Posts from our progressive community

Deficits, the left, and Twitter confusion. . .

kirbycairo - Sat, 08/29/2015 - 09:01
I got into an interesting, though entirely unproductive, twitter exchange this morning concerning the issue of the Left and balanced budgets. It all began when someone posted a link on the issue of balanced budgets and the leftwing. The accompanying twitter statement was "if you think the NDP is rightwing to balance a budget, you need a history lesson." My simple reply was that "it is not rightwing to balance a budget, but it is rightwing to insist that all budgets have to be balanced." This set off a small storm in a teacup exchange with a blogger who I respect but who, I think, was confused about what I was saying. (To be fair, this confusion is easy to generate on Twitter where complex issues cannot be explained.)

Now, of course, it is easy to see that many leftwing governments have balanced budgets and many rightwing governments have failed to balance budgets. It is not rightwing or leftwing to balance a budget. But what I believe is rightwing is to buy the Neo-Liberal discourse on "fiscal responsibility" or "balanced budgets." For years, regardless of their poor performance on the issue, the corporatists and Neo-Liberals have attempted to generate the false notion that balancing budgets is an objectively good thing. But, of course, it isn't. The desirability or undesirability of a balanced budget depends entirely on the circumstances. It would be great, I suppose, if we were always awash with lots of cash and could always balance budgets while making the investments necessary for a better future. But those circumstances don't obtain and sometimes it is necessary to fall into deficit. The rightwing, (again, despite their poor performance on the matter) have attempted to generate a pubic discourse that always condemns deficits. And my claim is simple - it is rightwing to buy into this discourse.

Now, again to be fair, the original twitter post was one among many that is attempting to counter the rightwing claim that left of centre governments are 'fiscally irresponsible' and always fall into structural deficits. But there is something else at stake here. I think that many NDPers have pushed that envelope so far that they are failing to see that Mulcair has tipped the party into the realm of rightwing discourse. If you don't believe me watch the exchanges this week on CBC's Power and Politics between Andrew Thomson (the NDP candidate for Eglington-Lawrence) and the Liberal spokeswomen. (I am sorry, I can't remember her name offhand.) Thomson, a former NDP Minister from Saskatchewan, went after the Liberals like a good-old fashioned Tory for suggesting that they might run a temporary deficit in the cause of infrastructure spending. Instead of accepting the real nature of the Liberal claim (that they would earmark particular deficit spending for specific and temporary infrastructure programs) he went on like a Tory about how this was an open faucet of planned structural deficit spending. These attacks (and they went on for several days) from a high-profile NDP candidate, is a fairly basic demonstration of the way in which the NDP has adopted the rightwing discourse of balanced-budget madness.

Of course it is not rightwing to balance a budget or leftwing to run a deficit. But what my blogging colleague either didn't understand or intentionally misconstrued was my claim that it IS rightwing to fall into the discourse that budgets have to be balanced. Now, granted, I have never heard Mulcair specifically say that (though I have heard other NDP supporters make just such a claim). But what I was pointing out was that the NDP leadership has fallen into a rightwing discourse of balancing budgets as an objectively good thing. (The professed confusion on the part of my Twitter opponent was the claim that because I said that it is rightwing to INSIST that budgets have to be balanced, that I had therefore implied that it is not leftwing to balance a budget - unfortunately, it was a confusion hardly worthy of his intelligence) And this discourse has been nowhere more in evidence than in the NDP attacks on the Liberals for outlining a fairly modest (and actually very rational) plan for running a few small targeted deficits.

We cannot presently know how an NDP government would act once in power. Neither can we really know if Trudeau would, like past Liberals Governments, shift decidedly right once in power. What we do know (if we are paying attention) is that the NDP has shifted significantly in its discourse and accepted the corporatist discourse that eschews deficits as a terrible thing and lauds balanced budgets as though they will save the world.

Meanings of Life

LeDaro - Sat, 08/29/2015 - 08:50
Don't eat apple and don't vote for Harper.

Paul Martin Gives Tommy Angry Beard a Well-Deserved Kick in the Ass.

