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I Nominate Him For A Nobel Prize

Politics and its Discontents - Mon, 04/07/2014 - 05:16
The category? That's yet to be determined. Any suggestions?

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Why Pierre Poilievre's Election Bill Could Help Kill the Cons

Montreal Simon - Mon, 04/07/2014 - 04:14

He's the most Republican looking MP I've ever seen.

A ghastly little fanatic who could just have easily have been suckled by Karl Rove as he was suckled by Stephen Harper.

And of course his foul voter suppression bill is straight out of the Republican play book, or the anus of Amerika.

But what Pierre Poilievre doesn't seem to have considered is that the bill could blow up in his face. 

Or that the Cons could win the battle but lose the war. 
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The Ghastly Cons and the Climate Change Monster

Montreal Simon - Mon, 04/07/2014 - 02:32

I went down to my favourite beach today to celebrate the Rites of Spring, only to find the last remnants of the Winter from Hell still clinging to the pier.

And for some reason the sight of that ghastly chunk of ice reminded me of the monster in the movie The Blob.

And of the climate change monster that is threatening our world. 
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Of Course We Could Ignore This

Politics and its Discontents - Sun, 04/06/2014 - 16:56
But are we willing to pay the ultimate price?

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Sunday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 04/06/2014 - 10:47
This and that for your Sunday reading.

- David Dayen discusses the massive corporate tax giveaways handed out through the U.S.' annual budget process. And in a system where lobbying by the wealthy is rewarded with a 24-to-1 return, it shouldn't be much surprise if inequality is getting even worse than previously assumed, as Jordan Weissmann reports:
Forget the 1 percent. The winners of this race, according to Zucman and Saez, have been the 0.1 percent. Since the 1960s, the richest one-thousandth of U.S. households, with a minimum net worth today above $20 million, have more than doubled their share of U.S. wealth, from around 10 percent to more than 20 percent. Take a moment to process that. One-thousandth of the country owns one-fifth of the wealth. By comparison, the entire top 1 percent of households takes in about 22 percent of U.S. income, counting capital gains.
This new batch of research is similar in spirit to Saez’s pioneering work quantifying income inequality, which he has published with French economist Thomas Piketty. (It's probably no accident that this research is coming out around the same time that Piketty, Saez's longtime collaborator, has published Capital in the Twenty-First Century, his highly touted book about capital accumulation—aka wealth.) Both projects substitute tax data analysis for older approaches that relied on government surveys, which tend to undercount the very rich. In this case, Saez and Zucman use taxes on investment income to reverse-engineer their wealth estimates. The results are still very preliminary and could change with further study.

But they are basically in keeping with what has already been shown about income inequality. Occupy Wall Street trained Americans to frame the economic gap in terms of the 99 percent and 1 percent. But writers and economists have been pointing out for years that the biggest winners in today’s globalized, finance-heavy economy have been an even smaller band of super-rich. Tim Noah dubbed them “the stinking rich.” Chrystia Freeland went with “plutocrats.” No matter what you choose to name them, the largest economic gains have accrued to Americans at the very, very tiniest tip of the earnings pyramid. - At the same time, Alan Pyke highlights the lack of a link between education and income, noting that nearly half a million American workers with post-secondary degrees are earning the minimum wage. And Tyler Cowen takes a look at the roots of structural unemployment.

- Bill McKibben comments on ExxonMobil's arrogant response to the increased threat of climate change. And Andrew Jackson points out the IMF's conclusion that tar sands expansion (along with other oil and gas development) doesn't figure to actually add much to Canada's economy - even under a government determined to push resource development ahead of all other social and economic priorities.

- Scott Tribe self-identifies as a voter who may be disenfranchised by the Cons' Unfair Elections Act. And Karl Nerenberg tears into some of the most blatant dishonesty being used by the Cons to push an attack on voting rights and electoral fairness alike.

- Finally, Daniel Kahneman discusses how to ferret out and adjust for some of the errors that tend to show up in typical reporting.

The Choices Bloggers Make

Politics and its Discontents - Sun, 04/06/2014 - 05:55

Yesterday I put up a post entitled Apocalyptic Scenes, which featured a video clip of severe storms in the U.S. The Mound of Sound, currently on hiatus from his blog, The Disaffected Lib, left a comment about the relative dearth of bloggers covering issues such as climate change. The Mound, if you have read him, has consistently provided exemplary and comprehensive coverage of what undoubtedly is the greatest threat to our species' long-term survival.

