Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Erika Shaker rightly tears into the special brand of FAIPOF demanding that First Nations protesters focus solely on their own community leaders rather than recognizing broader and more systematic inequality:
Much is being made of Chief Spence’s Escalade (although I’m unsure if she actually owns one or if it’s urban legend) to try and mock the principled stand she has taken to call attention to the shameful conditions in which so many Indigenous peoples live. Because apparently if she had figured out how to stretch those shamefully inadequate federal transfers instead of engaging in a fast—which Barbara “just sayin’” Kay spells d-e-t-o-x—to protest the chronic underfunding of First Nations communities, Attawapiskat wouldn’t be in such a mess.

If only Chief Spence had had access to the Financial Post’s recent piece on “frugal billionaires who live like real people”. Then perhaps she would have learned some discretion when it came to her personal finances: modeling herself after Mark Zuckerberg’s “low key lifestyle” as evidenced by his recent Facebook-funded upgrade to a $7 million Palo Alto home which is “still well below his means”. Or Azim Premji, chairman of Wipro Limited with a net worth of $12.2 billion, who is so “frugal” he is said to “monitor the number of toilet paper rolls used in Wipro facilities” (which where employees are concerned seems less “frugal” than “fascist”). Oh, and Amancio Ortego, founder of Zara and worth $57.5 billion, “hasn’t let success go to his head”…except for perhaps one teensy indulgence: a private Bombardier jet that cost $45 million.

That’s how you do frugal, FP-style.

For some, wealth and reality are clearly fluid concepts—as the Financial Post and its comrades in the class struggle illustrate.
Clearly this is about perception, but more to the point, it’s about the perceptions that some people—who can afford them—impose on everyone else to either marginalize the majority of the population, or to sow seeds of division. The people who “matter”—those who make over $150,000—become the standard by which a “successful” society and the economy are judged. They deserve empathy for their hardship and a tax code that further enriches them…and facial expressions detailed in full colour.
Meanwhile, public outrage at an unworkable economic system that continues to marginalize so many of us—and some far more than others—can be directed elsewhere.

At the Theresa Spences of the world. For example.
- Meanwhile, Frances Russell discusses how the right's obsession with stripping out as much as possible from the tar sands into private hands has exacerbated inequality across Canada. Carol Goar notes that there's still a stark contrast between the reserves of cash held in corporate coffers and the lack of economic benefit for mere citizens. And CUPE questions the Cons' determination to turn social programs into yet another set of corporate profit centres.

- Hassan Arif discusses what progressive political parties need to do in order to counter the influence of big money (and all the astroturf attention it can buy):
(F)or progressive political parties, substantive policies, rooted in the concerns of party members and the general public (through genuine consultation and engagement) is key -- policies aimed at combating real problems faced by the general public, aimed at building a broad progressive coalition to defeat conservative parties which, in many cases in both Britain and Canada, are increasingly driven by rightwing neo-conservative ideology.

In Canada, this would entail building a coalition of environmentalists (including many who would normally support the Green Party), social democrats, liberals, and Red Tories who hail from the Progressive half of the old Progressive Conservative Party. This would involve emphasis on environmental conservation, poverty-reduction, a strong social safety net (both protecting and enhancing it), and an emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation.
The Labour Party, in charting an assertively progressive path, in seeking to root policies in local concerns and to empower volunteers and elected officials, and in embarking on a genuinely consultative policy process, is offering lessons worth learning for other progressive parties, including here in Canada.
- But as Tim Harper points out, the default setting for far too many Canadian governments (of multiple partisan stripes) seems to be to limit the activity and effectiveness of elected legislative bodies. And so it may be particularly important to highlight how the link between voters, elected representatives and governments should work in order to ensure that policy actually reflects public priorities.


  1. Anonymous9:08 a.m.

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  2. Don't think much of the Arif piece. He wants British Labour to be the model?! Oh, please. Might as well look to France's "Socialist" party or the US Democrats.
    If we're going to look for party models that aren't in power but may be next election, I'd far rather Greece's Syriza.

    1. Fair enough that Labour has gone off track far too often. But if he picks a lousy example, he's mostly on target in emphasizing a grassroots model rather than top-down (which strikes me as the main problem for Labour in the past as well as for Canada's counterparts).

    2. Point. I'm very much in favour of grassroots power in political parties and other political vehicles.
      I just find it hard to take seriously the notion of Labour under Milliband as a grassroots model. Heck, even the Venezuelan PSUV isn't a grassroots model--I'm a Chavez supporter big time, but if it weren't for the strength of the genuine grassroots there, the political party would be rapidly going the way of Labour et al.
      Syriza, though, the more I read about them the more impressed I become. Take for instance this in-depth and well informed if occasionally rambling article:

  3. Anonymous12:11 a.m.

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