The Disaffected Lib - Sat, 08/29/2015 - 08:42
Paul Martin was the finance minister who plucked the federal government from the brink of fiscal chaos. It was a tough time for all including the provinces, even the Canadian Forces, but he balanced the budget and paid down $90 billion of our national debt. He kept the bankers in line and when he handed the reins to Harper he bequeathed a full treasury ready to absorb the brunt of the great collapse of 2008.

Put simply, Martin pulled our fat (yours and mine) out of the fire. Which is why he deserves to be heard on the mess we're in yet again and where we're headed.

The public has grown used to the Harper government’s mantra on deficits, but should be startled by what they hear from New Democrats, he said.

“That Tom Mulcair is now a student of Stephen Harper’s economy makes absolutely no sense,” said Martin.

“Where is the conscience of those who belong in the NDP? How can the NDP party — those who’ve worked it for all these years — stand for the fact that the party is now holding hands with the Conservatives and saying that our goal in the next mandate is to do absolutely nothing?”

The current Conservative government has ground the economy down so far, trapping our most vulnerable of citizens in the process, that the next government has to act and that the NDP doesn’t understand that boggles the mind. Conservative obsession with eliminating the deficit down to the final decimal point is more than short-sighted. It’s yesterday’s war.”

Further evidence of how Mulcair and Harper are on the wrong page with their babble about balancing budgets comes from a new poll that finds Canadians believe their country is in a recession and support the federal government running a deficit to stimulate the economy.

Anyone who reads this blog knows I've been pretty tough on young Trudeau but I will give him credit for his commitment to a major, 3-year infrastructure programme. Sure he'll run a deficit but that's not the point. It's like bad cholesterol and good cholesterol. Harper's "throw a deck on the cottage" stimulus budget of 2009 was bad cholesterol. It was money squandered, gifted away, with no lasting return. Infrastructure spending, of the sort Harper didn't have the vision or courage to implement, is good cholesterol. It's money invested in public assets - highways, bridges, overpasses, power grids - that bolster the economy and reap returns for decades.

Of course, with this latest poll, the bearded chameleon may change his colours as effortlessly as he has on other situations in the past.

More Evidence the Duffy Scandal Is Destroying Stephen Harper

Montreal Simon - Sat, 08/29/2015 - 04:46

It was a shocking and deeply disturbing sight. And it could only make Canadians wonder whether Stephen Harper was still mentally fit to be Prime Minister.

For there he was today, trying to mock the size of Justin Trudeau's deficit.

But only managing to look more crazy and more desperate.
Read more »

RoboCon : Skippy vs Lenny

Creekside - Sat, 08/29/2015 - 02:18

"What happens," asked the Ottawa Citizen, "when a “Pierre Poutine”-style robo-caller, like the automated system that sent Guelph voters to the wrong polls in 2011, meets a robo-responder like Lenny?"

"Every minute Pierre Poilievre's telemarketer spent with our recording was time she wasn't bothering someone at dinner."And we thank you for that, Alberta software developer Mango 

The telemarketer calling here on behalf of the re-election campaign of Pierre Poilievre, champion of the Fair Elections Act, told "Lenny" she was from "Campaign Support". 
Guelph-based "Campaign Support" made calls into Liberal MP Irwin Cotler's Mont-Royal riding in the fall of 2011 suggesting that Cotler may be resigning so how's about you support our Steve in a non-existent upcoming by-election? 
From Campaign Research principal and Conservative strategist Nick Kouvalis' affidavit : 
“The calls were conducted under the business name of Campaign Support, which is a business name registered by Campaign Research for the specific purpose of conducting telemarketing activities.”Cotler was not of course considering resigning at the time and kicked up a stink about the dirty tricks telephone campaign in the HoC. 
House Speaker and $8198.79 Campaign Research client Andrew Scheer dismissed the campaign as "reprehensible" but not actionable, thereby preserving Campaign Research's other founding principal - Richard Ciano, president of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario - from being dragged into any committee investigation of his firm's actions.  
Kouvalis, also former campaign chair and chief of staff to Mayor Rob Ford, promptly went on CTV to explain that his job is "ending Liberal politicians' careers". 

