, 04/10/2014 - 06:10
Although I have never met him, the Salamander, from his frequent commentary on my blog and others', is unquestionably a passionate Canadian who wants the best for our country. Based on his searing metaphors and observations, I think it is safe to say that he believes, as do most progressives, the Harper regime does not share that goal.

That there is something manifestly unhealthy in the prime minster's psyche is undeniable. His easy disposal of people no longer useful to him, his obsessive hatred of Trudeau, his win-at-any-cost, no matter how parliamentary traditions, democracy, etc. suffer, all attest to this.

In a comment he left on my previous post, the Salamander offered this excerpt published in The Globe from former Harper friend and adviser, Tom Flanagan:

.. “He can be suspicious, secretive, and vindictive, prone to sudden eruptions of white-hot rage over meaningless trivia, at other times falling into week-long depressions in which he is incapable of making decisions,” Mr. Flanagan writes. “I feared, as I still do, that he might some day bring himself down Nixon-style by pushing too hard against the network of rules constraining authority in a constitutional government.”

Tom Flanagan, now is back with a forthcoming book, Persona Non Grata: The Death of Free Speech in the Internet Age, that speaks of Mr. Harper in “Nixonian” terms, as a man who “believes in playing politics right up to the edge of the rules, which inevitably means some team members will step across ethical or legal lines in their desire to win for the Boss.”


A chilling portrayal.

Yet the mental health of Stephen Harper is not our primary concern. Rather, the destruction that he has wrought and is continuing to inflict upon our nation is.
In another comment that he left on a previous post, (you can read the comment in full here) the Salamander directed my attention to a series of commercials, a compilation of which I post below:




The theme of these commercials, of course, is the need to protect oneself from mayhem. Here is what the Salamander wrote:

More and more I feel that with just a slight adjustment to context & content they could act as effective illuminating metaphors for our current government..
Mayhem unleashed.. with our full permission !! And the keys to the house or car. After the 'accident' comes the litigation, the lawsuits, the endless legal wrangling
.

Salamander in previous comments has suggested the need for symbols that we can identify with. This approach, underscoring the mayhem the Harperites have wrought in 'our house,' would be a powerful and informative tool. The potency of such viral videos, for anyone so inclined and able to produce them, would be undeniable....





Recommend this Post

Could Stephen Harper Soon Be Toast?

Montreal Simon - Thu, 04/10/2014 - 04:11


It's all going horribly wrong. His foul voter suppression bill is only making even more Canadians want to vote to throw him out of office.

He has more scandals than he can count. His Cons are fighting themselves or urging people to vote for another party.

Pro-life Conservative MP Kyle Seeback told attendees at Campaign Life Coalition’s national pro-life conference on the weekend that when he was first elected three years ago, he would have told people to “vote Conservative” to make a pro-life difference in the country. 

 “I don’t agree with that anymore. You have to find the right person to vote for, regardless of the party affiliation on this issue,” he said.

So I'm not surprised that some are asking is Harper toast?
Read more »

The Con Senator and the Brad Butt Challenge

Montreal Simon - Thu, 04/10/2014 - 02:08


Golly. I must admit I didn't think ANYBODY could beat out Brad Butt for the title of Con Klown of the Year.

Because when he told the Commons he had "personally witnessed" massive voter fraud. Only to admit he hadn't. He'd only heard about it. Years ago.

I didn't think it was possible to top that whopper eh?


But I was wrong.

It turns out we have another challenger !!!!! 
Read more »

BREAKING: Con Minister Accused of Threatening an NDP MP

Montreal Simon - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 15:35


If you want to know what Stephen Harper and his ghastly Cons have done to our Parliament all you had to do is watch Question Period today.

For I've rarely seen a more rowdy session. The Cons were howling like jackals, or drunks.

So I'm not surprised that a Con Minister has been accused of threatening an NDP MP. 
Read more »

An Eloquent Denunciation Of Harper's Approach To Government

Politics and its Discontents - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 13:19
Watch as Thomas Mulcair denounces quite calmly, incisively and eloquently the myriad problems both of the Fair Elections Act and the entire diseased approach to governance embraced by the Harper regime.

Justin Trudeau also offers his view.

