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Sunday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 06/19/2016 - 08:36
This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Brian Nolan, Max Roser, and Stefan Thewissen study (PDF) the relationship between GDP and household income across the OECD, and find a nearly universal pattern of nominal economic growth which isn't finding its way into households (which is particularly extreme in the U.S.). Roy van der Weide, Christoph Lakner and Elena Ianchovichina examine (PDF) high-end house prices as an indication of the exorbitant high-end incomes which don't show up in individual tax records. And Sean McElwee and Roberta Barnett discuss how big-money donors are able to distort U.S. politics.

- Sujata Dey points out that even from the standpoint of gross economic numbers, there's reason to be wary of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other new trade agreements. But Cory Doctorow highlights the greater danger of deals which undermine democratic decision-making and public interests.

- Steven Chase reports on Canada's increased sales of military equipment to human rights abusers.

- Rob Carrick points out that financial institutions are being forced to plan for a millenial generation with little capacity to borrow or save.

- Finally, Nicholas Kristof acknowledges that the theory behind draconian welfare policies was entirely wrong - and that the primary effect of restricting access to social programs has been to foment poverty in a country which can afford to eliminate it.

The Bloated Ambition of the Con Bigot Jason Kenney

Montreal Simon - Sun, 06/19/2016 - 06:53

For a long time after his Cons were crushed and humiliated, the foul Harper stooge Jason Kenney kept a very low profile.

So low in fact that some of his closest accomplices feared he had lost his mind at the thought of losing so much power.

But now he's back.

His burning ambition has inflated him like some ghastly blimp.

Read more »

Making Three Point Shots

Northern Reflections - Sun, 06/19/2016 - 03:12

Justin Trudeau is changing the rules about how to do politics. Evan Solomon writes:

“We were perhaps behaving in a way that was resembling more the previous government,” Trudeau told stunned reporters as he explained that he would cede to opposition requests to more fairly distribute seats on his electoral reform committee—a sudden and surprising climbdown. Did Trudeau just compare himself to Stephen Harper? Yes, he did. This was after he’d already reversed course on the assisted-dying bill’s Motion 6, which would have limited opposition debate. And after he’d apologized—numerous times—for the infamous elbow incident. Trudeau was just doing what he has done since the campaign: breaking the five cardinal rules of political communication.
Those five cardinal rules -- up until now --  have been:

1. The flip-flop rule: Reversing decisions makes you look indecisive. Stick to your promises or people will stop trusting you.
2. The loser rule: Never repeat your negatives because you end up validating them. It goes without saying that you don’t compare yourself to the man you just defeated.
3. The blabber rule: Once you’re explaining, you’re losing. Keep messages simple.
4. The message-control rule: Never let the opposition or caucus take over the agenda. Leaders control; leaders look strong.
5. The wimp rule: Never give in to the opposition’s criticisms. Their job is to oppose. Your job is to lead.
Trudeau's approach, Solomon writes, is the equivalent of the three point shot in basketball:

Every time Trudeau fades back and launches another of his high-risk moon shots—legalizing pot, pricing carbon, buying navy ships, changing the way elections are won—you think he’s going to fail.

There are misses, for sure, lots of them, as Trudeau is the first to admit. But when he scores, he scores big. The age of political incrementalism, the policy layup shot, is over. Trudeau is breaking the rules and hitting all net.
There are a few other mistakes I'd like to see him admit -- starting with the Saudi arms deal. But, if he admits too many mistakes, his fans may not fill the seats.


Rachel Notley and the Hatred That Kills

Montreal Simon - Sun, 06/19/2016 - 02:49

For years I have been warning that hatred kills. Like it did in Orlando last Sunday. Or like it did in Britain last Thursday.

When the gentle, decent Labour MP Jo Cox was shot and stabbed to death by a another cowardly bigot.

And I've also warned that the same poison was spreading in Canada.

Where progressive leaders like Justin Trudeau and Rachel Notley have been attacked by packs of rabid haters, and bombarded with death threats.

But it seems some people never learn.
Read more »

On Gun Control

Politics and its Discontents - Sat, 06/18/2016 - 16:36
Before it degenerates near the end with Bill Mahar expressing his usual prejudices about Islam, this clip from his show is well-worth watching. Guests discuss gun control.
The HBO Real Time panel, along with host Bill Maher, jumped all over a conservative commentator who refused to budge an inch on high-capacity weapons Friday night, with host Maher saying the Orlando shooting “was brought to you by guns and religion.”

