Saturday, August 13, 2011

A response in kind

Shorter Toronto Star:

We're *outraged* that our transparently systematic attempt to cause trouble for the NDP was met with an equally systematic refusal to play along.

Update: pogge has more.

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Armine Yalnizyan discusses how inequality is no better for business than it is for society at large:
Just a few months ago, two IMF economists, Andrew Berg and Jonathan Ostry, showed that the more equitably incomes are distributed, the longer are the spells of economic growth. They note, “Growth and inequality-reducing policies are likely to reinforce one another and help to establish the foundations for a sustainable expansion.”

Yet the IMF analysis shows the reverse is also true, that higher inequality leads to more volatility. Against a backdrop of low and falling interest rates, wealthy investors hunt for returns with higher yields, which means higher risk and more volatility. As Mark Thoma, professor of economics at University of Oregon, writes, “When we see income inequality rising, we ought to start looking for bubbles.”

All bubbles eventually burst. The boom-bust cycle wipes out even successful businesses, and increases market share for the larger players in the game who can tough it out longer or buy up the competition. This dynamic has led to the “too big to fail” phenomenon, distorting the game for everyone, leading to bailouts and higher prices.

Lack of real income growth and falling interest rates over a generation have led to more borrowing, which points to a world of trouble tomorrow. Nobody gets hurt if the incomes of the top 10% grow more slowly than the bottom 90%, but current compensation practices make that highly unlikely. If the only change on the horizon is higher interest rates, personal bankruptcies and foreclosures will go up. That could slow access to credit for everyone, and further raise the costs of borrowing for businesses and households alike.
- Meanwhile, Marc Lee considers the option of printing more money:
The big barrier is psychological: once we start talking about “printing money” the danger is that millions of misunderstandings about what money is get amplified. In a fiat money system like ours it is the faith or belief that a colourful piece of paper has a certain value in purchasing goods and services that matters, and we need to be careful in shaking that confidence. That most people seek to get money (by selling their labour, or making investments, or buying low and selling high) to acquire things now or in the future is pretty obvious.

But how the money supply itself grows through the expansion of credit in the banking system is not broadly understood. The scale of private money creation is huge. Bank of Canada data for a number of monetary aggregates show that money expands rapidly during boom times, and slows down during downturns. Going back to 1996, M1+ has been at lows of about 4% annual growth, while peaking at more than 14% annual growth. M1++ peaked at around 20% annual growth through much of 2009. A broader monetary aggregate, M2++, did not grow as fast as that, but still was in the 8-9% annual growth range between late 2006 and late 2009. All of this money supply growth was compatible with low and stable inflation.
(F)inancing a $50 billion deficit through the Bank of Canada at a time when demand and private credit creation are slow is not a really big deal – apart from fear that would be whooped up in the media by those who do not get this or whose economic interests were adversely affected. Even a modest uptick in inflation is likely to bring hysterical cries from those who own the debts that must be repaid. And higher but stable inflation can get locked in to price and wage expectations that impose some economic costs on society, although costs will be minor for inflation rates in single digits.
(G)iven that there are horribly polluting industries out there that need to be phased out, why not use public money to offset the economic hit of decommissioning? At a time of deleveraging and record high household debt, a new public sector stimulus program is just what is needed, rather than the conventional wisdom that nothing more can be done by governments.
- Which leads nicely into Megan Leslie's column on the need for real investment in renewable energy and conservation:
We must not forget that the development of the oil sands in Canada was the result of substantial government-sponsored research and subsidies. As part of a federal initiative, taxpayer money was invested into figuring out how to extract and refine bitumen, which has led to enormous profits for the industry. However, we have not seen a similar long-term commitment from the federal government to support the transition to clean energy, including long-term investment in energy efficiency technologies.
Oil and gas subsidies have been touted as necessary for keeping the industry competitive through development of modern, cleaner technologies, yet a recent government study found that research subsidies for the fossil fuel industry have done little to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