Recommend this Post

No blood for oil

Dawg's Blawg - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 08:24
There’s a cancer cluster in Fort Chipewyan, in the heart of the tar sands region, but the Alberta government says it won’t investigate. There’s a long background history here. A local physician, Dr. John O’Connor, first raised the issue in... Dr.Dawg http://drdawgsblawg.ca/

Your Morning Smile (for most of us)

Politics and its Discontents - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 07:45


And under the "methinks he doth protest too much" file, enjoy this.Recommend this Post

Wednesday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 07:24
Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- David Dayen discusses how prepaid debit cards are turning into the latest means for the financial sector to extract artificial fees from consumers. And Matt Taibbi reports on the looting of public pension funds in the U.S.:
Nor did anyone know that part of Raimondo's strategy for saving money involved handing more than $1 billion – 14 percent of the state fund – to hedge funds, including a trio of well-known New York-based funds: Dan Loeb's Third Point Capital was given $66 million, Ken Garschina's Mason Capital got $64 million and $70 million went to Paul Singer's Elliott Management. The funds now stood collectively to be paid tens of millions in fees every single year by the already overburdened taxpayers of her ostensibly flat-broke state. Felicitously, Loeb, Garschina and Singer serve on the board of the Manhattan Institute, a prominent conservative think tank with a history of supporting benefit-slashing reforms. The institute named Raimondo its 2011 "Urban Innovator" of the year.

The state's workers, in other words, were being forced to subsidize their own political disenfranchisement, coughing up at least $200 million to members of a group that had supported anti-labor laws. Later, when Edward Siedle, a former SEC lawyer, asked Raimondo in a column for Forbes.com how much the state was paying in fees to these hedge funds, she first claimed she didn't know. Raimondo later told the Providence Journal she was contractually obliged to defer to hedge funds on the release of "proprietary" information, which immediately prompted a letter in protest from a series of freaked-out interest groups. Under pressure, the state later released some fee information, but the information was originally kept hidden, even from the workers themselves.
...
Today, the same Wall Street crowd that caused the crash is not merely rolling in money again but aggressively counterattacking on the public-relations front. The battle increasingly centers around public funds like state and municipal pensions. This war isn't just about money. Crucially, in ways invisible to most Americans, it's also about blame. In state after state, politicians are following the Rhode Island playbook, using scare tactics and lavishly funded PR campaigns to cast teachers, firefighters and cops – not bankers – as the budget-devouring boogeymen responsible for the mounting fiscal problems of America's states and cities.

Not only did these middle-class workers already lose huge chunks of retirement money to huckster financiers in the crash, and not only are they now being asked to take the long-term hit for those years of greed and speculative excess, but in many cases they're also being forced to sit by and watch helplessly as Gordon Gekko wanna-be's like Loeb or scorched-earth takeover artists like Bain Capital are put in charge of their retirement savings. ... (T)he "unfunded liability" crisis had nothing to do with the systemic unsustainability of public pensions. Thanks to a deadly combination of unscrupulous states illegally borrowing from their pensioners, and unscrupulous banks whose mass sales of fraudulent toxic subprime products crashed the market, these funds were out some $930 billion. Yet the public was being told that the problem was state workers' benefits were simply too expensive. In a way, this was a repeat of a shell game with retirement finance that had been going on at the federal level since the Reagan years. The supposed impending collapse of Social Security, which actually should be running a surplus of trillions of dollars, is now repeated as a simple truth. But Social Security wouldn't be "collapsing" at all had not three decades of presidents continually burgled the cash in the Social Security trust fund to pay for tax cuts, wars and God knows what else. Same with the alleged insolvencies of state pension programs. The money may not be there, but that's not because the program is unsustainable: It's because bankers and politicians stole the money. [Update: And just in time for the C.D. Howe Institute to sell the same kind of snake oil in Canada.]

- And on the subject of the value of public services being gifted to corporate cronies, Simon Enoch highlights the Wall government's broken promise not to privatize Saskatchewan's Crowns - most obvious lately in their elimination of rural liquor stores in favour of corporate-owned replacements.

- Meanwhile, Karen Kamp points out the dangers of allowing for massive corporate funding of political messages to go undisclosed until it's too late.

- Jason Koblovsky catches Con insider Geoff Norquay admitting that the Unfair Elections Act is intended as "vengeance" against Elections Canada for doing its job in investigating the Cons' in-and-out scandal. And Frances Russell takes a look at some of the ways undue restrictions on voting rights may be unconstitutional.