Here is what I wrote in response:

One of the many things I miss about your blog posts, Mound, is your comprehensive coverage of climate change. I do try to keep up with the topic by subscribing to Google alerts, something you suggested to me some time ago. I suspect, however, one of the reasons for the less than stellar coverage of climate change in the Canadian blogosphere is twofold and related:

Much coverage is given to the Harper regime, a topic I must confess a certain obsession with. I think because an election is coming next year, much energy is being devoted to exposing his cabal's myriad crimes and hypocrisies because we hold the very real hope of regime change. We thirst for something positive in the relative short-term, even though I am fully aware that either a Trudeau or Mulcair government would offer little or no substantive policy change.

Concomitantly, climate change, although the most pressing threat we face as a species, is such a large problem that resists mitigation. The fact is that successful amelioration would require unprecedented co-operation on a global scale, co-operation that seems highly unlikely given both our natural antipathy to ceding authority to other bodies and regulators and our endless capacity for denial and cognitive dissonance. Add to that the failure of our 'leaders' to inspire in people the willingness to make the sacrifices necessary to avoid catastrophe.

Ousting the Harper regime in the next election, by comparison, seems like child's play, and a much more realistic goal.
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Has the Time Arrived for a Canadian Spring?

Montreal Simon - Sun, 04/06/2014 - 03:48

Well I think I can now OFFICIALLY declare that Spring has arrived in Simonville, the small humble corner of Canada where it's never Harperland.

And I must admit that all I feel like doing is climbing on to the old boathouse roof, stretching out my arms like Jesus, giving thanks to the merciful Gods of The Great White North, and soaking up the sun.

But this is shaping up as a Spring like no other. 

Because everywhere I look in Canada I see signs of rebellion, as ordinary Canadians mobilize to defend their democracy...
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Sheila Fraser and the Attack of the Con Rats

Montreal Simon - Sun, 04/06/2014 - 03:27

I'm sure Sheila Fraser knew when she called the Con's Fair Election Act an "attack on democracy" that the Cons would come after her like a pack of rabid rats.

And sure enough, as I pointed out in my last post, the Cons are trying to smear her. 

But if Pierre Poilievre, the leader of the rat pack, thought he could intimidate her, he must be very disappointed and very desperate.

Because there she was on CBC Radio today. Gently, but firmly, taking his bill apart again...
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whither wmtc

we move to canada - Sat, 04/05/2014 - 15:00
I feel so disconnected from this blog, and from writing in general. I hate it.
I love having this blog. I love that when I do want to write, and have the energy to do so, and have something to say, I have a place to do it. But writing occupies such a small space in my life now. 
I'm finding tremendous satisfaction from my job. Meaningful work from which I can actually earn a living! What a concept. I've also gotten very active in my union. The need to protect good jobs and the public sector has never been greater, so the timing is perfect, and I feel I have a lot to contribute.
When I'm not working and not engaged in union activities, I'm re-charging. That means movies or baseball, sometimes reading, and trying to get some exercise. I've been very pleasantly surprised at my energy level. I'm very conscious of managing my fibromyalgia, but that's second-nature to me now. I know when to say no, or to cancel plans if I have to. If I do feel a little fibro-ish, it never lasts too long or becomes too severe.
All good. 
But writing! Where is writing? I knew it was coming. I knew it was inevitable. But it makes me too sad to think of this part of myself shrinking and disappearing. 


Rusty Idols - Sat, 04/05/2014 - 10:56
A surging third party and 25% of voters still undecided makes the coming Quebec election still too close to call but with the Liberals leading and the PQ declining we can be hopeful that after running one of the most despicable and cynical campaigns in recent Canadian history that the PQ are about to pay for their display of pandering xenophobia, scapegoating and contempt for the intelligence of the voters.

With the 'Values' Charter and the nomination of far right strikebreaker and propagandist Pierre Karl Péladeau they abandoned both liberalism and social democracy and it would be a very, very good message to the political elite if such blatant amoral opportunism ended with massive electoral disaster.

And a very bad message if it paid off.


Saturday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sat, 04/05/2014 - 09:10
Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Andrew Coyne sees the powerful impact of local forces on nomination contests as evidence that grassroots democracy is still alive and well in Canada - no matter how much the Cons and Libs may wish otherwise:
What’s common to both of these stories is not only the willingness of local candidates and riding associations to defy the powers that be but their obstinate insistence that these races should be what party leaders claim they are: open nominations. With any luck, this obstreperousness will spread. Thanks to redistricting, there will be other ridings where incumbents face off against incumbents; in others, the promise of open nominations will run into the reality that leaders have favourites. Ridings that resist the inevitable attempts to stage-manage these races will do their parties a favour. Tilted nominations are not open nominations. They’re not even nominations, really.