It's time to shift the focus of the government's initiatives from big oil to renewable and conservation technologies. All Members of Parliament should commit themselves to supporting the much-needed and greatly-delayed transition to a green economy powered by renewables and energy efficiency technologies. This transition should include putting a price on carbon.
- Finally, Anne Lagace Dowson weighs in on the media's baseless attacks on Nycole Turmel, while Tim Naumetz neatly ties the latest loyalty test to the RCMP's history of spying on Tommy Douglas which is still only in the process of coming to light.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Musical interlude

George Acosta feat. Fisher - Beautiful

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- The Mark is the latest to point out that the NDP's success in winning over former Bloc members and/or sovereigntists should be considered a huge victory rather than reason for criticism:
The Globe, at least, notes that “Canadians want, and need, former sovereigntists to join the ranks of federalist parties.” Which is, by and large, exactly what the NDP has done with much of Quebec, and certainly much more so than the supposedly more federalist parties (and heck, we give credit where credit is due to the Tories in bringing Lebel onside). Yet the tarring continues for the NDP, despite all their work in killing off the Bloc and bringing those sovereigntists on board. Sure, there will be birth pangs among the motley caucus, but incessantly arguing that every member of the NDP must pass a federalist smell test surely won't bring more sovereigntists their way. If it's good enough for their constituents, it ought to be good enough for the rest of us. Besides, it's not like we make every Tory MP who supported the Alberta firewall swear an oath to upholding confederation.
- Meanwhile, yet another federal poll signals that little has changed since the May election, even with Jack Layton out of the picture on an interim basis. But there's still some rather important news in that lack of change - as anybody who tried to pretend that the NDP's newfound strength was either entirely fuelled by Layton or a temporary blip would seem to have to put that skepticism to rest now that it's stabilized over a period of months and under Nycole Turmel's interim leadership.

- Thanks to the Harper Cons, Canada's federal government is now a dependent subsidiary of the oil industry. And it fully expects Canada's provinces to become the same. Don't everybody be shocked at once.

- Finally, Ontario's other provincial parties are feigning outrage at negative messages while contributing two for every one they criticize. But the NDP is actually working on debunking them without adding more into the mix.


An unnamed person with some clue about economics:
Pundits, Very Serious Politicians, and more have spent the past two years plus doing everything they can to make the deficit the center of public discourse, to focus all our fears on the attack by bond vigilantes that was supposedly just over the horizon.

And now it turns out that what really terrifies the markets, let alone the suffering unemployed, is the prospect of a second Great Depression — a prospect that has become much more likely thanks to the utter wrongness of elite policy priorities.

Great work, guys.
Update: And more:
(M)arkets were signaling, as clearly as anyone could ask, that unemployment rather than deficits is our biggest problem. Bear in mind that deficit hawks have been warning for years that interest rates on U.S. government debt would soar any day now; the threat from the bond market was supposed to be the reason that we must slash the deficit now now now. But that threat keeps not materializing. And, this week, on the heels of a downgrade that was supposed to scare bond investors, those interest rates actually plunged to record lows.

What the market was saying — almost shouting — was, “We’re not worried about the deficit! We’re worried about the weak economy!” For a weak economy means both low interest rates and a lack of business opportunities, which, in turn, means that government bonds become an attractive investment even at very low yields. If the downgrade of U.S. debt had any effect at all, it was to reinforce fears of austerity policies that will make the economy even weaker.
An unnamed government with no clue whatsoever:
"Markets right now are being pretty clear that debts and deficits are the problem - that's why we're moving to eliminate the deficit - because we don't want that to be a problem here.

"If the NDP's out there calling for bigger deficits and more debt, that's the problem."
[Edit: fixed wording.]

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Deep thought

Anybody who sees the need to treat Amnesty International as an "adversary" has every reason to take a much closer look at whether they're on the right side.

The last stand

Glen McGregor breaks a bigger story than he seems to realize, as the Harper Cons are now quite explicitly declaring their intention to take a wrecking ball to the Canadian Wheat Board:
Anyone doubting the government’s commitment to shutting down the Canadian Wheat Board is instructed to take a look at this notice posted on the procurement site, MERX.

