Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wednesday Morning Links

Assorted content for your midweek reading.

- Carol Goar laments the fact that Canadian governments at all levels have been able to get away with defiantly doing nothing to combat poverty:
(Diane Finley) would not still be minister of human resources, after four years, if her words didn't reflect Prime Minister Stephen Harper's wishes. He has said repeatedly that he wants nothing to do with the design or delivery of social programs.

But Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff is no champion of the poor, either. Since taking the reins in 2008, he has disowned his party's comprehensive poverty reduction plan and replaced it with three measures (so far): a modest caregiver's benefit aimed primarily at middle-class families, a small increase in funding for school nutrition programs and a still-to-be-unveiled national child-care strategy.

Things aren't much better at the provincial level. All of the premiers have decided, to varying degrees, that reducing poverty is unaffordable. Dalton McGuinty's poverty reduction plan for Ontario, unveiled with great fanfare in 2008, has degenerated into a succession of studies, deliberations and excuses. The province's social assistance rate ($592 per person) now stands 59 per cent below StatsCan's low-income cut-off.

In Toronto, Mayor Rob Ford is promising to slash spending and get the city's hands out of taxpayers' pockets.

Politicians at all levels are taking their cue from the public. Canadians either want them — or allow them — to overlook those tossed aside by market forces.
- But Chris Hedges notes why it's entirely predictable that a class of economic and political elites won't take others' interests into account unless they're forced to:
The liberal class is discovering what happens when you tolerate the intolerant. Let hate speech pollute the airways. Let corporations buy up your courts and state and federal legislative bodies. Let the Christian religion be manipulated by charlatans to demonize Muslims, gays and intellectuals, discredit science and become a source of personal enrichment. Let unions wither under corporate assault. Let social services and public education be stripped of funding. Let Wall Street loot the national treasury with impunity. Let sleazy con artists use lies and deception to carry out unethical sting operations on tottering liberal institutions, and you roll out the welcome mat for fascism.

The liberal class has busied itself with the toothless pursuits of inclusiveness, multiculturalism, identity politics and tolerance—a word Martin Luther King never used—and forgotten about justice.
We have tolerated the intolerant—from propaganda outlets such as Fox News to Christian fascists to lunatics in the Republican Party to Wall Street and corporations—and we are paying the price. The only place left for us is on the street...The powerful, with no check left on their greed and criminality, are gorging on money while they busily foreclose our homes, bust the last of our unions, drive up our health care costs and cement into place a permanent underclass of the broken and the poor. They are slashing our most essential and basic services—including budgets for schools, firefighters and assistance programs for children and the elderly—so we can pay for the fraud they committed when they wiped out $14 trillion of housing wealth, wages and retirement savings. All we have left is the capacity to say “no.” And if enough of us say “no,” if enough of us refuse to cooperate, the despots are in trouble.
- Meanwhile, for those still trying to pretend there's hope of the Cons being reasonable (I'm looking at you, David McGuinty), Dan Gardner reminds us what the Harper Cons think of civility and restraint:
For the prime minister and his core team, there is no such thing as honest and honourable disagreement. One either supports Stephen Harper or one is the enemy -and enemies must be defeated by any means necessary.

In the 2006 election, the Conservatives issued a press release with the headline "Paul Martin Supports Child Pornography?" It was retracted. But when Stephen Harper was asked about it, he didn't apologize. He attacked. "I'm not going to, in any way, give the Liberal party any break in its record on child pornography."

This was the template for what was to come. One of the lowest points in Canadian political history was reached when the prime minister stood in the House of Commons and insinuated that the Liberals were opposing certain anti-terrorism provisions because a Liberal MP's father-in-law may have been involved with terrorists.

Naturally, this no-limits mentality is not limited to the political arena.
The change isn't solely Stephen Harper's doing, of course. It's also the product of American influence.

The prime minister and the people around him have all followed American politics their entire lives, they all have close connections with American politicos, and many have actively participated in American politics. In the American system, the idea of political neutrality scarcely exists. Senior civil servants are political appointees. Judges are identified as Republicans and Democrats and the Supreme Court routinely splits along political lines when ruling on politically contentious cases. There is no Governor General or Queen above politics -nothing is above politics. Indeed, the closest thing to neutrality in American politics is "bipartisanship," which is quite a different creature.

It's also important that the Harper Conservatives are connected to, and influenced by, the American conservative movement. As Rick Perlstein showed so brilliantly in Nixonland, that movement was shaped in important ways less by the sunny nature of Ronald Reagan than the dark insecurities of Richard Nixon. Conservatives are outsiders. They have to fight dirty because power lies with a ruthless and entrenched elite. It's civil war. And it never ends: Even in the middle of the Bush years, when Republicans controlled the White House, Congress, and the Supreme Court, conservatives sincerely saw themselves as hard-pressed and persecuted insurgents.

Just like the underdogs of the PMO.
- And for those looking for a handy example, look no further than Peter Langille.

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