Posts from our progressive community

New column day

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 04/09/2015 - 07:43
Here, discussing James Coleman's research paper on the different messages corporations send to regulators as opposed to shareholders when it comes to proposed regulatory policies - and how it signals the need to be extremely skeptical when the business lobby complains that a policy will affect jobs or economic development.

For further reading...
- Isolda Agazzi discusses how the CETA is designed to force governments to take corporate spin at face value.
- Matthew Yglesias points out how Jeb Bush figures to continue his brother's habit of handing Wall Street everything it could possibly ask for.
- And Robert Reich notes that the same wealthy few who are misleading governments about the effect of public policy have largely bought the silence of much of civil society.

The Biggest Thorn

Northern Reflections - Thu, 04/09/2015 - 07:00


Joe Oliver announced yesterday that he would be introducing balanced budget legislation. Asked to comment on CBC's Power and Politics, former Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page said:

"Do we need the legislation? We didn't need the legislation from the mid-1990s to 2007-2008, when we had 11 years of surpluses. I think the government feels somehow it needs to constrain itself."
The Harperites blame past governments -- particularly Liberal governments -- for the deficit. But Page pointed out that Mr Harper and his confreres inherited a $12 billion surplus from the Liberals. The Conservatives created the deficit, he said, by lowering the GST by 2% and by cutting corporate and personal tax rates. 

And tax free savings accounts also cut into government revenues. Asked if many people would be able to put away $11,000 in savings every year, Page answered, "I don't have $11,000." To increase savings, he said, we have to increase wage growth -- which isn't happening.

The difference between Kevin Page and Stephen Harper is that Page is a real economist. Harper is a mere politician. That's why Page is the biggest thorn in the prime minister's side.

Is A Carbon Tax More Effective Than Cap And Trade?

Politics and its Discontents - Thu, 04/09/2015 - 06:39

Truthfully, I don't know the answer to that question, although some might say that any action is better than none on the climate-change file. In any event, a Star reader offers his thoughts on the matter:

Provinces can lead the way on global warming, April 7
The fact that the Ontario government’s decision to endorse cap and trade was leaked to Canada’s leading business newspaper confirms my worst fears. This decision is a victory of Bay Street over Main Street.

Clearly, we need a system of carbon pricing if we’re serious about making the polluters pay. Cap and trade offers many benefits for corporations, lawyers and consultants, but there is no evidence that it has been successful at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, whereas there is clear evidence that the carbon tax in B.C. has already resulted in a 10 per cent reduction in GHGs.

Cap and trade is an excuse for inaction that appeals only to those sectors of the corporate community that profit from pollution. It is losing its appeal to the insurance companies and enlightened business leaders who have to pay the price of inaction on climate change.

It has no appeal to the rising number of environmentally conscious Canadians who want to see our government regain respect in the world community.
Even those who invented the cap and trade system prefer a carbon tax for curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

Cap and trade works in theory but not in practice — the United Nations says it has worked badly or not at all. It is complex and difficult to co-ordinate across different jurisdictions; it requires constant tinkering, constant political will and a large bureaucracy. It creates synthetic, government-backed assets that are vulnerable to manipulation and speculation. In short, it is a highly indirect, economically inefficient and expensive way of curbing GHGs.

We need a carbon tax. It could be spun as a fee and dividend system in order to gain political support, if done with two caveats.

1) A portion of the revenues should be invested in a climate change fund that would finance mitigation and adaptation. For example, 40 per cent might be invested in renewable energy, rapid transit and energy efficient housing; and another 10 per cent devoted to disaster management — not only here in Ontario but in those countries where climate change will be most disastrous.

2) Rather than give each citizen an equal share of the revenues, with a half-share for children, we need to take special steps to lessen the impact of a carbon tax or fee on low-income households and on rural and remote communities. We can do this via tax credits or lump sum payments that are indexed to match increasing carbon levies.
Opting for cap and trade will clearly be putting Bay Street ahead of Main Street.

David Langille, TorontoRecommend this Post

Reminder: Legal-bill Dawgtion items up for bidding!

