Saturday, August 06, 2011

On warning signs

Shorter Jim Flaherty:

Of course economic trouble elsewhere in the world will have negative consequences for Canada. But we won't let that stop us from pushing the same bad advice that's done so much to cause it.

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- L. Aaron Wright nicely contrasts the fabricated hysteria over Nycole Turmel against the choices of the Libs and Cons:
Where was the outrage when Stephen Harper tried to recruit Mario Dumont of the ADQ in Quebec, a leader of the Yes side in the 1995 referendum?

Where is the outrage at Maxime Bernier, a Tory cabinet minister, who worked for the Parti Quebecois government as an adviser to then Quebec finance minister Bernard Landry?

I don’t recall any outrage when the Liberals welcomed Jean Lapierre back into their fold. He was made minister of Transport. Mr. Lapierre was not just a former Bloc MP, but also a Bloc co-founder.

All of these politicians supported Quebec sovereignty. Ms. Turmel never has. She is a federalist.
- Kevin Drum serves up some numbers on why unions matter - reminding us why the corporatist right so fears both:
Among men, if you account only for the effect of individual membership in unions, (inequality) would be about a fifth lower (at 1973 unionization rates), which agrees pretty well with previous estimates. But if you also account for the effect of unions on surrounding nonunion employers (who often raised wages to compete with union employers and to avert the threat of unionization in their own workplace), the effect is larger: Unionization at 1973 levels would decrease income inequality by a full third...

The effect of unionization on women is less dramatic because women were never unionized at the same rate as men. For them, increasing returns to education are a bigger factor in rising income inequality than deunionization. For men, however, deunionization has had a huge impact...

(D)eunionization has allowed income inequality to rise partly because unions are negotiating wages for fewer people than they used to, and partly because unions no longer have the power to force the political system to pay attention to the needs of the middle class.
- Meanwhile, Ken Lewenza points out another corporate scam that's transferring money to the least scrupulous businesses at the expense of workers, as corporations are making a habit of simply shutting down without warning and leaving their employees out in the cold when it comes to money already earned:
The abrupt closure of three IQT call-centre operations in Oshawa, Trois-Rivières and Laval has left 1,200 workers reeling, and government agencies scratching their heads. How can a company (in this case a multi-million dollar, multi-national telecommunications contractor) simply pack up and leave, literally overnight? How can they walk away from legal obligations, washing their hands of back pay and severance? Seriously, how?

Weeks have gone by but no one, as of yet, has any real answers to these questions.

Governments appear incapable of even tracking down basic information about the company, who’s in charge and whether or not they’re actually bankrupt.

There’s an assumption among Canadians that there must be rules and regulations holding corporations to account. But this latest fiasco is a rude awakening.

Indeed, we’ve seen this storyline many times before. In 2009, 2,400 non-union auto parts workers at Progressive Moulded Products (PMP) in Toronto faced a similar ordeal — returning from vacation only to learn that their employer had fled town, taking their separation payments with them. CAW members have seen it first-hand, too, at companies like Collins & Aikman in Scarborough, Aradco and Aramco in Windsor, and others.

Each case prompted a public outcry and a spontaneous fight back. Workers demanded what was legally owed to them. But after fighting long and hard, they inevitably end up with less than they are owed.
It is both immoral and economically counterproductive to allow deadbeat corporations like IQT to commit these wrongs with impunity. As a society, we must take a hard line with employers who think they’re beyond the greater good.
- Finally, the National Post rightly notes that recognition of both human rights and the negative consequences of gratuitously draconian policy is particularly important in dealing with targets who lack any public defenders. But it'll take plenty of reminders on that point to counteract the Cons' deliberate moves to shield themselves from criticism for analogous actions by declaring that nobody should care about the victims anyway.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Musical interlude

Yuri Kane - Around You

Friday Afternoon Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Gerald Caplan calls out the non-stop and substance-free gotcha politics facing the NDP since the public started recognizing that it had a legitimate chance to form government:
It never stops and never will. The moment the NDP seems even close to power, the knives come out.

