Saturday, December 05, 2015

Saturday Morning Links

This and that for your weekend reading.

- Jacqueline Davidson offers a personal account of the experience of living in poverty, including the need to rely on charity to make up for constantly-unmet needs. And Alana Semuels discusses how single mothers in particular have no choice but to rely on social connections to make up for the absence of both public supports and viable employment opportunities.

- Meredith Dost points out that there's strong support for a basic income and poverty relief even among U.S. Republicans who actually face low incomes for themselves - meaning that it's only the wealthier wing of a single party blocking a popular desire for improved social supports. And Sean McElwee comments on new research showing how voter disengagement allows that minority to control Congress.

- Dan Darrah writes that Canada is losing out due to our lack of proper corporate tax enforcement:
 We've almost always been soft on business. Canadian "welfare capitalism" has been around since the 19th century -- think John A. Macdonald's National Policy, which helped line the pockets of commercial interests through the production of the Canadian-Pacific Railway. James Ondrick argued in his fantastic thesis paper "The Erosion of Elite Accommodation" that elite interests -- especially business groups -- have enjoyed a very privileged treatment from the feds, and Canadians have accepted this practice as "legitimate."

We've accepted that well-positioned corporate interests are a part of the "public policy process," Ondrick argues. We respond to these political machinations not with protest, but with one gigantic, seismic nod.

Canada even has the lowest corporate tax rate in the G7.

So, maybe the question is, "have the politicians gone too soft?"

The Canadians for Tax Fairness (CTF) estimated that companies operating in Canada in 2014 held over $199 billion in "assets" -- unpaid taxes -- in havens like Barbados and the Cayman Islands. A grilling Oxfam report found that Canada is one of the biggest "losers" of corporate tax revenue. The "winner" countries are the ones with low-to-none corporate income tax, such as Bermuda, as well as the super-rich.
Giving the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) some power to pry into corporate pocketbooks would be a great start, as would be creating anti-avoidance legislation like the kind being explored in the U.K.

It would surely take some moxie, but for good reason. The not-so-new cash could also be injected into crumbling municipal infrastructure, underfunded healthcare facilities, improved settlement services for soon-to-be arriving Syrian refugees, or perhaps the very ambitious platform Trudeau is now charged with implementing. An easy $199 billion more bones in the federal coffers might ease the stress of doing so.

If not for the revenue, the government should crack down on principle: Canadian taxpayers have been pulling their weight since the first income tax was levied in 1917. Corporations should be, too.
- Tony Burman highlights the connection between climate change and global insecurity. And Tabatha Southey offers a handy classification system for climate-change deniers.

- Finally, Donna Baines and Pat Armstrong offer a survey of options for long-term care which deserve a close look at home.

On consensus-building

John Ivison is a bit melodramatic on behalf of the Cons in assessing the impact of possible electoral reform. But to the extent the Cons actually accept his argument, it might well lead them toward the best possible outcome in the form of a proportional electoral system.

After all, by highlighting electoral reform in their throne speech as a promise to be addressed in short order, the Libs have left themselves little room to stick with the status quo.

Nor will they have much incentive to do so. If the other parties go off in different directions, with the Cons trying desperately and alone to cling to first-past-the-post, the Libs will figure to use their majority to push through the system which benefits them the most. And that would mean a ranked ballot system which favours the Libs at everybody else's expense.

But if the Cons are willing to think through their options in supporting an alternative system (however grudgingly), their choice could be both positive and decisive.

As Ivison notes, the Cons in their current form would lose out significantly from a ranked-ballot system. And if first-past-the-post isn't an option, that leaves the possibility of supporting proportional representation - as at least some of the Cons' base has long done.

If the Cons were to join the NDP and the Greens in backing PR, the Libs would have a much more difficult time imposing a ranked-ballot system. Instead of being able to push their preferred choice on a divided opposition, they'd have to choose between facing criticism from all sides for rejecting a consensus alternative option, or being able to claim all-party support in delivering on a major promise (with a system which itself would be far from a clear loss for a party likely to be included in most potential coalition governments).

Of course, it remains to be seen whether the Cons are willing to accept that they're no longer in a position to dictate terms. And indeed the most likely outcome is probably that they'll try (and fail) to block any electoral reform whatsoever. But if they're willing to move past Harper's my-way-or-the-highway approach in shaping our electoral system, the result may be one that all parties can count as a win in the long run.

