Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Friendly cats.





Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- CBC interviews David Wallace-Wells and others about the need for collective action as the only viable response to a climate crisis and the despair it would otherwise produce:
"Individual action simply can't get us to zero [carbon] emissions," [Wallace-Wells] told Tapestry host Mary Hynes. "Ultimately, those efforts are marginal compared to what can be achieved through policy and through politics, and that for me is why we need to focus on those levers."
...
"So for an individual to step out of that and really try to make sense of this very large threat to our societies and our ways of life  — especially if you have been raised to believe that this is a good thing or this is just life as you know it — is very difficult." 
But the University of Oregon associate professor [Kari Norgaard] says channeling energy into structural changes can help ease some of that anxiety.

"Climate change is very big, it's very scary. It's not something we can work on alone. As more people in each community begin to [mobilize], it not only makes it more pleasant and meaningful along the way, but it brings momentum to the whole."
- Perla Hernandez writes about the missed opportunity to address climate change in Newfoundland and Labrador's provincial election - though the resulting minority legislature will hopefully result in some needed ability to prod the government to action. Sarath Peiris points out that the bleating about an environmental assessment bill by Canada's Dirty Half-Dozen denialist right-wing leaders has no basis in fact. And Heriberto Aruojo writes about the threat Jair Bolsonaro's government poses to the Amazon rain forest with global implications.

- Robert Booth reports on Human Rights Watch's observations as to how the UK Cons' austerity caused large amounts of child hunger. And Mark Rice-Oxley and Patrick Butler write about the wider precarity facing workers in the EU.

- Trevor Hancock wonders why governments don't pay more attention to public health which would both produce improved social outcomes, and save public money. And a group of Ontario resident physicians highlights how Doug Ford's attacks on public health will harm their patients.

- Finally, Libby Davies offers a reminder that a strong progressive message is necessary for the NDP to succeed both in winning votes and seeing its values implemented.

Monday, May 20, 2019

On buried dangers

There have been a few recent reports dealing with issues surrounding the Northern Village of Pinehouse - including a systematic refusal to answer access to information requests to which continued at last notice, the disappearance of the village's website and public records, an inspection recommending the removal of Pinehouse's mayor and a councillor which has turned into a formal inquiry and audit, and the recusal of Finance Minister Donna Harpauer from all discussions due to a close personal connection to the councillor in question.

But most of the media discussion of the village's current circumstances avoids a crucial piece of background information - even as the mayor who has also been recommended for removal identifies the significance of the issue, without recognizing that it provides no excuse for thumbing his nose at legal obligations.

The relationship between Pinehouse and the nuclear industry has long been the source of justified concern. The same leadership now dismissing any obligations of transparent governance include the same people behind a sketchy deal which included millions of dollars in payments from Areva and Cameco in exchange for a cover-up of the social and environmental impacts of uranium mining.

And the village's leadership tried to volunteer Pinehouse for a nuclear waste disposal site through communications - which were exposed through what was then at least a marginally functional access to information system under the current administrtion. The attempt to become a dumping ground for radioactive waste was ultimately ruled out due to a lack of support in the community.

So let's turn the spin around.

Does it make sense that Pinehouse would be uniquely unable to meet its access to information obligations - both compared to its own history and compared to other Northern and rural communities - even as it receives substantial funding from the uranium industry to cover what would normally be municipal expenses?

Does it make sense that Pinehouse would be unable to meet basic access to information requirements, but have enough spare resources lying around to provide free accommodations to cabinet ministers whenever they see fit to stop by? And wouldn't cabinet ministers themselves be expected to notice the problem with accepting that type of gift before somebody else identifies it?

Ultimately, Pinehouse looks only to be a particularly vivid example of the Saskatchewan Party's governing mindset in both its service of industry over people, and its contempt for accountability. And everybody rightly looking at Pinehouse and asking how its administration can be left in place should be asking the same about the province.

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your Monday reading.

