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Accidental Deliberations: Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Paul Krugman’s review of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century includes his commentary on our new gilded age: Still, today’s economic elite is very different from that of the nineteenth century, isn’t it? Back then, great wealth tended to be inherited; aren’t today’s economic elite people who earned their position? Well, Piketty tells us that this isn’t as true as you think, and that in any case this state of affairs may prove no more durable than the middle-class society that flourished for a generation after World War II. The big (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Trish Hennessy’s latest numbers focus on the skills gap myth in Canada. And PressProgress documents a few of the Cons’ damaging public service cuts which kicked in yesterday, while Theresa Boyle reports on the end of Canada’s health care accords (featuring the observations of Roy Romanow on the end of meaningful federal participation in our health care system).

- Scott Stelmaschuk’s latest post fits nicely with the theme of yesterday’s comment on the importance of seeing politics first and foremost as a means of improving the world around us – rather than a (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: New column day

Here, on the importance of letting voters decide among a full range of potential political candidates – rather than imposing rules or conventions which prohibit senior military leaders, public servants or others from participating in politics.

For further reading…- The column is largely a response to Andrew Coyne (who argues that personal decisions of military and civilian leaders should be evaluated differently based on their potential interest in politics) and Adam Chapnick (who argues for a five-year moratorium against political involvement which would exclude recently-retired military professionals from participation in the democracy they’ve fought to defend).- And (Read more…)

Cowichan Conversations: An Open Letter to NDP-MP Murray Rankin

Dorothy Field

Dear Murray,

I watched your speech on the Unfair Elections Act. Well done. Thank you. And I didn’t know about Rose Henry’s court case. She’s really something.

I am going to make another appeal to you. As I see it and I think you see it, Harper is step by step dismantling Canada as a democratic nation. I live in fear and trembling of him getting in again.

As far as I can see, the only possible way to make sure that doesn’t happen is for the NDP and the Liberals to cooperate.

I’ve heard your reasons not (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- David MacDonald studies the effect of the Cons’ income-splitting scheme, and finds that it’s oriented purely toward funnelling money toward the top of the income scale: “Income splitting creates a tax loophole big enough to drive a Rolls Royce through. It’s pitched as a program for the middle class but in reality it’s an expensive tax gift for the rich,” says Macdonald. “The upper third of Canada’s richest families would receive $3 of every $4 spent on income splitting.”

The study finds seven out of ten senior families get no benefit (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Erika Shaker rightly questions why government policy toward business is based on a level of permissiveness which we’d recognize as utter madness in dealing with a child: Sure, all parents make mistakes, and all kids have meltdowns (some of which might have, admittedly, been handled better).

But it seems to me that even the worst examples of permissive parenting pale in comparison to the way politicians and pundits coddle, make excuses, and encourage double standards for questionable (even deplorable) behaviour from corporations and their representatives.

And perhaps it’s the post-holiday sugar-and-excessive-consumerism hangover (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Leo Panitch reminds us that the term “reform” was once understood to represent efforts to bolster the public interest against unbridled market forces – and suggests it’s well past time to take the word back from the business interests who have turned it into just the opposite. 

- Paul Krugman comments on the twin myths of the undeserving poor and the deserving rich. And Sam Polk writes from experience about the mindset that drives money addicts to demand that others’ basic needs give way to their desire to accumulate: I’d always (Read more…)

Alberta Diary: Battles in the ’Burbs: Independent St. Albert MP Brent Rathgeber eyes formation of party as fund-raising vehicle

Independent MP Brent Rathgeber with machine gun, looking as if he could use some closer supervision, takes aim at the CBC. (Joke.) And, yes, that is Jack Layton with the other one. Below: Teddy Roosevelt. (That’s enough politicians with firearms! – Ed.)

ST. ALBERT, Alberta

Edmonton-St. Albert Member of Parliament Brent Rathgeber – who since decamping from the federal Conservative Parliamentary caucus last June has become the Canadian media’s favourite Independent MP – has floated the idea of setting up his own political party.