Friday, December 04, 2015

Musical interlude

Matt Darey & Aeron Aether feat. Tiff Lacey - Into The Blue

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Tom Bawden notes that inequality is as much a problem in our relative contribution to climate change as it is in so many other areas of life. And Steven Rosenfeld lists some of the ways in which the increasingly-wealthy few are making life worse for everybody else in the U.S.:
The super-rich are more politically active than average Americans, financing and contacting elected officials and knowing many on a first-name basis. Their agenda, which is often cited by public officials across the country, emphasizes private profit-making and is skeptical of almost every public program to address economic inequality, the study by Chicago-based university researchers found. The top 1 percent’s social agenda, while “more liberal than others on religious and moral issues, including abortion, gay rights, and prayer in school,” is still “much more conservative than the non-affluent on issues of taxes, economic regulation, and social welfare,” the researchers found.

Put another way, today’s top 1 percent generally do not believe the longtime conservative line that a rising economic tide will lift all Americans, but have a darker view in which one’s fate is tied to the survival of the fittest. They consider climate change a non-issue and most would cut federal and state safety nets and anti-poverty programs, shift taxpayer dollars into privatized education and do little to ensure access to higher education.

“We speculate that the striking contrast concerning core social welfare programs between our wealthy respondents and the general public may reveal something important about the current state of American politics,” the report says. “If wealthy Americans wield an extra measure of influence over policy making, and if they strongly favor deficit reductions through spending cuts—including cuts in Social Security and Medicare—this may help explain why a number of public officials have advocated deep cuts in the very social welfare programs that are most popular among ordinary Americans.”
- Mike Moffatt writes that there's plenty our governments can do to ensure that wealthy individuals pay their fair share of taxes, but that it will take significant political will to take the necessary steps.

- The OECD documents how tax contributions have changed over the past decade - with corporate taxes in particular plummeting (contrary to the promise that tax cuts will pay for themselves) while individuals pick up the slack. And Alexandra Posadzki reports that bank profits alone seem to be skyrocketing even as the rest of our economy largely stagnates.

- Roderick Benns argues that our next major national project should be a basic income. And David Gratzer suggests that we should work on eradicating homelessness.

- Meanwhile, Ben Walsh highlights the need for far more investment in avoiding catastrophic climate change. And Martin Lukacs challenges Justin Trudeau to follow up on his shiny climate rhetoric with action.

- Finally, Ed Broadbent follows up on this week's show of public support by making the case for a a more proportional electoral system rather than an even more distorted ranked-ballot version. And Dylan Penner also weighs in to support proportional representation.

[Edit: fixed typo in excerpt.]

Movements and moments

Let's continue this line of thought about the federal NDP's most recent election campaign with my slight twist on one of the more familiar questions which has faced the party (in various forms) over a period of decades.

I'll start by drawing a distinction between two related goals which are bound to figure in a political party's plans. Any party with the foresight to last more than an election cycle will put meaningful effort into building a movement over the longer term; any party wanting to accomplish anything during an election cycle will likewise prioritize the goal of capturing the moment when it counts most during an election campaign.

And while I'll question the respective allocation of resources between those two goals in hindsight, there are certainly precedents the NDP could point to in focusing largely on a "capture the moment" philosophy.

The 2011 Orange Wave resulted in no small part from a phenomenal amount of movement-building work by Jack Layton and his team. But it also concluded with a crescendo of support which went far beyond what would have been expected based on the the party's infrastructure.

And the NDP's provincial election wins in Nova Scotia and Alberta can also be taken as triumphs of a "capture the moment" philosophy in different ways - with Nova Scotia being based on stronger party infrastructure but less appeal to activists (and likely serving as the model for the 2015 federal campaign), while Alberta reflected the converse.

After 2011, the federal NDP faced the task of converting its sudden increase in votes, seats and public opinion into other gains, including the development of a broader movement. And lest there be any doubt, it took some important steps to do so.

Not only did Tom Mulcair put in double duty personally to match his opponents' travel schedule while also serving as an ideal leader of the opposition in Parliament, but the NDP also started engaging members in the type of ongoing issue-based outreach which hadn't been seen in some time. And indeed, the NDP's success in 2015 was founded in no small part on the combination of parliamentary work and activist engagement around Bill C-51.