Campaign Support was soon spun off Campaign Research as a separate legal entity headed up by Kouvalis and Greg Dunlop, who left Kouvalis's firm two months ago after four years - if LinkedIn can be believed - and now heads up his own telemarketing firm iFusion Research.
iFusion also used to be a shell company for Campaign Research 

Here's Steve in 2011 campaigning in Cotler's Mont-Royal riding on behalf of Con hopeful Saulie Zajdel, presumed beneficiary of the later Campaign Research phone campaign. 
Zajdel lost to Cotler and was put on the payroll in James Moore's office as a shadow MP doing ethnic outreach while waiting a new shot at the riding.

Zajdel pled guilty this year to charges of corruption and breach of trust in two real estate deals involving tens of thousands of dollars in bribes.

Conservative Party spokesey Fred DeLorey expressed surprise at Zajdel's arrest in June 2013, saying none of this had come out in Zajdel's screening. A few months earlier, DeLorey was also surprised when McMaher busted the Conservative Party and RackNine shell company Chase Research for being behind the Republican-style push-poll robocalls about changes to Saskatchewan's riding boundaries. 

And so the story has turned inevitably back to Con robo/live calls ... which is where I think we came in... 

A Fundamental Realignment

Northern Reflections - Sat, 08/29/2015 - 01:05


Justin Trudeau, Tom Walkom writes, has done the country a favour. For the last two decades, the word "deficit" has been synonymous with "doom." But the two words are not synonyms. And now is the time to run a deficit:

But economists of all political stripes agree that if government is ever going to spend money on things like bridges and sewers, now is the time to do it.First the spending is needed. Torontonians found that out last winter when the bitter cold caused ancient water pipes around the city to fracture.
Second, interest rates are at rock-bottom lows. As the U.S. economist Paul Krugman notes in his New York Times column, the world is awash in capital. Investing in public works is a much better use for this capital than, say, stock market speculation.Third, the Canadian economy is stagnant. It may or may not be in recession (my guess is that we did suffer a recession in the first six months of the year but are now out of it).
Neo-liberals have convinced voters that governments are like households. Households have to balance budgets. But, in hard economic times, government debt can stimulate an economy and help households  balance their books.
Prime Minister Harper was absolutely gleeful when Trudeau  said he was willing to run a deficit -- something Harper has done, better than any prime minister in Canadian history. But that deficit was caused as much by tax cuts as it was by the global recession.
He won't tell you that, of course. Honesty is not his strong suite. The Duffy Trial has underscored that point. And the NDP has bought into the neo-liberal characterization of deficits. Now the Liberals are to the left of the NDP. 
Our politics is undergoing a fundamental realignment.

Harperman: The Anti-Harper Song Goes Viral !!!

Montreal Simon - Sat, 08/29/2015 - 00:25

If Stephen Harper thought he could get away with punishing the scientist Tony Turner for daring to write and and sing the song Harperman, he must be sorry now.

For as I said yesterday it is an outrageous assault on freedom of expression.

And as I predicted it has only made the song even more popular. 
Read more »

Friday Night Humour

Politics and its Discontents - Fri, 08/28/2015 - 18:26
I was just checking my Twitter feed when I found this. Enjoy:

Recommend this Post

Musical interlude

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 08/28/2015 - 17:09
Big Data feat. Joywave - Dangerous

And as a bonus, Tony Turner's Harperman:


Feminist Christian - Fri, 08/28/2015 - 16:05
If y'all have been reading this for more than this post, you'll know I have disabled kids. One of them profoundly so. I spend a lot of time and energy working at getting him accommodations to get by in the world. Special Education Assistants, IEPs (individual education plans), quieter showings of movies, disability day at the fair, getting through airport security, safety equipment, etc. We're in the process of trying to get him an autism support dog, and that'll mean a lot of places will have to accommodate his support dog.