Guest Lawrence Wilkerson, the former chief of staff to Colin Powell, took the lead in battling with conservative commentator Emily Miller over guns in America, saying, “We need some kind of control on the weapons in this country,” to the applause of the audience.

Admitting that he owns fourteen weapons, with some of them passed down from his father for hunting, Wilkerson went off on military grade weapons available to the public.

“We do not need large capacity magazines, semi-automatic weapons in the hands of anybody in this country, other than possible law enforcement,” Wilkerson said.
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Saturday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sat, 06/18/2016 - 10:29
Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Phillipe Orliange discusses the significance of inequality in the developing world as a problem for both fairness and economic development:
The question of inequality has become so important because societal cohesion broadly depends upon it. It is not normal for 1% of the population to possess as much wealth as the other 99%.
There is also a moral side to the question. We cannot say that we are building a shared world in which nobody will be left behind, while accepting this unreasonable monopolisation of wealth. This alone is reason enough to act.

We now also know that inequality is bad for economic growth. A number of studies from the IMF prove this to be true. And finally, the victims of inequality are at higher risk of exposure to the effects of climate change.

So not only is inequality morally reprehensible, but it is also economically inefficient. And the effect is cumulative.- Meanwhile, Hassan Yussuff points out that all Canadians stand to benefit from the added security of an improved Canada Pension Plan.

- David Suzuki discusses the role of feed-in tariffs in encouraging the development of distributed renewable power. And Kevin O'Connor reports on Mark Jacobson's lesson to Brad Wall on the relative costs and benefits of transitioning toward cleaner energy as opposed to barrelling ahead with a fossil fuel-based economy.

- Finally, Marie-Danielle Smith reports on Libs' decision to provide extra funding to Canada's Information Commissioner to deal with a serious backlog of complaints. But as Keith Reynolds notes in discussing new plans in British Columbia, most governments reviewing the access-to-informatoin system end up taking obvious steps to undermine its operation where it seems inconvenient for the party in power - and the Trudeau Libs look to be no exception.

I Kmow You Are Probably Tired Of This

Politics and its Discontents - Sat, 06/18/2016 - 05:30
.... but I suspect that our earth is growing even more weary:

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The Burning Planet and the Nasty Surprise

Montreal Simon - Sat, 06/18/2016 - 05:19

It's going to be a really hot weekend in the place where I live, so I'm hoping to spend as much time as possible at the beach.

But I wonder how much longer I'll be able to do that, as the world just keeps getting hotter and hotter.
Read more »

Until It Has Had Its Say

Northern Reflections - Sat, 06/18/2016 - 04:57

Chantal Hebert writes this morning that the battle over Bill C-14 signals a new source of opposition for any Canadian government -- the Senate:

The legislative discussion over bill C-14 is over but the debate over the role of a more independent Senate in the larger parliamentary scheme of things has only just begun. It is already eliciting some diametrically opposed views as to the way forward.
There are two clearly different views about how the Senate should function:

At one extreme, there are those who would invest a more independent upper house with the mission of perfecting the work of their elected colleagues. In their book, a decrease in partisan attachment increases the moral authority of the senate, to the point that it should use the powers vested in it by the Constitution to the fullest — even when it means going against the will of the House of Commons.
But power is intoxicating. Its fumes are addictive. Almost every governing party eventually succumbs to the delusion of believing itself infallible and invincible. The cure usually involves a voter-imposed spell in opposition rehab.
And there's the rub. The Senate is unelected. Recognizing that fact, a majority of senators sent the bill back to the House, with its most controversial clause, "reasonably foreseeable," in tact.
The second theory of how the Senate should operate is also intriguing:
At the other extreme, there are those who feel that a still unelected but more independent Senate is ultimately even less accountable than its previous partisan version. No particular party is responsible for its actions. They argue such a Senate should be content to play the role of if not silent at least always compliant partner to the elected majority in the Commons.
Except that under the current electoral system, a majority government does not de facto speak for a majority of voters, it just speaks for more of them than any other of its opposition rivals.
I suspect this version of how the Senate works will go the way of the Dodo -- thanks to the Mike Duffy trial. The days are gone when the PMO can call the tune and have senators do its bidding.
In fact, the Senate will no longer do any government's bidding -- until it has had its say. 