The tendency, when these fights break out, is to view them as signs of weakness and division, if not anarchy. The tone of news coverage is often disapproving, as if party leaders were indulgent parents who neglected to discipline their children. Reporters pepper their stories with words like “messy,” “ugly,” even “vicious.” This is what you get, they seem to say, when you leave it to ridings to decide these matters. Yes, it is. Isn’t it glorious?- But of course, we should be hoping for greater democratic participation (and yes, influence over results) within the broader electorate as well. And PressProgress notes that the Cons' Unfair Elections Act looks to benefit Pierre Poutine and his fraudster ilk at the expense of actual voters - while Alison points out the risk that any report on Robocon may be pushed past the next federal election due to the Cons' blindside attacks against Elections Canada.

- Thomas Walkom writes that Canada has received good value - if perhaps something less than the greatest possible return - from the long-term health care accord which the Cons chose to scrap.

- John Geddes highlights the stark gap between the Cons' lip service paid to climate change (based mostly on taking credit for the actions of others), and their utter negligence in reality. And the Edmonton Journal's editorial board makes it clear that even Alberta recognizes the need for real action to replace the current strategy of using misleading PR campaigns to greenwash dirty oil production.

- Finally, Christina Patterson writes that the economic forces which have already undermined wages at the bottom of the income scale may soon do similar damage to the middle class.

George W. Bush - The Painter

LeDaro - Sat, 04/05/2014 - 08:54
Some interesting portraits.

Stephen HarperSomething is missing. Oh yes! The crown or the cowboy hat. 

Vladimir Putin

Apocalyptic Scenes

Politics and its Discontents - Sat, 04/05/2014 - 07:27
While the fossil fuel companies and the governments that protect them continue to draw in record profits and conspicuously blockade any amelioration of carbon output, the real world pays the price:

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Pierre Poilievre and the Smearing of Sheila Fraser

Montreal Simon - Sat, 04/05/2014 - 00:11

I must admit that when I saw that Pierre Poilievre was going to absurd lengths to avoid mentioning Sheila Fraser's name, at first I was amused.

I figured that the way she demolished his foul so-called Fair Elections Act, had left him in a state of shock, totally humiliated, and boiling with anger.

And that he was afraid that just allowing Fraser's name to escape his pie hole, might cause him to lose control.

And of course, that would be HORRIBLE....
Read more »

Musical interlude

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 04/04/2014 - 21:24
Fuel - Sunburn

Jason Kenney, Tony Clement and…

Trashy's World - Fri, 04/04/2014 - 10:17
… a number of other ReformCon Ministers and PMO staff are reportedly on their way to the site to get new material for the 2015 CPC election campaign. Artifacts like these meets the criteria necessary to be considered as platform planks – material must be very old, fail the smell test and originate from Middle […]

Transit supporters have a field day with Fielding

The Winnipeg RAG Review - Fri, 04/04/2014 - 08:30
City Councillor Scott Fielding

Image Source: Winnipeg Free Press
Scott Fielding is the City Councillor for the St. James - Brooklands ward. This rightwing Councillor has pondered leading the provincial Conservatives in the past and is expected by local political observers like Bartley Kives and Aldo Smith to be planning a mayoral run.

Now, how's Fielding going to distinguish himself in what looks like it'll be a field of many suburban-based conservatives vying for the mayor's chair come fall?

By stridently opposing plans to move forward on rapid transit!

A brilliant idea in a city that's talked about and shelved rapid transit plans for 50 years, eh?

Fielding frames his opposition to moving forward on Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) as just being about priorities. He wants the potholes fixed and various infrastructure mega-projects done first before working on BRT. Funny thing is, when people stall on rapid transit they end up not getting around to it for a very long time.

Sam Katz, like a mayor Fielding would, inherited BRT plans from the previous mayor - then former Mayor Glen Murray. Murray would run federally for the Liberals, lose, move to Toronto and become an urban consultant before jumping into Ontario provincial politics as an MMP. Winnipeg progressives to this day lament Murray's failure to follow through with implementation, as Katz stalled on the plans and redirected funds dedicated to rapid transit for other uses.

Other levels of government were not happy, especially given many conditional on BRT funding agreements had been made. For years, Katz wrangled with the Province and the Feds until he finally recognized blindingly obvious reality and started work on the BRT line in the 2010s. By 2012 we had 3.6 km of rapid transit line through the uncompleted Southwest Transitway.

Right now there's a $600 million deal between the Province, Federal Government, and City to extend the Southwest Transitway.

Fielding is taking a page from the Katz playbook and wants to stall this plan.

He keeps talking about the $600 Million for the Southwest Transitway extension as if it $600 million in free money. But $375 Million comes from other levels of government, just as was the case with the various rapid transit deals Katz blew. In the end, Katz managed to keep some of the funds as it was a competitive political environment of minority governments back then, where every City mattered. We can't count on being so lucky next time.