And still yet, the hardest thing is food. Crackle is 9. He has the impulse control of a dog in a squirrel den. He is incapable of resisting yummy looking food. He either doesn't understand how sick it will make him, or is unable to resist despite the knowledge. He will take a cookie right out of a stranger's hand, and put it in his mouth. And I don't mean the stranger was offering it. I mean, it was the stranger's cookie, and she was going to eat it herself. He is ridiculously sensitive to gluten, corn, dairy, and a few other things. And that cookie would lay him out for a month. Not exaggerating. A month. The first week would be

I can't take him to church because there is food at every event and I can't keep him safe in that environment.

I can't take him to events with other autistic kids because every single one of them has "snacks" (i.e. crackers and cheese.)

I can't take him to the grocery store.

I can't take him to the playground unless no other kids are there.

I can't take him to a restaurant.

I can't sign him up for kids programs through the local rec centre. They ALL have snack breaks. Any lessons that are longer than 1 hour have a snack break. Even the 75 minute classes. WHY?!

I can't take him to other people's houses. Seriously, think about your home. Can you guarantee there are no crumbs? If so, you have no kids.

Now, obviously, I'm not asking for a gluten free world (though if global warming destroys the wheat crop forever, that'll be a happy side effect for me... JOKING. Chill.) I'm not asking for anyone to not let their kids eat at a playground. But how about one food free event per year at church? One food-free event with the autism kids. One. Just one. And really, do your kids HAVE to eat those fucking goldfish crackers in the library? The library? Since when is it okay to have food in the library? Ours has a sign up asking not to bring in peanuts. They refused to include gluten, dairy or corn. How about just don't bring in food?

And lastly, I'd like to be able to take him to my Mom's utterly pristine house. But my asswipe of a brother lives with her, and apparently, it's too much to ask for him not to drink beer or eat gluten for the few hours I'm there with Crackle for Nanna's birthday. Now, yes, beer doesn't have crumbs. But I gave him a chance. I let him drink it here at my house, and he left the can where Crackle could, and did, get it. I snatched it out of his hand when it was millimeters from his mouth. So he had his chance. How fucking selfish do you have to be to refuse to accommodate your own nephew for a few hours, so he doesn't get horrifically sick? It's mindboggling. Oh, and it's not like I'm asking this on game day, once a week, or anything. No. This will be our first time there in 6 years.

Some days, shit is easy. The heavens open up with nice strangers who smile at his noises, his movements, his socks and offer him rides on their boats or to pet their dog. Other days, I have to fight my own brother for the easiest thing ever. A few hours where he doesn't eat the things my son can't eat. It's just so frustrating.

"Harperman" Lands EnviroCan Scientist in Trouble with the Fuhrer

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 08/28/2015 - 15:35
Call out the Stasi. Fire up the generator and man those alligator clips. It's time for Tony Turner to "ride the lightning."

The guy singing is Tony Turner, a habitat planning scientist who may not be working for Environment Canada much longer.

An Ottawa federal scientist is being investigated for breaching the public service’s ethics code for writing and performing a highly political protest song to get rid of the Harper government.

Tony Turner, a scientist in habitat planning at Environment Canada, was recently sent home on leave with pay while the government investigates the making of Harperman, a music video posted on YouTube in early June that has attracted about 48,000 hits.

Mark Johnson, a spokesman for Environment Canada, said the department wouldn’t be commenting on the case because of “privacy concerns.” He said public servants agree to comply with the value and ethics code — which lays out expected behaviours — when they join the government regardless of their level or job.

I Knew the Harper PMO Reminded Me of Something.

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 08/28/2015 - 14:55
Yes, that's it! Something way back from my childhood. Yes.

Word has it that Harper chief of staff, Ray Novak, will be doing his best Sgt. Schultz impression when he gets grilled under oath in November.

Novak told CTV's Bob Fife, “Bob, I did not know that Mr. Wright was going to cut that cheque. Beyond that, I will speak at the appropriate time. Now is not the appropriate time.”

Fife then asked Novak if he had read the email in which Wright informed him that he was sending the $90,000 cheque.