Dawg's Blawg - Thu, 04/09/2015 - 06:10
The legal-bill Dawgtion ain’t over, but here are the lots that have been put up so far, with their URLs. Bidding will close for all items on April 15. Rare first edition of John Baglow’s first book of poetry, “Emergency... Dr.Dawg

The Duffy Diary and the Panic in the PMO

Montreal Simon - Thu, 04/09/2015 - 05:33

Lordy. The Duffy trial is just beginning, and I don't think I've ever seen the fanatics in the PMO looking so frightened, or their Great Leader in a such a state of obvious panic.

And it's not just because so many of them are going to have to testify under oath, or the thousands of their secret e-mails that Duffy's lawyer is brandishing like a weapon.

Or the fact that the trial is already reminding Canadians that Stephen Harper bent the rules to make Duffy a Senator...

So he could be his porky fundraiser.

What's also terrifying them is Duffy's Diary. 
Read more »

Featured Today at the Dawgtion: Rare First Issue Frontier College Stamp Letters

Dawg's Blawg - Thu, 04/09/2015 - 04:00
Lot 7: Frontier College - 100th anniversary Canada Post Official First Day Stamp Cover Founded in 1899 as the Canadian Reading Camp Movement, Frontier College brought education to thousands of labourers in remote northern logging, mining and railway camps.... Balbulican

How to Convince Cons That Bill C-51 is Dangerous

Montreal Simon - Thu, 04/09/2015 - 01:38

When Stephen Harper introduced Bill C-51, the anti-terrorist bill that every sane person in Canada believes will turn us into a police state, I was sure that even some Cons would join the protests against it.

The libertarians, the ones who believe that even meat inspectors are too much regulation. Or the legions of the paranoid, who believe that Big Government wants to steal their guns and introduce Sharia Law, and that we'll all end up in one of Obama's Death Camps.

Because as you may know, they all share one thing in common: an enlarged fear gland. 
Read more »

what i learned at the cupe library conference

we move to canada - Wed, 04/08/2015 - 17:00
What did I learn at the CUPE Ontario Library Conference?

Technically, nothing. If learning means encountering something new, then no, this was not a learning experience.

But learning must also mean living with knowledge, absorbing it, seeing your theoretical knowledge translated into action. Understanding new configurations of that knowledge. Digesting it, assimilating it into our sense of ourselves.

In that sense, I'm learning this union stuff every day.

So here's what I "learned". (I learned that people are still overusing air quotes!)

All libraries everywhere have the same problems. Staffing levels are too low. Full-time jobs are disappearing. Positions are being deskilled. Work is increasingly precarious. It has been this way at libraries for a long time, but is now at a point where library systems are being destroyed. The ones that float do so at the peril of dedicated workers who are carrying burdens far too large.

Here's what else I "learned".

All unions everywhere face the same challenges. It's difficult to engage membership. There is anti-union sentiment even among union members. The same few activists do all the work. Members blame the union for conditions that rightly belong to the employer.

It's not a pretty picture.

And yet... I have so much hope. I have so much joy, and pride, and optimism.

I learned how some motivated organizers are successfully activating their memberships.

I learned how organizers harness anger and fear into positive action.

I learned about successful campaigns in Peterborough, Oshawa, Toronto, Brantford, and other Ontario communities.

I learned how union workplaces protect communities from the worst of the austerity agenda.

I learned how library unions struggle within larger locals of municipal employees who may not understand or value the contributions of library workers.

I learned how some library workers' unions don't include librarians. How full-time staff doesn't always support and value part-time staff. How library workers forge links with firefighters, transit workers, teachers, and custodians. How union-endorsed municipal councillors are fighting for good jobs in their communities.

I learned how some locals gave in to concessions and how membership - and their unions - suffered. How some locals fought off concessions and waged successful strikes.

Maybe I knew most of this already. But meeting other library unionists who are living it was exciting and inspiring. Meeting - brainstorming, sharing ideas, laughing, complaining, eating and drinking, communing - was brilliant.

And hey, guess what? I was elected to the library committee of CUPE Ontario, an interim member until elections next year. I am very proud to be recognized as someone worthy of this position.

"What is Plan B?"

Creekside - Wed, 04/08/2015 - 15:06
asked Armine Yalnizyan of Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives on CBC's The Current this morning. "What if your plan is not oil?" 

