Showing posts with label doug cuthand. Show all posts
Showing posts with label doug cuthand. Show all posts

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Dean Starkman writes about the media's failure to see and report on the culture of corruption and manipulation that led to the 2008 economic meltdown:
Was the brewing crisis really such a secret? Was it all so complex as to be beyond the capacity of conventional journalism and, through it, the public to understand? Was it all so hidden? In fact, the answer to all those questions is “no.” The problem—distorted incentives corrupting the financial industry—was plain, but not to Wall Street executives, traders, rating agencies, analysts, quants, or other financial insiders. It was plain to the outsiders: state regulators, plaintiffs’ lawyers, community groups, defrauded mortgage borrowers, and, mostly, to former employees of financial institutions, the whistleblowers, who were, in fact, blowing the whistle. A few reporters actually talked to them, understood the metastasizing problem, and wrote about it. You’ll meet a couple of them in this book. Unfortunately, they didn’t work for the mainstream business press.
To read various journalistic accounts of mortgage lending and Wall Street during the bubble is to come away with radically differing representations of the soundness of the U.S. financial system. It all depended on what you were reading. Anyone “paying attention” to the conventional business press could be forgiven for thinking that things were, in the end, basically normal. Yes, there was a housing bubble. Any fair reading of the press of the era makes that clear, even if warnings were mitigated by just-as-loud celebrations of the boom. And yes, the press said there were a lot of terrible mortgage products out there. Those are important consumer and investor issues. But that’s all they are. When the gaze turned to financial institutions, the message was entirely different: “all clear.” It’s not just the puff pieces (“Washington Mutual Is Using a Creative Retail Approach to Turn the Banking World Upside Down”; “Citi’s chief hasn’t just stepped out of Sandy Weill’s shadow—he’s stepped out of his own as he strives to make himself into a leader with vision”; and so on) or the language that sometimes lapses into toadying (“Some of its old-world gentility remains: Goldman agreed to talk for this story only reluctantly, wary of looking like a braggart”; “His 6-foot-4 linebacker-esque frame is economically packed into a club chair in his palatial yet understated office”): it’s that even stories that were ostensibly critical of individual Wall Street firms and mortgage lenders described them in terms of their competition with one another: would their earnings be okay? There was a bubble all right, and the business press was in it.
- Meanwhile, Andrew Leach comments on the Harper Cons' own carbon bubble - as a government relentlessly pushing tar sands development seems utterly oblivious to the reality that further development could become non-viable based on a readily-foreseeable (and indeed necessary) change in climate policy.

- Rick Mercer rants about the Cons' fixation on income splitting - and how it shows they couldn't care less about anybody who doesn't share their own privileged lifestyle:

- And Doug Cuthand observes that First Nations have been particularly marginalized based on their failure to fit into the Cons' target demographics:
Funding has been eliminated to the following groups since the Harper government came to power: Sisters in Spirit, NAHO, the National Aboriginal Health Organization, The First Nations Statistical Institute and NWAC, Native Women's Association of Canada. Virtually all the aboriginal political organizations experienced funding cuts this year.

We cannot forget the failure of this government to honour the Kelowna Accord that would have injected more than $5 billion into a series of First Nations initiatives, including housing, education health and economic development.

In addition to the cuts to the political organizations, First Nations administrations have seen budget cuts ranging from 10 per cent to 25 per cent. A clause has been inserted in tribal council funding agreements that none of their grant allocations can be used for "advocacy or political activities."

How the Department of Colonial Affairs plans to police this is beyond me. You can't have a group of chiefs in a room without them discussing political issues.

The government views tribal councils only as service providers. In other words, it sees tribal councils replacing the Department of Indian Affairs and becoming the new Indian Agents. The days of participatory democracy are but a memory. The Harper government wants to control the agenda, and any group that provides an independent or contradictory voice is suspect.

In addition to the cutbacks to First Nations organizations, institutions and services, we now have the "Fair Elections Act" that is attacking our democratic rights as Canadians. The removal of the vouching for voters without proper ID could be problematic for First Nations voters.
This leads me to conclude that the Conservatives have given up on us as supporting them in the next election. They have cut our funding to the bone, and now they are reducing our impact at the ballot box. Is this Harper's war on Indians?
- Finally, Tim Harford notes that too much reliance on "big data" can lead to massive mistakes when institutions fail to recognize the limits on what a particular set of information actually tells us.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Saturday Morning Links

This and that for your weekend reading.