The election was May 2. The NDP's rise began barely two weeks prior. Here's what it faced in these past three months:

"MassageGate." Suddenly, just before the election, it became necessary for the Sun media to smear Jack Layton over a massage he had 15 years earlier, and for Christie Blatchford to repeat the smear, even agreeing it was a smear.

"LasVegasGate." The NDP makes history in the election. It sweeps Quebec and emerges as Official Opposition. But its new MPs are immediately dismissed as a joke. Like a gang of bullies picking on someone who can't defend herself, reporters fall all over themselves to mock a candidate who spent part of the election in Las Vegas. She becomes a symbol of the immaturity of the new NDP MPs, even though few reporters had ever spoken to a single one of them. Having finally met them, these stories abruptly ceased.

"Jack'sCancerGate." Within seconds of Mr. Layton's announcement that he was temporarily stepping aside because of a new cancer but intended to return in the fall, the burial of the NDP began. The NDP was finished without Mr. Layton, even though he hadn't resigned. He was irreplaceable. Day after day for an entire week, the rhetorical question got asked and re-asked: Can the NDP make it Jack-less? The answer was seen to be self-evident.

"ComeCleanAboutCancerGate." Out of nowhere, the cry goes up that Mr. Layton must divulge everything about his cancer. What was he hiding? The world had a right and a need to know every single detail. Soon the rest of the pack picked it up. Everyone wanted to know something that was none of their business and of no conceivable use if they did know.

And now, finally, "TurmelGate"...

It's only a matter of time until Quebec realizes the province and its interests are no longer a priority for much of Canada, especially for a right-wing government that Québécois repudiated and where the west and Ontario dominate. For all of us who can't envision a Canada sans Quebec, there is dangerous potential here. Unexpectedly, the NDP has emerged as the best federalist bridge between Quebec and the rest of Canada. Jack Layton and Nycole Turmel are the embodiment of that bridge.
- And T.C. Norris also weighs in on Turmel:
(N)ot only did Turmel spurn the Bloc, she did so to run for a party that historically had never had much electoral success in Quebec. So she supported a federalist party in a circumstance where she might have reasonably expected that to be a political liability.

The fact that many in Quebec such as Turmel spurned the pro-independence party for a federalist party should be celebrated not mocked. Turmel is a long-time NDP member and supporter, her true allegiance. Her opponents in any case include many with previous sovereignist backgrounds: Liberal Jean Lapierre, who served in Martin's cabinet, was a co-founder of the Bloc, and Maxime Bernier, who is now back in Harper's cabinet, worked for PQ Premier Bernard Landry, a very serious supporter of Quebec independence.

Turmel represents exactly what we want to see Quebecers do about federalism, Mr. Rae, embrace it.
- Meanwhile, Caplan's list takes on an even darker tone when juxtaposed with the Cons' latest abuse of Abousfian Abdelrazik - as the declaration that Canadians should mindlessly trust their government's spin as to which undesirables should be arbitrarily stripped of all rights seems far too easily transferable to the Cons' willingness to play up any issue they can for political gain.

- Finally, as Aaron Wherry notes, Canadians for Tax Fairness are making the case as to why we should feel good about paying the reasonable price of civilization.

Friday Morning Links

Assorted and environmentally-themed content to end your week.

- Lloyd Alter highlights the Cons' contrasting treatment of environmental scientists (who are being fired in droves) and oil lobbyists (who figure never to lack for work).

- And allies around the world are starting to take notice of the Cons' dirty reputation.

- Fortunately, though, the oil lobby's advantage in money seems to be compensated for in creativity. While the tar sands lobby engages in clumsy manipulations to try to sell its case publicly, the Yes Men managed a slick PR move to smoke out the difference between anybody concerned with truly "ethical oil" and those who just want to paper over the entire industry's abuses.

