Sunday, September 02, 2012

Sunday Morning Links

Assorted content for your Sunday reading.

- Plenty of commentators are using the Labour Day weekend to discuss the place of workers in Canadian society. Sid Ryan notes that depressed wages are bad news for Canada's economy generally. And Morna Ballantyne and Steven Staples point out the need for unions to reach out beyond their membership - particularly to highlight how collective bargaining helps workers throughout the workforce.

- Meanwhile, Lorne Gunter longs for a future in which there's no such thing as a good job.

- Tonda MacCharles offers an Ontario perspective on the Cons' gutting of environmental assessments. But it's worth wondering whether the Cons' decision to decree that regulators have no business actually evaluating environmental impacts from a policy perspective will allow outside parties to play a greater role in shaping public opinion - such as, say, the experts who have concluded that tanker traffic off the B.C. coast poses unacceptable environmental risks. (Handy hint: I wouldn't want to be the one trying to justify allowing tankers to operate based on the claim that there's only a 73% chance of a major spill.)

- Finally, David Roberts raises some issues for journalists trying to cover parties who are outright hostile toward the idea that truth matters (among other norms which are normally required for a democracy to function):
The right term is “post-truth politics.” What Kevin is struggling to describe is that Romney’s campaign is not contesting the truth value of its assertions so much as contesting whether truth value itself is relevant.

One effect of the radicalization of the right over the last few decades has been the discovery of just how much our politics is held together by norms rather than rules. There’s no rule you can’t filibuster every bill in the Senate by default; there’s no rule you can’t interrupt a president’s State of the Union; there’s no rule you can’t hold the routine debt-ceiling vote hostage. It simply wasn’t done. But if you shrug off the norm and do it anyway, there’s nothing to stop you.

Similarly, it seems that the lip service given to truth in politics is but a norm itself, one with increasingly tenuous hold. Political campaigns have always lied and stretched the truth, but when caught in a lie, would typically defend themselves (claim it was actually true), retract, or at the very least stop repeating the lie. Either way, the presumption was that truth-telling had some moral force; one ought to tell the truth, even if that commandment was often honored in the breach.

What’s creepy about the Romney crew is that they don’t do any of those things. They don’t deny, they don’t stop, they just don’t care at all. What they’ve realized is that, given today’s hyper-polarization and fragmented media, there’s no practical risk to lying. It doesn’t hurt them, in terms of getting votes, so why shouldn’t they do it?
And lest there be any doubt, the combination of systematic fabrication and dishonesty and planned interference with democratic processes is just as much the modus operandi of the Harper Cons as the Romney Republicans.

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