It announces the government intends to seek an auditor to check the books and “provide reasonable assurance of the total financial impact of the repeal of the Canadian Wheat Board Act and the dissolution or winding up of the CWB after the final pooling periods (expected to be July 31, 2012).”

The contract value is projected at $500,000 to $1 million and only pre-approved accountants are eligible to bid on the work.

After a contested plebiscite and the firing of the board’s president, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz announced in May the government’s intention to shutter the single-desk marketing agency by August of next year.
Now, to correct where McGregor seems to have missed the significance of the Cons' new action: it isn't true that Ritz has ever been honest enough to declare that the Cons would "shutter" the Wheat Board.

Instead, the Cons have pretended that removal of single-desk authority wouldn't have any impact whatsoever on the Wheat Board's operations - or at least not one which would substantially affect its ability to market grain. And it's the Board's defenders who have pointed out that there's no realistic prospect of survival without either single-desk status, or regulated access to storage and handling facilities.

Now, without coming clean about their intentions, the Cons have let it slip that they're planning for the Wheat Board to be rubble by this time next year. And that leaves no room for doubt that anybody wanting the CWB to survive will need to take every opportunity this fall to force the Cons to change their mind.

[Edit: fixed wording.]

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Graham Thomson notes that for all the permutations and combinations that have developed among Alberta's opposition parties over the past few years, the NDP's strong principles have positioned it nicely in the lead up to a possible fall election:
Even though they might not admit it, New Democrats wouldn't mind a fall election. The provincial party is still basking in the afterglow of the Orange Wave that saw federal leader Jack Layton take the party to Official Opposition status for the first time.

The Environics poll of Alberta politics put the New Democrats into a statistical three-way tie for second place with the Wildrose and Liberals. All of a sudden, New Democrats are no longer in fourth place. Also giving the Alberta New Democrats a confidence boost are the federal election results where more than 230,000 Albertans supported the party.

Almost half that support is in Edmonton where the party is focusing its attention on a fall election. And narrowing the focus even more, the NDP won its one Alberta seat in Edmonton-Strathcona with the reelection of Linda Duncan.

It's all good news for Alberta New Democrats, especially Notley who represents the provincial riding of Edmonton-Strathcona and who, thanks to the federal campaign, already has targeted more than 12,000 supporters.
Alberta's New Democrats have such a long uphill climb they should equip their candidates with crampons and rope. But they are also among the most optimistic of Alberta's political parties, realizing they are staking out a unique position as the only politicians talking about increasing royalties on oil and gas companies and cracking down more forcefully on the environmental impact of the oilsands.
- Simon Enoch discusses Saskatchewan's highly unusual and distortionary electoral boundaries - just in time for the boundary review process which looks likely to change them.

- Andrew Steele offers some common-sense advice to political parties: for all the promise of online citizen engagement, knocking on doors is still the #1 priority in trying to win over voters.

- I'm not sure we can accurately say that Terence Corcoran is leading Canada's intellectual retreat when politicians like the Ford brothers and the bulk of the federal Cons receive so much more attention. But Erin is right to call out his Tea Party-esque nonsense.

- Finally, Matt Taibbi points out one of the many outrageous possibilities on the U.S. political scene, as it seems entirely possible that corporations who have sent money offshore will once again be rewarded for their manipulation of the law with a tax holiday.

On targeted development

Shorter Stephen Harper:

To anybody who dares question my free trade agreement with Colombia, I say this: you can't make a free market omelet without breaking a few skulls. That's the expression, right?

New column day

Here, on how B.C.'s HST referendum and Wisconsin's state Senate recalls should rekindle our interest in setting up direct democratic mechanisms to hold governments accountable between elections.