- Finally, Duncan Cameron and Chantal Hebert weigh in on the results of this week's Quebec election. Paul Wells muses about the illusory attraction of the "star candidate". And John Conway focuses on how the PQ's shift in focus from progressive economic policies to reactionary social ones earned it a miserable defeat.

Woodworth: The Coming Zombie Puppet Apocalypse!

Dammit Janet - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 06:53
I'm confused. Is Woody threatening a zombie apocalypse or a Muppet movie remake?

So reluctant is he to mention the A word that he is driven to moronic allegories and now puppets (?).

Really the man makes no sense. (bold added)

Under Parliamentary rules Woodworth cannot, without unanimous consent, bring this Motion to a vote so he will seek the unanimous consent of Members of Parliament. During Woodworth’s Member’s Statement on Monday, March 31, 2014 he noted that “If even one Member of this House refuses to consent to this essential principle of democratic governance it will be a dark and dangerous day for Canada.

”

Woodworth said: “Laws like subsection 223(1), which falsely condemn as non-human those we know to be human, are savage and inhumane, a throwback to a more barbarous age.” Any Member opposing Motion 476 is denying the equal worth and dignity of every member of the human family affirmed in the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He went on to say that in addition, "Similarly, if anyone opposes Motion 476a, they clearly haven't seen the latest Muppet Movie and are simply out of touch with their Child side...and probably reality as well."



Woodworth posing with his hand puppets "Les" and "Bess" in a press conference says " I would like this Motion to include hand puppets as well because they are so human-like at times to me, and have become almost equals when it comes to hammering home some of my best ideas in parliament. It'll be a sad day for puppets if this Motion goes down in flames.

Woodworth says Motion 476a (which will include puppets) will underline the reason why it is important for Canadians to refuse to accept any law which condemns as non-human anyone we know to be human or suspect to have human-like qualities...for instance--puppets!

Miss Piggy, whom is often viewed as more human than some people and certainly more than some politicians, could not be reached for comment.
Well, as for puppets being people too, Woody, as a backbench Conservative MP, should know.

Democracy Itself

Northern Reflections - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 06:06


Pierre Polivevre has met all criticism of the "Fair" Elections Act with a mantra of talking points and -- in the case of Marc Mayrand and Sheila Fraser -- ad hominem attacks. It's all been rather depressing. But, Murray Dobbin writes, those very tactics present opponents of the government with a real opportunity.

The bill copies Republican attempts to suppress large segments of the voting population. But those attempts backfired:

In at least some cases efforts at voter suppression in the U.S. have backfired because the attack on black and Latino communities has galvanized them to get out the vote. The government of Florida reduced the early voting period which prompted black churches "to conduct a two-day 'souls to the polls' marathon. And even as election day turned into a late election night, and with the race in Ohio, and thus for the 270 votes needed to win the presidency, called by 11 p.m., black voters remained in line in Miami-Dade and Broward, two heavily Democrat counties in Florida, where black voters broke turnout records even compared to 2008."

Efforts to suppress the vote in civic elections in North Carolina and Texas also backfired, resulting in record turn-outs of the people targeted by Republican party controlled board of elections.

Barack Obama was re-elected because his political machine targeted the very voters the Republicans tried to disenfranchise. Not being allowed to vote gave them a reason to vote. Dobbin is right:

While many in those communities have found little reason to go to the polls given the slim likelihood of any change in their lives, no one likes to be told what they can and can't do -- especially when it comes to rights. For the people targeted by Harper for disenfranchisement, the 2015 election could be purely about democracy itself.  
It's not just about the economy anymore. It's not just about the muzzling of scientists. It's not just about the Senate scandal. It's about democracy itself.

It's time for the opposition to mobilize voters.


HUGE Vatican FAIL

Dammit Janet - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 05:51
As long as I've been blogging on reproductive rights and justice (about seven years), there's been wrangling in Philippines over basic contraception and family planning.

And now it's over.

The Supreme Court in the Philippines has approved a birth control law, in a defeat for the Catholic Church.

The law requires government health centres to distribute free condoms and contraceptive pills.

The court had deferred implementation after the law's passage in December 2012 after church groups questioned its constitutionality.

Supporters of the law cheered as the court found that most of the provisions were constitutional.

The government of President Benigno Aquino defied years of church pressure by passing the bill.