Donald Trump and the American Horror Story

Montreal Simon - Sat, 06/18/2016 - 03:18

In one of last posts I told you how shocked most LGBT Americans were to hear themselves described as Donald Trump's newest supporters.

With that ghastly bigot now claiming that after the Orlando massacre, gay people hate Muslims as much as he does.

Even though that's nonsense.

So I'm glad to see that Hillary Clinton is trying to correct the record.
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My Tribute To Those Who Fly At Night To Save Lives

Montreal Simon - Sat, 06/18/2016 - 00:29

These ORNGE air ambulances are a familiar sight in my neighbourhood, taking off or coming into land at the Toronto Island Airport.

And I like having them around, because my heroes are those who risk their lives to try to save the lives of others.

But three years ago one of them crashed in northern Ontario.

And it couldn't be a more tragic or more Canadian story.
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A Last Stand for Lelu

Creekside - Fri, 06/17/2016 - 21:05

The B.C. provincial government is trying to green light the construction of a massive LNG terminal on Lelu Island in the Skeena Estuary – Pacific Northwest LNG, backed by Malaysian energy giant Petronas  –  without the consent of the people who rejected a $1.15 billion dollar deal from Petronas to gain that consent.

The undersigned First Nation leaders and citizens of the Nine Allied Tribes of Lax Kw’alaams hereby declare that Lelu Island, and Flora and Agnew Banks are hereby protected for all time, as a refuge for wild salmon and marine resources, and are to be held in trust for all future generations.Our ancestral knowledge, supported by modern science, confirms this area is critical to the future abundance of the wild salmon our communities rely on. It is our right and our responsibility as First Nations to protect and defend this place. It is our right to use this area without interference to harvest salmon and marine resources for our sustenance, and commercially in support of our livelihoods.We hereby extend an invitation to all First Nations, the governments of Canada and British Columbia, and all communities that depend on the health of Lelu Island, Flora and Agnew Banks and the Skeena River estuary, to join us in defending this unique and precious place, and to protect it for all time.Signed, on this day January 23, 2016, in Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada.

Friday Evening Links

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 06/17/2016 - 19:21
Assorted content to end your week.

- Ed Finn reminds us that "free trade" agreements have always served to increase the wealth and power of those who already have the most at the expense of social interests. And Scott Sinclair and Angella MacEwen each offer their take on Parliament's hearings into the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

- Meanwhile, Zach Dubinsky reports on another set of unfair deals which have allowed corporations to send profits offshore to avoid paying taxes with (primarily the Cons') government approval.

- But in case anybody expected the Libs to live up to any different set of principles, Mia Rabson points out Robert-Falcon Ouellette's craven politicking around a basic income - consisting of seeking media attention for his support for at least studying the concept before going along with a party-line vote against it. (And it's particularly striking that even the Con members of the finance committee were willing to support the motion - leaving the Libs alone to shoot it down.)

- Frances Baum, David Sanders, Matt Fisher, Julia Anaf, Nicholas Freudenberg, Sharon Friel, Ronald Labonté, Leslie London, Carlos Monteiro, Alex Scott-Samuel and Amit Sen examine the influence of multinational corporations on the health of individuals, while pointing out the desperate lack of any meaningful assessment on an organizational basis. 

- Finally, Teuila Fuatai discusses how Canada's employment insurance system is set up to disadvantage mothers in lower-earning families.

Musical interlude

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 06/17/2016 - 16:25
Lumineers - Stubborn Love

Oh, I Don't Know, I Suppose They Think Slavery Isn't Good Enough for Them.

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 06/17/2016 - 07:00
Young Americans are giving up on capitalism. That's the angle of an article from Foreign Policy. The report paints a grim but familiar scenario.

Imagine that you’re twenty years old. You were born in 1996. You were five years old on 9/11. For as long as you can remember, the United States has been at war.

When you are twelve, in 2008, the global economy collapses. After years of bluster and bravado from President George W. Bush — who encouraged consumerism as a response to terror — it seems your country was weaker than you thought.