If Scott Fielding or a City Council influenced by his mindset blows the Southwest Transitway extension deal, we as a City could be out of $375 Million in critical funds for the investment.

That's a risk we can't take. 

Fortunately, transit supporters haven't taken to kindly to Scott Fielding's transit games.

[View the story "Scott Fielding defends plan to stall Rapid Transit" on Storify]

Taking a page from the Rob Ford playbook, Fielding accused me of a "war on automobiles" in a subsequently deleted tweet.

Winnipeg, we just can't let someone with a Rob Ford mindset steer our city into the gutter. We need to realize that in the long run a rapid transit system provides real road relief by giving people the choice of not driving in our City.

As the roads are relieved of the strain of many cars through transit choices they'll face less wear and tear. Our road maintenance costs will plummet.

This is why, if you really care about our declining roads, you must fight for a rapid transit system. Scott Fielding is dead wrong and as mayor he could really harm our City.

The evidence keeps piling up

Rusty Idols - Fri, 04/04/2014 - 07:51
The Sun chain has often attacked the patriotism of others, often in the crudest of terms. Meanwhile they are owned by a supporter of and promote the agenda of a party dedicated to the destruction of Canada.

For example promoting and defending the PQ's despicable, pandering 'Values' Charter.
Quebec Premier Pauline Marois says if the Parti Quebecois is elected, it would, if necessary, invoke the notwithstanding clause in the Canadian charter to protect its controversial Quebec values charter. It is debatable whether the PQ would do so out of conviction or as a wedge issue in Quebec politics. Nevertheless, it would be a legitimate use of the notwithstanding clause. It enables provincial legislatures to override “fundamental rights”, including freedom of religion, conscience, expression and association.

Friday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 04/04/2014 - 07:19
Assorted content to end your week.

- Mitchell Anderson discusses Canada's woeful excuse for negotiations with the oil sector - particularly compared to the lasting social benefits secured by Norway in making the best of similar reserves:
Digging through the numbers, it seems Norway is considerably more skilled at negotiation. By charging higher taxes and investing equity ownership in their own production, the Norwegian taxpayer was paid $46.29 BOE in 2012. That same year, the U.K. taxpayer realized only $20.08 per BOE -- less than half as much.

What about Canada? Much of our production is bitumen, which admittedly is a lower value (and often unprocessed) product with higher extraction costs. That said, it seems the nicest nation on earth is being taken to the cleaners. In 2012, Canada produced more than two billion BOE and collected $18 billion in provincial and federal taxes and royalties. This means that the Canadian taxpayer realized a benefit of about $9 per BOE -- less than one-fifth what Norway collected in the same year.

Canada produces 45 per cent more petroleum than Norway. Imagine for the sake of argument that Canada collected what Norwegians did between 2009 and 2012. In those four years, Canada would have enjoyed revenues of $365 billion -- enough to pay off more than half of our national debt.
Every provincial jurisdiction is also in direct competition with each other in a race to the bottom to attract private petroleum investment. Internal government documents accessed by the Alberta Federation of Labour found that B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan charge lower royalty rates than any U.S. state. Bizarrely, this was framed as a public policy achievement.

Since our country has an every-province-for-itself negotiating strategy, job strapped jurisdictions are not only contending with immensely powerful outside forces, but their own angry electorate every few years. It's hard to drive a hard bargain when voters can be maneuvered to take up industry's negotiating position. Nothing motivates a politician quite like the prospect of electoral defeat, and voters have become enlisted as unwitting allies in the billion-dollar brinksmanship of industry to access resources at ever-cheaper prices.- Jane Gerster's report following up on David Macdonald's study of wealth inequality includes this apt observation from Erin Weir:
In many ways, the growing divide is more concerning than income inequality, said Erin Weir, economist for the United Steelworkers.

“Wealth matters because it also confers political power and social status,” Weir said, adding “wealth makes increasing inequality a self-reinforcing trend: invested wealth is a source of income, those who already have the most wealth have the greatest capacity to accumulate more wealth.” - Update: And Alex Pareene responds to the latest U.S. Supreme Court ruling to further facilitate the flow of concentrated wealth into politics on by pointing out the possibility of reducing wealth inequality in the first place.

- Meanwhile, Jim Stanford reviews the neoliberal policy choices which have exacerbated that inequality over the past few decades.

- Finally, Sheila Fraser rightly slams the Cons' cynical attack on Canadian voting rights. And Bruce Cheadle reports on how the Unfair Elections Act is set up to facilitate yet more Robocon-style schemes - even as Stephen Maher and Glen McGregor confirm the connection between the Cons' party database and the 2011 voter suppression fraud.


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