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Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Branko Milanovic answers Harry Frankfurt’s attempt to treat inequality as merely an issue of absolute deprivation by reminding us how needs are inherently social: “[Under necessities] I understand not only the commodities that are indispensable for the support of life, but whatever the custom of the country renders it indecent for creditable people, even of the lowest order, to be without.” (Book 5, Chapter 2)

Smith’s observation has far-reaching consequences. If our needs depend on what is socially acceptable, then they will clearly vary as between different societies. They will depend on (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Emmanuel Saez examines the U.S.’ latest income inequality numbers and finds that the gap between the wealthy few and everybody else is still growing. The Equality Trust finds that the UK’s tax system is already conspicuously regressive even as the Cameron Cons plan to make it more so. And Tom Clark reviews Anthony Atkinson’s Inequality, featuring the observation that even returning to the distribution of the 1970s will require major (if needed) changes to the economic assumptions we’ve meekly accepted since then.

- Andrew Mitrovica comments on the Cons’ pandering (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: A Reconsideration

While I have written about the importance of critical thinking many times on this blog, I have always considered it an ideal, a destination that we should strive for throughout our lives. Never is the journey complete; never are we entirely free from our cultural, political and social contexts and values, all of which act as filters through which we interpret events and ideas. It’s all part of being human, and I am acutely aware of the biases through which I see things.

One of my biggest biases, of course, is political in nature. I detest the Harper regime and (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- PressProgress notes that the Cons’ economic track record is one of eliminating well-paying jobs in favour of lower-wage, more-precarious work. And Jim Stanford follows up on why we shouldn’t believe the Cons’ spin about deficits: I think that a more fruitful and principled line of attack on the government’s approach would focus on these obvious fiscal and economic errors by the government: The October tax cuts were premature; it is tax cuts, not oil prices, which have jeopardized the attainment of a balanced budget.  The Conservatives broke their own promise in implementing (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links

Assorted content to start your week.

- Murray Dobbin writes about the damage caused after decades of allowing the corporate elite to dictate economic policy – and notes that the Cons are determined to make matters all the worse: However you see it — as separate from society or integral to it – Canada’s “economy” is increasingly at the mercy of a risk-averse, inept corporate elite addicted to government tax breaks and an ideologically addled government which more than anything else is simply incompetent. It is a deadly combination — a sort of dumb and dumber team slowly dragging us backwards (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Shannon Gormley points out that human rights are meaningless in the face of a government which claims the entitlement to strip people of their humanity – which is exactly what the Cons are setting out to do: (W)hen Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander announced this year that, “Citizenship is not a right, it is a privilege,” most human rights advocates couldn’t take him seriously. He may as well have declared that the curvature of the earth is merely an optical illusion and the world is indeed flat, or that the (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

This and that for your weekend reading.

- Geoff Stiles writes that instead of providing massive subsidies to dirty energy industries which don’t need them (and which will only have more incentive to cause environmental damage as a result), we should be investing in a sustainable renewable energy plan: (W)hereas countries such as Norway have gradually reduced…subsidies as their oil industry matured, at the same time maintaining one of the highest royalty rates in the world, Canada has allowed its subsidies to remain at a relatively high level while many provinces have actually decreased royalties on oil company profits.

(Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: About That War Thing

I am dismayed over the general collective amnesia that has once more taken hold of political leaders and the public over the latest so-called world threat. In the solution being embraced, few seem to remember the abject failure of past incursions in the Middle East, incursions that only gravely exacerbated existing problems. It is as if hysteria has replaced critical thinking.

But my dismay is ameliorated, however slightly, by evidence that at least some have retained their faculties sufficiently to call into question the current prevailing ‘wisdom’ that says ISIS is a clear and present danger to all of us, (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Following up on yesterday’s column, Michael Harris offers his take on how Stephen Harper refuses to accept anything short of war as an option: Stephen Harper talks as if this is yet another of those good-versus-evil fables he is always passing off to the public as deep analysis and sound policy.

