Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Peter Buffett rightly questions the trend toward making the provision of basic necessities subordinate to a corporate mindset, rather than putting human needs first:
As more lives and communities are destroyed by the system that creates vast amounts of wealth for the few, the more heroic it sounds to “give back.” It’s what I would call “conscience laundering” — feeling better about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on by sprinkling a little around as an act of charity.
But this just keeps the existing structure of inequality in place. The rich sleep better at night, while others get just enough to keep the pot from boiling over. Nearly every time someone feels better by doing good, on the other side of the world (or street), someone else is further locked into a system that will not allow the true flourishing of his or her nature or the opportunity to live a joyful and fulfilled life.
And with more business-minded folks getting into the act, business principles are trumpeted as an important element to add to the philanthropic sector. I now hear people ask, “what’s the R.O.I.?” when it comes to alleviating human suffering, as if return on investment were the only measure of success. Microlending and financial literacy (now I’m going to upset people who are wonderful folks and a few dear friends) — what is this really about? People will certainly learn how to integrate into our system of debt and repayment with interest. People will rise above making $2 a day to enter our world of goods and services so they can buy more. But doesn’t all this just feed the beast?
I’m really not calling for an end to capitalism; I’m calling for humanism. 
- And Moises Velasquez-Manoff discusses the inherent and destructive stress involved in living in poverty:
Although professionals may bemoan their long work hours and high-pressure careers, really, there’s stress, and then there’s Stress with a capital “S.” The former can be considered a manageable if unpleasant part of life; in the right amount, it may even strengthen one’s mettle. The latter kills.

What’s the difference? Scientists have settled on an oddly subjective explanation: the more helpless one feels when facing a given stressor, they argue, the more toxic that stressor’s effects.

That sense of control tends to decline as one descends the socioeconomic ladder, with potentially grave consequences. Those on the bottom are more than three times as likely to die prematurely as those at the top. They’re also more likely to suffer from depression, heart disease and diabetes. Perhaps most devastating, the stress of poverty early in life can have consequences that last into adulthood.
A nurturing bond with a caregiver in a stimulating environment appears essential for proper brain development and healthy maturation of the stress response. That sounds easy enough, except that such bonds, and the broader social networks that support them, are precisely what poverty disrupts. If you’re an underpaid, overworked parent — worried, behind on rent, living in a crime-ridden neighborhood — your parental skills are more likely to be compromised. That’s worrisome given the trends in the United States. About one in five children now lives below the poverty line, a 35 percent increase in a decade. Unicef recently ranked the United States No. 26 in childhood well-being, out of 29 developed countries. When considering just childhood poverty, only Romania fares worse.
-Vanessa Brcic calls for British Columbia to restore the Therapeutics Initiative as a sorely-needed fair arbiter of drug effectiveness. The Star pleads for somebody to take on long-term responsibility for the Experimental Lakes Area. And Stephen LaRose points to Winnipeg as a prime example of the (nonexistent) returns when a civic government prioritizes big-money sports and entertainment over actual needs.

- Finally, Haroon Siddiqui holds out some hope that Chris Alexander might revisit some of Jason Kenney's most damaging moves as Minister of Immigration (though I'd add "employer-driven" to his overall freeze proposal):
Kenney’s changes have not been popular, have not worked, have not reduced backlogs and have not improved the system — indeed, have made a mess of it.
We are bringing 250,000 immigrants a year and tens of thousands of guest workers when 1.3 million Canadians don’t have jobs, another million are underemployed or have given up looking for work, and the unemployment rate for both the young as well as new immigrants is twice the national average. Of the immigrants who do have jobs, three in four are not using the education and skills for which they were picked as immigrants.
Perversely, the temporary foreign workers program (which brought in at least 500,000 workers) grew even as the economy slowed down. Kenney’s mantra of “skills shortages” has been shown to be a bit of a fraud. As the Star’s Nicholas Keung reported Tuesday, for example, Canada imported more than 6,000 temps as chefs and cooks in 2011, when Canadian colleges are churning out culinary graduates in record numbers.
All this brings me, Mr. Alexander, to ask you this:
Tell us why you should not freeze immigration until the job picture improves, both for them and Canadians; axe the temporary foreign workers program; restore health benefits to refugees; stop the shameful treatment of the Roma; and why your government that emphasizes family values is being so punitive toward the family reunification of immigrant families.

No comments:

Post a Comment