Saturday, January 16, 2016

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Errol Mendes points out that any commitment to securing human rights in our foreign policy is currently limited by the lack of any systematic attempt to see how those rights are being treated. And Rick Mercer rants about the Libs' gall in misleading Canadians about the sales of arms to tyrants (though his recollection of the election campaign is somewhat off):

- Meanwhile, David Boyd points out that climate change is just another area where an obsession with corporate interests above all else is leading to fundamental values being compromised.

- Daniel Dale documents the callous disregard Michigan's Republican administration has shown toward the people it's poisoned in Flint. And Kristi Tanner takes a look at the devastating long-term public health impacts of a single austerian decision.

- Doug Cuthand points out how Brad Wall is playing politics at the expense of First Nations - though it's worth keeping in mind that voters get the final say in whether that calculation works or not.

- Finally, Dani Rodrik writes about the need to bring public investment back into our discussion about how to build an economy that works for everybody:
The idea that public investment in infrastructure – roads, dams, power plants, and so forth – is an indispensable driver of economic growth has always held powerful sway over the minds of policymakers in poor countries. It also lay behind early development assistance programs following World War II, when the World Bank and bilateral donors funneled resources to newly independent countries to finance large-scale projects. And it motivates the new China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which aims to fill the region’s supposed $8 trillion infrastructure gap.

But this kind of public-investment-driven growth model – often derisively called “capital fundamentalism” – has long been out of fashion among development experts. Since the 1970s, economists have been advising policymakers to de-emphasize the public sector, physical capital, and infrastructure, and to prioritize private markets, human capital (skills and training), and reforms in governance and institutions. From all appearances, development strategies have been transformed wholesale as a result.

It may be time to reconsider that change. If one looks at the countries that, despite strengthening global economic headwinds, are still growing very rapidly, one will find public investment is doing a lot of the work.
Public investment can enhance an economy’s productivity for a substantial period of time, even a decade or more, as it clearly has done in Ethiopia. It can also catalyze private investment, and there is some evidence that this has happened in India in recent years.

The potential benefits of public investment are not limited to developing countries. In fact, today it may be the advanced economies of North America and Western Europe that stand to gain the most from ramping up domestic public investment. In the aftermath of the great recession, there are many ways in which these economies could put additional public spending to good use: to increase demand and employment, restore crumbling infrastructure, and boost research and development, particularly in green technologies.

Such arguments are typically countered in policy debates by objections related to fiscal balance and macroeconomic stability. But public investment is different from other types of official outlays, such as expenditures on public-sector wages or social transfers. Public investment serves to accumulate assets, rather than consume them. So long as the return on those assets exceeds the cost of funds, public investment in fact strengthens the government’s balance sheet.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Friday Evening Links

This and that to end your week.

- Serina Sandhu writes that everybody is worse off when inequality is allowed to run rampant. And Danny Dorling highlights the principles we'll need to follow in order to reverse the trend in that direction:
There was a time when hardly anyone was roofless in the UK, when you never met a beggar and when those with least were not that different from those in the middle, when those with least had enough to be included in society. I was young then. As I age it becomes harder to remember when I first saw teenagers having to sleep rough, or was first asked for ‘the price of a cup of tea’, or first realized that because I could make some choices whereas others couldn’t, that they were no longer free.

Luckily you don’t have to rely on the memories of the old to know that a more equal world is possible, a world where the 1% take a far smaller share of the cake. The 1%, by definition, will always be those taking the largest slice, but not always such a great fat slice, leaving slithers for the rest. Question those who say that it can only be this way. Try to question them kindly rather than with incredulity. A society based on merit would be remarkably equitable compared with what we face today. No one is worth 3000 times another person. The three-thousand fold inequalities within the 1% are just as indefensible as those between them and the other 99%.
Gross inequality creates a lack of respect for the other group – people who are not like us. There is a lack of respect among the rich for the poor, and that will be the same among the poor for the rich. Lack of respect breeds cruelty and hate. Lack of respect is not new and has grown between groups many times before, over religion, race, nationality, social class, sex and sexuality. These older divisions all remain and can be easily reignited, resulting in cruelty and hate, fear, suffering and despair. However, nowadays it is financial inequality both globally and in the UK that is the greatest source of our separation from each other.