No followup links for now since both have been amply covered in the corporate media and the blogosphere alike - but feel free to post any particular favourites in comments.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Wednesday Afternoon Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Marc Lee tears into the "unfunded liabilities" spin on public benefits which is now making an appearance in Canada:
(W)hat’s missing from this horror movie is that this is an artifact of CPP being a mostly pay-as-you-go plan. The report calculates all future payouts to beneficiaries, less current holdings of financial assets, but ASSUMES that all CPP contributions from workers present and future ceased. It is as if the CPP closed shop and took in no more premium revenues and simply paid out its legal obligations. On this basis, my telephone connection is an unfunded liability running thousands of dollars because I do not have that money in the bank to pre-fund those future phone bills.

In the real world, we have to consider both income/revenues and expenditures, particularly since the CPP is “intended to be long-term and enduring in nature,” according to the Chief Actuary. So a second calculation that does include future contributions from workers, and this basically wipes out the “unfunded liability”, though not entirely. By this second estimate there is still a shortfall of $6.9 billion, but this is over the coming 75 years and amounts of 0.3% of the CPP’s liabilities.

The gist of the Chief Actuary’s report is that the CPP is financially sound for at least the next 75 years.
(S)urpluses are being accumulated and invested in financial markets. A decade from now, those surpluses will be depleted and expenditures will exceed contributions, with the difference made up by income from accumulated assets. Those CPP assets are currently worth $143 billion and are anticipated to continue to rise, even amid negative cash flow from premiums less benefits. That is, only a share of investment income will be needed to keep payments up, and the rate of return on CPP assets would have to drop big time for the plan to start drawing down its capital at all.

So when the right cries “unfunded liabilities” do not panic. They are either mis-informed or deliberately trying to mislead you.
- Barbara Ehrenreich writes about how the U.S. has turned poverty into a crime.

- Pogge points out the latest example of the Cons' deliberate know-nothingness being both a point of pride and an all-purpose excuse for ignoring realities which don't fit their political spin.

- Finally, Claude Denis offers up some more educational content about the realities of Quebec politics:
Much has been written over the years about the effect of the Bloc’s electoral dominance on Quebecers’ sense of belonging to Canada: that it has insulated them, weakened their sense of responsibility for the governance of the country, etc. But we are now seeing that the Bloc has also enabled non-Quebecers to ignore Quebec, to treat it as a non-entity when it comes to governing Canada. So, since the early 1990s, Canada has been governed essentially without francophone Quebec, and people outside Quebec like it just fine.

Now the NDP has come along to upset that happy blindness. Canadians outside Quebec are being shown that if Quebecers are going to rejoin the game of governing this country, the game itself is going to change. This was a risky gamble from the start for the NDP: speaking convincingly to Quebecers might alienate other Canadians. Indeed, the New Democrats had faced this choice many times before and had always shrunk from the challenge.

Jack Layton decided to go for it. He and his team are trying to articulate a new language of solidarity on the centre-left, between Quebecers and other Canadians. The first difficulty was to bring enough Quebecers on board. The second one, likely to prove the greater, is now to make other Canadians accept a change in their own sense of the country, of themselves, and of Quebec.
Layton’s mistake — if any — has been to call attention to Turmel and to what she represents too soon. The plan was to engage Canadians and Quebecers in a renewed political conversation over the next several years. Obviously, and sadly, circumstances forced Layton’s hand. Considering that Canadians outside Quebec have not had time to adjust to new realities brought on by the “vague orange,” he might have chosen someone else, most likely not from Quebec, and delayed a reckoning.

But who knows if and when this would have been possible? As it is, rather than looking at this as a mistake, I would rather see Layton’s choice as another courageous gamble. In effect, he is telling his fellow Canadians: “open your eyes.” Please.

Still feigned indignation

At the very least, the media finally seems to have picked up on the reality that all Canadian national parties include some former Bloc members and/or sovereigntists in their ranks. But that leads to the next obvious problem: that it's scolding the NDP for a position it doesn't hold rather than picking up on a rather important difference in the parties' messages.