It says the law will help the poor, who often cannot afford birth control, and combat the country's high rates of maternal mortality.

The provisions will make virtually all forms of contraception freely available at public health clinics.

Sex education will also be compulsory in schools and public health workers will be required to receive family planning training.

There will also be medical care for women who have had illegal abortions.Abortion of course will still be illegal.

Here's the view from Manila.
The Catholic Church, which counts over 80 percent of the country’s 100 million population as members, had led street protests denouncing the law as “evil”, and at one point in its opposition campaign threatened Aquino with excommunication.

One of its hardline opponents and a petitioner to the court, former senator Francisco Tatad, said allowing the law to take effect could force Catholics into an open revolt.

“This means civil disobedience at the very least, actual revolt at the most extreme,” Tatad wrote in a commentary in the Manila Standard on Tuesday.

“Some of us will want to defy the power of the devil and die as martyrs, if need be, in the only cause that gives us a chance to fight for something much bigger than ourselves.”Big talk.

All bullshit.
Nevertheless, many Catholics have embraced less conservative views in recent decades.

A recent survey carried by the respected Social Weather Stations polling group said about 84 percent of Filipinos agreed that the government should provide free family planning options such as contraceptives.

It said 72 percent were “in favor” of the law.Another Vatican Taliban FAIL.


Rob Ford Nature Special by Jimmy Kimmel

LeDaro - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 05:51
It is really funny.

RoboCon Poilievre

Creekside - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 05:42





"Thank you for your co-operation. Goodnight."

The Contempt of Stephen Harper and the Shame of Pierre Poilievre

Montreal Simon - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 01:46


Well nobody can deny that they were made for each other. Or made of each other.

With Stephen Harper usually being the mouth, and Pierre Poilievre the other end.

For there was Harper's ghastly little baby today defecating all over the Chief Electoral Officer. 
Read more »

Rob Ford and the Beast of The Great White North

Montreal Simon - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 01:29


Well his campaign isn't doing too good lately. It's a little wobbly like Rob Ford himself. 

Decent people don't want anything to do with him. Or let their children anywhere near him. So now he's holding ten thousand chocolate eggs.

And goodness knows what else. 


But at least he was able to add two new members to his sagging campaign. Ben Johnson, the disgraced runner.
And a Trailer Park Boy. 
Read more »

I'm back

Cathie from Canada - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 22:37
And I think I'm just in time to watch the so-called Fair Elections Act go down in flames.

First, we find out that moving elections investigations to the AG department actually WAS because the Harper Cons are blaming the messenger, Elections Canada for the elections scandals which have plagued their party since 2006 -- instead of blaming their own colleagues and their own staff, those guys who actually, you know, broke the law and lied about it:

Mr. Aspin is the first Conservative to publicly voice suspicions within the party that, somehow, the two reporters who broke the robocalls story, Ottawa Citizen Glen McGregor and Postmedia News Stephen Maher, were the recipients of leaked information from Elections Canada.... Asked if he believes the Conservative suspicion about leaks to journalists from the Elections Canada investigation was the reason behind the government’s distrust of the agency and its decision to transfer investigative powers through Bill C-23, Mr. Aspin replied: “I’m sure it had an impact, because, I mean, the investigations I don’t think were handled professionally, and that’s a non-partisan comment.”This accusation was echoed by a former Harper Communications Director, Geoff Norquay, who told CBC that the act is "vengeance" on the Chief Electoral Officer. As reported by Jason Koblovsky at Mind Bending Politics:

Norquay’s “vengeance” comments stunned all of the members of the Power Panel to which he was commenting on. Norquay later tried to retract.I'll bet he did.

And finally today, we have the unprecedented and appalling spectacle of a government minister, Pierre Pollievre, launching a vicious personal attack against a civil servant, Marc Mayrand.

...Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre accused Marc Mayrand of opposing the proposed overhaul of election laws because he wants more power for himself. Poilievre told the Senate legal and constitutional affairs committee that Mayrand is making “astounding” and “amazing” allegations about the Fair Elections Act, or Bill-C23.
"He wants more power, a bigger budget and less accountability,” Poilievre said.Personal attacks like this are the last refuge of scoundrels, and the surest sign yet that the Harper Cons know their terrible elections bill is flaming out.

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

accidentaldeliberations - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 19:51
Packaged cats.




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