What is needed is understanding and generosity, hope and perseverance, but above all kindness. Kindness is patient, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud, it is not self-seeking (1 Corinthians 13, verses 4-8). All is worthwhile when we have been kind.
- Meanwhile, Jonathan Heller connects race and poverty as related contributing causes of health disparities. But Robert Rogers finds that it's income which plays a larger role than any other factor in childhood obesity.

- Ben Norton comments on the U.S.' disappearing middle class, as the majority of the population doesn't have enough savings to handle even a $1,000 emergency expense.

- Hugh Mackenzie responds to a particularly inept defence of labour inequality by pointing out that even if CEOs were worth their weight in gold, they'd still be overpaid. And Adnan Al-Daini discusses how everybody else is subsidizing the increasingly absurd amounts being paid to the lucky few.

- Finally, Michael Harris delivers a well-deserved retort to Kevin O'Leary in response to his attempt to become Canada's Donald Trump:
Using O’Leary’s standards, the guy with the biggest bank account is the smartest dude. Which means that Norway wins because it both got North Sea oil developed, and it exacted the public’s fair share, which it refused to merge into general revenues. Alberta and Canada caved in to energy investment at any price, blew the windfall, and now have to face the music. With oil dipping below $30 a barrel, it might be a dirge.

So let’s not forget the real authors of this mess. O’Leary would have you believe that Alberta now has catastrophic political leadership. What he actually means is the free lunch for Big Business is over.

The NDP might have delivered a $5 billion deficit budget, replete with new taxes — but it was past Conservative governments which made both the deficit and the tax hikes inevitable. They were put in charge of massive amounts of money and mismanaged it tragically.

It’s ludicrous for O’Leary to now complain that Rachel Notley is the wrong steward for what he calls Canada’s most important resource. The only people who believe that are the ones whose heads are “for rent, unfurnished”, as the saying goes.

Musical interlude

Dirty Vegas - Setting Sun

Thursday, January 14, 2016

On relativity

Since we're seeing another wave of hysteria about Tom Mulcair's support in the general public as the NDP's convention approaches, let's check in with the main poll being cited for the thesis that there's some imminent issue with his popular support.

And in particular, let's take a look at the question which considers leaders in absolute rather than relative terms:
More than seven of ten Canadians (72.0%) believe Trudeau has the qualities of a good political leader while 56.3% say the same of Mulcair, 28.4% of Ambrose and 36.5% of May. 
So which of these theories fits the data?

(b) Tom Mulcair remains a respected leader whose "preferred" numbers in comparison to Trudeau have dropped primarily due to the latter's honeymoon phase.

As during the election, Mulcair is running into the flip side of the axiom that "it's good enough to be a 3 if everybody else is a 2": it's not good enough to be a 6 if somebody else manages to be seen as a 7.

But that doesn't mean any party can reasonably ignore a relatively strong starting point. And so whatever reasons there are for reviewing Mulcair's leadership, his level of public approval can't plausibly be seen as one of them.

New column day

Here, on the appalling failure of both the province of Saskatchewan and the city of Regina to contribute a nickel to a long-overdue Housing First pilot project.

For further reading...
- D.C. Fraser reported on the project here, with this serving as the money quote:
The one-year pilot project will get $400,000 from the federal government. Roberts is confident that money will lead to success, but is realistic about how far those funds can be stretched.

“It’s only $400,000. There’s only so much you can do with that, only so many people you can hire,” he said. “If we suddenly shoot for the stars and say we’re going to end homelessness in Regina tomorrow, that’s not a realistic expectation.”

It is unlikely the city or province will add money to what is being made available by the federal government, according to Roberts. Other jurisdictions using Housing First models have received money from other levels of government.
- Fraser's follow-up story shows Michael Fougere lapping up credit and attention notwithstanding the city's lack of any contribution, while the province simply stays on the sidelines. And CBC's report mentions how few people are expected to be helped in the first year. 
- As for the other past broken promises and failed plans mentioned in the story, the report (PDF) of the provincial government's much-ballyhooed advisory group on poverty was announced last August. And Fraser noted this week that a promised strategy has never been unveiled.
- Meanwhile, Regina points to its committee involvement and some off-hand mentions of homelessness in housing plans (PDF) without seeming to go any further. And Shawn Fraser has rightly highlighted the city's refusal to actually take steps of its own even while it endorses federal action.