No, the NDP is neither saying "everyone was doing it" as a defence to any misdeeds of its own, nor implying that other parties' acceptance of former Bloc members is wrong while its own is just fine. And the Globe itself knows better:
“What is at issue is the hypocrisy that the Conservatives displayed when they were commenting on Madame Turmel’s former membership in the Bloc,” said Mr. Lavigne. “They did this at the same time they themselves have members of their cabinet who are former members of the Bloc Québécois.”
And again, if spun to fit the Globe's narrative rather than the real one:
Mr. Lebel has a defender in an unexpected corner: outspoken Winnipeg NDP MP Pat Martin: “He is one of the most affable and friendly Conservative Ministers in cabinet,” Mr. Martin told the Globe. “He’s my office neighbour and frequent gym buddy. Quite the athlete, actually.” Mr. Martin argues that you cannot “grow your party” by ignoring others and “shunning anyone who once belonged to a different party.”

“Denis Lebel reminds us that many people have been associated with the Bloc for many different reasons quite separate and distinct from the sovereignty issue,” he says. “I hope more former Bloc members come and join the NDP.
So the NDP's position is in fact consistent: national parties can, do and should accept former Bloc members and/or sovereigntists (which aren't necessarily synonymous). And the other parties' criticisms of the NDP for doing just that are entirely hollow given that they've adopted the exact same principle in putting together their past and present cabinets.

Of course, there are indeed two parties trying to say "sovereigntists for we, but not for thee". And those are the Cons and Libs - in part based on a typical IOKIYAC/IOKIYAL sense of self-entitlement, in part thanks to a delightfully brazen "but we question the NDP's dedication to federalism, therefore we get to invent different standards for them" argument.

If there's any good news, it's that it only took a week to get the media to notice the first bit of absurdity in the other parties' attacks on the NDP. And if the NDP's message machine can get the next part of its position to sink in on a similar time frame, then it should be able to put the issue to rest long before Parliament reconvenes.

[Edit: fixed wording.]

On broken systems

Let's add one more to the list of theories as to how the other parties' pearl-clutching over interim NDP leader Nycole Turmel may actually play to the NDP's advantage - and this time with a far more immediate effect.

Keep in mind that the last national poll taken primarily before the Turmel brouhaha showed the Libs effectively on even terms with the NDP. And it surely can't escape notice that the Libs had spent most of the summer to that point talking about policy and party rebuilding, rather than falling back into their familiar pattern of scandalmongering.

In contrast, the first poll taken after the attacks on Turmel restored the NDP's double-digit lead over the Libs, as well as its strong second-place position compared to the Cons.

So could it be that by piling on Turmel, the Libs merely reminded Canadians that Ottawa is still broken - and encouraged poll respondents to show their support for the party which is working to rise above the same old mud-slinging?

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Sporting cats.


Stephen Harper's rule for others when it comes to interfering in the affairs of other governments:
Tory provincial election rule number one: don’t become the story
In other news, Harper becomes the story:
Stephen Harper locks himself in Brazilian minister’s bathroom until he gets his way

Deep thought

I can think of a few appropriate introductions to a plan belatedly acknowledging the existence of a housing crisis. But proudly pointing to past programs which have evidently accomplished nothing isn't one of them.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Andrew Jackson describes the next phase of the global economic crisis:
Now we face a new financial crisis, or at least a stock market correction of major proportions, which may precipitate a new phase of the crisis.

The financial markets seem to suffer from acute schizophrenia, with the bond markets demanding more fiscal austerity in much of the Euro zone, while stock markets are panicking at clear signs of slowing US and global growth.

How should governments be responding to the panic in the markets?

Not, as they have, by caving in to the bond markets.
The key that the policy shifts we need seem to be political non starters. Which is why the G7 focus remains very much on austerity. Which will make things worse. Which is why the stock markets are panicking.
- Yes, it's well and good to point out that Stephen Harper's appearance with Rob Ford reflects a break in his usual image control. But isn't it more significant that Harper is willing to make common cause - behind closed doors or otherwise - with somebody so bent on imposing uncompetence in the first place?

- Which isn't to say that the Cons have offered anything different. But they've at least tried to pretend to offer a steady hand even while flailing wildly at Canada's public institutions.

