Saturday, June 16, 2012

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Bruce Johnstone and the Star-Phoenix editorial board both join the voices decrying the Cons' decision to throw parliamentary democracy under their omnibus budget bill. And Gerald Caplan points out the Harper Cons' more general tendency to silence dissenting views:
(T)here’s little doubt the government was deliberately crippling many of Canada’s best and brightest, including many groups who upheld the country’s good reputation abroad that the Harper government was cavalierly undermining. In any event, the groups weren’t targeted because of their actual achievements, which were often exemplary.

Something entirely different was going on here. In the words of Amnesty International Canada’s Alex Neve, this was part of the government’s systematic “campaign against advocacy and dissent,” a campaign that has only deepened since last year’s majority election. And the message Stephen Harper was sending home from Europe was that there’s more to come. Your government is after dissidents, folks.
There is a fundamental issue of democracy here. There should be no illusions about the almost unlimited power of a majority government in Canada. Barack Obama, the most powerful man in the world, has nothing like the unilateral power of Stephen Harper. It may have taken a little longer for the Prime Minister to pass his omnibus “budget” than he liked, but pass it will, as will everything else he wants to do. None of the defunded organizations will get their money back. None of the silenced watchdogs will get their voices back. Environmental groups will soon feel the full wrath of this petrol-fixated government.
- In keeping with this week's theme of recognizing the consequences of reckless resource development, Nicholas Kusnetz reports on the damage a poorly-regulated oil sector is inflicting on North Dakota:
According to data obtained by ProPublica, oil companies in North Dakota reported more than 1,000 accidental releases of oil, drilling wastewater or other fluids in 2011, about as many as in the previous two years combined. Many more illicit releases went unreported, state regulators acknowledge, when companies dumped truckloads of toxic fluid along the road or drained waste pits illegally.
- It's certainly interesting to see a few leading proponents of sabermetrics speaking out about how the philosophy can be applied to politics. But the most important point to be made is likely that there's more at stake in political strategy than one-time wins and losses:
James likened the idea of trying to win an election through get-out-the-vote drives as "analogous to trying to win a pennant race by doing better in the close games." A team that won 75 games and lost 87 over the course of a season could get to 90 wins if they changed their win-loss record in one-run games from 26-29 to 41-14.

"It can happen," James said. "But it's a lousy strategy."

"When people disagree with you, what you ultimately have to do is persuade people to agree with you -- period," he added. "You can't ultimately dodge defeat by winning close elections."
- Finally, pogge notes that the Cons' strategy of devolving power away from Parliament toward ministers' office hasn't given them quite as much room to govern without accountability as they seem to have hoped. And Dean Del Mastro, Con ethics spokesperson, is in yet more trouble.

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