Agrégateur de flux

Conapocalypse: The Confessions of Jenni Byrne

Montreal Simon - il y a 35 min 12 sec


She was called Stephen Harper's "enforcer", or just "The Beast." The one who took no prisoners.

She ran the last Con campaign, and drove it off a cliff.



Before she was tossed off the bus, and out of her master's inner circle. 

But now Jenni Byrne is back, and blaming everyone but herself.
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Is the Petro-Economy a Millstone Around Canada's Neck?

The Disaffected Lib - lun, 02/08/2016 - 14:04

Didn't we imagine that this was going to be our ticket to Easy Street? Hell we had almost as much oil as Saudi Arabia and the world was going to be beating a path to our doors, begging us to take their wealth and treasure. Even Ignatieff proclaimed Athabasca bitumen the "beating heart of the Canadian economy for the 21st century."

Now it turns out that our bet on bitumen may go from being Canada's petro-blessing to the ruin of our national economy.  Andrew Nikiforuk looks at the perils we face from our bitumen bounty in the latest Tyee.



"...the descent of oil has become a sort of Sherman's March on globalization.

"The status-quo pundits say don't worry. The world is awash in oil due to the brute force of fracking and Alberta's faltering bitumen boom.

"Markets are just experiencing another wacky correction in supply and demand, and business as usual will continue. Relax, add the pundits -- lower energy prices tend to revive economies by putting more money in the hands of consumers, and all will be well.

"But the global economy is now confounding academic theorists. Falling gasoline prices haven't propped up the economy, or stimulated growth for that matter. In fact, global finance appears to be driving into another recession while debt grows, innovation disappears, capital investment recedes and wages stagnate.

"So there must be another story."

There is, and it's a rather grim energy fairy tale. This one shows how the world's economy depends on the quality of energy burned, and not the amount of money spent. When economies spend cheap oil, GDP rises; when they switch to costly and unconventional stuff, growth comes to a screeching halt.

In this unfolding story, cheap credit played a big role. It allowed an industry to carelessly borrow trillions to chase ultra-expensive and risky resources such as bitumen and shale oil.

An energy industry laden with toxic debt is now earning less money than what it costs to shovel bitumen or frack shale. And this kind of debt is not going to end well for financial markets. Or for ordinary people.


But the darkest character in this fairy tale is the monster called diminishing returns.

On a diet of cheap oil, the world financial system grew on energy surpluses like a wildfire dines on trees in a forest.

But no more. The cheap stuff is gone, and companies are now frantically fracking North Dakota at a cost of $60 a barrel or mining northern Alberta's heavy bitumen at costs as high as $80 a barrel. With oil at $30 a barrel, many companies are, as respected Houston analyst Art Berman recently put it, "losing their asses."

...The implications of diminishing returns for oil are stark: the more society invests in unconventional hydrocarbons, warns [David Murphy of St. Lawrence University], the more "growth will become harder to achieve and come at an increasingly higher financial, energetic and environmental cost."

As society switches to energy resources of lower and lower quality, simply maintaining the flow of net energy to society will require that companies and nations accrue more debt to spend a proportionally larger amount of capital on gross energy extraction that comes with dirtier environmental impacts, such as carbon-spewing bitumen.

Diminishing returns from oil production "indicate that we should expect the economic growth rates of the next 100 years to look nothing like those of the last 100 years," writes Murphy.

That reality now seems to be unfolding on a global scale. The trouble really became apparent when oil prices leapt beyond $90 a barrel in 2010 and remained at unprecedented highs for four years. These high prices, in turn, put recessionary pressures on the global economy. Costly oil forced people, nations and firms to scale back and put on the brakes.

Meanwhile, Big Oil continued to borrow billions to extract difficult and unconventional hydrocarbons such as deep-sea oil, bitumen and shale oil. All required more capital and more energy to pull out of the ground.

In 2000, companies spent $400 billion a year chasing hydrocarbons. But by 2013 they were spending nearly $900 billion with little change in production.

...In 2014, federal energy bean counters in the U.S. revealed that the energy industry was actually spending more than it was earning. The U.S. Energy Administration reported 127 of the largest oil and gas firms generated $568 billion in cash from their operations during 2013-2014, while their expenses totaled $677 billion. To cover the difference of $110 billion, the energy giants increased their debt load or sold off assets.