- Finally, in a signal of what looks like a much-needed debate this fall, the NDP is backing up its previous call for a firm end date to Canada's involvement in Libya by demanding that the Cons withdraw this fall.

On distinguishing factors

Lest there be any doubt, it's still ridiculous to pretend that any person's past involvement in a Quebec sovereigntist party should be taken to disqualify that person from Canada's public discourse. But for those looking to facilitate the Cons' attacks on the NDP by trying to differentiate between Con MP and cabinet minister Denis Lebel and interim NDP leader Nycole Turmel, let's note that any reasonable distinctions look worse for Lebel than for Turmel.

After all, Lebel's involvement with the Bloc came in the '90s when its primary focus was on separation - while Turmel's came well into the 21st century when the Bloc had settled predominantly into a role as a regional rather than a nationalist party.

And for anybody looking to impose a loyalty test, surely Lebel's lack of ties to any federalist party while he belonged to the Bloc would serve as far more of a red flag than Turmel's simultaneous membership in the sovereigntist Bloc and the federalist NDP.

Again, though, the proper conclusion is that none of Lebel, Turmel or the leaders who appointed them should be forever banished from national participation based merely on past Bloc ties. And to the extent the Cons try to pretend otherwise, the right answer is to suggest that they'll have the right to take an even faintly principled position on giving power to a former Bloc member just as soon as we see Stephen Harper's resignation papers for appointing Lebel to cabinet.

Monday, August 08, 2011

"We've got more to do"

Aaron Wherry's story on Jack Layton's new cancer diagnosis includes a reminder as to what needs to be done no matter what happens in Layton's latest fight:
McGrath prepared herself to find out what was happening on July 25, when a significant test was to take place, but that test was moved up five days. With those results came a diagnosis and on the evening of Wednesday, July 20, two days after his 61st birthday, Layton called McGrath to tell her it was cancer. “He’s so upbeat,” she says. “He really is. It’s so funny. I don’t get it sometimes myself.”

He told her to tell him that she was going to keep working. “ ‘We started this journey together…and look at how far we’ve come and look what we’ve done,’ ” she recalls him saying. “And he starts going through the things that we’ve been through and everything. He says, ‘And we’ve got more to do.’ He was talking to me about fundraising, about increasing the party’s membership. This is on Wednesday night, you know?”

He was not unmoved by the situation he now found himself in, but he was not shaken from the focus that sometimes seems to be all-encompassing. “He was upset and I could tell that there were tears,” McGrath says. “But again, he’s just very determined.” Here Jack Layton began the latest fight of his life: confronting it, McGrath says, as if it were a political campaign. “He’s the same with his health situation as he is with the party. It’s like, ‘I want the team together, I want to plan, it won’t be acceptable if it’s not this and that and the other thing.’

“He knows,” she says later, “he’s got a big fight on his hands.”

Monday Morning Links

Assorted content to start your week.

- On the Nycole Turmel front: Christopher Majka cheers the fact that the NDP has managed to encourage so many more Quebeckers to see a place for themselves in Canadian federal politics. Michael Taube doesn't see any reason for the anti-NDP pile-on. And Charlie Smith offers another theory as to how the brouhaha could ultimately help the NDP.

- Meanwhile, the Hill Times checks in on the NDP's ongoing staffing process. And it's worth keeping in mind that the party's effective planning and use of its new resources may prove far more consequential in the long run than any short-term distraction or polling.

- John Mumme suggests that Canada look to Australia's superannuation system for an example of improved pensions and retirement security.

- But then, why stop at better national systems when the same issues are popping up around the world? And Thomas Palley's proposal for a global minimum wage looks like a great place to start in ensuring that development around the globe actually results in benefits for workers.

Monday Morning 'Rider Blogging

Once again, the 'Riders' latest loss was more a story of missed opportunities than poor play overall - particularly in the third quarter, when Saskatchewan's near-total dominance on both sides of the ball led to a grand total of one point. But there's a downside to that type of loss as well, as the fixes normally available for a losing team don't apply to the 'Riders in the slightest.