In America, the bottom falls out fast. 

The adults who take care of you struggle to take care of themselves. Perhaps your parent loses a job. Perhaps your family loses its home.

In 2009, politicians claim the recession is over, but your hardship is not. Wages are stagnant or falling. The costs of health care, child care, and tuition continue to rise exponentially. Full-time jobs turn into contract positions while benefits are slashed. Middle-class jobs are replaced with low-paying service work. The expectations of American life your parents had when you were born — that a “long boom” will bring about unparalleled prosperity — crumble away.

Baby boomers tell you there is a way out: a college education has always been the key to a good job. But that doesn’t seem to happen anymore. The college graduates you know are drowning in student debt, working for minimum wage, or toiling in unpaid internships. Prestigious jobs are increasingly clustered in cities where rent has tripled or quadrupled in a decade’s time. You cannot afford to move, and you cannot afford to stay. Outside these cities, newly abandoned malls join long abandoned factories. You inhabit a landscape of ruin. There is nothing left for you.

Every now and then, people revolt. When you are fifteen, Occupy Wall Street captivates the nation’s attention, drawing attention to corporate greed and lost opportunity. Within a year, the movement fades, and its members do things like set up “boutique activist consultancies.” When you are seventeen, the Fight for 15 workers movement manages to make higher minimum wage a mainstream proposition, but the solutions politicians pose are incremental. No one seems to grasp the urgency of the crisis. Even President Barack Obama, a liberal Democrat — the type of politician who’s supposed to understand poverty — declares that the economy has recovered.

America's young, the 18-29 year olds are turning against capitalism, at least the predatory capitalism that is the hallmark of neoliberalism.

According to an April 2016 Harvard University poll, support for capitalism is at a historic low. 51 percent of Americans in this age cohort [18-29] reject it, while 42 percent support it. 33 percent say they support socialism. The Harvard poll echoes a 2012 Pew survey, in which 46 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds had a positive view of capitalism, and 47 percent a negative one. While older generations had a slightly more positive take on capitalism — topping out at 52 percent for the oldest cohort, citizens over 65 — youth had a markedly different take on socialism. 49 percent viewed it positively, compared to just 13 percent of those 65 or older.

Does this mean that the youth of America are getting ready to hand over private property to the state and round up the kulaks? No. As many of those who reported on the Harvard survey noted, the terms “socialism” and “capitalism” were never defined. After meeting with survey takers, John Della Volpe, the director of the Harvard poll,told the Washington Post that respondents did not reject capitalism inherently as a concept. “The way in which capitalism is practiced today, in the minds of young people — that’s what they’re rejecting,” he said.

American youth seem to be rejecting modern predatory capitalism that preys on their generation. What they seek is some restoration of New Deal democracy, what I like to call progressive democracy. 
Things older generations took for granted — promotions, wages that grow over time, a 40-hour work week, unions, benefits, pensions, mutual loyalty between employers and employees — are increasingly rare.

As a consequence, these basic tenets of American work life, won by labor movements in the early half of the twentieth century, are now deemed “radical.” In this context, Bernie Sanders, whose policies echo those of New Deal Democrats, can be deemed a “socialist” leading a “revolution”. His platform seems revolutionary only because American work life has become so corrupt, and the pursuit of basic stability so insurmountable, that modest ambitions — a salary that covers your bills, the ability to own a home or go to college without enormous debt — are now fantasies or luxuries.
You do not need a survey to ascertain the plight of American youth. You can look at their bank accounts, at the jobs they have, at the jobs their parents have lost, at the debt they hold, at the opportunities they covet but are denied. You do not need jargon or ideology to form a case against the status quo. The clearest indictment of the status quo is the status quo itself.

The crushing reality depicted in this article breathes life into Chris Hedges' contention that America is in a simmering, pre-revolutionary state. He argues that it's not a matter of if but when and then how bad will it be. Remember the Arab Spring uprisings were a result of several forces but youth disaffection was one of the most powerful. Sanders and Trump have shown that their country has a broad-based discontent that, when properly led, could be the kernel of open unrest that takes hold and spreads. 
Neoliberal capitalism with its hellspawn of globalism, inequality and oppression never was the "trickle down" cornucopia of prosperity and ease. It was, instead, a "trickle up" phenomenon where wealth was gradually sapped from the working classes, winding up in the laps of the 1%. It only took just 30 years for America to reach the point of economic feudalism.