Given that the gap between earned cash and spending stood at a modest $10 billion in 2010, that's a significant change for the industry as well as the global economy it fuels. Since then, the toxic debt load has grown larger.

Wood Mackenzie, an oil consultancy, now estimates that 2.2 million barrels a day of Canadian production is unprofitable with oil at US$35 a barrel, and most of that debt-inviting extraction is coming from the high cost and complex oilsands.
...Gail Tverberg, an accountant and energy blogger, has an interestingtheory about all this.

She believes that "all economies have finite lifetimes, just as humans, animals, plants and hurricanes do." She thinks that we may be "in the unfortunate position of observing the end of our economy's lifetime."

A senior Ikea executive, Steve Howard, recently acknowledged the possibility: "If we look on a global basis, in the West we have probably hit peak stuff. We talk about peak oil. I'd say we've hit peak red meat, peak sugar, peak stuff... peak home furnishings."

Economists used to believe that when societies peaked, prices would rise, and energy products would become scarce. But Tverberg reckons the networked economy won't necessarily behave that way. "High energy prices tend to lead to recession, bringing down prices. Low wages and slow growth in debt also tend to bring down prices. A networked economy can work in ways that does not match our intuition; this is why many researchers fail to understand the nature of the problem we are facing."

She adds that high oil prices expertly disguised the brutal reality of diminishing returns. Whenever an industry or society blows up the principles of efficiency by getting on a treadmill with no efficiency or gain in energy returns, there is no growth. But there is stagnation and political unrest.

Tverberg worries about toxic debt loads, too. As energy gets more expensive (and renewables are expensive and fossil fuel dependent, too), society has to borrow more money to keep a global clunker on the road. Tverberg notes that you can only dial up the debt for so long before you "discover that debt growth has a lot of adverse effects. And one of the big ones is that it tends to funnel money to the wealthier class and take money away from the poor members of society."

A peak world and complex society faces a conundrum: high oil prices shrink the economy while low oil prices destabilize it due to diminishing energy returns.

There may be some temporary solutions, but they involve ending cheap credit, shutting in at least a million barrels of oil, and regulating the price of oil as the Railroad Commission did in the 1930s. But our politicians cling to the myth of constant growth and have no idea what the real problem is.

...Diminishing returns, just like rising expectations, do not bring out the best in people: expect violent reactions and revolutions in petro-states and indebted nations. Expect the unexpected and a narrative of volatility.
"Unfortunately, what we are facing now is a predicament, rather than a problem," reflects Tverberg. "There is quite likely no good solution. This is a worry."






The Ponzi Economy and The Ride of the Looter Class

The Disaffected Lib - lun, 02/08/2016 - 13:27

We're already well into our eventual environmental meltdown. Are we now also on the cusp of a global economic meltdown? There is a growing chorus of voices warning that the end really is nigh for this enormous House of Cards we built for mankind in the wake of WWII.

Like most of us, I didn't dwell much on the environmental or economic State of the Planet until the twitch first set in somewhere around the turn of the century. Since then the looming perils have indeed materialized.

The fact is, we've been on a multi-generational bender of sorts and now it's hangover time. CBC business reporter, Don Pittis, writes that, "If you ever thought there was a group of smart people who really understood the economy and you were just too stupid to figure it out, now is the time to disabuse yourself."

It's an interesting article, a worthwhile read. Pittis focuses on British economist/journalist Martin Wolf of the Financial Times. Wolf suggests Britain's redemption lies in either a full-blown purgative depression or "helicopter money" which is a term for a guaranteed annual income plan.

Pittis concludes that the real problem isn't with the economy or the various proposed solutions.  Our Achilles' Heel, is a terminal problem.

"For leaders who make policy, it is almost impossible to try radical and unproven medicine that might work, for the simple reason that it might instead precipitate a crisis for which they would be blamed.

"So long as the global economy seems to be muddling on, governments and central bankers prefer to kick the can down the road just a little further, and keep praying for a miraculous, spontaneous cure."


What Pittis and Wolf and the rest of the like-minded cannot seem to grasp is that our economic model has a systemic, mortal flaw. Neoclassical economics of the sort taught to Wolf and Harper by Friedman and Hayek resting on a foundation of perpetual, exponential growth is a hoax introduced in the post-war era that worked really, really well but only for a few decades and only for those it was aimed at benefitting.