- And finally, Susan Riley notes that we've managed to make strides on at least some environmental issues such as smog:
There is another factor at play, although it is often downplayed: the cumulative impact of government regulation. Starting in 1991, with the signature of a Canada-U.S. acid rain accord, there has been a steady decline in various pollutants in central Canadian air, not only those linked to acidification of lakes.

Last March, on the 20th anniversary of the pact signed by Brian Mulroney and Ronald Reagan, Environment Canada released an update, trumpeting a one-third reduction in smog-related pollutants and elimination of 50 per cent of sulphur dioxide since the accord was signed, along with declines in nitrous oxide and particulate emissions.
We have, figuratively and literally, breathing space this summer. But clean air shouldn't depend on prevailing winds. It will also take politicians blessed with the foresight of their predecessors - including their conservative predecessors.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Thursday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- No, we shouldn't be surprised that Clark-era PCs disagree with the Harper Cons given that their leader long since jumped ship as well. But Peter Blaikie's take on the Cons' dumb-on-crime policies is still worth a read:
A civilized, effective system of justice should have two overriding objectives: to protect society, perhaps forever, from the truly dangerous and, while punishing the others, using every possible effort to rehabilitate them, turning them into productive citizens.

The government’s approach, in effect and almost certainly in intention, reverses these objectives. It is all stick and no carrot. It even abandons the highly successful, self-sustaining, century-old program of prison farms, which taught generations of inmates critical life skills.
In addition to the human cost of the tough-on-crime policy, the financial costs will be enormous, involving many billions of taxpayers’ dollars annually. Either the Harper government has no idea what the additional cost of more prisons, more inmates and longer jail terms will be, in which case it is incompetent, or, equally disrespectful of Canadians, it does know and refuses to admit them, thereby being dishonest.
- Louisa Taylor notes that accuracy seems to be of no particular concern in the Cons' efforts to fearmonger about immigrants, as at least one member of their publicly-flaunted list of war criminals seems to be completely unknown to human rights groups who would have every reason to know if he was under any reasonable suspicion.

- While I don't agree with Sixth Estate's hostility toward economists generally, this much is well worth emphasizing:
What is being advanced by mainstream economists is not (despite what their fake Nobel Prize says they’re doing) a science of the markets, so much as a theology of the markets. The economy written about in pieces like these is a raging beast beyond our control. It’s easy to forget that “the free market,” as such, doesn’t even exist. It’s an academic abstraction for a certain range of ways in which people interact, carefully bounded by laws and regulations. In their headlong rush to build a “science” worthy of the name, economists have built a god of their own making and are attempting to drag us down into the same mud they’re mired in. Depressions aren’t caused by greedy fraudulent bankers and their pet politicians stripping away law enforcement and regulation, and plunging into absurd schemes from which they know taxpayers will grudgingly bail them out — they’re caused by a long-term economic process that just “happens,” every 70 or 80 years, to cause a major contraction.

Like all gods, the market appears to exist outside of human control, but at the end of the day it is our creation, and it is not a necessary one. We don’t need to allow preachers, or economists, to operate outside of the usual standards of logic and empiricism. We don’t need to run to either of these priesthoods whenever there’s a problem so they can prescribe meaningless fixes. We choose to create markets. And we choose to allow banks to operate as Ponzi schemes.
- Finally, it's well worth noting when Barrie McKenna takes note of progressive economics on his normally corporatist blog:
Canadian Labour Congress chief economist Andrew Jackson, on the other hand, sees Canada’s G7-leading finances as an opportunity to do a lot more to help the recovery and promote job growth.

“The major economic problem faced by Canadians is a very slow recovery and weak job market, not government deficits or rising debt,” Mr. Jackson argues in a blog post.
Canada’s finances are in relatively good shape, at least compared to other wealthy countries, Mr. Jackson points out. Total net government debt stands at 33.7 per cent of GDP in 2011, compared to the OECD average of 62.6 per cent. Total Canadian government deficits stand at 4.9 per cent of GDP, versus a 6.7 per cent average in the OECD. And interest costs on the debt are eating up 0.7 per cent of GDP, compared to a 1.9 per cent average in the OECD.

