Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Tom Kibasi writes that the UK's best option in light of its impending Brexit is to develop a more active and entrepreneurial state:
So in a sense, Brexit changes everything and changes nothing: it exacerbates the UK longstanding problem with an investment rate that was already far below our international competitors at the time of the referendum. It makes it harder to achieve escape velocity from an economic model that isn’t working to one that does.
 
We know that rather than crowding out investment – as free marketers claim – greater public investment in fact crowds it in. Brexit will therefore make it even more important to get public investment up, not less. And with interest rates close to zero, a programme of quantitative easing that has not been wound down, fiscal policy will be the only option left to lift Britain out of any future recession. It is therefore illogical to say that Brexit must mean more austerity. It must mean the reverse. Paradoxically, the right response to Brexit is to become a more European economy, with a more active and entrepreneurial state. 
- Meanwhile, Brett Christophers examines the large-scale privatization of land in the UK - with roughly half of its remaining commonwealth in land by area, and more than that by value, having been sold off since 1979.

- Callum Burroughs discusses how the oil industry is failing to put its money where its mouth is in developing renewable energy even as it pours tens of millions of dollars into squelching any public policy improvements. And Chantal Hebert points out that the mindless oil industry jingoism being parroted by right-wing parties across much of Canada looks to be political poison for the federal Cons in Quebec.

- Troy Henderson notes that public-sector wage caps and general job precarity serve to drive down wages and working conditions for everybody.

- Taylor Scollon suggests that the disproportionate political influence of big money could be counterbalanced by ensuring that campaigns are financed through public dollars distributed based on voter choice.

- Finally, Brent Patterson is hopeful that Canada will see a wave of progressive millennial activists emerge comparable to the ones which are already reshaping politics in the U.S. and the UK.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Wayne Swan writes that it won't be possible to take necessary steps to combat climate breakdown without ensuring that corporations pay their fair share. And the Guardian argues that exorbitant executive pay needs to be restrained.

- Sam Pizzigati discusses how the uber-wealthy can disproportionately influence the U.S.' public discourse under the cover of dark money. And Mariya Hake and Christian Belabed examine the relationship between income inequality and distrust in public institutions.

- Crawford Kilian offers a reminder of the devastating effects of other diseases which can be eradicated through vaccinations - but which are threatening to return due to both policy and personal choices.

- Maryse Zeidler reports on the tens of billions of dollars worth of food wasted in Canada every year. And Matt Humphrey reports that Raise the Rates has had to cancel its Vancouver welfare challenge because there's simply no hope for participants to find food for even a week a based on what social benefit recipients receive.

- Finally, Ken Boon makes the case for British Columbia to try a more fair and proportional electoral system, rather than resigning itself to a system which has produced far too much inequality and corruption.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Wade Davis comments on the ecological amnesia which has resulted in repeated cycles of extinctions:
In three generations, a mere moment in the history of our species, we have throughout the world contaminated the water, air and soil, driven countless species to extinction, dammed the rivers, poisoned the rain and torn down the ancient forests. As Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson reminds us, this era will not be remembered for its wars or technological advances but as the time when men and women stood by and either passively endorsed or actively supported the massive destruction of biological diversity on the planet.

Given the dire consequences, how might we explain this peculiar and ultimately self-destructive capacity to shed memory and shift our expectations as we adapt to an increasingly impoverished world? Were this to be a fundamental adaptive trait of our species, we would surely find evidence scattered throughout the ethnographic record. But most assuredly we do not.
...
...Just as 18th-century slavers concocted racial fantasies to mask the evil of their trade, perhaps we have learned to shed memory to avoid confronting the actual consequences of our egregious violations of the natural world. Our shifting expectations and dimming memory are less an adaptive trait than a reflexive impulse. If we are responsible for the numbing of our own senses, we can surely awaken to new possibilities as stewards of life, inspired by Indigenous peoples who have walked this path before us, guided by a conscience informed by memory.
- Jared Keller writes that the destruction from Hurricane Michael offers one reminder as to the security risks associated with climate breakdown. And Art Cullen discusses the threat a hotter, drier planet poses to agriculture in the U.S. and elsewhere - even as the problem is ignored by the Trump administration.