Justin Trudeau and the Un-Googling of Stephen Harper

Montreal Simon - Fri, 06/17/2016 - 06:57

As you probably know I have been extremely pleased by the systematic way Justin Trudeau and his Liberals have been demolishing Stephen Harper's foul legacy.

Scrapping his monuments, deep sixing his fascist crime bills, taking out the garbage, and improving our image in the eyes of the world.

And in that regard this is another excellent move.
Read more »

An Impressive Debut

Politics and its Discontents - Fri, 06/17/2016 - 05:31
I don't feel much like writing lengthy posts these days. In the final analysis, as my literary friend Hamlet would say, they are just "words, words words." However, every so often I come across a video that seems more than worth sharing, as in the following.

Now is the season of commencements, and Grade 8 graduate from Arlington Heights Jack Aiello sets a new standard that will likely be hard to match for years to come. Showing a real capacity for mimicry and a surprisingly
mature understanding of U.S. politics, Jack uses the current presidential race to full advantage, as you will see. His Trump is priceless, and if you watch to the end, you will be stunned by his Bernie Sanders.

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When Politics Becomes Reality TV

Northern Reflections - Fri, 06/17/2016 - 04:30

Kevin O'Leary wants to lead the Conservative Party of Canada. But, before they hand him the keys to the kingdom, the Conservatives would do well to examine the fate of another star of reality television -- who is spontaneously combusting. Micheal Harris writes:

Frothing-at-the-mouth populism is face-planting south of the border. The Donald is not only getting the big “F— you Donald Trump” from rocker Neil Young. He’s not only being told that he’s a fascist democracy-killer by the likes of Johnny Depp — in effect, according to the actor, the “last” president of the United States Americans will ever have if they’re foolish enough to elect him. He isn’t just being called out as a fake and a fraud by the Republican establishment, including the party’s last presidential candidate, Mitt Romney.
The polls seem to indicate that Young and Depp are not alone in their opinion of Trump:

Despite the Rosie O’Donnell treatment Trump has meted out to Hillary Clinton, the first woman running for the White House in American history leads the Donald by 12 points nationwide. Trump owns a 70 per cent disapproval rating with women; with Mexican Americans, the Donald’s disapproval soars to 89 percent — and when it comes to African Americans, the reality TV star is about as popular the Zika virus, with a stunning 94 per cent disapproval rating.
And then came Orlando:

Orlando was a train-wreck for Trump. Obama, he hinted, had not taken forceful action to stop domestic terrorism because he sides with Muslim extremists. It was an odd moment — a presidential candidate actually suggesting that a sitting U.S. president was in some way complicit with terrorists — was a traitor. As Bloomberg News reported, that “landed with a thud for the majority of Americans, with 61 per cent disagreeing with that suggestion.”

Trump also displayed what a horse’s ass he is when it comes to informed analysis of world events. In referring to the Orlando shooting, the Donald talked about the danger of allowing “thousands and thousands of Syrians into the country.” But the shooter Omar Mateen was an American citizen, born in Queens, New York. And his parents didn’t come from Syria, but Afghanistan.
You don't have to be smart to make it on Reality TV. You just need to be controversial -- the more the better. And, in the final analysis, everybody loses -- including the star.


Donald Trump and the Ask The Gays Outrage

Montreal Simon - Fri, 06/17/2016 - 02:18

As if it hasn't been a brutal enough week for the LBGT community. So many deaths, so much grief.

And so much anger over the way people like Donald Trump are using their tragedy and their pain to try to hurt others.

By whipping up hatred against Muslims, Mexican-Americans, refugees and others, while ignoring the hatred that killed their brothers and sisters. Homophobia, the beast that lives in so many.

So as you can imagine, this was like adding insult to injury.
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Let’s call this a Thursday rant…

Trashy's World - Thu, 06/16/2016 - 08:08
(… well, technically I am writing this on Wednesday night but it won’t pop up till tomorrow..) Rant # 1 – People on social media who make a fulltime job of bitching and complaining about everything. Like, EVERYTHING! A sampling from a scan of my City of Ottawa feeds this evening: There aren’t enough bike […]


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