“No I did not see that email, Bob,” Novak replied. “I first saw that email when it was disclosed much, much later.”

Is _Harperman_ to Stevie what _Pussy Riot_ was to Vlad?

Dammit Janet - Fri, 08/28/2015 - 14:11
Perhaps a living saint like Jean Vanier could genuinely feel a modicum of compassion for the venal and malevolent crew that is toiling to keep the Harper regime in power.

I do not.  In fact, I'm genuinely thrilled to gloat about the latest Harper government shit to hit the fan. An Ottawa federal scientist is being investigated for breaching the public service’s ethics code for writing and performing a highly political protest song to get rid of the Harper government.

Tony Turner, a scientist in habitat planning at Environment Canada, was recently sent home on leave with pay while the government investigates the making of Harperman, a music video posted on YouTube in early June that has attracted about 48,000 hits.

Mark Johnson, a spokesman for Environment Canada, said the department wouldn’t be commenting on the case because of “privacy concerns.” He said public servants agree to comply with the value and ethics code — which lays out expected behaviours — when they join the government regardless of their level or job.

The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, which represents federal scientists, said the union was representing Turner. It said he was put on leave pending the outcome of the probe into allegations that he violated the ethics code by writing and performing a political protest song.

“We will stand up for its members who face the prospect of being disciplined for exercising their democratic rights as citizens. The Supreme Court of Canada has confirmed that public service workers, like all Canadian citizens, benefit from freedom of expression,” said PIPSC president Debi Daviau.A disclosure.  I know Tony Turner, as a fellow congregant in the same community of faith.  He never speaks of his employment.  An avid singer and composer, he has worked with the congregation's youth in organizing hootenanny-style musical evenings.
Last June I posted and tweeted _Harperman_ with its exuberant cast of performers.

At the time, it did cross my mind that a humourless, vindictive prick like Stevie might use his regime's power to suppress the video.  And now we learn that Tony is being hounded through his employment.
_Harperman_ is trending today on Twitter. And @chris_sigurdson created this hilarious, brilliant meme.

We've produced many blogposts about _Pussy Riot_ here at DJ!  The parallels are clear: Harper, like Putin, is an authoritarian, ruthless, prevaricating leader who abuses his political power to stifle ideological dissidents.

In addition, Tony is a scientist. The Harper regime systematically suppresses research, muzzled government scientists, cut highly regarded programs and destroyed libraries.

No wonder the malignant narcissist who promised to destroy Canada is affronted by the words of _Harperman_.

The Unist'ot'en People of Northern B.C. versus Chevron. Which Side is the RCMP Backing?

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 08/28/2015 - 14:08

Band leaders of the Unist'ot'en of northwest British Columbia are bracing for mass arrests in their ongoing fight against the fossil fuelers, Chevron in particular. The RCMP aren't exactly denying the allegation, either.

"We understand that there has been some discussions on social media that don't accurately reflect the RCMP's action or the situation," she told Vancouver Observer in an email statement. "To date, there has been no police action. It is our understanding that discussions between industry and the Wet'suwet'en are still possible."

Just what does that mean? So long as the FNs are talking with "industry" they won't be jammed up? If they remain defiant of Chevron they'll be heading for the Greybar Hotel by the busload?
More than 50 individuals and organizations including Elizabeth May, David Suzuki, and Greenpeace Canada, signed an online declaration of support for the clan, which has claimed and governed the territory through its traditional and hereditary laws.

"We are deeply and gravely concerned to learn from a variety of sources that the RCMP appear to be on the verge of executing a highly provocative and dangerously reckless operational plan to make arrests," said the document. "We are local, national and international organizations monitoring these developments closely and we affirm that the Unist’ot’en are not alone."

The BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) also sent a letter to the RCMP urging them to scrap any plans to cross into Unist'ot'en territory and make arrests.

"... Police must proceed with the utmost caution in a situation such as this, so as not to interfere with the constitutional rights of the Indigenous people," wrote BCCLA executive director Josh Paterson. "If the RCMP is, as reported, planning to move in on the camp and remove its members against their will, we urge that this plan be reconsidered."