- In case anybody hasn't yet seen Andrew Coyne's takedown of anti-intellectual populism, it's well worth a read:
(T)here Mr. Ford sits, immovably: disgraced, largely powerless, but still the mayor. Is that his fault? The city’s? Or is it the fault of those who put him there in the first place, and sustained him through the long train wreck that followed: the staff who failed to report his misdeeds; the commentators who excused them; the partisans who ignored them. Disasters on the Ford scale, we are taught, do not just happen, and while the mayor’s endless supply of lies, manipulativeness and sheer chutzpah have helped to preserve him in office until now, he could not have done it alone.

And of all his enablers, the most culpable are the strategists, the ones who fashioned his image as the defender of the little guy, the suburban strivers, against the downtown elites, with their degrees and their symphonies — the ones who turned a bundle of inchoate resentments into Ford Nation. Sound familiar? It is the same condescending populism, the same aggressively dumb, harshly divisive message that has become the playbook for the right generally in this country, in all its contempt for learning, its disdain for facts, its disrespect of convention and debasing of standards. They can try to run away from him now, but they made this monster, and they will own him for years to come.

Get help? He’s had plenty.
But it's also worth noting that while Ford may make for a particularly vivid example of the dangers of protect-the-leader politics, a similar support system of toadies and apologists surrounds Stephen Harper and other figures as well. And while it may take longer for the problems with a complete lack of personal reflection and responsibility to emerge out of the office of a leader less self-destructive than Ford, we should be working to avoid them in any form.

- Rhys Kesselman and Lana Payne both make the case for a more secure CPP retirement system. And Payne in particular highlights why we shouldn't buy the Cons' excuse for refusing to strengthen the CPP:
This week, the federal government announced it will be in surplus, conveniently, in time for the next election. And despite it being two years away, the federal Conservatives have announced what they will be doing with that surplus. More tax cuts. Sigh!
Of course the current deficit is, in large part, due to failed tax-cut policies that left the cupboard bare. An empty cupboard means the federal Conservatives have a handy excuse to ignore legitimate needs in the country, like investing in a new Health Accord. That fits fine with their agenda regarding health
care: eroding Canada’s universal medicare system through sheer neglect.
So it is clear. The Harper government has taken care of corporate Canada, but what about people, citizens; in particular, future retirees?

Unfortunately and stupidly, the federal government continues to drag its heels with respect to the retirement crisis facing Canadians, and is doing nothing to address the real problems facing Canadian workers.
 - Doug Cuthand discusses the Cons' appalling choice to spend upwards of a hundred millions of dollar per year on legal fees to attack First Nations in court - rather than working on improving the lives of First Nations citizens.

- Finally, David DesBaillets reviews the opportunities and challenges facing the Quebec NDP.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Jordon Cooper writes about the need to understand poverty in order to discuss and address it as a matter of public policy.

- John Greenwood reports on Cameco's tax evasion which is being rightly challenged by the CRA - though it's worth emphasizing that the corporate income tax at stake would figure to include hundreds of millions of dollars at the provincial level. And CBC does an undercover investigation of the types of tax evasion schemes available for a price.

- Speaking of shady practices, a witness before the Charbonneau commission has identified Harper Senate appointees Leo Housakos and Claude Carignan as recipients of largesse from corrupt construction companies. And Carolyn Stewart Olsen has been caught wrongfully claiming Senate expenses for days when the chamber wasn't sitting.

- Which, given the Cons' track record, means that we can probably expect them to launch a fund-raising appeal asking for money to ensure that their own appointees don't continue doing what their appointees do.

- Scott Stelmaschuk chimes in about the Sask Party's attack ad against on Cam Broten. And Doug Cuthand expands on the significance of Brad Wall's potshots at First Nations:
What surprised me was that the Sask. Party went after the NDP for its support for sharing resource revenue with First Nations. Is the governing party planning to use First Nations as a wedge issue in the next election campaign? Has it written off support from the province's aboriginal community, which constitutes about 20 per cent of the population? I know that aboriginal issues often are the subject of coffee row and doorstep conversations during campaigns, but this is the first time I can recall the party in power singling out support for First Nations as a liability for the province.