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Chris Harper highlights a few of the factors necessary to help boost the long-term health of children:
First, Antonovsky found that whatever stresses you encounter must be comprehensible. Children, for example, must have the basic understanding that an action will often have a predictable, stable reaction. Imagine how difficult this must be when moving homes constantly or not having one at all. In 2010, 52 per cent of single-mother households in Canada with children under six years of age were living in unstable housing. Just last year, by the age of seven, 7.5 per cent of children in Manitoba had been placed in some form of foster care. How can we expect children to comprehend stress when they don't even have a home base in which to do it?

Secondly, children must have the basic tools to see challenges as inevitable yet manageable. For example, one in six Canadian children have vision problems interfering with their ability to read, yet despite our "universal" health care, just 14 per cent receive professional eye care before first grade. I would imagine it's a lot easier to break the cycle of poverty when you're able to see the blackboard.

Finally, children must be able to find things meaningful. To thrive, it's pivotal that children have the opportunity to find satisfaction and a sense of purpose. Sadly, even that isn't guaranteed.

So what do our policy makers and politicians need to do in real terms?

Build an effective national housing strategy so kids have a place to call home, institute comprehensive pre-school vision screening across the country so classrooms can have their full impact and cut red tape for First Nations children by committing to Jordan's Principle.

Isn't it time we put children's long-term health and wellness on the national agenda?
- Roderick Benns discusses how a basic income would serve as a launching pad for people whose best immediate option is temporary work - in contrast to the trap set by more restrictive social programs.

- Richard Kahlenberg comments on the connection between strong unions and a vibrant democracy. And conversely, Lydia DePillis points out that the middle class in particular suffers when unions come under political attack.

- Finally, Jeff Sallot writes that only misguided fear is holding us back from electoral reform. And Andrew Coyne reminds us of the warped incentives at the core of first-past-the-post:
The nature of winner-take-all systems, moreover, is that they are highly leveraged: A comparatively small shift in the popular vote often results in hugely disproportionate swings in the number of seats a party wins. Politicians are by nature risk averse. Consequently there is little incentive for parties to take chances aimed at expanding their support, for example by staking out new or distinctive policy positions — for they might just as well see it shrink. Instead they tend to hug the middle for long stretches, save for a few wedge issues aimed at a relatively small number of “swing” voters, which they trot out at election time.

In sum, the present system gives rise to false and exaggerated majorities, discriminates among voters, rewards regionally divisive parties and polarizing political strategies, strands many voters in “safe” ridings and wastes the votes of many others.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

On strategic choices

Christopher Kam's series of posts on political parties' strategy surrounding electoral reform is definitely worth a read. But I'll stand by the view that there's another alternative interpretation of the likely outcomes - particularly based on the likely alignment of any coalition between parties:
The configuration of parties’ preference orderings over electoral systems suggests two nascent coalitions**:
  1. An ideological coalition of the Liberals, NDP, and Greens versus the Conservatives;
  2. A coalition of the large (Liberals and Conservatives) against the small (NDP and Greens).
The first coalition could come together around a high-district magnitude STV system, but not around MMP. The second could come together around AV or low-M STV.

Frankly, I just don’t see the first coalition as all that viable. Here’s why:
  1. The Liberals enjoy a majority; they can impose their own choice on the country;
  2. The Liberals are also the only party that’s common to both coalitions; quite apart from their majority, they are pivotal on this issue;
  3. The Conservatives actually have some leverage vis-a-vis the Liberals in the form of a (temporary) Senate majority. Even if the Liberals were to stack the Senate, the Conservatives could mount a fairly effective blockade of the legislation.
  4. Let’s say that the first coalition threatens to crystallize around high-M STV (or, due to some surprising event, around MMP), the Conservative could concede AV to the Liberals.  This offer i) gets the Liberals exactly what they want with ii) the support of their main ideological opponent (all the better to rebut charges of self-interest), and iii) AV’s district magnitude of 1 preserves the disproportionality that that Conservatives need to do well; and iv) it removes electoral reform from the agenda for decades.
  5. To repeat, MMP just doesn’t serve the Liberals’ interests as well as AV or low-M STV.
For these reasons (and especially the last), a coalition of the Large versus the Small seems more likely to me.
Now, it's certainly possible that the parties' decision-making could reflect Kam's theoretical analysis. But even leaving aside the points I've made as to how the Cons may have some incentive of their own to prefer a more proportional system, there's also reason to think the "ideological coalition" may have more legs than Kam thinks.

