Sunday, March 03, 2013

Sunday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your Sunday reading.

- Chrystia Freeland comments on the disproportionate influence of the super-rich in a democratic system which is supposed to value citizens equally:
“I think most Americans believe in the idea of political equality,” Callahan told me. “That idea is obviously corrupted when in 2012, one guy, Sheldon Adelson, can make more political donations than the residents of 12 states put together.”

The Demos study draws in part on the quantitative research of Martin Gilens, a professor of politics at Princeton University and author of “Affluence and Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America.” Gilens, who focused on the divide between the top 10 percent and everyone else, found a high degree of what he calls political inequality.

“I looked at lots of survey data that indicated what people at different income levels wanted the government to do, and then I looked at what the government did,” Gilens explained.

“For people at the top 10 percent, you could predict what the government would do based on their preferences,” he said. “But when the preferences of people at lower income levels diverged from the affluent, that had no impact at all on the policies that were adopted. That was true not only for the poor but for the middle class as well.”

Gilens is a social scientist who is careful to stick to his data. But he told me he was “definitely surprised by the extent of the inequality.”

“If you value democracy, if you value the ability of people at all levels of income to shape government, which is what it means to be a democracy, then, yes, you should be very worried,” he said.
- Michael Smyth discusses the chaos surrounding the B.C. Libs, who aren't having any particular success running damage control after using public resources for a partisan ethnic voter strategy. And even one of Gordon Campbell's former chiefs of staff is pointing out that a combination of untrustworthy government and transparent corporate interference is only making the NDP look all the better by comparison.

- I'm not sure there's ever going to be much basis for confidence in the Northern Gateway pipeline. But an Enbridge witness trying to make the case that oil spills would be good for northern B.C. doesn't exactly inspire confidence that the project's backers are taking the dangers of a spill seriously.

- Finally, Noah Evanchuk wonders whether the Cons' stranglehold on much of western Canada is as safe as most pundits seem to presume - and notes that a track record of patronage and waste like the one amassed by the Harper Cons tends to give rise to a backlash on the prairies:
For two decades, Conservatives have been able to campaign in Alberta and Saskatchewan as Hill outsiders, vowing to go to Ottawa to “stand up” for the region. This “nail ‘em up” ethos has a long history in Western Canada and, going back to Louis Riel and the Red River Rebellion, no area of Canada has as consistently sent non-traditional parties to the House of Commons as Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Hot-button issues like the Liberal long gun registry and the Firearm Act allowed the Conservatives to tap into deep regional dissatisfaction with Ottawa. Their consistent dominance on the Prairies has fooled some Ottawa-based commentators into thinking the area is a lost cause for the NDP.

But the winds are changing direction for Tom Mulcair and the NDP in the West, where — along with the changing demographics that have given rise to the Idle No More movement — they will be taking seats directly from Conservatives, and electing a truly national NDP government in the process.

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