Sometime in the next century, when mankind's population has stabilized at somewhat under one billion, our era may be named something like "The Great Bloat," the era in which civilization swelled to the bursting point - and then burst.

The whole growth-based paradigm was a hoax, a contrivance crafted from some unsustainable circumstances and assumptions. Things that, by logic, didn't fit were dismissed, labeled as "externalities." Resource shortages, cost of resources, damage to the environment - mere externalities that must never be permitted to cloud the model.

This gave rise to the theory, the belief that was enshrined as orthodoxy, that the economy could and should grow larger than the environment. It has. That's the world of 7+ billion heading for 9+ billion we live in today. We're already consuming the planet's resources at 1.7 times their natural replenishment rate and still our appetites are growing. The miners' canary in this is that all other forms of life, marine and terrestrial, have declined in total number by half over the past thirty years. We're taking so much of everything they also need to survive that their numbers are collapsing.

Pittis may write of "leaders who make policy" but he abuses the word "leader." We don't have leaders today - not in the Liberals, nor the Conservatives nor the New Democrats. They're all self-interested, feckless can-kickers, the lot of them.

The tragedy of this is that you can no longer rely on the head of your preferred political party for leadership. You're going to have to self-educate. You've got to make up your own mind on just about everything - social, political, economic and environmental.

There's plenty of top-quality information out there. Read Joe Stiglitz. Read Phil Mirowski. Read James Galbraith. Read John Ralston Saul.  Below is an interesting lecture by Galbraith to the Post-Keynesian Conference. Pick it up around the 19-minute mark.

Of particular interest is Galbraith's description of the American economy and, to a lesser extent, the economies that are driven by it, in the post-2008 world. He describes it as a Ponzi economy exploited by a class he calls "looters" by which he means the 1%. He contends the looters see what's going on and they know it can't last so they're using their wealth and their influence, economic and political, to bleed the whole thing dry.

Fortunately we have fearless political leaders to keep us safe from these predators. What's that? Oh...








Some Americans Sure Do Love Their Ignorance

Politics and its Discontents - lun, 02/08/2016 - 11:51
Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz says we should follow the scientific evidence about climate change, and then goes on to ignore it with confabulation and obfuscation. In Cruz world, it is all just a cover for the government's desire to have total control over everyone's lives.

Some Americans sure do love and embrace their ignorance, don't they?


Cruz is a fellow traveller with the other main contenders for the Republican nomination, Donald Trump and Marco Rubio, the latter denying that climate change has anything to do with human activity. All of which serves as prelude to the acerbic Bill Maher, who offers up his own assessment of such ignorance:

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Mulcair's Opening Salvo - and It's BullS__t

The Disaffected Lib - lun, 02/08/2016 - 08:45

I feel badly for Tom Mulcair but who wouldn't? He was supposed to be farting through silk right now but the last election sent him instead to the cellar where he has to make do with burlap.

When you're the Old Man of the crowd, time is probably not on your side. Canadians seem to prefer new and shiny and most of the shine got scrubbed off Tom a long time ago. I don't think the beard and the beady black eyes help much either.

The one thing you can't be doing when you're hanging on by your fingertips is to show desperation. Never let the plebs know you're running on fear. If they smell fear they can turn on you - in a heartbeat.

I smelled the fear in an email Tom sent me this morning.

"While the Trudeau government has gone ahead and signed the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, there remains many uncertainties about what's in store for Canada.

"The Harper government first negotiated this deal in secret. Now we have the Liberals agreeing to a deal that can't be renegotiated! Any concerns or changes raised in future consultations won't matter."

Tom, I'm at best ambivalent about the Trudeau gang and I stand opposed to the TPP. That said, we don't need your bullshit scare tactic. The Liberals have signed to verify the text of the deal comports with the terms negotiated. They didn't agree to a deal - and you know it. 
Ratifying TPP takes more than a signature on paper. It's a Parliamentary process, Tom, and you know that too. I would be delightfully surprised if the Liberals, with their majority, gave TPP the thumbs down although that's a long shot. 
You'll get your chance, Tom, right there on the floor of the House of Commons where you actually do your best work. Wait till the wedding night, Tom. In the meantime try to leave yourself alone.