- Susan Bradley reports on Dave Phillips' observations as to how Atlantic Canada is already facing the effects of a climate breakdown. Cameron Brick discusses the importance of seeing ourselves as more than consumers in developing a response to our climate crisis. And David Roberts highlights how Jay Inslee has provided the details of a plan to meet the goals of a Green New Deal for the U.S. (which should in turn be adaptable for use elsewhere).

- Kate Bratskeir points out the large amount of plastic being burned in the U.S. (and the resulting harms to health and the environment). But Lisa Friedman reports that the Trump administration's response to deaths caused by air pollution is to make up numbers to cover up the problem. And Jeff Lewis reports that the Libs are teaming up with Jason Kenney to facilitate the dumping of toxic water from tar sands tailings ponds into sources of drinking water.

- Christine Berry and Joe Guinan offer a look at what a Corbyn Labour government could mean for UK politics and society.

- Bobby Hristova reports on levels of drunkenness as one of the areas in which Canada stands out dubiously among our peers - and this before the plans of right-wing governments to substitute increased alcohol consumption for responsible governance are fully implemented.

- Finally, Eliza Mackintosh reports on Finland's success in educating children to recognize and respond to propaganda.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Ian Austen discusses how Justin Trudeau plans to offer nothing but more of the same broken promises and favoritism for the Libs' corporate benefactors. And Mike Smyth examines what's set to be unearthed in British Columbia's money laundering inquiry - which of course never would have existed if the Libs' provincial cousins had clung to power.

- Vik Adhopia reports on the Libs' participation in a "national pharmacare program" forum which in fact consisted solely of corporate lobbying against universal prescription drug coverage. And Robert Jago points out what's missing - and misleading - in the Greens' outdated Indigenous policies.

- The UN points out how a climate breakdown will threaten food production around the globe, while Gaia Vince writes about the need for immediate and drastic steps to limit the damage from our climate crisis. Thomas Walkom discusses Jagmeet Singh's strong stance advancing a just transition toward a clean energy economy in Canada. And Kevin Griffin points out the immediate benefits of converting to electric vehicles, while CBC News reports on the development of zero-emission transport trucks in Alberta as a result of the Notley NDP's climate policy.

- Finally, CBC News also reports that like his predecessor, Scott Moe is insistent on energy sources which involve digging up hazardous substances with no regard for the lack of a safe disposal system - even if that means converting fossil fuel power production to nuclear (and in the process ignoring the public backlash against the Saskatchewan Party's previous attempt to pitch nuclear power).

[Edit: fixed formatting.]

Saturday, May 18, 2019

On cult leadership

Andrew Scheer's scheming with oil lobbyists in advance of this fall's federal election has received at least some attention. But it's worth pointing out just how drastic a step Scheer has taken in aligning himself with a shadowy group trying to push dirty energy sources as "miracles" rather than commercial substances.

By way of background, I'll suggest that for the most part, the public face of oil industry lobbying has involved appeals (even if often inaccurate ones) to what might at least be considered rational instincts.

To be clear, it's long been tiring to hear the constant drumbeat equating Exxon's profits with jobs and economic development - particularly when any reference to real-world evidence has found a tenuous connection between the two in the short term and divergence in interests in the long term. But at least that type of message recognizes that any attempt to justify government action facilitating the development of the oil sector depends on the acknowledgment of other, higher-ranking values - and implicitly allows for the possibility that those values may be better advanced through other means.

And even the most prominent attempt to introduce a values debate to discussion of Canada's oil sector was one which (however falsely) tried to distinguish oil production by location, not to sanctify the concept of fossil fuel production itself.

But now, an increasing proportion of the electorate recognizes the need to speed up the transition away from fossil fuels which all parties including the federal Conservatives once accepted. And it's also becoming obvious that there's no business case for fossil fuel development without accepting the utter destruction of our living environment.

In other words, the conflict between human interests and fossil fuel profits is one which can no longer be hand-waved away. 