As Frank Graves for one has repeatedly pointed out, the Libs' election victory was based largely on support from exactly that coalition: the decisive group of voters was one of "promiscuous progressives" who had relatively little preference as to which party took power so long as it replaced the Cons. And indeed, it remains the case that the NDP and Thomas Mulcair are seen positively - just not as much so as the party basking in the glow of winning power.

From that starting point, there would seem to be no more sure way to lose the approval of many of the voters who put the Libs in power than by breaking a clear election promise, giving in to the demands of the Cons, and perpetuating the system which allowed Stephen Harper to win majority power with minority support. In other words, there's an obvious practical reason why first-past-the-post should be taken off the table.

Kam raises the possibility that the Cons and Libs might instead agree on AV as an alternative. But that analysis leaves out the possibility that the Cons might not play along - meaning the Libs would have the choice of going it alone on AV and facing attacks on all sides, or seeking common ground on MMP or other more proportional systems.

And even if the Cons are willing to participate in a "Large" coalition backing AV, there's still significant political risk in acting with their support alone.

That type of insiders vs. outsiders dynamic can be exactly what an outsider party needs to boost its support beyond what's previously been seen as possible, particularly if the Libs' cooperation with the Cons alone is seen to disqualify them as "progressive". And an AV election where voters inclined toward the NDP, Greens and Bloc all find common ground in disapproving of the Libs' choice of electoral systems might result in some highly unpleasant surprises for Trudeau.

One can fairly make the argument that the factors mentioned by Kam will still win out in the end. But if they do, it's not for lack of some significant countervailing forces - and the Libs will want to be careful how much they feed into an argument that they're merely reinforcing what they've promised to replace.

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Jordan Yadoo discusses the increasing inequality in lifespans across the income scale. Roderick Benns writes that Belleville (along with Cornwall) has joined the movement calling for a basic income so everybody has some measure of security. And Chris Dillow theorizes that it's non-material goods which are most inaccessible to all but the wealthiest among us:
I suspect that most of the best things that the median income-earner can’t buy are non-material goods.

One is financial security. 49% of people, and most 35-44 year-olds live in households with less than £5000 of net financial wealth (pdf). They are only a pay cheque or two away from trouble.

Another is status. Our wages are related to our sense of worth – which is one reason why most people would prefer (pdf) a lower but above-average income to a higher but below-average one. A median income, by definition doesn’t provide much status.
Another thing our median earner can’t buy is workplace autonomy: she is more likely to be the victim of workplace coercion than the beneficiary of it. And even if she isn’t, she probably lacks the satisfying work which the better-paid sometimes enjoy.  And she is tied to work for years, because she lacks the savings to retire early. Warren Buffett might dance to work every day, but most people on £25,000 a year do not.

Now, none of this is to deny that things have improved; workers today enjoy better conditions and shorter hours than their 19th century ancestors. But it seems to me that what median earners lack are the goods which are higher up the hierarchy of needs.
- Meanwhile, D.C. Fraser reports on Regina's first step toward a Housing First strategy to end homelessness - though sadly neither the province nor the city can be bothered to contribute a dime.

- Sara Mojtehedzadeh follows up on the story of wage theft in Ontario restaurants by reporting that the employees involved in the most prominent case still haven't received a dime of the $675,000 owed by their past employer.

- Sean McElwee and Brian Schaffner point out that the U.S. fight against a cleaner environment is being conducted almost entirely by the Republicans' donor class. And Charles Mandel offers some suggestions for greener living at the individual level.

- Finally, Michael Geist highlights the ongoing battle over open access to the Internet in Canada.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Chair cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Scott Santens discusses how a basic income could help to foster social cohesion. And Jared Bernstein confirms the seemingly obvious point that properly-funded social programs work wonders in reducing poverty.

- Bill Curry reports that activist groups are seeking answers about what their much-hyped "social infrastructure" will actually include. And Tom Parkin is rightly concerned that lower-income Canadians aren't on the Trudeau Libs' radar.

- Thomas Walkom writes about the danger that the Libs will severely harm Canada's public sector in response to economic stagnation. And Karl Nerenberg reminds us how much needs to be done just to reverse the damage done by the Cons - assuming Trudeau actually wants to change anything in substance.

- Thom Hartmann comments on the role corporate greed played in California's giant methane leak. And Sarah Lazare reminds us that even if we set aside the cartoon villainy of the likes of Martin Shkreli, price gouging is the norm within the pharmaceutical sector.