On warped incentives

accidentaldeliberations - lun, 02/08/2016 - 07:02
CC offers one noteworthy takeaway from Jenni Byrne's attempt to deflect blame for the Cons' election loss:
Wherein Jenni Byrne openly admits that the CPC *needs* vote splitting to stay relevant. https://t.co/HrQDeH058x pic.twitter.com/BpUFBmezhz— CC (@canadiancynic) February 8, 2016 But let's follow what this line of thought means for Canada's electoral system. Would any rational electoral system encourage a party to promote one of its competitors for the purpose of arranging the votes it can't win (particularly one which is further away on the political spectrum), rather than trying to earn support for itself?

To be clear, Byrne's type of calculation isn't necessarily limited to the Cons. But it surely speaks to the perverse incentives embedded in a first-past-the-post system - and offers us reason to think carefully about the goals we should want parties of any ideological background to pursue instead.

Monday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - lun, 02/08/2016 - 06:56
Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Richard Eskow summarizes the basic facts about inequality in the U.S. Ta-Nehisi Coates argues that it's impossible to fully explain or address that problem without factoring in ongoing racial disparities. And Sean Trembath writes about James Daschuk's work in tracing health disparities among indigenous peoples back to Canada's colonial policies, while Cheryl McKenzie reports on the challenges in combating poverty.

- Greg Kaplan and Giovanni Volante point out that income insecurity isn't limited to poor households, as plenty of higher-earning families effectively live paycheque to paycheque at best

- Mike De Souza discusses the connection between TransCanada's firing of whistleblowers and a pipeline explosion.

- Andrew Mitrovica asks why nobody is prepared to tell Canadians the truth about the unauthorized  disclosure of tax data to CSIS. And Tonda MacCharles reports that the Libs are being even more obstinate than the Cons in trying to deny compensation to people who were wrongly detained and tortured.

- Finally, Lana Payne rightly argues that we can't move on from revelations of systematic sexual harassment without first doing everything we can to eradicate it.

ISDS : Investor-State Dispute Scam

Creekside - lun, 02/08/2016 - 05:56
A German documentary on the investor rights in trade agreements - ISDS - now with English subtitles : "Corporations Complain - We Pay".



Canada and Canadian ISDS losses - described as the "gold rush in the ISDS industry" - figure prominently in the film :
"Canada is the only western country that has ever accepted ISDS with the United States. We're actually one of the most sued countries, always by US companies, because we signed one treaty that allowed ISDS with the United States.And ultimately it only exists because at some point everyone expects the public will have to pay." In 1989 not a single lawsuit was filed; by the end of 2014 there were over 600:
"It's a new way to access public money."The film traces the story of the two Nova Scotia lobster fishermen who fought for five years and successfully turned back US corp Bilcon's bid to build a basalt quarry on environmental grounds, only to have the ISDS tribune rule against them. Bilcon sued for US $300M over future financial loss on a quarry they hadn't even started building. As lobsterman Kemp Stanton remarks :
"If you can make US$300 million and not have to build the quarry, it'd be stupid to build it."    And because ISDS litigation costs US$4-8 million, NY lawyer Selvyn Siedel brokers deals between "those who want to sue and those who want to invest in such litigation - litigation funders". A whole new industry model with returns of $20M of taxpayer money on an initial $5M investment. US litigation financiers have seen their own profits rise 900% by fuelling more corporations to launch more cases against sovereign governments over domestic policies :
"The litigation funders are the ones greasing the wheels of this system" as they did against the easy pickings of Spain and Greece during their financial insolvencies, using shell companies in Luxembourg, phantom mailbox companies with no employees, to sue their own governments for lost profits. In Germany, the government gave in to a German corp suing them for $1B through a New York company to avoid having to face an ISDS tribunal. 

Sylvan Seidel in New York sees a new business opportunity in these lawsuits - bundle them as investment stocks :
"Banks, hedge funds and insurance companies are investing in this growing market. It's like a casino and the party for litigation funders is not over yet. As this grows, more corporations launch cases against governments."
CETA, TPP, TTIP - they're all trojan horse casinos enabling the arbitration industry to bleed governments and the public purse. 