When he’s not lecturing Canadians on the need to run the CBC as (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: New column day

Here, on how Mark Adler’s C-520 looks to undermine public participation in all Canadian political parties – including the Conservatives who are pushing it.

I’ll add here one point which didn’t make it into the column. While there’s obviously a need for independent institutions to act impartially, there’s also a need for them to have some familiarity with the systems they’re charged with overseeing. And if the Cons succeed in ensuring that regulators can’t have any personal knowledge of what they’re supposed to be regulating, the result may be far more damaging than the type of unsupported assertion of (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Jo Snyder discusses how poverty makes everybody less healthy, and recognizes the need for higher basic wages as a result. And Laurie Penny highlights the futility of trying to badger young adults into service jobs which offer no opportunity for personal, professional or financial progress: The British gov­ernment, like many others, is no longer even pretending to care about how or if the next generation gets to thrive. It is demonstrably content to sacrifice its young. That quality is not just spiteful; it is a recipe for social and cultural self-annihilation.

What (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that to end your weekend.

- Paul Luke comments on the general stratification of workers into three groups: professionals facing extended hours and stress at a single job, service-sector workers juggling multiple jobs at more than full-time hours, and people struggling to find work at all. But it’s well worth asking whether it’s inevitable that we’ll keep moving in a direction which seems to offer few benefits for anybody but the employers who extract more work for less pay – and asking what public policy choices we could make to ensure manageable workloads for more of the would-be (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Afternoon Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Polly Toynbee discusses how the public shares in the responsibility for a political class oriented toward easily-discarded talking points rather than honest discussion: Intense mistrust of parties is growing dangerously with each generation: with fewer than 1% of the population members of a political party, people understand less about the necessary compromises. Our poll’s “angry” voters say they want politicians to say what they believe, not mouth the party line-to-take. Too many MPs are pitifully thin on vocabulary and imagery, short on wit, warmth, passion or imagination. Some exceptions – the TUC’s Frances (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Don Lenihan is the latest to highlight the difference between citizens and consumers – as well as why we should want to act as the former: In the old view, public debate is all about defining the public interest by establishing collective needs. This requires a very different view of public debate. Rather than seeing it as a chance to advance my wants, it asks me, as a citizen, to consider the needs of the community. This means I must listen to others, weigh their claims, examine the evidence, and make trade-offs and (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Paul Krugman highlights why inequality is indeed an issue which demands action – both for its own sake, and for its impact on other goals such as economic sustainability. And Bill Moyers discusses the difference between a government responsive to its people and one completely controlled by elites: The historian Plutarch warned us long ago of what happens when there is no brake on the power of great wealth to subvert the electorate. “The abuse of buying and selling votes,” he wrote of Rome, “crept in and money began to play an important (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: On status quo proposals

Shorter Doug Saunders:

I’m suspicious of the role of mere members in shaping party policy. And also of the role rogue MPs might play in shaping decision-making. In fact, what we need is a completely centralized system of government where the prime minister can implement his preferred policies on a whim without giving a damn what party members or MPs think. If only we could hope for such a distant ideal…

Accidental Deliberations: New column day

Here, on how Michael Chong’s Reform Act privileges members of Parliament over party members and supporters – and how there’s far more reason for concern about a lack of genuine grassroots input as matters stand now than about the influence of MPs.

For further reading…- I’ll point to Andrew Coyne passim as the main cheerleader for the Reform Act. I refer in the column to some of the points made by Alice Funke and Don Lenihan. And Aaron Wherry surveys a few more responses – including Jeff Jedras’ proposal for a standardized primary system (which would seem to (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Jim Stanford reminds us that even Statistics Canada’s already-galling numbers showing increased inequality in Canada understate the problem, as they fail to reflect capital gains (and the preferential tax treatment thereof): Yesterday’s release from Statistics Canada on the income share of the wealthy generated some interesting coverage and commentary.  It reported that the top 1%’s share of total income in Canada remained steady in 2011 in Canada, at 10.6 percent — but still significantly higher than in the 1980s.

