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Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

This and that for your weekend reading.

- The Economist discusses how a tiny elite group is taking a startling share of the U.S.’ total wealth: The ratio of household wealth to national income has risen back toward the level of the 1920s, but the share in the hands of middle-class families has tumbled (see chart). Tepid growth in middle-class incomes is partly to blame; real incomes for the top 1% of families grew 3.4% a year from 1986-2012 while those for the bottom 90% grew 0.7%. But Messrs Saez and Zucman reckon the main cause (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: More Of The Same

In today’s Star, Thomas Walkom explains why the U.S. China climate deal is not likely to have any impact whatsoever on Harper’s ongoing and egregious contempt for all things related to climate change: For this prime minister, only one player in the climate change debate matters: the petroleum industry.

When Harper talks about dealing with climate change in a way that protects jobs and growth, he means jobs and growth in the Alberta tarsands.In part, this is sheer politics. Alberta is the Conservative heartland. If Harper were to be seen as neglecting Alberta, he would risk triggering (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Jenny Uechi and Warren Bell expose Canada’s embarrassing place as the only government participating in a climate-denial group pushing for a dirty war against the planet. But despite the Harper Cons’ worst efforts, there’s some good news on the climate front – as the use of solar energy is booming in the U.S., while a new bilateral deal between the U.S. and China is rapidly eliminating the Cons’ traditional excuses for blocking international agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

- Kathryn May reports on some of the vital public services (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- The Globe and Mail reminds us why we should demand the restoration of an effective census, while Evidence for Democracy is making a public push toward that goal. And Tavia Grant discusses how the destruction of effective data collection is affecting Canadian workplace: Reliable, complete and up-to-date labour market data is a crucial component of government policy, influencing everything from educational priorities to immigration.

Yet, fallout from faulty or missing labour market information has made headlines on a number of issues this year alone. It’s been hard to pinpoint the size of the (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: Reassuring Legislation For Xenophobes and Bigots, A.K.A. The Harper Base

I don’t know who composes the names for government bills these days, but they are blatantly selective in their intended audiences. The latest proposed piece of Harper legislation leaves little doubt that its target audience is the red meat supporters of our current regime: the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act (Bill S-7).

Hmmm, interesting title. Cultural – can’t be referring to Canadians, since we are reputed by many to have no culture. Barbaric – outside of cultural outliers like Luka Magnotta and Paul Bernard, no barbarism amongst our native-born. And clearly the ex-soldier who attempted to blow up (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Robert Reich discusses the right’s utter lack of – and aversion to – empathy as either a personal or political value. Bob Norman reports on a particularly galling example of that phenomenon, as Fort Lauderdale has begun arresting people for feeding the homeless. And CBC reports on one of the systemic effects of a government which couldn’t care less about the people under its jurisdiction, as Saskatchewan is seeing a drastic increase in people having to rely on food banks.

- Speaking of the Saskatchewan Party’s contempt for social issues, Simon Enoch highlights (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Paul Krugman writes that the ultra-wealthy’s contempt for anybody short of their own class is becoming more and more explicit around the globe – even when it comes to basic rights like the ability to vote: It’s always good when leaders tell the truth, especially if that wasn’t their intention. So we should be grateful to Leung Chun-ying, the Beijing-backed leader of Hong Kong, for blurting out the real reason pro-democracy demonstrators can’t get what they want: With open voting, “You would be talking to half of the people in Hong Kong who (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: Thursday Morning

H/t Toronto Star

The events of yesterday were undeniably tragic. A young man, Nathan Cirillo, died. As I noticed on a Facebook posting by my cousin’s wife, Nathan was a friend of their son with whom he played organized hockey. Six degrees of separation and all that, I guess.

Nonetheless, I have to confess that when I heard the news on CBC radio, my first thoughts were twofold: how these events could work to Harper’s electoral advantage (I could immediately envisage the attack ads juxtaposing Harper’s “strong leadership and stand against terrorism” against Trudeau’s talk about searching for the “root (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- The Star points out what the Cons have destroyed – including public assets and program spending – in order to chip away at the federal deficit caused in the first place by their reckless tax slashing. And Thomas Walkom discusses how their latest “job” scheme does nothing but handing free money to businesses, while Angella MacEwen notes that Canada as a whole is hundreds of thousands of jobs short of reaching its pre-recession employment rate.

- Meanwhile, Bruce Cheadle writes that the Cons’ attempt to build an economy solely around resource exploitation has (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: New column day

Here, on how the politics and economics of energy production are changing around the world – and how Canada is being left behind due to governments focused solely on pushing oil interests.

For further reading…- Again, Vivek Radhwa discusses the progress that’s being made in developing – and broadly implementing – renewable alternatives to fossil fuel energy. And Clean Energy Canada studies how we’re missing the boat. – Aaron Wherry reminds us that Stephen Harper was at least once willing to talk about climate change – but only apparently when he saw no political choice. And again, there’s (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your weekend reading.

- Lana Payne examines the Cons’ economic record and finds it very much wanting: Inequality has deepened under Mr. Harper’s watch, job quality has declined, wages have stagnated, economic growth has been anemic, social protections have been reduced while corporate profits and CEO pay soar.…(E)mployment and labour force participation rates are lower today than they were in 2006, part-time employment is up, corporate taxes are significantly lower (22.1 per cent in 2006, 15 per cent today) business capital investment saw no increase and has been static at 19.1 per cent of (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: The Perspective That Age Bestows

Unlike some, I do not bemoan the passage of time. True, I am of that generation known as ‘the baby boomers,’ but while I am at times mildly bemused about certain things (‘How can it be 50 years since the Beatles first played in Toronto?’), I was never beguiled by the notion that we would be young forever. Yes, I try to keep fit and hope to be active throughout the rest of my years, but ceding my place to others in both the workplace and the larger world bothers me not in the least. As Margaret Wente (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: The Murky Lessons Of History

Blindingly clear for some, obscure and ambiguous for others, the lessons of history need to be given close scrutiny these days, especially by our chickenhawk prime minister. Like so much else that his regime brays and sputters about, Stephen Harper’s recent tough talk about the Ukraine and the Middle East conceals, minimizes, dismisses or entirely overlooks some very inconvenient truths.

Perhaps still smarting over having missed out on the first Iraqi war, which he supported, Harper seems to be eagerly embracing the latest opportunities fate has brought him. Fortunately, The Star’s Thomas Walkom is there to remind him and (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: Harper’s Policy On Gaza: The Canadian Toll

While the cost of the Israeli invasion of Gaza is almost incalculable in turns of human suffering and loss of life, there is another casualty in all of this, one that is far less obvious and, in the eternal scheme of things, I suppose, of lesser consequence: Canada’s psyche and reputation, both of which have been perhaps irremediably scarred.

The Mound of Sound has written a great deal lately on the ongoing carnage, and he has been hard-hitting in his condemnation of the leaders of all three major Canadian federal parties. All have either overtly or implicitly consented to (Read more…)

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…)