Good doc.  h/t Murray Dobbin who circulated the link to it last night.
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Strangling Our Future

Northern Reflections - lun, 02/08/2016 - 05:48
                                                  http://www.corbisimages.com/

Youth unemployment is a problem world wide. Carol Goar reports that:

Our youth unemployment rate is 13 per cent. In Sweden, 19.4 per cent of young people are looking for work. In France, the youth jobless rate is 25.9 per cent. In Spain, it is 46 per cent. In Greece it is a staggering 48.6 per cent. (It is hard to get comparable statistics from Africa, where youth can mean anything from 12 to 30 years of age.)
The International Labour Organization -- which is sponsored by the UN -- is raising the profile of the problem:

Determined to provide impetus, the ILO launched a Global Initiative for Decent Jobs for Youth in New York this month. The UN’s 28 other agencies joined the campaign. “Today two out of every five young persons of working age are either unemployed or working in jobs that don’t pay enough to escape poverty,” said ILO director-general Guy Ryder. “Our challenge is to continuously find new and innovative solutions as we look into the future of work.”
During the Harper Era,  youth unemployment mushroomed:

Former prime minister Stephen Harper did more to undermine than assist young job seekers. Between 2006 and 2014 his government opened the floodgates to low-skilled temporary foreign workers, who took the entry-level jobs normally sought by young people.
In 2013, he claimed there was a severe skill shortage in the land. There were plenty of jobs but employers couldn’t find workers with the skills they needed. This misalignment, Harper said, was “the biggest challenge our country faces.” No one could figure out where these job vacancies were. Reporters, economists, the parliamentary budget office and the Conference Board of Canada did some digging and discovered they didn’t exist. Federal officials were relying on data from Kijiji, a classified ad service operated by eBay. It allowed employers to post the same job in various categories, which led Ottawa to double and triple count. 
Justin Trudeau vows that his government will reverse that course:
Justin Trudeau has pledged to spend $455 million a year helping young Canadians find work. His intent is to create 40,000 jobs annually by expanding Ottawa’s summer jobs program; increasing the number of co-op positions available for business and engineering students; giving a one-year payroll tax break to employers who hire young Canadians for permanent positions; and relaunching a youth service program like Katimavik, started by his father in 1977 and eliminated by the Harper government in 2012. 
But, Goar writes, most of Trudeau's efforts are focused on the public sector. More needs to be done in the private sector. Will the Captains of Industry step up? We'll see. Any society which cannot make a future for its youth is strangling its own future.

Nathan Cullen's Daring Proposal for Electoral Reform

Montreal Simon - lun, 02/08/2016 - 05:13


When I first read Nathan Cullen's proposal to kickstart the electoral reform process, I must admit that I thought the NDP had lost its grip on reality.

For it did seem a bit unreasonable to ask the Liberals to surrender their majority on a committee that will study the matter.

While attacking them in the Commons as if the NDP was still the official opposition.

But now I've changed my mind.
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Bernie Sanders and the Attack of the Millionaires

Montreal Simon - lun, 02/08/2016 - 02:50


With Bernie Sanders seemingly headed for a decisive victory in tomorrow's New Hampshire primary, it seems that the Millionaire's Club is starting to feel the heat, or the Bern.

For first there was Rex Murphy on the National, denouncing Sanders for his class politics, and suggesting he's a communist.

Even though that tool of Big Oil is a millionaire, and lives in one of the glitziest condos in my neighbourhood. So it's yet another conflict of interest to add to Rexy's record.

And then yesterday, charging out of the gate like an enraged bull, came that other well known millionaire.
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What is Marie Henein's end game?

Dammit Janet - dim, 02/07/2016 - 14:48
The trial of the former Q host on CBC is well underway. Five days so far of mediocre prosecutorial presentations while on the adversarial side, the best Grand Guignol cross-examination that defence lawyer Marie Henein is capable of executing.

What if Henein's agenda were to expose how the Canadian (in)justice system, with regard to crimes of sexual assault and trials, is fundamentally patriarchal?


Here's one account of the grim proceedings.  As well, _Chatelaine_ has produced formidable coverage of many aspects of the trial.