Meanwhile, at the blockades, they're bracing for Canada's Petro-Police Force, formerly known as the RCMP, to move in.
Unist'ot'en checkpoints have been set up on two entrances to its territory on Moricewest Forest Service Road and Chisolm Road. The Indigenous group has allowed loggers, tree-planters, and hunters to pass through peacefully, but has used the barriers to keep oil and gas officials at bay.

The camp has not and never will approve pipeline construction on its land, said Huson, despite more than 10 proposalsinvolving its ancestral land. Among the most controversial pipeline projects that would affect the Unist'ot'en are Enbridge Northern Gateway and Chevron's Pacific Trail Pipeline.

On crystallized positions

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 08/28/2015 - 13:56
I've largely held off on discussing federal polls since few of them seem to be out of line with my initial assessment of the election as a three-way race with the NDP in a narrow lead, but with plenty of room for movement during the election campaign.

But EKOS' latest signals that we may have reached the point where more of the same is news in and of itself - particularly for the party which most needs to try to change the direction of public opinion.

While there might once have been reason to wonder whether public assessments of the NDP and Lib leaders would hold up until the glare of an election campaign, those questions seem largely to have been answered. One could have doubted whether Tom Mulcair's high approval ratings would hold up when he was still unknown to a substantial number of voters - but he's still in strong positive territory with only 12% of respondents giving a "don't know" or no response. And while Justin Trudeau likely won't be returning to his honeymoon levels of support anytime soon, he seems to have leveled off at a neutral-to-positive assessment despite being the target of years of concentrated attacks.

As a result, the Cons are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to leadership. Instead of being able to rely on Harper being seen as bland but acceptable by enough people to vote them into office, they now have no choice but to try to attack the credibility of more-popular leaders in a spending-limited environment when the lone spokesperson they dare to put in front of a camera is disliked by two-thirds of the population (and distrusted by even more).

Similarly, the change/no change question seems to have been decisively resolved against the Cons. It may have been possible to point to vote splitting as a factor operating in their favour when enough voters to make up a majority were satisfied with matters as they stood; it's rather more difficult when the wrong-track and change numbers are into the high 60s, particularly when voters don't trust the government's claims as to how the country is doing.

In sum, we've reached the point where people know exactly what they think of Stephen Harper and his party, both in general and in relation to their opponents. And it's hard to see how two more months of the same from the Cons can turn the public in their favour.

The Iron Curtain is History. Is the "Ice Curtain" Next?

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 08/28/2015 - 10:06
It's not just global warming that's transforming the face of the Arctic. It's also Russian president Vlad Putin and his very clear Arctic ambitions both territorial and military.

A new report from the U.S. Center for Strategic and International Studies, The New Ice Curtain, Russia's Strategic Reach to the Arctic, suggests the 20-year old Arctic Council needs, at the very least, a facelift to address security concerns in the high north including confidence-building, multi-lateral military agreements between Russia and her Arctic neighbours.

The report notes that Moscow sees Russia as the Arctic superpower, the polar hegemon but the authors also warn against demonizing Russia for taking steps justified in the protection of its national interests only because we haven't kept pace.

Owe-lympic Myths: Olympics Are a Good Investment for Host City

Dammit Janet - Fri, 08/28/2015 - 08:54
Today's Owe-lympic Myth:

Myth 1: The Olympics are a good investment for Toronto

Economists that have looked at the Games see no long-term economic benefit.  In a recent NYTimes story, Philip Porter, an economist at the University of South Florida who has studied the impact of sporting events was quoted saying: “The bottom line is, every time we’ve looked — dozens of scholars, dozens of times — we find no real change in economic activity.”
Another specialist in sports economics, Andrew Zimbalist, in his recent book, Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup concludes that there are "no net economic gains." The wealthy, aka Millionaire Hucksters, profit; the rest of us pay. (In fact, Zimbalist wrote in The Wall Street Journal that Boston would be "lucky" to lose the Games. May Toronto be so lucky.)