But the effort to build activist support was complicated by Justin Trudeau's arrival as the Libs' leader - which bumped the NDP from its place at the top of the polls, and prevented the NDP from being seen as the lone magnet for Harper opponents. Hence the rise of the "promiscuous progressive" whose support remained in play through most of the 2015 election campaign. 

Trudeau's rise represented a factor beyond the NDP's control. But the party also took numerous steps (including focusing on MP and candidate "discipline" as well as rejecting candidates for questionable reasons) which narrowed its range of acceptable supporters and dampened enthusiasm within its usual base - presumably with the goal of remaining acceptable to a wider range of voters in the hope of capturing late deciders.

That on its own was problematic enough. But coupled with a choice to focus relatively little on values and policy definition during the campaign, it set the NDP up for failure in the battle to be seen as the alternative to the Cons - or at least, took the shape of the campaign out of the NDP's hands.

To be fair, it's entirely possible that the commentariat would now be lauding the political brilliance of Prime Minister Tom Mulcair and his far-sighted team if Trudeau had fallen down during the campaign, leaving the NDP as an inoffensive alternative to clean up the anti-Conservative vote. But the NDP's election plan didn't work against a Lib campaign which ran smoothly - and the appeal to default status is certainly outdated now that the Libs are back in power.

Fortunately, if the above analysis holds up as to what went wrong, the election result on its own should push the NDP in the right direction out of necessity. A leader who can't rely on being perceived as the default alternative is bound to make the case for his own values; a smaller caucus will inevitably have to focus more on outreach and advocacy than on discipline; a party with less parliamentary resources will need to put proportionally more work into its base of volunteers and donors.

Those are thus the measures I'll be looking for in assessing Mulcair's continued leadership. While it's important to offer effective opposition in Ottawa, it's more clear than ever that the NDP's future success depends on its ability to foster and tap into an active progressive movement. And it's by developing that popular base over time (and keeping it all the more engaged during a campaign) that the NDP can best position itself to win overall voter support when it counts most.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

On purposes

There are plenty of questions which the NDP is rightly asking in the wake of this fall's federal election results. But Susan Delacourt is uncharacteristically far off base in her view as to what the main question is.

By way of contrast, the question of "What’s the point of the party anyway?" was a highly relevant one for the Libs after 2011 precisely because the longstanding answer seemed like it might no longer apply. A party whose historic base of support was built around the willingness to take on and discard principles in the name of power brokerage figured to have a great deal of trouble establishing a raison d'etre if it held no realistic prospect of actually winning power. And while I'd have been interested to see what the Libs would have come up with if forced to hash out a coherent ideological base, their remaining forces lined up as readily as they did behind Justin Trudeau precisely because his star power relieved them from any need to answer that question. 

In contrast, the NDP has always had a distinct identity as Canada's labour-based, egalitarian party which has held up through good times and bad. And while it may have spent large (and perhaps undue) amounts of time in the past election trying to reach voters who weren't motivated by those principles, there's no reason to think the NDP will have any trouble fortifying and building on its historical foundation.

And in case there was any doubt, the party's policy messages since the Libs' election win reflect exactly that philosophy - making Delacourt's hand-wringing about the NDP's positioning look like little but a symptom of a failure to pay attention.

So while there are questions about how the NDP can best pursue the goal of exercising and influencing power for the benefit of the many, there's no reason at all to question what its purpose actually is.

New column day

Here, on how the Saskatchewan Party's mid-year fiscal update shows it hasn't learned a thing about managing a boom-and-bust resource economy - and how it may take Saskatchewan's electorate to fix the underlying problem.

For further reading...
- The mid-year update discussed in the column is here (PDF). And the increase in unemployment of more than half - from 3.5% to 5.6% - can be found in the difference between Statistics Canada's numbers for October 2014 (which the Wall government crowed about here) here and the ones from October 2015 mentioned in the province's most recent monthly economic indicators report.
- CBC reports on the update and the related deficit, while Bruce Johnstone reports on the latest economic forecasts (including updated housing numbers). And Simon Falush discusses on the factors behind the global drop in oil prices which figure to last for some time to come.
- Finally, the Leader-Post's editorial board offers its own view about the missed opportunity to set up a heritage fund - even after the Wall government supposedly planned to develop one.