And yet Mr. Jackson said Canada is embracing more austerity than most of its rivals in the world by “artificially speeding” the pace of deficit reduction.

“Why are we taking the lead in imposing austerity, even though our economy is weak, and even though our deficit and debt is superior to most other countries?,” he wondered.

On equalization

One more note on today's fund-raising news which is best seen in Alice's historical quarterly data.

For 2011 Q2, total fund-raising for the NDP, Libs, Bloc and Greens was $7,918,876.12 - while for the Cons, it was $8,205,078.88. Which looks to mark a long-awaited return to parity between the Cons and their collective political opposition - as aside from a couple of easily-dismissed blips (2009 Q2 during Michael Ignatieff's honeymoon period and 2006 Q4 during the Libs' leadership convention), the Cons had managed to handily exceed all other parties' fund-raising combined since they took power in 2006.

Of course, one can't assume that dollars are readily transferrable among parties any more than votes. But at the very least, the past quarter offers some basis for optimism that in a more polarized system, there's indeed enough donor cash available for a united opponent to match the Cons' war chest - and that the opposition parties are moving closer to bringing in those donations.

Not quite comparable

Alice notes that all three official parties in Parliament amassed record fund-raising totals during the course of this spring's election campaign. But it's worth adding one asterisk to the raw numbers.

While both the Cons and the NDP mostly raised money within the context of their broader electoral campaigns, the Libs' numbers include two major pushes where they elevated fund-raising above all other concerns - including a blitz at the start of the campaign, and then an effort to tap the party's bigger donors before election day (which coincided with the Libs' decision not to spend to the national limit in an attempt to pinch pennies). And while that difference doesn't mean the Libs have any less money to show for the campaign, it serves as reason for caution in presuming they can keep up the pace.

New column day

Here, on the silliness of this week's hullabaloo over Nycole Turmel's past Bloc membership - and the lessons we can stand to learn about Quebec politics in response.

For further reading...
- Marianne White also treats this week's news as a teachable moment rather than an opportunity to scold the NDP for other parties' false spin.
- Brian Topp points out that the reaction from the Cons and Libs is all about fearmongering rather than any genuine concern about national unity.
- And Don Lenihan notes that identity conflicts are an entirely normal part of the Canadian experience.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011


Kenneth Rogoff describes the type of policy needed to push developed economies out of their current slump:
too many policy-makers have relied on the belief that, at the end of the day, this is just a deep recession that can be subdued by a generous helping of conventional policy tools, whether fiscal policy or massive bailouts.

But the real problem is that the global economy is badly overleveraged, and there’s no quick escape without a scheme to transfer wealth from creditors to debtors, either through defaults, financial repression or inflation.
Is there any alternative to years of political gyrations and indecision?

I have argued that the only practical way to shorten the coming period of deleveraging and slow growth would be a sustained burst of moderate inflation, say, 4 per cent to 6 per cent for several years. Of course, inflation is an unfair and arbitrary transfer of income from savers to debtors. But such a transfer is the most direct approach to faster recovery. Eventually, it will take place one way or another, as Europe is painfully learning.
So what are we getting instead? Let's ask Paul Krugman once again:
Consciously or not, policy makers are catering almost exclusively to the interests of rentiers — those who derive lots of income from assets, who lent large sums of money in the past, often unwisely, but are now being protected from loss at everyone else’s expense.
While the ostensible reasons for inflicting pain keep changing,...the policy prescriptions of the Pain Caucus all have one thing in common: They protect the interests of creditors, no matter the cost. Deficit spending could put the unemployed to work — but it might hurt the interests of existing bondholders. More aggressive action by the Fed could help boost us out of this slump — in fact, even Republican economists have argued that a bit of inflation might be exactly what the doctor ordered — but deflation, not inflation, serves the interests of creditors. And, of course, there’s fierce opposition to anything smacking of debt relief.
No, the only real beneficiaries of Pain Caucus policies (aside from the Chinese government) are the rentiers: bankers and wealthy individuals with lots of bonds in their portfolios.