This insight into the first days of the trial came from a surprising source.
Though she was roasted and toasted in cross-examination by the former broadcaster’s lead lawyer, Marie Henein, it’s important to note that for all the inconsistencies in the woman’s evidence — some significant — a constant in her police statement, many media interviews and testimony this week is her claim that Ghomeshi struck her hard, with a closed fist she thought, on the side of the head.
[..] Her difficulties arose, in my view, in part because it appears her allegations weren’t as thoroughly investigated by the police as perhaps they should have been and because prosecutors didn’t thoroughly examine her or re-examine her at all.
The blow of those terribly damaging emails and the bikini photo she sent Ghomeshi, for instance, a year after the second alleged assault where he purportedly smacked her in the head, would have been mitigated had she been asked follow-up questions when she mentioned, voluntarily in examination-in-chief, that she had “a vague memory” of writing a note to him, in anger, but wasn’t sure she’d sent it.
“You aren’t trying to hide the fact that you might have written Mr. Ghomeshi?” prosecutors could have asked.
The question alone would have diffused the impact of Henein’s revelation.I'm not the only one who is wondering, WTF game is the prosecution playing?  Why are the Crown lawyers throwing the complainants under the bus?  This from Jane Doe, provides illumination.

On the other side, my daughter - a decade younger than Ghomeshi or Henein - loathes what the former did as well as his lawyer's antics.

She has nothing but contempt for the high-stakes histrionical performance the latter is currently offering.  She thinks the lawyer is an opportunist who will leverage a spectacular win to catapult herself onto a larger and more lucrative stage.

The Ghomeshi trial could indeed do for Henein's reputation what OJ Simpson's did for the Kardashians: transform her into a minor US celebrity.


This is the Toronto Life article about Henein that gave my daughter pause, with regard to Henein's professional choices.

Perhaps her perspective is lopsided.  After all, she's a mere physician in a demanding specialty.  In her line of work, individuals who apply such rigour and dedication to the pursuit of excellence _only_ save lives.  They don't destroy them.

dispatches from ola 2016, part 2: libraries and prisons

we move to canada - dim, 02/07/2016 - 10:00
I've had a longstanding interest in prison libraries, and was happy to meet another librarian-friend who shares this. But I was very pleasantly surprised at the large turnout for the talk Prisons and Libraries: A Relationship Worth Incubating at the 2016 OLA Super Conference. A panel of three librarians who serve incarcerated people in different capacities gave the presentation.

Why prison libraries? From a rehabilitation perspective, there is a high correlation between illiteracy and crime, and illiteracy and recidivism. Certainly education can only help inmates successfully re-enter society.

From a social justice perspective, most people in prison are there because their life circumstances led inexorably to criminality. Access to information can help change the odds.

And from a human rights perspective, access to information is a basic human right - but prisons are environments of severe information poverty. Contrary to popular belief, inmates have no access to television or internet.

For decades, prison libraries had been a regular feature of all correctional facilities in North America. They were run by professional librarians, usually with inmate volunteers. It will not surprise you to learn that conservative and neoliberal governments have eliminated the meager funds once used for prison libraries. New prisons - often run for profit by private corporations - are now built without space for a library.

Fortunately, there are librarians who are so committed to providing information services to inmates that they are doing so anyway, without government support or funding, as volunteers. As president of my library workers' union, I spend a good deal of time and energy pushing back against the incursion of volunteers in our library. But for some communities, it's volunteers or nothing.

Library services to prisons include resource fairs, book clubs (and kits to get book clubs started), deliveries of weeded copies of bestsellers, and collecting and distributing donated magazines. One of the speakers noted that readers' advisory is one of the few services that treats inmates as individuals, rather than as "a population".

During this talk, I quickly recognized the strong connection between this presentation and the one I had attended previously, on services to indigenous people. Prison librarianship is all about relationship-building - about listening to what people want and need, then trying to provide it. And as indigenous people comprise Canada's underclass, there is a strong connection between colonialism, aboriginal issues, and the criminal justice system. A disproportionate percentage of inmates in Canadian prisons are aboriginal.

The Manitoba Library Association's Prison Libraries Committee has published a toolkit called Library Outreach on the Inside, based on their local experiences, something I look forward to reading. I don't know when or how I could get involved in this, but it's an interest I want to keep alive in my mind.

I haven't yet read Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian by Avi Steinberg, but I plan to. The blog Librarian Behind Bars may have ended, but as a lot of great information archived.

There are also several organizations like this one that distribute donated books to incarcerated people. On the blog Picturesque, a librarian offers a good overview of the job and its context.