Resource revenue sharing is an issue that's gaining traction across Indian country. Our people have seen resources developed in their traditional territory with very little or no benefit to them. While provincial and federal coffers are getting rich from these developments, our communities remain mired in poverty.
To see the Saskatchewan Party throw out resource revenue sharing as a negative policy is a short-term, knee-jerk reaction to a long-standing debt, and is a slight on the province's First Nations.
- And finally, Murray Dobbin asks who will save Canadian democracy from Stephen Harper - though it's well worth noting that the pattern of tying public hands through trade agreements is as much a core philosophy for the Libs as for the Cons.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- David Atkins comments on the ever-growing disconnect between the interests of a few making a killing on Wall Street and the lives of people stuck in the real economy:
(T)the entirety of supply-side economic thinking is based on the idea that inflating the assets of the wealthy will lead to more jobs for working people. If inflating middle-class assets like housing leads to dangerous bubbles while boosting stock values that largely benefit the rich does nothing for the greater economy, the entire edifice of conservative economics comes crashing down.

But it's not just the way conservatives describe the economy. Even progressives and liberals in Congress use language that suggests the link between Wall Street and Main Street still exists, but that it has simply become blocked or frayed. "Gains on Wall Street haven't reached the middle class," one often hears--as if it should naturally happen but for some evil gremlin getting in the way.

There's a reason that even liberal politicians won't say the chain has been broken, and a reason why the media largely refuses to even report on the phenomenon: the implications are terrifying. If helping Wall Street doesn't actually help Main Street, then the foundations of the capitalist economy are shaken to their roots. Capitalist economics is supposed to be a virtuous circle: companies generate profits which generate reinvestment, which generates employment, which boosts demand, which in turn generates higher profits. When certain industries take on too much weight or grow obsolete, or when supply outstrips demand, there are temporary but necessary corrections called recessions that keep the system in check.

But what if profits don't generate reinvestment and companies simply hold onto the loot? What if "reinvestment" takes the form of financialization rather than real product development? What if boosting productivity means mechanization that leads to job gains, rather than job losses? What if the few job gains that do accrue, happen in countries with such depressed wages that middle-class workers in advanced economies (the ones who create the demand for high-cost, profitable products) simply cannot compete?

And what if, in order to disguise this phenomenon, policy makers attempted to bribe the public with free trade agreements that lowered the cost of electronics and plastic toys while quietly destroying jobs? What if policy makers' next step in a failing wage environment was to boost asset prices like housing so that the currently middle-class homeowner could feel artificially wealthy, all while obliterating any prospect that the next generation could afford even a modest home in areas with strong job markets without help from their parents? What if the low-skill job market deteriorated to such an extent that young people needed an outrageously expensive college education or more--and only in the "right" fields--to attain any sort of job security, all while policymakers refused to lift a finger to help make that education more affordable? And what if policy makers made it easier for underwater Americans with failing wages to take on debt via credit cards, while doing nothing to prevent predatory lenders from taking advantage of them?

In that world, the virtuous circle of capitalism becomes a death spiral. Recoveries become shorter and more jobless. Recessions and depressions become longer, even as asset markets remain curiously "healthy." This happens a few times until eventually supply-side Wile E. Coyote runs out of demand-side cliff and comes crashing at terminal velocity into the canyon below.
- Thomas Walkom highlights the Harper Cons' sellout of Canadian sovereignty - including their willingness to declare U.S. police officers operating in our country to be above Canadian law:
The U.S. government wants American police agents working in Canada exempted from Canadian law. If this is a surprise, it shouldn’t be.
The secret American demand was unearthed this week by Canadian Press reporters looking into Ottawa’s much ballyhooed border deal with the U.S.
A 2012 RCMP briefing note obtained by The Canadian Press points out that Washington and Ottawa have been at daggers drawn over whether U.S. agents and police officers who commit crimes in Canada would be subject to Canadian law.
Under a 1951 treaty, even Canada has ceded some rights over U.S. and other NATO troops operating inside this country.
But the 1951 treaty does give Canada the right to arrest and try NATO soldiers or their dependants who have committed non-military crimes such as murder.
It seems now that the U.S. wants more. According to the RCMP memo, Washington is demanding that its police agents operating in Canada be entirely exempt from Canadian criminal law.
- And Dr. Dawg provides the appropriate response - if coupled with justified concern that the Harper Cons are perfectly happy to allow the U.S. to control Canada with impunity.

