Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sunday Morning Links

Assorted content for your Sunday reading.

- Joan Bryden reports on the Cons' latest abuses of majority government power, this time in allocating and shuffling around the few opposition days already available in Parliament for their own purposes. But it's worth noting the difference between the responses of the affected parties.

On the one hand, Marc Garneau's answer falls into the familiar trap of hoping that the public will rally around the Libs' sense of grievance at being mistreated by the Cons:
Liberals say government House leader Peter Van Loan told his Liberal counterpart, Marc Garneau, that the less-than-optimal timing was deliberate, payback for the Liberals using their last opposition day to hammer the government over the impact of budget cuts on food safety.
What apparently sparked Van Loan's ire was that Liberals had compared the cuts to those made by the former Conservative government of Mike Harris in Ontario, which they linked to the deadly E. coli outbreak in Walkerton. Liberals helpfully pointed out that a number of senior ministers in the Harper government were also members of the Harris cabinet, including Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.
"That 'went too far' and so wings had to be clipped," interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae wrote Friday in a blog post, recounting Van Loan's explanation for the timing of the Liberals' next opposition day.
Rae cited the incident as one of many examples that Canadians are "now living in a democracy with dictatorial tendencies."
On the other, Nathan Cullen's response paints the Cons themselves as missing the point by engaging in such petty efforts to derail debate:
"Did they give us a short day as a punishment? Whatever. You now, they're in the bubble," shrugged NDP House leader Nathan Cullen.
"They can punish away. OK. What were we trying to do? We were trying to be accountable to Canadians. So, who had a good week, who had a bad week is always the question at the end of these kinds of things."
In Cullen's opinion, "punishing us doesn't make them look strong; it makes them look weak," as though the government is afraid of open debate on its own policies.
- Leah DeVellis and Kelly McParland are both rightly appalled by Vic Toews' latest effort to vilify prison inmates - this time by attacking the already-meager income inmates are entitled to earn while incarcerated.

- Ezra Klein neatly juxtaposes how U.S. tax policy designed to disproportionately benefit the wealthy has only added to already-worrisome growth in equality.

- Meanwhile, if we're looking for examples as to how a failure to take health into account as an important social goal leads to results which everybody can agree to be disastrous, the return of whooping cough as a result of short-sighted budget cuts and anti-science hysteria surely fits the bill.

- Finally, I'm not quite sure how Thomas Friedman missed the pattern of anything and everything being up for sale for advertising purposes - and he still seems to miss the point that there's plenty of appetite to pay taxes to support the services people need. But having clued in, he serves up some well-justified concerns:
“Over the last three decades,” he states, “we have drifted from having a market economy to becoming a market society. A market economy is a tool — a valuable and effective tool — for organizing productive activity. But a ‘market society’ is a place where everything is up for sale. It is a way of life where market values govern every sphere of life.”
Why worry about this trend? Because, Sandel argues, market values are crowding out civic practices. When public schools are plastered with commercial advertising, they teach students to be consumers rather than citizens. When we outsource war to private military contractors, and when we have separate, shorter lines for airport security for those who can afford them, the result is that the affluent and those of modest means live increasingly separate lives, and the class-mixing institutions and public spaces that forge a sense of common experience and shared citizenship get eroded. 
Throughout our society, we are losing the places and institutions that used to bring people together from different walks of life. Sandel calls this the “skyboxification of American life,” and it is troubling. Unless the rich and poor encounter one another in everyday life, it is hard to think of ourselves as engaged in a common project. At a time when to fix our society we need to do big, hard things together, the marketization of public life becomes one more thing pulling us apart. “The great missing debate in contemporary politics,” Sandel writes, “is about the role and reach of markets.” We should be asking where markets serve the public good, and where they don’t belong, he argues. And we should be asking how to rebuild class-mixing institutions. 

1 comment:

  1. Even a minority government can shuffle opposition days. I remember the Martin government did that to delay a confidence vote allowing them time to entice a floor crosser.