Sunday, May 04, 2014

Sunday Morning Links

Assorted content for your Sunday reading.

- D.L. Tice writes that it's becoming more and more difficult for the right to ignore the spread of income inequality - and the reality that only public policy, not faith in the market, can produce a more fair distribution of income. Which is particularly important in light of Doyle McManus' recognition that an overly high level of inequality is unsustainable.

- Simon Kiss and Peter Graefe discuss the connection - and in some cases the tension - between populism and progressive values:
Left populist campaigning around cost-of-living issues on significant non-discretionary (at least in the short-term) expenses like heating and auto insurance provide a way to speak to these voters. Yet this kind of pocketbook politicking, for all of its populist potential in taking on insurance companies and big natural resources firms, remains profoundly individualist in its potentials.  It closes down spaces to make a more collective argument, namely that paying for public services through taxes is the best deal going for working people. 

This presents a deep challenge for social democrats, who, at their core, are marked by their commitment to the notion that the state can be – and ought to be – a solution to pressing social problems, rather than being a source of problems.  This presents both an opportunity and a challenge for social democrats. On the one hand, tax increases on privileged groups can easily fit with a populist rhetoric.  This might be electorally viable and might even make fiscal sense and create the opening for Canadian social democracy to advance, rather than stand still. On the other hand, an argument for tax increases on the citizenry as a whole in order to finance public services for the citizenry is the opposite of populism. It caters to enlightened – not narrow – self-interest and avoids catering to desires for punishment of the enemies of the undivided “people”. 
- Lana Payne observes that the widespread abuse of temporary foreign workers shoud come as no surprise to anybody who's paid attention to the issue, while Michael Smyth tells the story of the 21-year-old whistleblower who exposed McDonalds' misuse of the program. Ishmael Daro notes that the exploitation of temporary workers represents just a small part of a meaner immigration policy. And Rick Salutin writes that the use of TFWs only serves to make matters worse for workers of any point of origin.

- Jesse Brown muses about the relative lack of outrage against online surveillance in Canada, while pointing out that the answer likely lies in what we don't yet know:
America’s outcry over the NSA’s overreach occurred in response to specific revelations. In Canada, we still don’t have the foggiest notion about the nature or extent of the surveillance state — we just know that we are, to some extent, living in one. Canadians have been criticized for not taking action against these intrusions. But how could we when we know so little?

Still, Canadians haven’t been totally complacent. Canadian Journalists for Free Expression has been monitoring and reporting on information about CSEC as it breaks. The intrepid Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto has attacked the problem from a different angle, demanding answers from Rogers, Telus, Bell and 16 other telecommunications companies as to what information they share with authorities and under what circumstances. Meanwhile, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association has launched a class-action lawsuit against CSEC, on behalf of every Canadian who has used a wireless device since 2001. The idea is, if CSEC has not been spying on all of us, let them prove it.

If authorities refuse to answer reasonable questions based on legitimate concerns, we mustn’t stop there. We can go around CSEC and its masters, we can remind them constantly that they owe the public answers, and we can make ourselves available to anyone out there who, like Edward Snowden, possesses information that their consciences won’t allow them to conceal.
- And finally, Daniel Wilson notes that the Cons' cynical education legislation looks like just the latest example of a hostile federal government seeking to divide and conquer Canada's First Nations.

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