Zimbalist cites the London 2012 Games.
They spent over $18 billion (all figures in USD). They took in $5 billion in Olympic revenues, leaving a deficit of $13 billion.
In a preliminary analysis of the just-ended Toronto Pan Am Games (in so far as it's possible without final numbers yet), The Globe and Mail pointed out that while there were winners among local businesses, there were losers as well.

It was a wash.

John Barber, in his column "The case against an Olympic bid," discusses cases, then cites yet another sports economist.
“Public opinion is catching up with the economic evidence,” Stefan Szymanski, professor of sports management and economics at the University of Michigan, noted recently with respect to Boston's abandoned bid.
Yes, the public does seem to be twigging to it: Taxpayers pay. Elites profit.

There is no argument about this.

Seriously. Try to find a reputable economist who will argue against it.

*Third in an ongoing and irregular series.

Previous posts:

Owe-lympics Myths: Reuse Pan Am Venues.

Owe-lympics Myth 5: Health and Fitness Legacy.

Toronto Star and Olympics: Something Stinks

Toronto Councillors' Twitter Accounts

10 People on Twitter

Big Brother is watching you

LeDaro - Fri, 08/28/2015 - 08:40
Big Brother Harper is watching you. Bill c 51.

Friday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 08/28/2015 - 08:08
Assorted content to end your week.

- Joseph Stiglitz notes that the recent stock market turmoil may be most important for its effect in highlighting far more important economic weaknesses. And Richard McCormack discusses the link between stock buybacks, inequality and economic stagnation - meaning that a plan to eliminate loopholes for stock options may also have positive spillover effects for the economy as a whole.

- Barry Schwartz writes about the meaning of work, while noting that a focus on theoretical efficiency by eliminating all satisfaction from a work day may be leading to worse results for employers and employees alike:
(W)hen given the chance to make their work meaningful and engaging, employees jump at it, even if it means that they have to work harder. Such cases should serve to remind us there is a human cost to routinizing and depersonalizing work. Too often, instead of being able to take pride in what they do, and derive satisfaction from doing it well, workers have little to show for their efforts aside from their pay.
In the face of longstanding evidence that routinization and an overemphasis on pay lead to worse performance in the workplace, why have we continued to tolerate and even embrace that approach to work?

The answer, I think, is that the ideas of Adam Smith have become a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy: They gave rise to a world of work in which his gloomy assumptions about human beings became true. When you take all opportunities for meaning and engagement out of the work that people do, why would they work, except for the wage? What Smith and his descendants failed to realize is that rather than exploiting a fact about human nature, they were creating a fact about human nature.
The transformation I have in mind goes something like this: You enter an occupation with a variety of aspirations aside from receiving your pay. But then you discover that your work is structured so that most of those aspirations will be unmet. Maybe you’re a call center employee who wants to help customers solve their problems — but you find out that all that matters is how quickly you terminate each call. Or you’re a teacher who wants to educate kids — but you discover that only their test scores matter. Or you’re a corporate lawyer who wants to serve his client with care and professionalism — but you learn that racking up billable hours is all that really counts.
Pretty soon, you lose your lofty aspirations. And over time, later generations don’t even develop the lofty aspirations in the first place. Compensation becomes the measure of all that is possible from work. When employees negotiate, they negotiate for improved compensation, since nothing else is on the table. And when this goes on long enough, we become just the kind of creatures that Adam Smith thought we always were.
To be sure, people should be adequately compensated for their work. Recent efforts across the country to achieve a significant increase in the minimum wage represent real social progress. But in securing such victories for working people, we should not lose sight of the aspiration to make work the kind of activity people embrace, rather than the kind of activity they shun. - Tana Ganeva exposes how some of the lucky few most insulated from homelessness and poverty demean the people who struggle to face those obstacles every day. And Jeffrey Simpson theorizes that our politics are lacking for big ideas and generosity.

- Edward Keenan writes that the most disturbing aspect of the G20 police abuses was the eagerness with which the people responsible for maintaining social order abandoned any attempt to preserve democratic rights.