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Paul Edwards discusses the availability of a gradual transition to clean energy while avoiding more than 2 degrees of climate change - but only if we start swapping out fossil fuels for renewable energy now. And Christopher Grainger argues that a space race-style approach to research and development represents a necessary part of the transition we should be pursuing:
Carbon lock-in is one of the key insights of recent work in “directed technical change” by MIT economist Daron Acemoglu and colleagues. They find the most cost-effective way to address climate change is early action on both fronts: pricing carbon and supporting low-carbon innovation. Acemoglu and co differ from traditional economic models of climate change by properly considering how new technology emerges, instead of treating it as an “exogenous” process that suddenly arrives like manna from heaven.

Early policy intervention is crucial. It can change the path of innovation from “dirty” (carbon-intensive) to “clean” (low-carbon) and then once clean innovation gains a sufficient advantage it can be left alone, as profit-maximising firms will pursue clean innovation in their own interests.
If markets left to themselves will continue to merely pump out “innovations” along certain pathways, then it is up to the state to play a more direct role in starting a “greentech” revolution. Mariana Mazzucato, in her book The Entrepreneurial State, argues that major advances in tech from the internet to nanotechnology to pharmaceuticals were born either directly from government research or because governments made the risky investments necessary for the private sector to act.

The good news is that not all money is the same, and those behind Mission Innovation and the Breakthrough Energy Coalition seem to have read Mazzucato. They explicitly reference “patient capital” which can reduce the risk of uncertain technological investments. There is no question this is a major step in the right direction.

Governments certainly need to price carbon, but they should also act as entrepreneurs and market-creators to kickstart innovation for the green growth of the future. If we are underspending on this by orders of magnitude, then doubling is not nearly enough.
- Justin Fisher laments Brad Wall's continued determination to be an obstacle in the way of any progress. David Turnbull points out how much more is being spent on fossil fuel subsidies than on the latest round of climate change funding promises. And George Monbiot compares the UK Cons' cavalier attitude toward climate change to their eagerness to engage in war.

- Yves Smith weighs in on the futility of expecting economic growth out of corporate tax slashing. And Adrian Morrow reports on the Ontario Libs' corporate welfare programs which are burning through billions of public dollars in the absence of any apparent effort to set funding criteria or track any results.

- Richard Elliott highlights how the Trans-Pacific Partnership will limit the availability of desperately-needed prescription drugs.

- Finally, the Broadbent Institute highlights the Canadian public's eagerness for a change in our electoral system - though there's an obvious choice to be made between preferential systems supported by the public, and a ranked-ballot system which would have further inflated the Libs' seat count.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

On balancing acts

For those wondering, I'm indeed following up on these posts and working my way through some of the factors in the NDP's federal election result. (For more on the subject, see the latest from Lawrence Martin, and Desmond Cole talking to Cheri DiNovo.)

I'll turn now to what's often been labeled the most important turning point of the campaign - that being the NDP's promise to balance the federal budget, in contrast to the Libs' commitment to run deficits. But the problem looks to me to have been less that the NDP took an unreasonable position, than that it didn't do enough otherwise to win what's come to be labeled the "progressive primary".

While I don't see DiNovo's comments in particular as accurately presenting the NDP's message (no, "austerity" was never on the table), they do reflect how the Libs managed to spin the NDP's position. And that's largely because the NDP's messaging early in the campaign was aimed at maintaining the party's consideration set with warm-and-fuzzy messages about Tom Mulcair and challenges to the Cons, sometimes at the expense of appealing to a progressive base which was apparently waiting to decide on its direction.

To be fair, the NDP may have expected its past messaging and policy work to have accomplished that task already. After all, both other major parties took the opposite side of issues including C-51, child care, and the minimum wage among others, while the Libs had seemed to run right more than left until the campaign began.

What's more, the NDP did plenty to earn the support of people who were paying attention to positions on specific issues. And while its platform didn't receive the attention it deserved (due in no small part to the party's choice to release it late and with little fanfare), it included plenty worth promoting.

Ultimately, I don't see the Libs as actually having earned the title of "more progressive" among any but a narrow subset of voters. But they did manage to confuse matters enough to ensure that values-based positioning wasn't a significant advantage for the NDP, particularly in terms of motivating its base supporters along with unaligned progressives. And that helped the Libs immensely when it came time for voters to settle on a choice based on affinity and electability.