I'll get back to Yalnizyan's Plan B in a moment, but preceding her on the program was TD Bank VP and chief economist Craig Alexander. He spoke to that Bank of Canada survey of 100 executives that came out this week, 62% of whom called for diversification to reduce Canada's dependence on the energy sector as oil prices collapse.

"Energy plus metals and minerals mining amounts to less than 10% of Canadian economy but 25% of the entire Albertan economy," he said, where loss of oil jobs and stagnant wages will also affect retail spending despite a projected $900 saving per family per year at the pumps. So no growth for Alberta and Saskatchewan this year and under a 3% increase for BC and Ontario.  

Two and a half years ago and before the collapse of oil prices, he was calling for investing in childcare and early education in his TD report :
“It is very much an economic topic,” said Alexander. "If you are concerned with skills development, productivity and innovation, you should really care about this subject."

"For every dollar invested, the return ranges from roughly $1.50 to almost $3. For disadvantaged children, the return runs into the double digits ...  it follows that more focus should be put on investing in, and improving the system,” the report says." But later, when we can afford it.

CCPA's Yalnizyan says that time is now :
"In our global economy we need our best and brightest to be our best and brightest. We can ill afford to discount Canadians who cannot afford to upgrade their skills at any point in their lives, not just when they're getting out of high school." We are part of global economy in which Canada has fallen from 8th to 11th place while current government policy is directed at "ripping and stripping our natural resources," she said, despite those collapsing oil prices and the coming expense of population aging.

Plan B? Mission-oriented public policy is required, she said, because without it we will just get higher healthcare costs without necessarily any improvement.
Taking your hands off the wheel won't necessarily deliver what we need so how can we make life cheaper for the people who, unlike our corporate hoarders, spend every dollar they earn in the economy? 
"The global economy is transitioning and pivoting away from fossil fuels to renewables and we should be contributing to this fight to find the most energy-efficient ways of using and generating energy .Focus on healthcare costs in a different way. Spend on social determinants. What causes all round good health?  Better housing, public transportation, education, even income redistribution. Population health-based intervention. While 10% of the economy is in the energy sector, 11% of our economy is in the health sector. Use that engine of the economy to improve peoples' lives and get a better bang for the buck.We spent $14-billion on dental care for children in Saskatchewan and Manitoba in late 70s and early 80s. The mouth is the only part of healthcare that isn't covered."$14B sounds like a lot to have spent on childrens' health until you consider that the government already spends $13B a year in taxpayer-funded subsidies to oil and gas industries. 

The program wrapped up with Stephen Gordon, economist at LaValle University. 
Shorter and presumably not ironic Gordon : "Oil is our precious. Why can't we just leave the markets a-l-o-o-o-o-o-n-e?"

Featured Today at the Dawgtion: Your Own Personally Commissioned Poem!

Dawg's Blawg - Wed, 04/08/2015 - 09:00
Lot 6: Our host over here, John Baglow in real life, is a well-published poet in many of Canada’s “little magazines,” with two books published, respectively, by Sono Nis Press and Penumbra Press. “Some of my best work has... Balbulican

Now we're just haggling over the price

accidentaldeliberations - Wed, 04/08/2015 - 08:54
Others have rightly wondered whether the Wildrose Party's new promise to make floor-crossing MPs pay a price to the party will be enforceable at all. But it's also worth examining how it might affect MLAs' decision-making - with the result potentially being the exact opposite of what Brian Jean intends.

Previously, the bar to Wildrose MLAs crossing the floor was a moral one: the promise, to constituents and party alike, that MLAs would resist the temptation to join another party. And while that bar may have failed to stop Danielle Smith and others from breaking their promise, it certainly seems to have had an impact on the political prospects of those who made the switch.

In contrast, Jean has made floor-crossing into a financial issue. The sticker price tag to buy a Wildrose MLA is now being advertised publicly - and it's hardly inconceivable that the benefits of a cabinet position or a more secure seat would outweigh the financial incentive to stay even if it's otherwise enforceable.

Indeed, Jean may be setting up a political example of a familiar experiment in behavioural economics: just as a price on anti-social behaviour in the case of late daycare pickups actually increased violations by causing parents to think in economic rather than moral terms, so too might it allow MLAs to claim they owe constituents nothing more than to buy out their party status.