- Finally, Aaron Wherry discusses the "snowflake" organizational model which is developing as the alternative to top-down messaging. And that model may make for an interesting contrast against the Cons' most limited broadcasting structure yet, as candidates are being told not to engage with media, public debates or any other format which could possibly deviate from central messaging.

A Troubling Trend

Politics and its Discontents - Fri, 08/28/2015 - 06:45

Canadians have much to ponder before casting their ballots in October. Opinion polls tell us that the economy, healthcare and job creation are uppermost in their minds, all worthy topics to be sure. However, only 15% list Bill C-51, Harper's anti-terrorism legislation, as one of their top-five issues. More Canadians should be very, very concerned about it, given the disturbing international trends that are emerging as governments crack down on groups they feel threatened by.

Readers will recall that in addition to Bill C-51's troubling lack of oversight, there is a provision that could allow for mass arrests for protesters:
Within Bill C-51, the definition of what constitutes a threat to national security is broad and non-specific, making it difficult to understand how protesting in particular is affected. Any activities that undermine the security of Canada, including interfering with the economic or financial stability of Canada, are offences under Bill C-51.

This definition allows for a broad interpretation of what constitutes a threat to national security: a protest calling for action on missing and murdered Indigenous women that blocks a highway, or an environmental protest that fails to secure the proper permits, could warrant widespread arrests.A troubling worldwide trend demonstrates a solid basis for fears about Bill C-51's misuse, as reported in The Guardian.
Over the past three years, more than 60 countries have passed or drafted laws that curtail the activity of non-governmental and civil society organisations. Ninety-six countries have taken steps to inhibit NGOs from operating at full capacity, in what the Carnegie Endowment calls a “viral-like spread of new laws” under which international aid groups and their local partners are vilified, harassed, closed down and sometimes expelled.Parenthetically, one cannot help but think of the politically-motivated CRA audits of groups in Canada that disagree with government policies, which I have written about extensively on this blog.

The Guardian piece reports some very disturbing findings by Amnesty International:
“There are new pieces of legislation almost every week – on foreign funding, restrictions in registration or association, anti-protest laws, gagging laws. And, unquestionably, this is going to intensify in the coming two to three years. You can visibly watch the space shrinking.”The list of countries involved in repression of civil society groups and NGOs is extensive, ranging from unsurprising states such as India, China, Russia and Egypt to Israel, Ecuador and Hungary.

Consider the following examples among putative democracies:

Israeli NGOs critical of the government – in particular the country’s continued occupation of the Palestinian territories – are facing severe new restrictions amid a toxic political climate on the right that has sought to label them as disloyal.

A draft law seeks to cut off foreign funding by introducing a tax and labelling NGOs with external finance as “foreign agents” receiving funds from foreign governments to continue their work.

Some of Israel’s best-known human rights groups – including B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence, an organisation of former soldiers that highlights alleged military human rights abuses – are likely to be affected.Ecuador
Pachamama, an organisation that supports indigenous groups and campaigns for the conservation of biodiversity, was one of the first to feel the force of the clampdown on NGOs and civil society organisations by the government of President Rafael Correa.

A few months after executive decree 16 was issued in June 2013, Pachamama was closed down for having violated the order, in what Mario Melo, the foundation’s lawyer, calls a “tainted and invalid administrative process where Pachamama wasn’t given the right to defend itself”.Hungary
Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s populist prime minister, has called for the monitoring of certain “foreign-funded civil society organisations” that he describes as “agents of foreign powers”.

The targeted NGOs – referred to as “the dirty 13” in pro-government media, and including Transparency International, the Civil Liberties Union and the Roma Press Centre – received letters demanding two years of financial and administrative documentation within one week.We live in a world deeply infected with a neoliberal agenda. Groups that interfere with that agenda are being widely targeted. Given the repressive measures that the Harper regime has consistently taken throughout its tenure, measures that include the muzzling of scientists, the defunding and dismantling of environmental oversight, the CRA audits the provisions of Bill C-51, and the terrible police abuse of citizens during the Toronto G20, we should all be very wary about casting our ballots lightly.

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