Normally, the best advice for a struggling team is to take better care of the ball. And indeed, usually a losing streak involves losing the turnover battle handily - which tends to even out over time.

But the 'Riders' last two losses have featured a grand total of zero turnovers, to two for the team's opponents. So there's nowhere to go but down on that front.

Likewise, a struggling offence can normally find some obvious room to improve its completion rate. But Darian Durant has completed two-thirds of his passes over the past two weeks - and while a few too many of those have been for little or no gain, it's hard to see much prospect of pushing that number upward.

And aside from Geroy Simon's first-half eruption, the 'Riders' defence has played about as well as could be hoped for - holding two fairly strong offences to 22 and 24 points.

So what's left for the 'Riders to improve?

Well, the biggest problem looks to be getting some touchdowns out of the current possession offence. And there are a couple of obvious points which might help, including setting up receivers to take the ball in stride rather than catching the ball flat-footed, and designing plays to let Durant make better use of the time he buys to find receivers far downfield.

And of course it would help for the 'Riders to stop shooting themselves in the foot. In particular, it's beyond me how an offence with an elite quarterback has so much trouble working within the play clock - and indeed a faster-moving offence might also help to set up bigger plays by getting opposing defences off stride.

Meanwhile, the 'Riders' receivers have plenty of work to do on timing up the play without going offside - not to mention catching the ball once it reached them. (Needless to say, James Robinson didn't help on either front.) And of course, a better field-goal conversion rate would at least help to keep games close.

But even if the 'Riders can improve on those points, they might face enough concurrent decline in their turnover ratio to keep them on the losing side of any given game. Which means that while it's too early to give up on the season or any large number of the 'Riders' players, there's ample reason for concern that matters will get worse before they get better.

Update: I won't claim to have much insight on Dallas Baker, the import receiver who arrived in a trade for Luc Mullinder today. And hopefully he'll provide one of the playmakers the 'Riders have lacked.

But it's seldom a great feat of CFL roster management to trade a perfectly serviceable non-import for an import lottery ticket who was available as a free agent just months earlier. And if Baker isn't ready to help immediately, the effect of the deal will be to push the 'Riders even further away from where they need to go.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Sunday Evening Links

Miscellaneous material to end your weekend.

- Floyd Norris' column on the gap between stagnant wages and soaring corporate profits. But let's add Digby's take as to what we can expect if the corporate sector gets its way:
"I've never seen labor markets this weak in 35 years of research," says Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University. Wages and salaries accounted for just 1 percent of economic growth in the first 18 months after economists declared that the recession had ended in June 2009, according to Sum and other Northeastern researchers.In the same period after the 2001 recession, wages and salaries accounted for 15 percent. They were 50 percent after the 1991-92 recession and 25 percent after the 1981-82 recession.

Corporate profits, by contrast, accounted for an unprecedented 88 percent of economic growth during those first 18 months. That's compared with 53 percent after the 2001 recession, nothing after the 1991-92 recession and 28 percent after the 1981-82 recession.
(J)udging from the claptrap these CEOs are babbling every chance they get (read the article), they are planning to squeeze more than just their workers --- they want to use this situation to blackmail the government into cutting their taxes and deregulating them even more than they already are. It doesn't make sense, of course. They are sitting on a ton of capital, it's not like they don't have the money to invest. It's sheer opportunism and they'll probably get away with it.
(I)t's not as if their profits are being being put to work at all. They just aren't being put to work in the US. And if the political establishment has its way, they'll be doing even more. Free trade deals are on the top of both parties' "jobs agenda." If all goes well, they'll end up with a few high profile loopholes temporarily closed in exchange for lower tax rates forever and some sweetheart trade deals. With any luck they won't even have to give up the loopholes.
- Erin is among many to point out how Standard & Poor's was determined to downgrade the U.S.' credit rating even when its entire factual basis for doing so was proven wrong.

