Friday, June 22, 2012

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- I wouldn't want to take Dan Gardner's conclusion as to the effects of power as an immutable truth - as he himself notes in pointing out means of minimizing its risks. But it's certainly an apt description of what's happened since the Harper Cons took power:
The government could have responded by making a show of listening to the opposition and Conservative backbenchers, picking a few innocuous amendments, and passing them. Doing that would have cost the government essentially nothing. But it may have softened the complaints a little. And, at a minimum, it would have taken away the inevitable opposition attack line of “They wouldn’t change so much as a comma! They’re treating Parliament like a rubber stamp!”

But they didn’t do that. Instead, they methodically and relentlessly voted down every single one of hundreds of proposed amendments, no matter how modest or reasonable they may be — making themselves look immodest and unreasonable and seeming to confirm that they do, indeed, expect Parliament to rubber stamp legislation.

Strictly from the perspective of the government’s self-interest, this was astonishingly dumb.

And there’s been a lot of that lately.
(If a) powerful person lives in a bubble, insulated from criticism, surrounded by bobbleheads and bootlickers, his judgment will only get worse. And worse. Until he is making decisions like, hey, let’s announce a plan to make ordinary people work longer to receive Old Age Security in a speech to an audience of billionaires at a Swiss resort! Or, let’s announce changes to Employment Insurance without making so much as a single phone call to the premiers whose provinces will be most affected! Or, let’s automatically reject any amendment suggested by the opposition and ram the bill through even though it would seem to confirm the nasty accusations being levelled at us! 
Power corrupts. And it makes the powerful stupid.
Smart leaders know that, of course. It’s why they disperse and decentralize power, and create checks and balances. It’s why they seek out contrary views and dissonant information, why they consult, negotiate, and compromise.
- And Errol Mendes also comments on the Harper Cons' aversion to checks, balances and accountability.

- Meanwhile, it's certainly worth noting that Dean Del Mastro's denials of any knowledge of Elections Canada's investigation aren't any more plausible than most Con spin. But the part I find most interesting is the Harper-esque relationship between the financial agent who's actually responsible for campaign finances, and the candidate who denied any knowledge whatsoever of what was happening:
Ritchie’s affidavit describes how he and another Elections Canada investigator, Al Mathews, went to Peterborough to interview Daniel Rosborough, the financial agent of Del Mastro’s electoral district association.
According to Ritchie’s sworn statement, Rosborough told them “He had contacted Dean Del Mastro after I had called him and that he was advised by Dean Del Mastro that he (Dean Del Mastro) would handle the matter with Elections Canada.”
And, Ritchie said, Rosborough told them, “He (Daniel Rosborough) would not provide access to the EDA’s records or be interviewed unless authorized to do so by Dean Del Mastro.”
The two men had arranged to interview Rosborough about the association’s finances two weeks in advance of their Dec. 15 meeting, but when they got to his Peterborough office, he refused to be interviewed and told them to talk to Del Mastro directly.
- Robert Skidelsky points out that the long-promised link between corporate-owned technology capable of replacing difficult work and greater leisure time has never materialized.

- Finally, Jonathan Douglas discusses the link between library services and poverty alleviation in the UK - a particularly important connection at a time when appointees who don't seem to have any interest in the latter are showing their lack of interest in the former:
Libraries have always had a bias to the poor. It sat at the heart of their founding vision. In the past fifteen years this has been rediscovered in the context of social inclusion policy. The challenge is to put this into practice at a time when libraries’ resources themselves are being savagely cut in many places.
However the prize is great: If libraries can effectively work with individuals and the communities most at risk of poverty, they can turn lives round, boost relative social mobility and even stop the newly enlarged poverty footprint in the UK becoming intergenerational. They will also demonstrate their indispensible role in UK policy. They will demonstrate that their statutory role is no whim, but recognition of how libraries make society fairer and richer, in every sense.
The evidence  for libraries’ impact on poverty is compelling,  particularly in combating the inequalities associated with child poverty.  The Effective Provision of Preschool Education research and more recently the Avon Longitudinal  Study of Parents and Children have demonstrated the power of libraries in closing the one year gap in school readiness that exists between rich and poor children and which lays the foundations for many later inequalities.
However the effectiveness of libraries against the poverty agenda is dependent on the extent to which they commit to this audience as a priority, and the extent to which they provide services which  tackle poverty. Learning and literacy need to be at the heart of this approach.

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