Most observers did not mention, however, that this oft-cited income share statistic does (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- David Simon laments the division of the U.S. into the few who are rewarded by market forces and the many who are constantly under siege – while also pointing out that concentration of wealth may prevent democratic forces from offering a counterweight: The idea that the market will solve such things as environmental concerns, as our racial divides, as our class distinctions, our problems with educating and incorporating one generation of workers into the economy after the other when that economy is changing; the idea that the market is going to heed (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Grant Gordon rightly criticizes the “taxpayer” frame in discussing how public policy affects citizens: (T)here’s a difference between being smart with our money and just being cheap.

Conservatives are fond of saying they wish government ran more like a business. Well, sometimes it’s better business to invest in R&D, in new technology, in a new employee. You can’t cut your way to success in business, and the same is true in government.

Our government needs to invest in transit and education. It’s the best way to stay competitive. It’s dangerous to reduce (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- George Monbiot comments on the dangerous effect of agreements which place investors’ interests above those of governments and citizens: From the outset, the transatlantic partnership has been driven by corporations and their lobby groups, who boast of being able to “co-write” it. Persistent digging by the Corporate Europe Observatory reveals that the commission has held eight meetings on the issue with civil society groups, and 119 with corporations and their lobbyists. Unlike the civil society meetings, these have taken place behind closed doors and have not been disclosed online.

Though the commission (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Alison chronicles how the definition of “accountability” has changed since the Cons’ own actions started to come under the microscope, while Paul Wells writes about the three different interests at play in the Cons’ scandal. And Tonda MacCharles explores how the Senate bribery scandal developed – though her willingness to take Con talking points at face value seems questionable given how consistently they’ve crumbled when compared to actual evidence, particularly when the likes of Chantal Hebert and Don Martin are eviscerating the Cons’ ever-more-farcical spin.

- Meanwhile, Don Lenihan discusses why gratuitous secrecy (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Don Braid comments on Alberta’s complete lack of credibility when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental issues. And Andrew Leach nicely sums up the PC/Con position in trying to put a happy face on growing emissions: Suppose you run into an old friend whom you haven’t seen for some time. You notice that he looks a little thicker than you remembered around the waist, but, since you aren’t one of those academics who shuns basic manners, you keep mum.

“How are you doing?” you say, “What’s new? (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: New column day

Here, on how Michael Ignatieff’s empty vessel politics might become the norm if voters don’t respond with due skepticism to increasingly sophisticated vote-swaying tactics.

For further reading…- The year’s two must-reads on the evolution of politics are Sasha Issenberg’s The Victory Lab (referenced in the column) and Susan Delacourt’s Shopping for Votes. And both provide clear narratives to the effect that consumer-focused politics are becoming more and more pervasive. – Links to the commentariat’s take on Ignatieff’s political memoirs can be found here. And I deal with a few additional implications of empty vessel politics here. – Finally, (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Agence France-Presse reports that even the IMF has reached the conclusion that higher taxes on wealthy citizens are a necessary part of competent economic management – even as the Harper Cons and other right-wing governments keep trying to peddle trickle-down economics to everybody’s detriment.

- Susan Delacourt writes that political campaigns may have managed to jump ahead of corporate marketing in targeting messages to individual voters. But Stephen Maher is rightly concerned that both parties and governments alike are being run primarily based on a desire to create political fund-raising messages, rather (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: New column day

Here, following up on Alex Himelfarb and Jordan Himelfarb’s observations about the need to talk about the good we can do with tax revenue by noting the importance of making sure public money and authority aren’t diverted to private or corporate purposes.

For further reading…- CBC reports on Alberta’s exclusion of environmental groups from any project assessment processes, while Justice Marceau’s full ruling is here.- The Guardian reports on Canada’s spying against Brazilian leaders and businesses, as well as the Cons’ deliberate choice to foster cozy dealings between CSEC and the resource sector. And Alison fills in (Read more…)