- Meanwhile, Simon Flowers sets out a readily-achievable scenario in which a determined transition to clean energy would exceed the Paris emissions reduction targets. And Lorraine Chow writes about New Zealand's decision to end new offshore oil and gas exploration out of its recognition that fossil fuel expansion and environmental responsibility are utterly incompatible.

- Finally, the Economist reports that rising inequality isn't limited to wages and income, as benefits are also diverging between the U.S.' higher- and lower-income workers. Bethany Hastie replies to a review of British Columbia's Labour Code by pointing out the need for far more protection for people facing precarious work. And Simran Dhunna discusses how the Libs are leaving immigrant caregivers at the mercy of employers with little hope of achieving permanent residency in Canada.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Owen Jones writes that a four-day work week being developed by UK Labour could represent an important step toward genuine personal freedom:
(I)t is extremely welcome that Labour’s John McDonnell has approached eminent economist Lord Skidelsky to head an inquiry into potentially cutting the working week to four days. It should be part of a new crusade for the left: of defending and expanding personal freedom.

The champions of free market fundamentalism promised their creed would bring us freedom. But it wasn’t freedom at all: from the lack of secure, affordable housing to growing job insecurity and rising personal debt, the individual is trapped. Nine decades ago, John Maynard Keynes predicted that technological advances and rising productivity would mean that we’d be working a 15-hour week by now: that target has been somewhat missed.
...
(A) shorter working week would enable us to redistribute hours from the overworked to the underworked. Lord Skidelsky’s inquiry would need to look at cutting the working week without slashing living standards: after all, Britain’s workers have already suffered the worst squeeze in wages since the Napoleonic wars. But cutting the working week would free the individual, giving millions of workers more time to spend as they see fit. Human freedom should be the core aim of modern socialism. The right to work less would be an act of liberation – and a cause the left should embrace.
- Meanwhile, PressProgress exposes Ontario Proud's pitch for six-figure corporate donations to try to prevent workers from ever achieving any improvements, while Jim Stanford warns the Ford government that merely seeking to turn back the clock is no way to develop viable policy.

- Sara Mojtehedzadeh reports on a push by Ontario students to achieve minimum wage parity with other workers. And Rob Shaw reports on British Columbia's move to put an end to contract-flipping attacks on public service workers.

- Rick Smith writes about the increasingly-visible human face of plastics pollution.

- Finally, Brent Patterson discusses the need to respond to what's wrong with the world with active steps to set matters right.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Musical interlude

Metric - Now or Never Now

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Roger Eatwell writes that the rise of anti-immigrant sentiment can be traced back largely to the sense that elite-dominated governments have failed to take care of citizens generally, while David Leonhardt likewise notes that inequality can all too easily lead to easily-exploitable resentment. And Geoff Sharpe is rightly worried that Canada's regressive conservatives are destroying any consensus on the value of cultural diversity.

- Richard McKellar offers his list of reasons why British Columbia voters should cast a referendum ballot for proportional representation. David Suzuki points out the importance of reflecting an increased diversity of viewpoints. And Seth Klein discusses why a proportional and cooperative system stands to produce improved policy outcomes.

- Stephen Tweedale argues that the NDP's focus should be on good policy more than populism. And the Notley government's move to ensure that social assistance keeps up with inflation represents a small but useful example.

- David Climenhaga points out how large tar sands operators have booked tens of billions of dollars in profits even while continuously extending demands to governments for still more giveaways and concessions. And while Diego Arguedas Ortiz' observations as to what every person can do about climate change are worth a read, they shouldn't take away from the urgent need to break free from political control by the resource sector.

- Meanwhile, Alex Hern reports on new research showing the gross waste of resources resulting from the "mining" of bitcoin and other alternative currencies.