And the problem is expanded since Wildrose is also changing the question as to who's entitled to raise concerns about a violation of expectations. The new contract makes it explicit that it's the party, not constituents, which holds a duty of loyalty and which has the power to enforce an MLA's obligations. And by implication, the party will also have the power to decide an MLA isn't worth pursuing - no matter what voters may think.

Of course, as long as the surface financial deterrent helps to convince voters that Jean is more serious about sticking it out with Wildrose than Smith was, it will serve a political purpose. But for anybody who would prefer that the relationship among parties, candidates and voters be based on principles rather than dollar signs, it shifts MLAs' incentives in exactly the wrong direction.

American hunters and their prey

Dawg's Blawg - Wed, 04/08/2015 - 07:45
It should have been a good day for Officer Michael Thomas Slager, out on patrol in the urban jungle of North Charleston. Hey, there’s one now—busted tail-light. I’ll just pull him over. Maybe I’ll Taser him, get him to... Dr.Dawg

Wednesday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Wed, 04/08/2015 - 07:42
Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Noah Smith writes that the renewable energy revolution is further along than was projected just a few years ago:
Each of these trends -- cheaper batteries and cheaper solar electricity -- is good on its own, and on the margin will help to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, with all the geopolitical drawbacks and climate harm they entail. But together, the two cost trends will add up to nothing less than a revolution in the way humankind interacts with the planet and powers civilization.

You see, the two trends reinforce each other. Cheaper batteries mean that cars can switch from gasoline to the electrical grid. But currently, much of the grid is powered by coal. With cheap solar replacing coal at a rapid clip, that will be less and less of an issue. As for solar, its main drawback is intermittency. But with battery costs dropping, innovative manufacturers such as Tesla will be able to make cheap batteries for home electricity use, allowing solar power to run your house 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

So instead of thinking of solar and batteries as two independent things, we should think of them as one single unified technology package. Solar-plus-batteries is set to begin a dramatic transformation of human civilization. The transformation has already begun, but will really pick up steam during the next decade. That is great news, because cheap energy powers our economy, and because clean energy will help stop climate change. - Roderick Benns interviews Jonathan Brun on the value of a basic income to ensure that everybody benefits from a society's economic development.

- But Dana Milbank points out that the Cons' Republican cousins are instead imposing ever more inexplicable conditions on insufficient social programs to ostracize the poor, while Emily Badger discusses the double standard being used to cause extra harm to people living in poverty. And Robert Reich exposes how non-profit organizations are taking orders from their wealthy donors to avoid discussing the inequality at the root of the problems they're supposed to ameliorate, while David Suzuki comments on the big money behind climate denial campaigns.

- The Star calls for updated employment standards to protect all workers, not only those in traditional employment relationships. 

- Finally, Shannon Gormley writes that the entire purpose of the Cons' terror bill is to normalize human rights abuses under Canadian law - meaning that secret oversight mechanisms would do nothing to solve the fundamental problem with the legislation. Michael Geist follows up on the theater of the absurd that was the committee hearings into Bill C-51. And Matthew Coon Come discusses how the combination of new secret police and increased surveillance threatens aboriginal rights.

$75 Million

Northern Reflections - Wed, 04/08/2015 - 06:25


That's what the Harper government paid for advertising last year. That figure is up from $69 million in the previous year. They've cut funding for health care and veterans offices; but they've increased funding for self promotion. Jeffrey Simpson writes:

The explanation given for this spending is shameless, the kind of explanation that gives politicians a bad name everywhere as systematic liars. We need to spend the money, the government says, in order to explain how taxpayers’ money is being spent. Yet anyone who has watched the Harper government’s advertisements knows they are there for promotion, not information.
They use government websites, too. Check out the Fisheries and Oceans one, for example. There, you will find advertisements for the government’s recent announcement of millions of spending for harbours and ports across the country.
And, remember, we're paying for those ads. But that isn't enough for self congratulation. The party has gone to its base, asking for funds to fight the liberal hordes:

