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Accidental Deliberations: New column day

Here, on how we should take Germany’s rightful concern over investor-state dispute settlement provisions as an opportunity to reevaluate what we expect to accomplish through trade and investment agreements such as CETA.

For further reading…- Peter Clark, Michael Geist and Scott Sinclair discuss Germany’s objections to new trade agreements with Canada and the U.S. in particular, while reminding us why we should be wary of handing undue power to the corporate sector as well. And Nathalie Bernasconi-Osterwalder and Rhea Tamara Hoffmann discuss (PDF) Germany’s past experience with ISDS in detail.- Meanwhile, Patricia Ranald notes that (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Gar Alperovitz suggests in the wake of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century that it’s long past time to reconsider who controls capital – and make a concerted effort to democratize that control: The name of the game — Piketty’s book fairly screams it — is capital: who gets to own it, benefit from it and derive political power from it. Accordingly, it may be of some interest to note that in significant part because of the pain and failure of our current reality, many of those local laboratories of democracy (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: Thomas Walkom Misses The Mark

One of the reasons I subscribe to The Toronto Star is the quality of its columnists. Tim Harper, Martin Regg Cohn, Thomas Walkom, Heather Mallick, etc. rarely disappoint. However, no one is perfect, and today’s column by Walkom is not up to his usual critical standards.

Entitled Conservatives’ downfall could be Stephen Harper’s dismissive tone, the piece seems to suggest that if Harper were nicer, people wouldn’t perceive his government in nearly as bad a light as they do:

When the obituary is finally written on Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government, it is the tone that will stand out.

(Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

This and that for your weekend reading.

- Tavis Smiley discusses the need to speak realistically about the causes and effects of poverty, rather than simply dismissing real human costs as somebody else’s fault and problem. And similarly, Tim Stacey comments on the appalling “empathy gap” – which sees upper-class mouthpieces complaining about the cost of luxuries while claiming that the poor have it easier in trying to scrape together the essentials of life.

- But for the most compelling indication as to the consequences of policies designed to attack rather than assist those in need, CBC reports on a (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: A Brief Programming Note

Since spring finally seems to be arriving in my place on the planet, it seems like a propitious time to take a day or two off from this blog and contemplate other matters. In the interim, I recommend the following for your perusal:

The Star’s Thomas Walkom writes about democracy, voting and past democratic reform measures in his column today.

A series of thoughtful letters from Star readers provides an ample basis for some serious contemplation of climate change.

And finally, on the oligarchy that has essentially subverted supplanted democracy, the Mound of Sound recommends this interview with Thomas Krugman, (Read more…)

Alberta Diary: Advice to progressives: Don’t airbrush Jim Flaherty’s record out of sympathy for his family

The late Jim Flaherty tries on the traditional new shoes just before delivering his 2012 federal budget. Below, some of Mr. Flaherty’s friends and colleagues: former Ontario premier Mike Harris, in whose government he also served; Prime Minister Stephen Harper; Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.

Decent people naturally feel sympathy with the loved ones of any person taken unexpectedly from life, as just-retired federal Conservative Finance Minister Jim Flaherty was last week.

We are naturally more inclined to experience such feelings of vicarious loss when the person who has died is charming and engaging – as Mr. Flaherty was said by (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: I Come Not To Praise Flaherty

I have thus far avoided writing about Jim Flaherty’s passing for a very simple reason; it is difficult, if not impossible to keep separate his family’s personal loss with the man’s record as a politician. Yet two pieces I read in yesterday’s Star convinced me otherwise, and they allow me to offer my own views without disrespect for the dead.

The first, a fine piece of writing by Jim Coyle, is entitled Jim Flaherty gave up so much to serve us. His thesis is this:

…our politics would … improve mightily if the Canadian public saw politicians as human beings much (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Ezra Klein comments on the U.S.’ doom loop of oligarchy – as accumulated wealth is spent to buy policy intended to benefit nobody other than those who have already accumulated wealth: On Thursday, the House passed Paul Ryan’s 2015 budget. In order to get near balance, the budget contains $5.1 trillion in spending cuts — roughly two-thirds of which come from programs for poor Americans. Those cuts need to be so deep because Ryan has pledged not to raise even a dollar in taxes.

As a very simple rule, rich (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

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 (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Thomas Walkom writes that the Cons’ economic prescriptions are doomed to fail because they’re based on a fundamental misdiagnosis: (T)hat half of the Conservative theory is correct. There is still persistently high unemployment.

But the other half, the study found, does not hold water: With the possible exception of Saskatchewan, Canada does not suffer from a surfeit of unfilled jobs.

In reaching this conclusion, the parliamentary watchdog looked at evidence compiled by the Bank of Canada and the Conference Board of Canada, a centre-right think tank.

This evidence shows that an undue (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: A Timely Reminder About Taxation

Responding to a column the other day by the Star’s Thomas Walkom, letter-writer Bruna Nota of Toronto offers us some timely reminders:

Re: Tax a dirty word in these Thatcherite political times, March 15

Yes, most unfortunately, the culture has developed in Canada, fully supported by all big media to depict taxes as evil rather than as a necessary social contribution to the community and to future generations. As the inscription on the Washington Internal Revenue Services building says: “Taxes are what we pay for a civilized society.”

We need to correct the timidity of our elected representative and (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Paul Krugman points out how the U.S.’ corporate elites are agitating to make sure that any economic recovery helps only those at the top, rather than reaching most workers in the form of wage increases: Suddenly, it seems as if all the serious people are telling each other that despite high unemployment there’s hardly any “slack” in labor markets — as evidenced by a supposed surge in wages — and that the Federal Reserve needs to start raising interest rates very soon to head off the danger of inflation.