- Finally, Eric Newcomer discusses the hidden costs of working in the gig economy.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Jovanka Beckles writes that the housing crisis in California - like those elsewhere - needs to be addressed through public investment in social housing rather than giveaways to private developers.

- Sharon Riley discusses Alberta's gigantic problem with unfunded oil production liabilities. But Regan Boychuk and Avi Lewis point out that it's not too late to make sure that the industry actually pays for the environmental damage it's caused - and that the result would be a massive boon for workers otherwise facing the decline of the fossil fuel sector.

- Meanwhile, both Bill McKibben and David Roberts note that massive amounts of oil industry spending served to undercut even modest U.S. state-level ballot measures to rein in pollution, protect the environment and transition toward a sustainable economy. And Julia Belluz writes that only a campaign of pure deception led to a ban on municipal soda taxes in Washington.

- Steven Chase reports on the Libs' refusal to pay any more attention to human rights in decision whether or not to arm dictatorships.

- Finally, Colin Bennett writes that the benefits of proportional representation include its comparative disincentive for political parties to rely on microtargeting and data manipulation.

New column day

Here, on how the U.S. midterms show the political risks of putting corporations over people - and how Saskatchewan citizens should take a hint as to who deserves to be voted out of office.

For further reading...
- Dana Milbank discussed how the Republicans' tax giveaway to the rich was motivated entirely by a desire to secure campaign funding, particularly to hold the House of Representatives. And we can see how well that plan turned out.
- Meanwhile, Rana Foroohar notes that the Democrats' success can be traced in no small part to their increasing willingness to stand up to corporate interests.
- Libby Belson writes that Sam Brownback's willingness to use Kansas as a guinea pig for extreme austerity and trickle-down economics helped elect a Democratic governor in an otherwise red state. Ann North highlights Gretchen Whitmer's winning Michigan campaign based on having the government start ensuring residents have access to basic services. And David Dayen discusses how Scott Walker's giveaway of public money and policymaking to Foxconn led to his downfall.
- Finally, CBC News reports on the Saskatchewan Party government's awareness that its hand-selected bypass conglomerate isn't particularly interested in responding to vehicle access issues. Adam Hunter reports on Ken Cheveldayoff's declaration that the Saskatchewan Party has no problem further commercializing Wascana Park while pretending that corporations are doing people a favour by capturing public spaces. And David Boles contrasts the NDP's call for public spending to be linked to community benefit agreements against the Saskatchewan Party's insistence on putting corporate profits (including toothless imported labour) ahead of the province.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Merran Smith and Dan Woynillowicz comment that the new climate denial involves denying that any solutions are possible. Blake Shaffer points out that the Trudeau Libs' inexplicable decision to favour coal power over other alternatives for the next decade serves to undermine any claim to responsible climate policy. And Jim Bronskill reports on CSIS' continued spying against peaceful pipeline protesters and environmental advocates.

- Damian Carrington reports on new research connecting air pollution from vehicle use to increased childhood obesity. And Alison Griswold discusses the growing movement toward free public transit in European cities - even as our trend has seen transit in any form becoming less accessible.

- The Canadian Press reports on a lawsuit which responds to the retroactive awarding of exemptions for illegally-built fracking dams in British Columbia by seeking to ensure that such gross disregard for the environment and the law won't be rewarded. And Christopher Pollon writes about the aftermath of the Mount Polley tailings pond spill - which has resulted primarily in Imperial Metals receiving additional permits to dump hazardous waste, while failing to be held to account for its damage to Quesnel Lake.

- Victor Fuchs studies the cost factors in the U.S.' health care system, and finds that employment-based coverage leads to higher costs and unequal coverage - a point which applies equally to prescription drugs and other benefits commonly covered through work in Canada.

- Finally, Tom Wall discusses how austerity wages are driving UK health sector workers into poverty. And Kathryn May reports on PIPSC's efforts to better organize professionals working in the gig economy rather than standard employment.