- Meanwhile, Yessenia Funes talks to Stephen Bezruchka about the health problems caused by inequality at all points on the income spectrum.

- Finally, Andrew Coyne provides a response to the first-past-the-post apologists who think there's nothing wrong with a political system designed to hand absolute power to parties supported by a minority of voters:
How about this: in a democracy, each person’s vote should count for as much as every other. This strikes me as one of the core promises of democracy. Universal adult suffrage — “one person, one vote” — is a foundational principle of every modern democratic state. And yet, while it is true that every adult citizen can vote in Canada, it is demonstrably not the case that every vote counts equally.
The issue here is not fairness among the parties. Rather, it is the unequal treatment of different voters that represents a fundamental breach of the democratic promise.

Notice also the source of that inequity. The present system rewards parties that can bunch their votes geographically, compared to parties whose support is more evenly distributed, since only the party with the most votes in each riding is represented. So parties that take an aggressively regional approach to politics — as Reform and the Bloc did — benefit disproportionately, at the expense of parties with a broader national outlook.

You say "glib", I say "callous and dehumanizing". Let's just call the whole thing off.

Sadly, even a modicum of criticism of Brad Wall on Saskatchewan's editorial pages is all too rare. But while the Star-Phoenix offers at least that much, is there any doubt that Wall's contempt for inmates (among others who rely on provincial services) goes far beyond problems with his tone?

Update: Murray Mandryk gets closer to the mark

Update II: And Robyn Urback is right on:
Barbarous societies revel in treating inmates like chattel; the Canadian system should aspire to draw no parallel.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your Monday reading.

- In reviewing Gabriel Zucman's new book, Cass Sunstein discusses the need to rein in tax havens and ensure that the wealthy pay their fair share of the price of a functional society:
(W)hatever your political party, you are unlikely to approve of the illegal use of tax havens. As it turns out, a lot of wealthy people in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere have been hiding money in foreign countries—above all, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and the Virgin Islands. As a result, they have been able to avoid paying taxes in their home countries. Until recently, however, officials have not known the magnitude of that problem.

But people are paying increasing attention to it. A vivid new documentary, The Price We Pay, connects tax havens, inequality, and insufficient regulation of financial transactions. The film makes a provocative argument that a new economic elite—wealthy managers and holders of capital—is now able to operate on a global scale, outside the constraints of any legal framework. In a particularly chilling moment, it shows one of the beneficiaries of the system cheerfully announcing on camera: “I don’t feel any remorse about not paying taxes. I think it’s a marvelous way in life.”
In the aftermath of the financial crisis, you might expect that there would be an international crackdown on the use of tax havens, and as we shall see, international attention is indeed growing. But the numbers demonstrate that no crackdown has occurred. In Luxembourg, offshore wealth actually increased from 2008 to 2012 (by 20 percent). In Switzerland, the increase has been comparable; foreign holdings are now close to an all-time high. Disturbingly, the new wealth is coming mostly from developing countries, which poses a serious problem in light of the severe strains on their limited budgets.
A strong virtue of Zucman’s book is that it puts a bright spotlight on an area in which significant reforms might appeal to people who otherwise disagree on a great deal. You might believe that the tax system should be made more progressive, or you might believe that it should be made less so. But whatever you think, you are unlikely to support a situation in which trillions of dollars are hardly taxed at all.
- Judith Shulevitz writes that a basic income could be particularly important in extending recognition to the value of work normally performed unpaid by women. And Andrew Jackson comments on the best options to reduce poverty among seniors.

- Gregory Beatty rightly points out (as I've done previously) that Saskatchewan's current problems with equalization can be traced back to Brad Wall's choice to abandon the exact same cause when he first took power.

- Ian MacLeod notes that the Libs' supposed commitments to improved oversight over security and greater power for individual MPs both seem to be undermined by the top-down naming of a chair for a new committee on spying. And their apparent starting point of not thinking much needs to be done with C-51 doesn't bode well for the prospect of anything changing for the better.

- Finally, Murray Dobbin argues that the Libs have an ample mandate to pursue the type of proportional electoral reform supported by a majority of parties - meaning that their most important task is to get the new system right.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

On standards for reform

Others have duly criticized the Star's editorial on electoral reform. [Update: See e.g. Dr. Dawg's takedown of a few misleading pieces.] But I'll argue that it can be brought in line with reasonable expectations with one important change.