To the extent the problem was one of muddied waters rather than clear distinctions, I have my doubts that following the Libs and announcing a willingness to run deficits would have radically changed the campaign, particularly if it seemed to be the result of calculation rather than commitment.

Instead, the problem seems to have been a single-minded focus on keeping remote connections to soft voters at the expense of motivating progressives - particularly when the primary goal should arguably have been a focus on the latter in order to facilitate the former closer to election day. And in my next post, I'll tie that choice to what looks like the core lesson to be taken from the NDP's successes and failures alike over the past few years.

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Paul Krugman reviews Robert Reich's upcoming book, with a particular focus on the connection between corporate power and growing inequality:
...Reich makes a very good case that widening inequality largely reflects political decisions that could have gone in very different directions. The rise in market power reflects a turn away from antitrust laws that looks less and less justified by outcomes, and in some cases the rise in market power is the result of the raw exercise of political clout to prevent policies that would limit monopolies—for example, the sustained and successful campaign to prevent public provision of Internet access.

Similarly, when we look at the extraordinary incomes accruing to a few people in the financial sector, we need to realize that there are real questions about whether those incomes are “earned.” As Reich argues, there’s good reason to believe that high profits at some financial firms largely reflect insider trading that we’ve made a political decision not to regulate effectively. And we also need to realize that the growth of finance reflected political decisions that deregulated banking and failed to regulate newer financial activities.

Meanwhile, forms of market power that benefit large numbers of workers as opposed to small numbers of plutocrats have declined, again thanks in large part to political decisions. We tend to think of the drastic decline in unions as an inevitable consequence of technological change and globalization, but one need look no further than Canada to see that this isn’t true. Once upon a time, around a third of workers in both the US and Canada were union members; today, US unionization is down to 11 percent, while it’s still 27 percent north of the border. The difference was politics: US policy turned hostile toward unions in the 1980s, while Canadian policy didn’t follow suit. And the decline in unions seems to have major impacts beyond the direct effect on members’ wages: researchers at the International Monetary Fund have found a close association between falling unionization and a rising share of income going to the top one percent, suggesting that a strong union movement helps limit the forces causing high concentration of income at the top.

Following his schema, Reich argues that unions aren’t so much a source of market power as an example of “countervailing power” (a term he borrows from John Kenneth Galbraith) that limits the depredations of monopolists and others. If unions are not subject to restrictions, they may do so by collective bargaining not only for wages but for working conditions. In any case, the causes and consequences of union decline, like the causes and consequences of rising monopoly power, are a very good illustration of the role of politics in increasing inequality.
- Takashi Nakamichi reports that the Bank of Japan is going so far as to push unions to demand higher wages for the good of that country's economy as a whole. And Chico Harlan writes about the publicly-subsidized spread of low-wage work through the southern U.S. (and the limited opportunities it creates for workers), while Sara Mojtehedzadeh highlights the exploitation of cleaning workers through subcontracting arrangements in Ontario.

- Courtney Howard points out an open letter to the Trudeau Libs from Canadian physicians about the importance of the Paris climate conference and action against climate change. And that appeal would seem to fit with the Libs' talk about recognizing the social determinants of health as an element of their policy-making process.

- But of course, it remains to be seen whether they'll live up to that promise - and their installation of an oil executive in a prominent natural resources position doesn't exactly bode well.

- Finally, Andrew Mitrovica rightly slams any attempt to blame terrorism on people who value civil liberties. And Robert Benzie and Robert Cribb report on Ontario's long-overdue - and unanimous - push to limit how information in the hands of police can be misused for other purposes.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Up and down cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Paul Mason weighs in on how income and wealth inequality spill over into every corner of a person's life:
It is very possible to be poor in the 21st-century welfare state. One in five children lives in poverty, and this decade will see the first rise in absolute poverty in a generation. For decade after decade, post-war governments have chipped away at the principle of social insurance: you pay your stamps, you get your cash benefits as of right. The result is a world-class health system struggling to deal with large-scale, growing ill health determined by poverty. Even if we all live longer, the poor live shorter lives and will spend decades in disability.