- Sixth Estate adds a few more names and numbers to the Harper Cons' patronage list.

- The National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy concludes that the Cons' already sad excuse for a climate-change program is double-counting any expected emission reductions.

- Finally, Alison's latest comic - on the Cons' loyalty testing - is well worth a look.

What might have been

Wilf Day offers up one what-might-have-been scenario based on proportional representation. But as one astute observer pointed out at the NDP's Vancouver convention, there's another alternate set of possibilities which wouldn't have required a different electoral system - only some better choices by the then-leader of one of the parties which has seen its fortunes decline most.

When Michael Ignatieff decided he preferred keeping Stephen Harper in power to working with a progressive coalition in 2009, his operating assumption seems to have been that the Libs simply needed to bide their time in order to become the next government down the road. But what he seems to have missed was that the coalition itself offered an opportunity to entrench a set of party rankings that worked in the Libs' favour.

Indeed, there isn't a single plausible outcome of Ignatieff seeking to take power under a coalition that wouldn't have been a far better result for the Libs than where they ended up instead.

At best for the Libs, Ignatieff would have had a chance to govern for a year and a half with an NDP coalition partner and Bloc support - not only effectively neutralizing any criticism from any other party to the left of the Cons, but ensuring that the comparative popularity of Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe served to reinforce the argument that the Libs belonged in power after a subsequent election. And if the coalition had held together, the likely result would have been either a change in leadership for the Cons, or at least a serious loosening of Stephen Harper's hold on his party - weakening the Libs' strongest opponent at the time while strengthening their own hand.

What's more, even the less desirable outcomes from Ignatieff's standpoint would figure to have positioned the Libs in a secure second place for the foreseeable future. If the coalition had taken power but its underlying support structure had fallen apart, the Libs would have been able to blame whichever party withdrew its support for breaking a deal to keep the Cons out of office - which would have given them a particular opportunity to rebuild in Quebec where the coalition was most popular. And if a coalition had been stopped in its tracks by defections to the Cons or by a snap election that resulted in a Con majority, the Libs would figure to have had no trouble at least locking in their second-party standing for the duration of the majority mandate.

Instead, by deciding that he couldn't stand to rule with another party at the cabinet table, Ignatieff sharpened distinctions which played to the NDP's advantage - while ensuring that the Libs would be seen as enemies both by the Cons for agreeing to the coalition in the first place, and by the other parties and their supporters who wanted to see Harper toppled. And in retrospect, that offered the NDP exactly the opening it needed to establish itself as the true opposition to the Cons in seat count as well as in principle.

Of course, the NDP deserves in taking advantage of the opening. But it's hard not to see the Libs' fall as the product of Ignatieff's original sin. And while there's some reason to hope the long-term result will be a political system that better reflects the values of progressive Canadians, it's still worth a reminder which party blew its opportunity to change the Harper-ruled status quo.

Sunday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Tom Mills challenges the Cons to show any job creation whatsoever as a result of their non-stop corporate tax slashing:
The thing is, if corporate tax cuts really do create jobs, Flaherty should be able to demonstrate it by now with something a little more substantial than theories.

Canada's corporate tax rate has dropped incrementally from 22.1% in 2005-06 to 16.5% today. The government should be able to track what jobs this has created.

Show us the jobs, I'd say. And show us full-time industrial jobs, not part-time service ones. Private sector, not civil service.

Otherwise, maybe we should give trickle-up economics a try.
- After a week of party operatives and media sources outside Quebec begging every NDP supporter they can find for some evidence of internal dissent angle to keep Nycole Turmel in the headlines, the big "gotcha" is...Adrian Dix' continued support for Turmel.

- Meanwhile, Carol Hughes rightly points out that two NDP opposition day motions passed unanimously in the House of Commons - meaning that there's every reason to put pressure on the Cons to translate their support in principle into real policy changes.

- Finally, I'll look at a couple of Alice's observations in more detail later. But for now, her post includes plenty of noteworthy tidbits on where Canada's political parties were in 2010, as well as where they're going in the years to come.