And so we're now seeing the emergence of rhetoric turning the worship of dirty energy into a new religion - with Scheer joining Jason Kenney and Scott Moe as the highest-ranking and most prominent messengers in the effort to convert the public to the cause of valuing oil production above any human interest.

The obvious results of the campaign even in its infancy include the eager adoption of the religious language by right-wing commentators - in some cases coupled with an attempt to set up false sectarian wars.

They include Kenney's plan for a "war room" intended to ensure that any mere people who try to speak up for our planet get shouted down by publicly-funded propagandists.

And they've also included attempts to brand as heretics and public enemies well-respected journalists, scientists and public servants.

Of course, as noted toward the end of Liam Denning's report here, the fossil fuel industry itself has used the wording of religious doctrine to distinguish between in-groups and out-groups for decades.

But it's a new development for mainstream politicians to be openly using their positions of power to serve as missionaries for a death cult. And we should use any politician's willing association with the attempt to build a religion around oil - whether in collaborating directly, mirroring messages, or uncritically accepting policy goals - as a litmus test indicating a gross lack of fitness for office.

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Stewart Elgie and Nathalie Chalifour write about the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal's recognition of the importance of action on our climate crisis. Alexis Wright comments on the need for global action to address the common global problem of impending climate breakdown. Brian Eckhouse points out how China is making a massive investment in electric buses. Rob Nikolewski reports on a first federal push toward zero-emission vehicles in the U.S., while Liam Denning points out the important effect of more ambitious state-level initiatives (particularly in California) on the viability of dirty fuel producers. And Zoya Teirstein points out the carbon emissions spewed out by the plastics industry.

- Percy Downe discusses Canada's absolute failure to crack down on offshore tax evasion, both in terms of recovering money and in charging individual scofflaws. And Public Interest Alberta highlights how Jason Kenney plans to collect even less than that province's already-insufficient amount of revenue from wealthy corporations and individuals.

- Christina Howorun reports on the $16 billion maintenance backlog facing Ontario schools who are seeing their funding attacked further in the name of corporate tax handouts. And Creeden Martell reports on Saskatchewan's emergency room wait times - which are only getting worse contrary to the Saskatchewan Party's long-lost promise to address them.

- Finally, CBC News notes that British Columbia's property speculation tax has worked out exactly as planned, recovering substantial revenue from non-residents who can easily afford it while avoiding any effect on 99 per cent of residents beyond the need to file a form.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Friday Evening Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- PressProgress digs into Statistics Canada's findings about precarious work in Canada, highlighting the connection between temporary work and subpar pay and working conditions:
According to a report by Statistics Canada, published Tuesday, the percentage of Canadian workers hired on temporary contracts increased from 11.8% in 1998 to 13% in 2018 — faster than the growth of permanent jobs over the last 20 years.

Those temporary jobs typically offer lower wages, fewer benefits and lower rates of unionization. Last year, the report notes, temporary employees earned on average $21.80 per hour, while permanent employees earned $27.71 per hour.
...
Data by Statistics Canada indicate that since the federal Liberals took office in 2015, the percentage of temporary workers remained between 13.3% and 13.7%. 

But this national trend hasn’t irked the federal government. Back in 2016, Liberal finance minister Bill Morneau said Canadian workers “have to accept” short-term and precarious employment.

However, as McQuarrie wrote in the Globe and Mail: “It’s a mistake to treat this as a norm we have to accept.”
- Karl Nerenberg points out how billions of dollars dumped into the criminal justice system would be far better spent improving the social conditions which actually cause crime. And Richard Florida discusses new research showing how children are far less healthy if they face lengthy commutes to school.

- Bill McKibben notes that we've wasted any time we had to spare in averting a climate breakdown, and need to start electing leaders committed to immediately dealing with the carbon crisis. Devon Rowcliffe writes about the need for Jagmeet Singh to become the top choice for voters looking for a just transition to a clean energy economy - including by challenging fossil fuel subsidies at the provincial level. And Eliza Barclay and Jag Bhalla offer responses to just a dozen of the most common (and painful) excuses to delay climate action.