Recently, the Conservative Party sent an urgent letter to its supporters asking for money. After the budget, it said, the party needs money to promote the document’s low-tax, pro-growth policies in the face of what the letter described as the “Liberal” media that always deforms Conservative accomplishments.
The letter conceded briefly that there were a few pro-Conservative voices in the media, but insisted the bulk of the media is systematically hostile. This media-baiting is typical of all Conservative cash appeals: The party is surrounded on all sides by enemies, elites and hostile media voices. Only if supporters give generously can the party’s message be communicated.
Which is ridiculous, of course, since the Liberal media argument flies in the face of AM talk radio, the Sun Media chain (whose leader, Paul Godfrey, is a strident pro-Conservative voice), the National Post, plenty of private television and many other columnists and editorialists across the country. But “them against us” is a proven money-earner for the Conservatives, so they will stick with it.
They cower in closets and expect Armageddon -- for themselves and for the world. Just the sort of people, they say, who should be running the government.

How Do You Define A Threat?

Politics and its Discontents - Wed, 04/08/2015 - 05:45
It's all a matter of perspective, I guess:

Recommend this Post

Politically sidelined, Part 3: Silos and Enclaves (3)

Dawg's Blawg - Wed, 04/08/2015 - 04:00
III. In/conclusion. Even within the mad centrifugal whirl of identity politics, we are assured that alliances are possible. In fact, there’s some very good stuff available on this. It’s hard to put it better than @prisonculture via David Leonard: “Don’t... Dr.Dawg

Why Stephen Harper Will Be Hurt by the Duffy Trial

Montreal Simon - Wed, 04/08/2015 - 02:09

If Stephen Harper thought he could run away from the trial of Mike Duffy, as he was trying to do yesterday at a photo-op in Vancouver. 

Which is about as far away as you can get from Ottawa, and Ol' Duff's even more massive photo-op.

The look on Harper's face tells me that he now knows he can't run, knows that the scandal will hurt him. And that it could be the death of a thousand cuts.

Starting with this one.
Read more »

Say What? Oh, Yeah. Say What?

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 04/07/2015 - 23:01
You know you've reached 60 when the peer discussion suddenly turns to memory loss.  There's a strong element of 'gallows humour' involved. Yet there's rarely anything said in total jest.

Brace yourselves,  neo-seniors.  Here's a dandy article explaining what might be going on.

Does This Mean No More Chocolate Bunnies?

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 04/07/2015 - 19:14
Cute Little Buggers, Eh?

Hold the presses!  Word out of Israel that the lost tomb of Jesus has been found and it contained the ossuaries (bone boxes) of Jesus; Mrs. Jesus (aka Mary Magdalene), their son, Judah (aka "Junior"); and six others.

Dr Aryeh Shimron says he has carried out new tests that suggest it is more likely the Talpiot Tomb, a burial site found in East Jerusalem in 1980, was a family grave for Jesus of Nazareth, his wife Mary Magdalene and his son Judah.

Dubbed “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” in a 2007 documentary movie directed by James Cameron, the chamber contained nine burial boxes or “ossuaries” inscribed with the names “Jesus son of Joseph”, “Mary” and other names associated with the New Testament.

The inscriptions and the approximate dates of burial have led some to suggest the Talpiot Tomb means Jesus married, that he fathered a child, and that the existence of bodily remains means the Resurrection could never have happened.

...speaking to the New York Times, Dr Shimron has said that geochemical tests on a 10th ossuary make it highly likely the box was recently removed from among the others in the Talpiot Tomb.

That’s significant because the Aramaic inscription on the 10th ossuary reads “James son of Joseph brother of Jesus” – adding weight to the suggestions that the names are those of Jesus Christ and his family.

“The evidence is beyond what I expected,” Dr Shimron said. “I think I’ve got really powerful, virtually unequivocal evidence that the James ossuary spent most of its lifetime, or death time, in the Talpiot Tomb.”

Jesus, Joseph, Judah, James - what's with all the J-names?
But if the Resurrection never happened, does that mean the Easter Bunny is a hoax too?

Reflections on David Harvey: Neoliberalism and The State

JOE FANTAUZZI Thoughts about power - Tue, 04/07/2015 - 18:32
For three decades, neoliberalism has dominated the political and economic landscape. Following David Harvey, I contend that neoliberalism depends on the manufacturing of consent to a neoliberal agenda and the use of coercion to enforce that agenda. I further argue that neoliberalism is a corrupted form of democracy which easily lends itself to a rule […]


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