So what would a modern Beveridge write? I think he would reiterate that “want” – or poverty – is the basic evil that, if you don’t abolish, drags down all your attempts at making people healthier or better educated. It’s very obvious – to anybody who has been near a food bank, or a women’s refuge, or a probation office – that “want, ignorance, squalor, disease and idleness” still exist, at disgraceful levels, and in highly concentrated pockets. A 16-year gap in healthy life expectancy between Blackpool and Wokingham – towns a three-hour journey apart – would shock us into action if we really cared about it.

And here’s why we should care: health inequality follows a clear gradient path. If you break down the population into 5% chunks according to income, every one of these chunks is healthier than the one below them. The editor, on average, dies of heart attack later than the deputy editor. This is one of the clearest findings of Marmot’s and other epidemiological research.

So inequality is not just about rich and poor – it’s about the tilted playing field of life, and how to stop it getting steeper.
- And Paul Buchheit duly challenges the spin that poverty has any meaningful connection to laziness, rather than being primarily the result of systematic disadvantages which often can't be overcome by any amount of hard work.

- Ashley Csanady reports on one long-overdue improvement in working conditions in Ontario, as employers are finally being restricted from taking a cut of workers' tips. But Martin Regg Cohn highlights how employers are still trying to wriggle out of their obligations, with the province's new pension plan serving as the latest example.

- Joby Warrick discusses the connection between corporate-funded denialism and the U.S.' polarization on climate change. But Bruce Cheadle reports that the Libs are throwing all of their promised climate research dollars into a corporate-led pool.

- Meanwhile, Lauren McCauley reports on the activists defying a ban to be heard around the Paris climate change conference. And Naomi Klein reminds us of the lives at stake as we decide whether our planet is worth saving.

- Finally, Carol Goar writes about the dangers of a bandwagon effect toward war in the absence of any accurate information as to what we're getting into.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Jordan Brennan studies the relationship between corporate taxes and the economy, and finds that the promise of growth in exchange for corporate giveaways has proven entirely illusory.

- Andy McSmith looks at another of the consequences of the trend toward corporate control, as the UK has seen the pay gap between CEOs and everybody else increase by leaps and bounds. And Nora Loreto highlights the need for the labour movement to lead the charge against the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other agreements intended to entrench the power of business against mere citizens.

- Tania Kohut reports on Campaign 2000's latest study (PDF) showing that Canada's rate of child poverty has increased in the decades since our MPs agreed unanimously to eradicate it. And Steve Buist reports on new research showing the connection between poverty, class, health and mortality in Hamilton.

- Andreas Malm discusses the futility of the non-binding non-targets at the centre of the Paris climate change negotiations. And Eric Doherty writes that the only hope for a real shift in climate change policy is the prospect of a far stronger social movement demanding better.

- Finally, Ben Worthy points out the pattern of government contempt for the concept of public access to information. And Dean Beeby reports that in keeping with that cynical view of accountability, the Libs have repudiated their promises of open government, instead setting up a lengthy review process designed to ensure that the public's demand for change now doesn't turn into meaningful policy improvements down the road.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Rosemary Barton reports on the Libs' announcement of increased funding to help developing countries fight climate change - which does represent a noteworthy improvement on the Cons' comparative stinginess. But as I've noted, it doesn't much help to deal with only one aspect of the issue - making it an especially serious problem that the business lobby looks to be setting the agenda for the Paris conference while citizen voices are silenced.

- Meanwhile, Nicholas Confessore writes that Illinois is serving as the prime example of the corporate takeover of U.S. politics - with a single ultra-rich candidate and his financial-sector buddies combining to buy his way into the governor's mansion to impose policies despised by the majority of the public. And as I've written before, there's a real possibility of the same happening in Saskatchewan due to our lack of appropriate checks on political donations.

- Jenny Wittner points out that workers end up bearing the brunt of the corporate push for holiday profits - and that our choices can shape whether businesses keep pushing the envelope.

- Duncan Cameron offers some musings on what Canada's left needs to do in light of this fall's federal election. And Andrew Jackson points out that there's ample room for advocacy in calling for central bank financing of stimulus measures.

- Finally, Claire McIlveen highlights the fact that the Libs' decision to turn away male refugees reflects exactly the politics of fear they were elected to end. And Jeremy Nuttall collects the appropriate responses to five of the most common anti-refugee excuses.