- Meanwhile, Jason Warick reports on a study showing the Saskatchewan Party's pitiful record on environmental conservation. John Paul Tasker notes that Andrew Scheer's idea of energy policy is to force through pipelines that even the oil industry doesn't want. And Clare Hennig reports on a Senate committee's decision to ignore the votes of elected officials to try to push oil shipments along the B.C. coast.

- Finally, Adaner Usmani discusses how class struggle is necessary for the preservation of democracy. And Ezra Klein points out the increasing recognition among U.S. Democrats that counterweights to corporate power are essential to both political success and good governance.

Musical interlude

Jeremy Vancaulart feat. Danyka Nadeau - Hurt

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- The Guardian offers a few expert perspectives on how to fix the U.S.' broken economic system. And Hassan Yussuff writes that the centennial of the Winnipeg General Strike should remind us of the importance and power of mass political action.

- Randy Robinson challenges Doug Ford's multiple forms of austerity by pointing out Ontario's fiscal picture already involves a small public sector funded by insufficient revenues. And Martin Regg Cohn's revelations about plans for even more devastating cuts highlight how Ford's inclination is to do even more damage than he's inflicted already.

- Meanwhile, Cillian O'Brien reports on Oxfam's renewed push for a universal child care system which would lead to massive returns on public investments.

- Chris Hall writes that Canadians are recognizing the value of properly taxing the online services that have turned tech giants into some of the world's most powerful corporations.

- Finally, Marie-Danielle Smith reports on the Libs' failure to fund the Auditor General's office to allow it to carry out planned reviews. And Murray Mandryk rightly criticizes the Sask Party's decision to set aside any interest in facts as opposed to talking points.

New column day

Here, following up on these posts as to how the federal NDP is leading the way in setting policy in line with the realities of an impending climate breakdown.

For further reading...
- Mia Rabson reported on the NDP's push to halve Canada's greenhouse gas emissions in the next decade, including by ending the subsidies which would otherwise lock us into continued pollution. 
- Geoff Dembicki discusses how the Libs' climate policies would leave us on pace for a climate disaster as some worthwhile ideas are more than outweighed by the failure to account for major sources of carbon pollution. - Cameron Brick comments on the significance of inertia in our personal habits which affect our own contributions to climate change. But Alex Boutilier reports on polling showing that even Conservative voters don't buy their party's obstructionism, recognizing the importance of carbon pricing and other policies to avert climate disaster.
- Finally, Alexander Kaufman examines Jay Inslee's detailed climate plan - which should serve as an example for others to emulate. And Peter Walker reports on UK Labour's plan for a massive investment in solar panels on millions of homes as part of a green industrial revolution.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Karl Nerenberg writes that the ultimate test of the public's willingness to facilitate a climate breakdown is fast approaching - but that the parties pushing delay and denial may be surprised with the outcome. Brett Chandler challenges the argument that we're somehow entitled to act only once everybody else - including China and other developing countries - has slashed carbon emissions first. And Doug Cuthand rightly calls out the environmental vandals using their power today to leave a damaged world for future generations.

- Meanwhile, Sandra Laville reports on new research demonstrating the climate harms of single-use plastics.

- Josephine Moulds writes about the millions of UK workers trapped in poverty due to insufficient wages and employment standards. And Rajeshni Naidu-Ghelani reports on Statistics Canada's latest data on the sharply increasing number of temporary jobs.

- PressProgress highlights how Jason Kenney's corporate tax giveaways project to cost billions of dollars and result in the loss of tens of thousands of jobs. And Arthur White-Crummey's report on Saskatchewan's alarming emergency room waiting times offers a reminder as to what happens when a government is more devoted to slashing public services than ensuring their availability.

- Finally, Eleanor Ainge Roy reports on New Zealand's move toward budgeting based on well-being, including addressing poverty and mental health as core principles.