Sunday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - dim, 02/07/2016 - 09:06
This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Heather Stewart discusses the possibility of a 20-hour work week to better distribute both work and income. And without going that far, Andrew Jackson suggests that our public policy priorities should include a needed shift in time on the clock from people who are working excessive hours to ones who lack for work:
Today, the job market is even more sharply polarized between those who are unemployed or underemployed (such as the one in four part time workers who want more hours), and those who are employed in mainly full-time and permanent jobs who often work very long hours. Data from Statistics Canada's Labour Force Survey (CANSIM Table 282-0154) tell us that in any given week, one in five workers (21%) worked overtime (defined as hours in excess of normally scheduled hours) for an average of 8.2 hours, or more than one extra day per normal work week.

Unpaid overtime, mainly worked by salaried professionals, not least in public services, affects 11% of all employees. Paid overtime, mainly worked by hourly paid blue collar workers in industries like construction, transportation manufacturing and resources, affects 9% of all workers. These numbers have increased a bit since the late 1990s.

Theoretically, redistribution of working time could all but wipe out both unemployment and involuntary part-time employment, assuming a perfect overlap of skills and needed experience between those working long hours and those working no or less than desired hours. While this is unrealistic, redistribution of working time could still put a significant dent in the unemployment rate.
...
More use of work sharing today could help cushion the impact of the slump in resource prices on jobs in the hard hit mineral and energy industries. Even today, many workers in the Alberta oil and gas industry regularly work long hours. There is growing interest in using work sharing to avoid layoffs, and, even more creatively, government, employers and unions might develop programs to use temporarily reduced working hours for training in order to upgrade workers skills which will be needed in the next upturn.

The new Liberal government should also consider the many proposals which have been made over the years to amend the federal labour code so as to limit very long hours of work and to provide employees with more flexible working time options.- Josh Eidelson discusses Bernie Sanders' sharp critique of welfare plans which try to coerce people into dead-end jobs. Bill Curry reports on Jean-Yves Duclos' openness to a basic income at the federal level. And Stanislas Jourdain notes that Quebec is now working on developing a guaranteed income for its citizens.

- Alan Broadbent and Elizabeth McIsaac call for Toronto to start funding its poverty reduction plan. And the Star argues that we should make affordable access to the Internet available to everybody as a necessary element of social participation.

- Michael Geist optimistically offers some suggestions as to how the Libs could deal with the Trans-Pacific Partnership now that they've signed it without consultation, while Scott Vrooman laments their apparent intentions of ignoring Canadians' concerns. And Erik Loomis offers some valid concerns about the TPP from a U.S. perspective.

- Finally, Patricia Lane discusses how a proportional electoral system could lead to far better governance for Canada.

Sunny ways, continued

Dawg's Blawg - dim, 02/07/2016 - 08:37
First it was brokering the sale of billions of dollars of military equipment to the mediaeval torture-state of Saudi Arabia. Now the Trudeau Liberals are in court trying to deny compensation to three Canadians, Abdullah Almalki, Muayyed Nureddin and Ahmad... Dr.Dawg http://drdawgsblawg.ca/

Will Any Woman Do?

Politics and its Discontents - dim, 02/07/2016 - 05:44
There's a special place in hell for women who don't help each other.

So said the first woman to become the United States Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, at a rally for Hillary Clinton. Surely I am not the only one disgusted by the implication of that statement, that everyone woman has a moral obligation to support one of their own gender in her quest for the presidency, no matter how odious or inappropriate that woman might be:
While introducing Mrs. Clinton at a rally in New Hampshire on Saturday, Madeleine Albright, the first female secretary of state, talked about the importance of electing the first female president. In a dig at the “revolution” that Mr. Sanders often speaks of, she said that the first female commander in chief would be a true revolution. And she scolded any woman who felt otherwise.

“We can tell our story of how we climbed the ladder, and a lot of you younger women think it’s done. It’s not done,” Ms. Albright said of the broader fight for women’s equality. “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!”


Not to be outdone, veteran feminist Gloria Steinem got into the act, somewhat ironically, on Bill Maher's show:
Explaining how women tend to become more active in politics as they become older, she suggested younger women were just backing Mr. Sanders so that they could meet young men.

“When you’re young, you’re thinking, ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie,’ ” Ms. Steinem said.

Realizing that this was potentially offensive, Mr. Maher recoiled. “Oh. Now if I said that, ‘They’re for Bernie because that’s where the boys are,’ you’d swat me.”

But Ms. Steinem laughed it off, replying, “How well do you know me?”Take a look, starting at about the 4:00 minute mark:



One hopes, as one does with men, that critical-thinking will determine how a woman votes, not gender-identification.

