Friday, May 23, 2014

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Linda McQuaig writes that while the Cons don't want to bother listening to the public about much of anything, they'll always make time for a disgraced former advisor lobbying on behalf of oil barons: RCMP allegations,... [Bruce] Carson was working for the Energy Policy Institute of Canada (EPIC), described in the media as a “non-profit group formed by business organizations in the energy sector.”

This rather benign description fails to convey what EPIC really is: a lobbying vehicle for dozens of extremely wealthy, powerful fossil fuel companies, including Enbridge, Imperial Oil, Shell, Suncor and Irving Oil, as well as the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers — all hell-bent on developing Alberta’s tar sands.

The important story here isn’t the alleged illegal lobbying behaviour of Carson (who is banned from lobbying for five years after serving in government). The real story is the reception he receives when, now representing Big Oil, he approaches the top man in the PMO, Nigel Wright, someone he doesn’t know personally, with a document laying out what Big Oil wants.

According to emails disclosed by the RCMP, Wright promises to read the document over the weekend, and urges Carson to “feel free to give me a call at any time.”
Any interest group getting that kind of easy access in the PMO should raise eyebrows.

But the fossil fuel industry is no ordinary interest group — its interests run counter to the interests of humanity, if continuing to live comfortably on earth is what humans want to do.

Even as climate disasters occur with growing frequency — including the worst flooding in Serbia in a century, killing 43 people this week — the Harper government relentlessly promotes Big Oil’s development plans, guts our environmental review processes and aggressively audits environmental groups, muzzles government scientists and undermines international UN-sponsored efforts to rein in climate change.

So here’s the bottom line about the Harper government: those defending the earth are muzzled and harassed, while those willing to destroy the earth for profit are warmly invited to “call at any time.”
- In a similar vein, Josh Wingrove catches the Cons lying about the state of U.S. greenhouse gas emission regulations as an excuse to encourage further climate pollution from the tar sands. And Gary Doer confirms that the Cons have no interest whatsoever in regulation emissions except as a means to secure approval for pipelines. Which means that nobody looking for health, safety and the environment to be protected has much reason to waste time dealing with the Cons - as evidenced by the reality that every single First Nation who gave the Cons the benefit of the doubt about a new tar sands monitoring program has now walked away from the table.

- Meanwhile, the Parkland Institute studies the connection between wages, unionization and inequality in Alberta, while PressProgress neatly boils down how a lack of labour organization has made Alberta the most unequal province in Canada.

- Finally, Joseph Stiglitz reminds us why burgeoning income inequality is so significant and so damaging. And Gary Engler discusses the ends we should expect our economy to serve - in contrast to its current orientation toward further enriching those who already have the most:
At its most basic level the economy is the sum total of the things people do to provide themselves food, shelter and other things that enhance life, such as recreation, healthcare, entertainment and art. So, the answer to our question should be clear-cut: The point of an economy is to serve people.

But the reality for most of us is exactly the opposite.
Rather than serving us, “the economy” has become an excuse to treat many people badly, to create unhealthy products, to damage our environment, to justify exploitation, to steal from other people and even to wage war.


The primary reason is that too much of the economy is run by and for a small minority of people. As [Piketty]’s statistics show, actual existing capitalism (as opposed to the phoney idealized system taught in school) concentrates ownership of wealth in the hands of a few people. This wealth produces both income and power, so much of which has gone to the richest 1% that any effective democracy is threatened.
Piketty argues for a tax on wealth and that might be a good starting point, but if we really want to fix this we must go further. When the problem is too much power in the hands of a few the obvious solution is to distribute that power more widely.

We should take away control of the economy from the greedy minority and share it amongst all of us. A good name for such a system is economic democracy.

The exact form such a system might take would probably depend on a country’s history, culture and level of development.  But essential elements would be: one-person-one-vote instead of one-dollar-one-vote decision making in all aspects of the economy; workplace democracy instead of master-servant relations and community control instead of corporate control.

If we want an economy that serves all people we must create a system of democratic governance to ensure that happens.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:19 a.m.

    What's wrong with the MB & SK New Democrats? Doer and Broten haven't missed a chance to shill for Keystone XL, undermining the solid, principled stand of Mulcair and the federal caucus. Not to let the BC wing off the hook either - they're struggling too with presenting a consistent position on tar sands pipelines. All of which makes it much harder for the federal party to take advantage of Trudeau's incoherence.