Monday, March 03, 2014

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your Monday reading.

- David Atkins emphasizes the need for progressive parties and activists to discuss big ideas rather than settling for the path of least short-term resistance:
Both the poor and the middle class feel threatened and increasingly pessimistic. Opinions of elite institutions across the board are at an all time low. Whether on the right or left, few believe anymore that anyone in government, business, or politics is actually looking out for their interests. In a world like this, the move to ensure that every single individual in society has an equal, infinitesimal chance to become obscenely rich loses its moral force. The rhetoric around "making sure that no one is left behind" in starvation and penury is far less compelling when the entire middle class feels like it's being left behind.
Tapping into the backlash will require more than just a focus on winning elections, as voters no longer believe politicians can or even want to solve their problems. It will also require much more than the weak vision of progress that the New Left has been peddling for decades.

It will require an acknowledgement of the trends that continue to destroy the middle class and send the working class into abject poverty, and a commitment to not only protect those falling furthest behind but to reverse the broader trend.

It will require a willingness to propose and try ambitious and novel policy ideas, both at the federal level and through the laboratories of the states. Policies like a Wall Street transaction tax, or state-run banks, or incentives designed to decrease rather than increase the cost of housing, or even a universal basic income. Capital mobility can be a problem, but even that is soluble through international trade treaties that serve to protect the interests of workers rather than plutocrats. These sorts of ideas can and should serve as the template for a re-energized left that promises not just vague and increasingly unrealized "opportunity" to people, but that actually delivers tangible results.
- Meanwhile, Darcy Henton reports on the latest example of unchecked privatization and corporatism run amok - as TransAlta is accused of taking a page out of Enron's playbook and causing up deliberate power shortages in order to drive up its own prices. Market efficiency at work!

- And Bruce Johnstone writes that the Cons' obsession with demolishing the Canadian Wheat Board is the most important factor behind the lack of shipping capacity that's leaving a prime grain crop stranded on the prairies.

- Dan Leger and Mark Burgess both note that the Cons' election legislation is aimed purely at rigging the electoral rules in their favour. And Linda Leon writes to her Con MP with an appropriate response to the bill.

- Finally, James Cudmore reports on Doug Drever's attempt to encourage accountability and access to information. But it's well worth noting that the Cons' culture of denial seems sufficiently dominant that even a strong dissenting voice wasn't enough to stop others from happily taking up the job of keeping information secret:
Then DND headquarters changed the plan again. Drever was ordered to advise CBC to ask for the documents through Access to Information rather than release them.

"Actually … No, I won't,” he said in one email.

"Gotta stand for something once in a while,” he added in another.

Drever told the army team to get someone else to refuse the request.

Eighteen minutes later, a subordinate, Capt. Denny Brown, reported, "Mission accomplished."

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