Wednesday Afternoon Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Martin Patriquin offers up the definitive response to the pearl-clutching over Nycole Turmel's Bloc membership (italics in original, bold added):
(H)ere’s the wee nuance that seems lost on the rest of the county, and one that is particularly important in the case of Turmel: the members of (sovereigntist) parties, whether they are on the left or the right, endorse this supposedly bedrock belief to varying degrees. The Bloc is/was made up of people like Jean Dorion, former president of the endlessly entertaining Société St Jean Baptiste; it’s also the former home of Jean Lapierre, who after co-founding the sovereignist party went on to be a cabinet minister in Paul Martin’s “home of the Clarity Act” Liberal government. Many, many members of the Bloc, along with the Parti Québécois and Québec Solidaire, are happy to live with Quebec’s current status as a province within a larger country. It’s a fact that vexes hardcore sovereignists and federalists alike.

And let’s have a look at Nycole Turmel’s record, shall we? First off, she was a member of the Bloc since 2006, long after BQ leader Gilles Duceppe had transitioned the Bloc from its original sovereigntist shock troop status to a hazy lefty bastion that, while ostensibly sovereignist in message, was more concerned with “defending Quebec’s interests in Ottawa.” Exhibit two: Turmel was member not of Parti Québécois—which is decidedly less whimsical on the issue of Quebec separation—but of Québec Solidaire, a left-first party whose own co-leader told me last year that “we are caught in the prison of the national question.”

Finally, and it’s amazing how few people have clued into this headsmackingly obvious point, but Turmel willingly ripped up her Bloc Québécois membership card to run for a dyed-in-orange federalist party. That alone should be evidence enough that her sovereignist credentials weren’t quite Parizeau-calibre. If anything, Turmel’s (temporary) ascension to the head of the party, like the NDP’s overwhelming victory in May, is proof positive that detaching the left from the sovereignist movement isn’t as impossible as it once was. How far we’ve come.
- Bill Tieleman points out that Canadians are poorer than they think by comparing soaring utility costs to stagnant wages.

- No, it's not news that right-wingers see deficits as an excuse to slash public services rather than having any actual interest in addressing them. But a reminder can never hurt.

- Nor is it particularly surprising that they're fully dedicated to ramping up a needless security state, and that cost evaluations and public consultations are no object in the effort.

- Finally, it's well worth joining the effort to share what looks to have been one of the few redeeming stories to come out of Anders Behrin Breivik's anti-left and anti-Muslim rampage.

On hollow victories

Sean Holman raises the possibility that Christy Clark and the B.C. Libs may be no better off if they manage to hang onto the HST in the province's ongoing referendum than if they lose the vote. But I wonder whether it's worth going a step further.

If the vote to axe the HST succeeds despite any manipulations on the part of the government, then it seems at least vaguely plausible that the province might see itself as having sufficiently punished Clark and the Libs for their sins - and thus pay somewhat less attention as future revelations surface. But if Clark uses large amounts of public money and other resources to get her way on the HST, then every bit of news figures to feed into a sense that the Libs have escaped unpunished - making it easier for the NDP to build the case that the next election needs to do the job instead.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Cubed cats.


No, Tim Harper's take on the latest news about Nycole Turmel isn't any better than most of the media's coverage. But it does at least include one rather telling contrast:
Inside Quebec, the Turmel revelation will likely cause little damage.

It is understood in that province that one can be a federalist while supporting the social policies of the Bloc.

Outside Quebec, sensibilities are far different
So thanks in part to the Cons' anti-coalition spin, much of Canada - including the vast majority of the media commenting on Turmel - is utterly ignorant as to what membership in the Bloc actually signifies in the province where the party operates. And indeed, even some commentators who normally rank among the most astute in the country have gone out of their way to be entirely oblivious to the possibility that any reasonable person could ever have supported the Bloc based on social issues, rather than out of separatist fervour.