To be (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Thomas Walkom points out that many Canadians can expect to lose jobs without any social supports due to the Cons’ focus on political messages over real-life impacts. And Blake Zeff offers a reminder that while progressive economic policy may be receiving more attention over the last year, it’s always been extremely popular among the public (even as it’s been ruled out by policy-makers who focus primarily on serving corporate interests): Way back in 1992, President Clinton ran an explicitly populist campaign, telling voters, “The rich get the gold mine and the middle (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: New column day

Here, on how James Moore’s disinclination to care about his neighbours is par for the course from the Harper Cons – and how we should learn the lesson about caring and compassion that Moore and his party are so studiously avoiding.

For further reading…- Again, Sara Norman’s original story is here, while PressProgress and Laura Payton both helped to put it in context. – My recap of Moore’s other events from the week is drawn from his activity in Monday’s Hansard, as well as his office’s most recent statements as of the time the column was (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Morning Links

Assorted content for your Sunday reading.

- Joan Walsh discusses how employers are exploiting the U.S.’ wage supplement policies by taking the opportunity to severely underpay their employees – resulting in both insecure income and employment, and significant public expense to reduce the poverty suffered by full-time workers. And Lana Payne comments that the Cons’ anti-worker policies figure to further exacerbate inequality in Canada as well.

- Meanwhile, lest anybody doubt the disproportionate effect of corporate power in politics, Juliet Eilperin writes that the Obama White House delayed the introduction of health, safety and environmental regulations until after (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Thomas Walkom points to Ontario’s experience with Kellogg’s as yet another example of the dangers of basing economic policy on blind faith that handouts to big business will benefit workers and the general public: Like Kellogg, the auto companies justify their apparent double-dealing by citing the need to boost profits.

Indeed, in market terms, their actions are perfectly rational.

Why not take whatever you can from governments when subsidies are on offer? And why not stiff those same governments if, later on, you can make more by operating elsewhere?

For governments, however, (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: Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Toby Sanger highlights how the Cons (following in the footsteps of the Libs before them) have already slashed federal government revenues and expenses to levels not seen since the first half of the 20th century – even as they continue to call for more blood: Total federal government spending as a share of the economy is projected to drop to a 14% share of the economy by 2018/19.  This would be the lowest since at least 1948.  Because the government has tied the federal public service up in knots, actual spending will (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Thomas Walkom notes that the Harper Cons’ latest EI cuts look to amplify the pain of unemployment in Ontario while serving the broader purpose of forcing workers to conclude their federal government doesn’t care if they go hungry: The great irony is that these days hardly any jobless qualify for EI to begin with.

Latest figures from Statistics Canada show that only 37.6 per cent of unemployed Canadians qualified for employment insurance in August.

In part, that’s because the nature of work is changing. More people have the kind of jobs (such (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: What U.S. Steel Shutdown Reveals About Harper

While all of us continue to be riveted by the ever-deepening pit into which the duplicitous Prime Minister is digging himself over the Duffy scandal, other events are equally revelatory of Stephen Harper’s dark psyche. One of them is the announcement by U.S. Steel that it is permanently shuttering its steel-making capacity in Hamilton.

Briefly, in 2007 the Harper government permitted the takeover of the troubled Stelco by U.S. Steel on the promise of certain undertakings, including employment guarantees, which I talked about in previous posts. Those guarantees were never honoured, and despite the fact that the government (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Thomas Walkom writes that the Harper Cons’ much-hyped economic record in fact offers ample reason to demand a change in government: The Conservatives insist that the economy is their strong suit. And for a while it was. In 2011, voters bought Harper’s pitch.

But voter patience can last only so long. For too many Canadians, life is not improving. Income gaps are becoming more blatant. Wages are sluggish. Students are taking on massive debts to prepare themselves for jobs that, in the end, fail to materialize.

Those lucky enough to have jobs — (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Tom Bergin reports on a predictable corporate attack on the very idea of government sovereignty – as tax evaders are insisting that their own demand for “certainty” in the availability of tax havens should trump the ability of tax authorities to assess where revenue should be taxed: The companies said the existing practice of recognizing inter-company transactions gave business greater certainty and encouraged trade by helping ensure the same profits were not taxed more than once.

Business groups were also cool on a proposal tabled in June by the Group of Eight (G8) (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

This and that for your weekend reading.

- Thomas Walkom notes that the CETA isn’t particularly about trade, but instead serves to enshrine yet again the principle that investors come before citizens.

- Lana Payne highlights the contradiction between the promise that giveaways to the corporate sector will lead to good jobs, and the reality that employers are looking more and more toward exploitative structures such as unpaid internships and temporary foreign workers.

- Meanwhile, Konrad Yakabuski sees the Cons’ set of minor consumer baubles as a poor substitute for economic development which would actually help working Canadians.

- Finally, (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Pat Atkinson writes that governments at all levels should be setting up realistic fiscal plans to deal with a large group of retiring boomers – not artificially slashing revenues and increasing costs. And Rick Smith laments the fact that the Harper Cons are squandering an opportunity to address Canada’s existing problems due to their insistence on creating new ones: “Seizing” the moment would mean tackling the challenges that today’s Canada faces: stagnant or falling wages for middle- and lower-income Canadians; crises in Aboriginal education, food, housing, and missing and murdered women; high youth (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- thwap highlights the cycle of austerity, stagnation and decline that’s marked the past few decades across much of the developed world. And Thomas Walkom recognizes that the economy is actually one of the Cons’ most glaring weaknesses – at least, if one thinks that workers count for anything: The truth is that Canada’s economy is not doing well. Official unemployment may be hovering around the 7 per cent mark (last month it was 6.9 per cent). But official unemployment figures do not take into account those who are underemployed or who have (Read more…)