Simply put, it's not a problem to insist upon "broad consensus" on a new electoral system. The problem lies in defining that term - and it's here that the Star goes awry in interpreting it to require the support of all major parties.

That restriction would of course allow a single bad actor to thwart any effort to improve our electoral system. And the Bad Actor Party of Canada has thoroughly telegraphed its intention to do just that no matter how undemocratic the means - meaning that the Star's interpretation would indeed rule out any reform, no matter what the Libs have promised or could achieve. 

If, on the other hand, we instead see a "broad consensus" as meaning general agreement among a range of different parties - or even all parties who engage in parliamentary consultations in good faith - then a new system should be entirely achievable. And that's the standard the Libs should see as necessary to support the electoral reform they've promised.

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Lana Payne reminds us that wealth will never be fairly distributed without public action to ensure it doesn't get concentrated with the lucky few:
More and more of the income pie is going to the top one per cent — who are soaking up a bigger and bigger share of the benefits of productivity.

According to the Economic Policy Institute in the United States, decades of stagnant wages despite the fact that people are working more productively has become a serious economic problem for the country.

Simply, prosperity needs help getting shared.

Prosperity gets shared when forces such as strong trade unions through collective bargaining and governments through taxation and redistribution policies make it happen. Markets alone, as many economists have argued, do not do this.
Stagnant wages for workers mean there is less demand for goods and services. And this lack of demand is, according to Nobel-Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, contributing to what he calls the great global malaise. “Those at the top spend far less than those at the bottom. Money moves up, demand goes down.”

Stiglitz says in addition to income inequality, fiscal austerity has also played a significant role in slumping economic growth.
The upside is at least the problem of inequality has been identified.  Like climate change, it has its deniers. But we must forge ahead. The next step, as with climate change, is to develop a plan to deal with it. Let’s get on with it.
- And Ana Sofia Knauf reports that Seattle is leading the way in trying to restore some power to workers against businesses built on precarity.

- Carolyn Shimmin offers some important facts about food insecurity in Canada - including the reality that food bank use (widespread though it is) severely underestimates the scope of the problem. And Ryan Meili interviews Clive Weighill about the influence of social factors on crime and justice:
Ryan Meili: Long before I had a chance to meet you, I quoted you in A Healthy Society. You said we need to get tough on poverty, poor housing, racism, and the social issues that lead us down the road to crime.

Clive Weighill: Some politicians talk about getting tough on crime. I’m saying you don’t just want to get tough on crime, you have to get tough on the issues of poverty, poor housing, disadvantage. People are products of their environment, and if we can’t solve those social issues, we’re not going to solve the big picture in the end. I firmly believe that we have to work on poverty.

RM: It seems the social determinants of involvement in the justice system, social determinants of educational success, it's all the same factors.

As you've said, this means we need to look a little further upstream, looking at getting people out of poverty or making sure that people don't wind up there. What were your thoughts on the recent recommendations from the Advisory Group on Poverty Reduction?

CW: They make complete, common sense to me. It's just how to get the will of the public. They have to get behind this.
- Elias Isquith weighs in on the horrific human cost of the lead poisoning caused by Rick Snyder's austerian politics.

- Finally, Monia Mazigh comments on the desperate need for Canada to review - and likely scrap - a no-fly list which is plainly capturing far too many people without any reasonable explanation or basis in fact.

On priorities

I've written before about the Saskatchewan Party's assumption that actually meeting the basic needs of inmates wasn't a core function of the provincial correctional system.

Well, the choice to turn food service into a corporate profit centre has produced predictable results. And faced with an inmate protest about unsafe and unhealthy food, Brad Wall had the choice whether to be responsible and compassionate, or whether to try to dehumanize the people suffering from his government's decisions.

Needless to say, he chose column B. And we should be appalled enough by that message as applied to people who involuntarily depend entirely on the government for their sustenance.

But it's worth noting the exact same thinking behind the prison food service privatization is being applied in other areas, ranging from hospital services to school construction and maintenance. And Wall's message about his view of public services likewise extends beyond Saskatchewan's prisons.

As far as Brad Wall is concerned, anybody wanting to be treated like a human being should pay somebody for the privilege. And conversely, anybody making use of public services should expect to see their interests ranked far below the goal of funneling public money into corporate hands.