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Stephen Harper and the Little Killer

Montreal Simon - dim, 02/07/2016 - 03:50


When most people think of climate change they probably think of images like this one.

A scorched earth, starving people, and wars over water.

But when I think of climate change I also think of this little killer.
Read more »

Upstream, Downstream

Northern Reflections - dim, 02/07/2016 - 03:30
                                                http://www.thestar.com/

At the end of January, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna and Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr announced new guidelines to evaluate the impact of new pipelines. Jason Maclean writes:

The new regulations stipulate that oil pipeline decisions will be based on science and traditional indigenous knowledge; the views of the public, including affected communities and indigenous peoples; and the direct and upstream greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that can be linked to pipelines.
During their press conference announcing the new regulations, McKenna and Carr repeatedly intoned that “Canada needs to get its natural resources to market in a sustainable way.”
When pressed about greenhouse gas emissions, McKenna told reporters that the guidelines included projections about both upstream and downstream emissions. And there is the rub:
While this is a notable improvement on the NEB’s steadfast refusal to consider either the upstream or downstream emissions of oil pipelines, the problem remains that most of the GHG emissions arising from a pipeline are downstream emissions. An environmental assessment that arbitrarily excludes downstream emissions effectively exports not only Alberta’s bitumen crude oil but also its ultimate emissions.
In terms of science, peer-reviewed analyses demonstrate that in order to have a better-than-even chance of keeping global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average, at least 85 per cent of Alberta’s remaining ultimately recoverable bitumen must remain in the ground. In one model, the percentage rises to 99 per cent.
No oil pipeline that will expand the extraction of Alberta’s unconventional oilsands can pass a scientifically valid climate test because any increase in unconventional oil production is incommensurate with efforts to limit average global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. This is the scientific standard that must be applied to the Energy East project proposal if the government’s assessment is to be trusted by Canadians.
Justin Trudeau has vowed to assist Alberta's ailing economy and to fight climate change. If those commitments mean seeing the Energy East Pipeline construction through to New Brunswick, it appears that Trudeau has vowed to square the circle.
It will be interesting to see if he can do that. That feat has been tried before -- but without much success.

On double majorities

accidentaldeliberations - sam, 02/06/2016 - 13:59
Nathan Cullen's proposal for party representation on the Parliamentary committee reviewing electoral reform has received plenty of attention. But it might actually go much further than advertised to validate the results of the committee's work and legitimize a more fair electoral system.

One can view Cullen's proposal as reflecting a proportional system for allocating committee seats. But it doesn't mean for a second that any change to Canada's electoral system would come about only based on that structure.

Whatever the committee comes up with will still have to be dealt with through legislation in a Parliament in which the Libs have a majority. And that means what Cullen has suggested would in fact serve to confirm the legitimacy of any new system under all plausible interpretations of the results generated by the current one.

By way of explanation, it's fairly clear that the range of options under serious consideration includes three primary types of electoral system. Two of them - first-past-the-post (to the extent it's seen as an option in light of the Libs' promise to scrap it) and ranked ballot - would both have resulted in Lib majorities based on 2015 voting patterns. (Of course, we don't have direct information about what voters' alternative preferences would have been in 2015. But even if one ignores the simulated results prepared based on alternative data, that's not a problem capable of being remedied without conducting an election under a different system.)

That leaves the proportional representation option, where the first-choice preferences of Canadian voters would indeed result in exactly the representation proposed by Cullen. And there could be a substantive complaint about legitimacy if what can be fairly criticized as a false majority under one system is used as the sole basis either for preserving that system, or for imposing another one.

Cullen's suggestion then responds to that concern. But I'll argue that it also implicitly answers the question of what beyond a bare Parliamentary majority should be required to make electoral reform legitimate beyond reasonable complaint.

As I've noted before, it would be utter folly to demand unanimous support among all parties or MPs before any change could be implemented. But one can fairly make the point that in assessing our electoral options, there's no reason to question the validity of a system which would be able to earn majority support in Parliament regardless of the structure in place at the time the election process is amended. (And similarly, there's no plausible basis to insist on retaining a system which can be replaced based on that multiple-majority support, no matter how much one party shrieks about wanting to preserve its advantages.)

Of course, it remains to be seen whether the Libs will follow through on Cullen's proposal. But if they do, it should ensure both a more inclusive discussion of Canada's electoral system, and a more legitimate result.

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