But as far as Harper is concerned, that's not a problem to be remedied, but an excuse to bash the party which has successfully responded to that reality.

[Edit: fixed wording.]

On building opportunities

There's no doubt that the trumped-up story about Nycole Turmel's one-time Bloc membership reflects the inevitable first real pile-on against the NDP in its new role as Official Opposition. But it's worth noting that the NDP also has an opportunity to turn that challenge in its favour - and the indications look to be positive so far.

For now, the main danger for the NDP isn't so much the certainty that the Cons and Libs will look to slam it at every turn as the danger of an intra-party split damaging its ability to fight back. And there's no doubt that concern trolls across the country will try to goad NDP members into contributing to just that type of internal breakdown.

But so far, there seems to be little indication that they're succeeding. And the more the NDP can keep a united front in the face of the other parties' contrived attacks, the more accustomed its new MPs will get to holding together - resulting in a stronger coalition once the siege ends. (Which may make the attacks all the more desperate as time goes by.)

What's more, there may even be an opportunity to shore up what might have been one of the greater risks for the party. While the NDP's Quebec sweep came largely at the expense of the Bloc, it's currently an open question as to whether the party can defend its seats against Lib and Con challengers without a seemingly strong Bloc in the picture. But the more energy the Cons and Libs dedicate to declaring that the bulk of Quebec's voters are unfit to participate in Canada's public debate by virtue of any past affinity for the province's once-dominant political party, the tougher they'll find it to win over those voters in the future - serving only to improve the NDP's chances of building on this year's electoral result.

That is, provided the NDP itself can hold firm and defend its newly-built coalition. But so far, all indications look to be positive on that front - meaning that there's ample reason for hope once the current storm passes.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Linda McQuaig notes that the same financial actors who caused the global economic meltdown that's being used as an excuse for austerity measures around the world are themselves making out like bandits - even though the public strongly favours requiring them to at least pay their share:
For the past two years, Americans have repeatedly told pollsters that they support higher taxes on the rich as a way to reduce the deficit. A Washington Post poll last month, for instance, found 72 per cent supported raising taxes on those earning more than $250,000.
But a radical rump of Republicans, threatening to pull the trigger, succeeded in forcing Democrats to abandon tax increases on the wealthy — at a time when America’s wealthy are as rich as the tycoons of the Gilded Age. Feeling the gun at their temples, the Democrats joined the Republicans in the quest for deeper spending cuts — which will only make the disastrous U.S. unemployment situation worse.

So while programs helping students, the elderly and the poor have been picked over with surgical precision, hedge fund managers can get back to work destabilizing financial markets with full peace of mind, knowing they’ll continue to enjoy a tax rate lower than the mechanics who service their private jets.
- Alison rightly points out that many of the Canadian political media figures enlisted to declare that an incestuous system of the type which spawned the U.K.'s News of the World scandal are also the same people going out of their way to set up exactly that.

- Duncan Cameron comments on some of the factors which make Nycole Turmel an ideal interim choice to lead the NDP's charge, as well as what the NDP needs to do next:
The issues that matter to Canadians are jobs and incomes, access to public services, healthcare in particular, environmental protection, and availability of recreation and cultural facilities for family members. These are issues addressed by public sector unions every day. As a noted public sector union leader, Nycole Turmel is well placed to articulate the concerns of Canadians for the future, which is why her appointment was so widely supported by New Democrats.
In the next six weeks, caucus members will be canvassing Canadians in order to draw up lists of party priorities for the fall. NDP members of Parliament will first want to know how much support there is for Conservative policies. How many Canadians feel spending billions on new fighter jets makes a lot of sense? What degree of support is there for sending giant tanker ships through the coastal waters of British Columbia? How do Canadians feel about retiring on public pensions that will leave many of them below the poverty line?