- Jeff Jedras offers his take on party discipline and the role of elected representatives:
I also think a larger issue is one of public perception, or misconception, about the role of the parliamentarian in our political process. Technically, we're electing an individual representative to speak for us and act on our behalf; there may be a party name on the ballot, but we're electing Joe Blow the individual. More and more though, people see the individual and secondary and irrelevant next to the party brand and vote based on the leader. This is because discipline has rendered the individual indistinguishable from their peers, further fueling the argument for discipline because the individual owes their position to the party and leader, not the people...
Several times during the debate, party leaders were called to “give” or “allow” more freedom for parliamentarians. It’s not something for leaders to give – parliamentarians have the freedom already. They just need to take it.
- Don Lieber discusses how Suncor's rip-and-ship plan includes a deliberate choice to cut down on safety checks and maintenance in order to extract as much bitumen as possible - presumably before the damage done by insufficient planning and maintenance catches up.

- Finally, Doug Cuthand criticizes the Cons' narrow focus on colonial history - pointing out the gap between a multi-million dollar campaign surrounding the War of 1812 and a complete lack of recognition of the treaty relationship between First Nations and the Crown.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Bill Curry reports on Jim Flaherty's arbitrary choice to declare that Canadians can't have any more CPP retirement security than the most callous provincial government in the country is willing to grant them. And Martin Regg Cohn rightly responds that our reaction should be to pressure Flaherty to instead look out for the interests of retirees present and future:
The real scandal is that, after two years of delay, concrete reforms are finally within reach. Yet Flaherty seems determined to sabotage the process.

A 30-page discussion paper obtained by the Star lays out a clear path for affordable action. Prepared by federal officials after a year of painstaking consultations with their provincial counterparts, the document is remarkably clear-minded:

Canada can, in fact, afford to shore up its disappearing pension system. A “modest” expansion of the solid but paltry Canada Pension Plan could plug the gaping holes in our outdated retirement security framework, the document shows. Ottawa and the provinces are well positioned to boost the CPP because current retirement payroll costs are far lower than in other industrialized countries — yes, including the U.S.

Most Canadians probably don’t realize the CPP pays only 25 per cent of the average industrial wage (currently about $50,000) — capping pension payments at a mere $12,500 a year. For the vast majority who lack private pensions, and who have not saved adequately, the gap is growing.
Instead of limiting CPP payouts to $12,500 a year currently, middle class Canadians could effectively double their annual pension down the road — virtually wiping out the shortfall in savings.

This could be achieved with a relatively modest increase in premiums of about $1,000 a year for the highest-paid employees (employers would pay half of the cost through payroll taxes), or about $540 a year (cost-shared with employers) for workers earning about $50,000 a year.
Cynically, Flaherty is now insisting on unanimity amongst the provinces for any CPP reforms (the actual requirement is only two-thirds of the provinces representing two-thirds of Canada’s population). That leaves Alberta with an effective veto, given its traditional resistance to reform.

After two-and-a-half years of huffing and puffing and procrastinating, it’s time for Flaherty, always with his elbows up, to stop ragging the puck and passing the buck. It’s also time for the provinces — and working Canadians — to put him on the spot.
- Mark Sumner discusses how the corporate sector's interests conflict with those of mere people - and why we thus shouldn't assume that policies aimed at boosting corporate profits actually have any social value:
(I)n Washington,...the wealthy have been able to use their accumulated power to see that the system encourages rather than corrects, the increasingly out of balance system. Because of this, thirty years of supply side economics has done more damage to our nation than every socialist, communist, or anarchist who ever lived. It's done what none of them could ever do. It's brought capitalism to the brink of failure.

That's where we are, on the brink. The wealthy have made a meal of the nation's economy. They've raided the larder. They've devoured the seed crop. Now they are searching for crumbs.

Take housing. The collapse brought on by speculative trading of mortgage derivatives left many Americans unable to afford their homes and flooded the market with foreclosures. However, in many of those areas where the foreclosures were most common, would-be home buyers have observed a strange phenomenon. Despite what should be a glut of houses on the market, prices on the homes actually put up for sale remain high. Real estate agents in many of the same markets complain that they are actually seeing a shortage of homes greater than when home sales were at their highest. Also, banks are forcing homebuyers to jump so many hurdles in the name of security, that they are often unable to make an offer in time to win a home. As a result, many Americans who are employed and have good credit, are still not able to find a house after months or years of searching. That might not be what you would expect from a perusal of classic economics texts, but it is what you would expect in our current system.

