Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- No, the aftershocks of an e. coli outbreak which has unfortunately given both Canadians and export markets reason for concern about the safety of some of our major food sources aren't about to end simply because the Cons are again pretending everything's fine. And the president of the union local representing XL Foods workers points out one of the major steps needed to ensure problems aren't allowed to fester due to managerial neglect:
Under the UFCW’s collective agreement, O’Halloran said, line workers can inform a supervisor only if they spot a safety issue, but the decision about whether to slow the line remains with management.

He said he wants the company to allow workers to go public with their food safety concerns if they are ignored by XL. It’s a demand he will reiterate at a press conference Wednesday alongside other labour leaders and Alberta New Democrat leader Brian Mason.
- Meanwhile, pogge and Pat Atkinson rightly call for accountability from the Cons - however certain it is that they'll offer nothing of the sort. Thomas Walkom connects the health issues caused by unsafe food to those arising from fast-tracked drugs. David Climenhaga worries about the destruction of the brand of Alberta beef. And Duncan Cameron fits the Cons' false claims about new inspectors into a broader theme as to the need for more facts in politics.

- But then, Lawrence Martin points out why our more cynical politicians seem to think that lying is a cost-free strategy:
Truth shaving of a serious kind has become so commonplace in politics today that it is expected. In the news business anything that is expected, that happens often, is of declining news value. And so the media over time has lost its sense of outrage when politicians wilfully distort or lie. The media don’t hold politicians to as a high as a standard as they used to. You’ll rarely, for example, see a front page headline saying “Cabinet Minister Caught Up In Baldfaced Lie.” Criticisms will usually come in the body of the story or on the inside pages. Political strategists realize the story will be one-day wonder, forgotten the next. No big deal.
In the case of the Harper government, numerous cases of willfull deceit have been documented by the press. Rarely a week goes by without some damning report, this week’s example being the government’s decision to close down water-monitoring stations in the north. Prior to this, we saw Conservative attacks slamming the New Democrats for favouring a carbon tax. They don’t. They favour a cap and trade system. Costs for cap and trade – a policy initially favoured by the Conservatives themselves – can get passed on to the consumer just as costs from the Conservatives’ regulatory measures to combat greenhouses gasses can be.
But as election results have shown, the Harper Conservatives, at least to date, haven’t paid much of a price for in-your-face duplicity. So why should they change their approach?
In trying to hold the government to account, it is usually the media that bears the burden. The media can either go along with the fall in standards or they can take a much stronger stance. Journalists have to find a way to respond that embarrasses offending politicians to a degree that makes them fear for their reputations. As of now the politicians pay no such price and, as can be seen in the presidential campaign, the downward spiral picks up speed.
- And indeed the Cons seem to be trying to outdo one another in how blatantly they mislead the Canadian public.

- Finally, Alex Himelfarb comments on the state of our democracy:
(G)rowing inequality makes it almost impossible to imagine ever formulating a shared sense of the good life. The very idea becomes a stretch given the profoundly different ways in which the super rich, the poor and the majority experience life. They breathe different air. Their kids go to different schools. They live in different neighbourhoods. Money always matters, but in an increasingly privatized world, it has never mattered more.
At the top, the extraordinary gains of a small global elite have given them an outsized capacity to shape the agenda and at the same time to secede from much of society. And even as extreme inequality undermines equality of opportunity, the myth of meritocracy emboldens many to believe that they are entitled to all they have. Down the economic scale, just as the very rich want to see taxes cut to hold on to what they have, so too do the majority want to withhold their money from a state they no longer trust. Even if recent events have shaken confidence in the promise of markets, they have not restored confidence in governments — and why should they? Look at the lost manufacturing jobs, tainted meat, deteriorating institutions and hollow politics. And, in a perfect self-fulfilling prophecy, taxes are cut, the state shrinks and becomes less trustworthy, the services it provides less relevant and increasingly shoddy, and the distrust grows and curdles into cynicism.

The result: a marketized politics of propaganda and pandering. It’s understandable then that, increasingly, those who want something better are looking outside of conventional politics: to their communities or global causes or to the streets. It was striking how many of the participants in the Quebec student protests found a new solidarity — and expressed a new sense of the common good — in their activism. Clearly some do care about our democracy, but many, especially young Canadians, have given up on the impoverished version offered up by our politics. That is both understandable and dangerous. The new activism and rebuilding of an independent civil society are essential but not enough.

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