To the extent they are known, Conservative policies are not popular with Canadians. The problem is that the public does not have a good picture of what the Conservatives are up to. So the Official Opposition needs to publicize widely what the Conservatives are actually doing. How well the NDP is able to fulfill that task -- without being able to count on media co-operation -- will determine how well it serves the public interest.
- Finally, let's close with at least some good news, as Les Whittington's report on Competition Commissioner Melanie Aitken highlights the fact that there's at least one watchdog showing some bite in dealing with corporate abuses.

On incomplete pictures

One might think that an expose into Nycole Turmel's political involvement would go back further than the past five years. But surely Daniel Leblanc wouldn't have cut anything important out of the story...
“I’ve been at this for decades,” Turmel said. “In the 1990s, I chaired cross-country NDP panels that consulted Canadians on their ideas about progressive government. I served as associate party president under (former leader) Alexa McDonough and moderated the leadership process that saw Jack Layton elected (in 2003).”
Of course, there's a separate issue with the meme (now being spread to smear Turmel) that past support for the Bloc should disqualify a plurality of Quebeckers from having any say in how Canada is governed. Even applying that glaringly flawed standard, though, one would think that an individual's previous decades of intensive involvement with a federalist party might serve as a rather important bit of context.

Unfortunately, Leblanc instead seems to want to be the first to present the anti-NDP spin to come, while leaving out any details which might provide an accurate picture of Turmel's professional and political history. And it's not hard to see a zombie lie in the making as a result.

Update: Dr. Dawg has more:
(F)or promoting social justice (and make no mistake, that’s her main sin in the eyes of the usual suspects) (Turmel) is now coming under assault from the Right, and from Liberals hoping to leverage their way back into the public consciousness by tarring her as a closet separatist sympathizer—the exact opposite of the truth.
[Edit: fixed wording.]

Monday, August 01, 2011

NDP Next Steps Roundup

Not surprisingly, plenty in the Canadian media have responded to the NDP's first big news of the summer with all kinds of discussion as to where the party will go next. But let's take a quick look at some of the particularly noteworthy coverage.

Sheila Copps' tribute to Jack Layton stands out as a show of respect from a political rival. In contrast, Tim Powers engaged in some concern trolling par excellence, warning Nycole Turmel that the Cons might not appreciate the NDP's principled opposition. But fortunately, Turmel doesn't seem to be taking Powers' advice.

Speaking of whom, Susan Delacourt profiled Turmel in her new leadership role. Bea Vongdouangchanh did the same for Brian Topp as the initial face of Layton's announcement. And Joanna Smith looked in depth at the NDP's team which has helped to propel the party to its Official Opposition status.

Daniel Leblanc and Gloria Galloway covered some of what might come next for the NDP - albeit with some stunningly obvious commentary (does anybody need to be told that the NDP should promote its own values rather than the Bloc's?) mixed in. Andy Blatchford noted that Layton's absence may make for an ideal opportunity for the NDP's younger and newer MPs to grow into their roles.

And finally, Gerald Caplan served up a reminder that the party isn't over no matter what.

Monday Morning Links

This and that for your long weekend reading.

- I'm not ordinarily a huge fan of spending much time in the present focusing on the past. But Dan Gardner's suggested label for today's holiday looks to be well worth adopting - if nothing else as a reminder that even prior to Confederation, Canada's history includes a place at the forefront of the development of human rights.

- Kudos to the Hill Times' Chris Plecash and Darcy McDonnell for staking out the Cons' hidden cabinet meetings last week and reporting on the secrecy surrounding them. And if they and others keep up the effort, it may well be possible to force the Harper government to be at least slightly less secretive.

- Ian Welsh lists some of the lessons from the U.S.' trumped-up debt ceiling crisis and subsequent capitulation by the Democrats.

- Meanwhile, Paul Krugman nicely sums up exactly what figures to happen as a result of the deal. And as usual, he's criticized as being "completely unhinged" in the absence of any plausible basis to suggest that he's wrong.