How can this be possible? It's possible because the same banks that homeowners must depend on to secure a loan are in direct competition with them. Hedge fund managers in the investment arms of banks are snatching up homes indiscriminately, buying them in bulk lots that swallow up potential homes by the hundreds and simply take them off the market. Why do this? Because, as institutions empowered to make money through almost any form of speculation, investment banks can optimize the availability of homes to maximize what they can bring in from rentals, sales, and long term holding. Not selling you a home is often a better bet. Bulk buys of homes allow banks to manipulate the housing market to their benefit across whole cities for a span of years. Why should they do anything else? It's not as if there's a barrier in place to separate banks that provide loans from banks that create speculative instruments. We took care of that.

What's happening with banks is just a part of the wealth shift that's taken place over the last thirty years. A shift that's allowed a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population to control so much capital, that this financial black hole stands a very good chance of simply ripping the system apart.

It's a monopoly on everything.

In this monopoly, you have nothing that they want. You own nothing that they value. You make nothing they desire. Your knowledge, your experience, your willingness to work... mean nothing. There are cheaper hands available. They see no issue with holding out until you give up on a decent wage, on decent working conditions, on a decent life. You want financial institutions to think long term? They are. They're thinking that, long term, you'll give them anything they want in exchange for almost nothing at all.
- But there are still promising signs of resistance to that perpetual corporate overreach. And Doug Cuthand's column on the Idle No More movement points to one example which could significantly shape Canada's future at a time when some of the best checks on a Con majority determined to run roughshod over anybody outside the resource sector may come from First Nations' consultation rights.

- Finally, Bruce Stewart suggests that if the Cons wanted to feign the slightest interest in their own accountability, some consequences for ministerial incompetence might be an important start.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sunday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Danielle Martin discusses the importance of federal involvement in Canada's public health care system:
Whose job is it to co-ordinate health-care reform in Canada? Canadians expect our federal government to play that role. We want to know that wherever we live, we will have access to an equivalent basket of services. We want to know that our governments are buying in bulk whenever possible, maximizing savings. And we want assurances that some basic standards are being met from coast to coast to coast. Health care may be a provincial responsibility, but we know there’s a need for a family to co-ordinate its efforts.
(T)he 2012 federal budget cut Health Canada, and said nothing about meaningful change. The only nod to improving the system was a three-year, $6.5-million study on cost-effectiveness in health care.

But that ignores the mountains of evidence we already have about how to improve our health-care system while making it more efficient. It’s becoming baffling to Canadians as to why our federal government wouldn’t co-ordinate a national pharmacare system that could save billions. Everyone knows you get a better deal if you buy in bulk.
Canadians are still optimistic about our health-care system. Most of us believe it’s the best in the world. We’re happy with a publicly funded system. A lot of us think that it takes care of our most vulnerable, and that it will be there for us if we’re ill or injured.

It makes you wonder why the federal government wouldn’t want to fight for that system, and lead the transformation needed to keep Canada ahead of the pack on health care. Canadians take pride in their health-care system — so should their government.
- Doug Cuthand highlights some of the important and inexpensive programs the Cons are attacking in the name of austerity (but with the poorly-veiled goal of eliminating accurate information on inequality in Canada) - with First Nations in particular standing to suffer from the Cons' bias:
The budget speech is all about putting a good face on what's in the document, with the nasty details buried to be dug out later. We learned from the budget speech that the First Nations Statistical Institute is gone. Next came the announcement that the National Health organization will shut down in June because its funding was cut completely.

As well, the National Council of Welfare has been scrapped. It was the only federal agency that had an exclusive mandate to improve the lives of poor people.

So what's happening? The Harper government is using austerity as an excuse to clean house and get rid of programs that were either supported by the Liberals or could provide valuable information to advocacy groups. In the process, aboriginal people are becoming collateral damage.
Unfortunately, we have a federal government that is more interested in spin and deception than in consultation and democratic institutions. The Aboriginal Healing Foundation is gone in addition to NAHO and the statistical institute. One can't help but wonder where this will lead us.

