Saturday, January 22, 2011

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted reading to start your weekend.

- Chrystia Freeland's piece on the rise of a new global elite is well worth a read, particularly in noting that how the anationality of the rich has led to exploitation of the public everywhere:
the rich of today are also different from the rich of yesterday. Our light-speed, globally connected economy has led to the rise of a new super-elite that consists, to a notable degree, of first- and second-generation wealth. Its members are hardworking, highly educated, jet-setting meritocrats who feel they are the deserving winners of a tough, worldwide economic competition—and many of them, as a result, have an ambivalent attitude toward those of us who didn’t succeed so spectacularly. Perhaps most noteworthy, they are becoming a transglobal community of peers who have more in common with one another than with their countrymen back home. Whether they maintain primary residences in New York or Hong Kong, Moscow or Mumbai, today’s super-rich are increasingly a nation unto themselves.

The rise of the new plutocracy is inextricably connected to two phenomena: the revolution in information technology and the liberalization of global trade. Individual nations have offered their own contributions to income inequality—financial deregulation and upper-bracket tax cuts in the United States; insider privatization in Russia; rent-seeking in regulated industries in India and Mexico. But the shared narrative is that, thanks to globalization and technological innovation, people, money, and ideas travel more freely today than ever before.
- It isn't much surprise that the Cons would think there's no problem setting up a "politically acceptable" donation system linked to tax returns, ensuring that the idea of donating is linked to one of their core fund-raising messages. But to see whether Tom Flanagan actually takes the idea seriously, shouldn't someone ask about setting up the same type of check-off through, say, a mandatory hospital intake form?

- Speaking of which, Thomas Walkom points out that the Cons' health care agenda is far from hidden:
Like Cameron, our prime minister says he is a big supporter of medicare. He brags that he and his family uses standard medicare doctors rather than the pricey executive clinics preferred by some politicians.

But at the same time, Harper’s Conservative Party platform contains important caveats.

It says provinces should have “maximum flexibility” to deliver health care. This is a hint that Conservative governments won’t be overly worried if provinces try to introduce two-tier care.

It also calls for “a balance” between public and private delivery. Currently, virtually all Canadian hospitals are public.

More to the point, it talks of limiting Ottawa’s use of the federal spending power in areas of provincial jurisdiction such as health.

If that platform promise were honored, medicare – a social program based upon Ottawa’s ability to withhold federal funds from provinces that don’t adhere to national standards – wouldn’t exist in its present form.

So, no. Harper’s agenda isn’t hidden -- for health care or anything else. Like Cameron’s, it is all visible. You just have to look. Carefully.
But Walkom actually manages to miss the best example - as the normal Harper spin about supporting the Canada Health Act is thoroughly contradicted by the fact that his government has chosen not to enforce it.

- Finally, while a court challenge to the Cons' decision to overrule the CRTC on telecom ownership might not be the ideal ground to set limits on cabinet power, it's well worth noting how the government's arguments might apply to a ridiculously large range of other situations:
Lawyers for Ottawa argue cabinet’s power under the legislation is largely unbounded. “The Supreme Court has affirmed that the power exercised by [cabinet] under section 12 … is virtually unbounded,” the Attorney-General’s office said in a submission to the federal court.
Which looks to make for just one more example of the Cons claiming that executive discretion trumps actual laws.

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