More honest and experienced minds make a more rational case. In the United Kingdom, the former head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove said that politicians are merely taking advantage of a distortion towards Islamic extremism. That distortion was branded on the (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

This and that for your weekend reading.

- James Meek observes that decades of privatization in the UK have eliminated public control over housing and other essential services – and that privatization takes far more forms than we’re accustomed to taking into consideration. And Rick Salutin offers his take on the latter point: Economist Mariana Mazzucato’s new book, The Entrepreneurial State, takes a bold step in “debunking” this fake construct. (Steve Paikin interviewed her on TVO this week.) She doesn’t just argue that public spending (on defence) was crucial in basic advances like computers and the Internet. That’s (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

This and that for your weekend reading.

- Andrew Jackson writes that public investment is needed as part of a healthy economy, particularly when it’s clear that the private sector isn’t going to put massive accumulated savings to use. Bob McDonald notes that we’d be far better off using public money to fund basic research instead of funnelling it toward the business sector. And Ed Keenan looks to Ontario for examples of how far more money is flowing into questionable corporate handouts than toward basic human needs.

- Meanwhile, Lana Payne exposes the Cons’ efforts to both downplay and reduce (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: Explaining Justin Trudeau

No matter what the Liberal leader says or does, his popularity ranks at a consistently high level. While part of the explanation for his standings in the polls surely lies in the Canadian people’s weariness with the Harper regime, a regime that has shown itself, through its practices of division, neoliberal politics and fear/hate-mongering, to be unworthy of public office, there must be more to it than that.

Rick Salutin, writing in The Star, offers up an interesting perspective in a piece entitled Paradoxical public art of seeming human. His thesis is that the more a person appears like (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Jenna Smialiek reports on Gabriel Zucman’s conclusion that the .1% has managed to prevent the rest of us from even approaching reasonable estimates as to how much wealth is being hoarded at the top. And Bryce Covert discusses how that carefully-cultivated lack of knowledge figures to distort policy debates.

- Meanwhile, Emily Schwartz Greco and William Collins note that even slight positive news for most of the population – such as modest employment growth in the U.S. – is being treated as a catastrophe by Wall Street since it could result in (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Robert Reich discusses the rise of the non-working rich as an indicator that extreme wealth has less and less to do with merit – as well as the simple policy steps which can reverse the trend: In reality, most of America’s poor work hard, often in two or more jobs.

The real non-workers are the wealthy who inherit their fortunes. And their ranks are growing.

In fact, we’re on the cusp of the largest inter-generational wealth transfer in history.

The wealth is coming from those who over the last three decades earned huge (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Jessica McDiarmid reports on the hazardous materials being shipped by rail across North America – and it’s particularly sad that Canadians can only learn about the risks being imposed on us through a U.S. guide. But lest we be under any illusions that our neighbours have an enviable record in managing their own risks, Claire Moser reports that even identified high-risk oil and gas wells in the U.S. aren’t being inspected.

- And of course, that figures to have much to do with the fossil fuel industry’s domination of politics (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Rick Salutin discusses how corruption has become endemic in the global economy as an inevitable consequence of me-first values: You wouldn’t have those CEO pig-outs absent neo-liberalism’s moral model: get rich not just quick but hugely. As Kevin O’Leary loves saying, and CBC plasters on its promos: God put us here to get rich. Note it’s a public broadcaster where he barks that and no one contests it. (I consider Amanda Lang’s ripostes pro forma.)

Since there’s no counter model (excluding, maybe, the pope) it becomes almost embarrassing not to grab for (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Polly Toynbee looks at how the UK is now treating children in need as investment opportunities to be exploited by investors, rather than people to be assisted. And Mark Taliano writes that privatization is a problem rather than a solution when it comes to providing public services.

- Geoff Leo uncovers still more stories about the abuse of temporary foreign workers. And David Climenhaga looks behind the business lobby’s insistence on being granted a low-wage, no-rights pool of disposable foreign labour to replace Canadians who may expect to have lives outside of work (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: The Ontario NDP: The Party of No Damn Principles?