The prime minister's reaction to the housing crisis at Attawapiskat was a clear indication that he can't tolerate bad news. He blamed the community and its leadership. He sent in an auditor and put the onus on the community. Will this be the reaction to other First Nations that speak out about their sorry living conditions?

Now we have to wait for the next shoe to drop. The word in the colonial office is that the government will make an announcement next week about grants and contributions. This is the money that flows to the First Nations and political organizations. Can we expect cuts? You bet we can. Just how deep the cuts will go is the question.
- Meanwhile, Dave points out the Centre for Plant Health, another of the casualties of the Cons' war on science. And Tim Harper raises his own concerns, while noting that the NDP is well positioned to claim the title of party best placed to provide responsible government if the Cons' cuts lead to predictable health and safety consequences.

- Crawford Kilian optimistically thinks there's a conservative soul to be saved through a splinter party from the Cons.

- Susan Delacourt proposes that political marketing and advertising be subject to publicly-enforceable standards.

- Finally, Dr. Dawg recognizes that there's only so much we can accomplish through a political system which the Cons are entirely happy to trash. But I'd see that problem as part of the reason why unofficial gathering places and a consistent flow of information to counter the Cons' publicly-funded propaganda - whether online or otherwise - are absolutely needed to help muster a movement to change course.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sunday Afternoon Links

Miscellaneous material to end your weekend.

- Doug Cuthand makes the case for First Nations resource ownership as a matter of historical right:
When the numbered treaties were negotiated in Saskatchewan in the 1870s, the resources under the ground were never discussed. At the time the government had no idea that Western Canada was a treasure trove of oil, potash, uranium and base minerals. The only mineral it was interested in was coal, which was the fuel for the railways.

The government's vision was to open the West to agricultural settlement. The oral history on the First Nations side includes a question from a chief in the Treaty 4 negotiations, who asked about what lay under the ground. He was told that the government only wanted land to the depth of a plow, and his question would be dealt with at a later date.

The issue was never discussed in any other subsequent treaty negotiations. So, ownership of the minerals and the wealth that lay under the earth remained unaddressed and wasn't part of the treaty agreements. Any lawyer will tell you that if an item is silent in a contract, it remains with the original owner.
Successive federal governments have simply assumed they owned everything. The 1930 Natural Resources Transfer Agreement gave the mineral rights to the three Prairie provinces, without any consideration of the rights of the First Nations. At that time our leaders raised the issue, but they were unable to get a fair hearing. They were basically ignored.
As far as First Nations people are concerned, we own 100 per cent of the mineral wealth in Saskatchewan. However, we're willing to negotiate the province's share. That sounds reasonable to me.
- TC Norris points out Ari Berman's critique of the austerity class looking to punish society at large for the (supposed) benefit of creditors:
Taken together, the various strands of the austerity class form a reinforcing web that is difficult to break. Its think tanks and wonks produce a relentless stream of disturbing statistics warning of skyrocketing debt and looming bankruptcy, which in turn is trumpeted by politicians and the press and internalized by the public. Thus forms what Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent calls a Beltway Deficit Feedback Loop, wherein the hypothetical possibility of a US debt crisis somewhere in the future takes precedence over the very real jobs crisis now.

Even President Obama’s new jobs plan—a long overdue break with austerity-class orthodoxy—has been pitched in the context of deficit reduction. Every debate over measures to improve the economy begins with the question “How much will it cost, and can we afford it?” rather than “How many jobs will it create, and how will it help the country?” Far from possessing the solution to our economic crisis, the austerity class represents a major impediment to finding one.
- Mark Sumner traces how a corporate bait-and-switch has served to eliminate secure pensions, then use talk about "ownership" to lock workers into worse and worse alternatives.

- And the Cons are facilitating both that process and a systematic upward redistribution of wealth with their tax-free savings accounts. But hey, it's at least reassuring to know that at least some of the Cons' actions achieve their intended results.

- Finally, the first decision in the Canadian Union of Postal Workers' effort to challenge the Harper Cons' draconian back-to-work legislation doesn't deal with the substance of the law to a great degree. But it's still noteworthy to have a judicial pronouncement that the union has "overwhelmingly established the existence of irreparable harm" as we continue the political debate over the Cons' anti-labour policies.