- Finally, Erin catches right-wing mouthpiece Jason Clemens talking out of both sides of his mouth in describing the fiscal policy of the Harper Cons - as the same commentator who regularly bashes the Cons for having in fact expanded the size of government is trying to paint nonexistent cuts (rather than less reckless financial regulations) as the basic difference between Canada and the U.S. for consumption south of the border.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sunday Morning 'Rider Blogging

It's disappointing enough for the 'Riders to lose to Calgary at home. But it's doubly so to manage the feat while playing about as well as could possibly be expected in two phases of the game - leaving huge questions about an offensive unit which was supposed to be the team's strength.

On the bright side, Saskatchewan's defence was superb until the middle of the fourth quarter. In effect, the secondary looks to have taken a page out of the Stamps' playbook, pressuring receivers and jumping routes at every turn while making sure tackles when the ball did arrive. Meanwhile, the defensive line kept consistent pressure on Henry Burris. And the result was another game where one of the CFL's top offences was prevented both from finishing long drives, and from beating the 'Riders with big plays.

Meanwhile, the special teams finally seem to be performing consistently. Brandon West had the top single runback of the day, but both he and Tristan Jackson regularly generated positive yardage on kick returns. And Eddie Johnson's combination of booming kicks and frequent trips downfield to try to recover the ball figure to have given him a strong chance to hold onto his job even if Luca Congi returns healthy (particularly if the 'Riders do in fact prefer having one player handle kickoffs, punts and field goals).

But then there was the offence.

Yes, the 'Riders managed a few scattered big plays, and looked fairly decent by the numbers. But even when they were able to put points on the board, they did it more through stunts and lucky breaks than through any sustained control over the ball. And perhaps most problematically, the biggest issue facing the 'Riders this season still seems to be entirely unresolved.

There was never much doubt that Weston Dressler would be Saskatchewan's key receiver this season, and he's more than lived up to the title. But the 'Riders seem no closer to deciding who should join him as a go-to pass-catcher than they were at the start of the year. And with Jason Clermont moving far too slowly to get separation from most defenders, Terrence Nunn dropping what should have been a momentum-builder early in the game, Efrem Hill again pairing a single solid catch-and-run with a damaging penalty and Chris Getzlaf still looking inconsistent, the answer looks more and more to be that the 'Riders won't find what they're looking for on their current roster.

Fortunately, the end of the NFL's lockout raises the prospect of a Fantuz return and/or an influx of talent from south of the border before the CFL season is done. But if the offence can't figure out how to produce more consistently in the meantime, the 'Riders will have a huge hole to dig themselves out of once that talent arrives.

[Edit: fixed typo.]

Sunday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your long weekend.

- I'll agree with pogge that Tabatha Southey's latest is well worth a read. But while it's worth recognizing the differences between the respective priorities involved in managing a country as opposed to a family, there's one point hinted at by Southey which should be seen more as a similarity than it actually is:
(W)hile living within one's means is a noble goal, few people, and very few businesses, balance their budgets on a year-to-year basis. They have mortgages, for example, or loans taken out to expand investment, or because of unforeseen strife.

But then they also have assets. So debt is also investment.

It's easy to alarm people over a deficit. It's a high number and people are forever being told that it's theirs and their children's debt and specifically how much of it is theirs, per capita.

But no one ever tells them how much highway they own, per capita, or what section of the Grand Canyon is theirs. It's a very one-sided, frequently opportunistic way of expressing the situation.
Of course, part of the problem is that parties on the right tend to be averse to public ownership in the first place. But for the rest of us, it's well worth keeping in mind the value of owning assets publicly - and ensuring that value isn't lost to corporate-focused P3 or privatization schemes in deciding what to do with public resources.

- Antonia Zerbisias points out that we can't take a safesupply of water for granted. Sadly, Regina offers a case in point.

- The Cons make up poor excuses for their decision to prevent NDP MP Ryan Cleary from visiting the 9 Wing Gander air base. CC calls BS.

- Finally, Origins of Politics points out how Sun Media is giving far more reach and exposure to bigotry on the Canadian political scene.