That is the conclusion Rick Salutin recently came to in a column entitled Andrea Horwath’s right-wing populism.

Describing her as a right-wing populist, full out, Salutin explored the framework within which this unpleasant and inconvenient truth emerges:

She’s Rob Ford, thinking always about saving taxpayers money simplistically by cutting waste and public salaries, in order to hand out $100 Hydro rebates: that’s gravy train talk, province-wide.

She’s Mitt Romney appealing to his base when she invokes concern for “the job creators and small business,” i.e. the makers not the takers.

She’s Margaret Thatcher when she opposes any meaningful (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Morning Links

Assorted content for your Sunday reading.

- D.L. Tice writes that it’s becoming more and more difficult for the right to ignore the spread of income inequality – and the reality that only public policy, not faith in the market, can produce a more fair distribution of income. Which is particularly important in light of Doyle McManus’ recognition that an overly high level of inequality is unsustainable.

- Simon Kiss and Peter Graefe discuss the connection – and in some cases the tension – between populism and progressive values: Left populist campaigning around cost-of-living issues on significant non-discretionary (at (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: Shoulder Shrug

Like many of the commentators and bloggers whom I read, I regularly feel a deep frustration over the passivity of people. No matter what the problem, be it political, social, environmental or a host of others, too many have a ‘can’t-do’ reaction that debases so many in a myriad of ways. Indeed, it appears to be one of our species’ defining characteristics, one at which Canadians seem to particularly excel, if our current political landscape is any indication.

Perhaps we need a national shoulder-shrug symbol as an expression of the what-can-you-do paralysis that cripples so many, a condition that undoubtedly (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: The War Continues

The Harper cabal’s contempt for the environment, science, transparency, and knowledge in general has become the stuff of dark legend, provoking outrage both at home and beyond our borders. That a putative democracy can be behaving in such a totalitarian manner strains credulity. And the latest salvo against science, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ closing of seven of eleven regional libraries housing a priceless accumulation of aquatic research, is being regarded as a tremendous loss by both scientists and the general public:

Peter Wells, an adjunct professor and senior research fellow at the International Ocean Institute at Dalhousie University (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Morning Links

Assorted content for your Sunday reading.

- Emily Badger discusses how poverty affects people who are forced to use their physical and mental resources on bare survival: Human mental bandwidth is finite. You’ve probably experienced this before (though maybe not in those terms): When you’re lost in concentration trying to solve a problem like a broken computer, you’re more likely to neglect other tasks, things like remembering to take the dog for a walk, or picking your kid up from school. This is why people who use cell phones behind the wheel actually perform worse as drivers. It’s why air (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your Saturday reading.

- Rick Salutin writes about the need for the labour movement to better promote its contribution to the general public – and my only quibble is that I’d prefer to see a focus on what still can be (and needs to be) done rather than past victories: (W)hy don’t (unions) contest the battle for the public mind? I don’t know why but they don’t, or rarely do. They seem to have lost track of that tactic. It went missing in the Ontario teachers conflict this year, too. The unions made little or no effort (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: For Those Who Don’t Mind Gov’t Surveillance Because They Have Nothing To Hide

You might want to take a moment to read Rick Salutin’s thoughts on the implications of living in a country where environmentalists and others who oppose the government’s corporate agenda are regarded as terrorists.

As well, this Canadian Dimension piece might also give you pause.

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Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Rick Salutin highlights the dangers of relying on bulk data collection and algorithmic analysis as a basis to restrict individual rights: The National Post’s Jen Gerson interviewed a U.S. privacy expert. She asked about the PRISM program, by which U.S. agencies spy on Internet activity based outside the U.S., but which routinely rebounds back into the U.S. He said, “ . . . if we have intel that a reporter in Vancouver is a terrorist or whatever we’re going to ask for communications from the U.S. to Vancouver over (Read more…)