Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- George Monbiot discusses how a market-based society makes people unhealthy in a myriad of ways - and how it's worth maintaining our innate reluctance to value everything and everybody around us solely in terms of dollar values:
The market was meant to emancipate us, offering autonomy and freedom. Instead it has delivered atomisation and loneliness.

The workplace has been overwhelmed by a mad, Kafkaesque infrastructure of assessments, monitoring, measuring, surveillance and audits, centrally directed and rigidly planned, whose purpose is to reward the winners and punish the losers. It destroys autonomy, enterprise, innovation and loyalty, and breeds frustration, envy and fear. Through a magnificent paradox, it has led to the revival of a grand old Soviet tradition known in Russian as tufta. It means falsification of statistics to meet the diktats of unaccountable power.

The same forces afflict those who can’t find work. They must now contend, alongside the other humiliations of unemployment, with a whole new level of snooping and monitoring. All this, Verhaeghe points out, is fundamental to the neoliberal model, which everywhere insists on comparison, evaluation and quantification. We find ourselves technically free but powerless. Whether in work or out of work, we must live by the same rules or perish. All the major political parties promote them, so we have no political power either. In the name of autonomy and freedom we have ended up controlled by a grinding, faceless bureaucracy.

These shifts have been accompanied, Verhaeghe writes, by a spectacular rise in certain psychiatric conditions: self-harm, eating disorders, depression and personality disorders.
So, if you don’t fit in, if you feel at odds with the world, if your identity is troubled and frayed, if you feel lost and ashamed – it could be because you have retained the human values you were supposed to have discarded. You are a deviant. Be proud.
- And Brian Bethune highlights the end of connections to neighbours (and any associated "social immune system") as an increasingly worrisome social trend in Canada.

- Douglas Skinner points out that major U.S. companies are increasingly obsessing over the extraction of cash (both through repurchases and dividends) at the expense of any sustainable development. And digby links the obscene profits for the U.S.' privileged few to the excessive borrowing required of anybody else wanting to live what's seen to be a normal life.

- Alexander Knight traces the incestuous relationship between oil money and political power across Canada. Fern Hill focuses in particular on Enbridge's apparent attempt to buy favour with police departments in communities which are likely to see opposition to its Line 9 project. And Dermod Travis connects crony capitalism to the Mount Polley tailings pond spill:
Since 2005, Imperial Metals has donated at least $149,890 to the BC Liberals. With a win, place and show wager, that total includes $2,500 to each of the leadership campaigns of Christy Clark, Kevin Falcon and George Abbott. It also tossed $3,000 into the kitty for Bill Bennett's 2009 re-election campaign.

Mount Polley got in on the action as well, with the mine topping up donations to the Liberals by $46,720.
Giraud -- then vice-president, corporate affairs at Imperial Metals -- called on the B.C. government to retain the flow-through tax credits for the exploration industry, to keep the PST off capital investments for mining companies and, most importantly, to reduce the approval process for a new mine from upwards of 10 years to as little as three.

As he noted to the committee: "I think if we're really looking for some flexibility on budget in terms of the mining sector, there is perhaps some wiggle room, but it needs to be in the context of 'I'm going to build a mine in three years, so maybe I'll tolerate those additional tax rates.' People are willing to pay for certainty and for time."

Lo and behold, six months later the BC Liberal Party was promising voters that it would streamline the mining application processes, work with the federal government to ensure mining projects undergo only one environmental review process, and that it would extend the new mine allowance and other credits allowing new mines and mine expansions to receive depreciation credits of up to 133 per cent to 2020.
There was one last thing about Giraud's presentation that jumped out. Arguing his case for a shorter approval process, he claimed: "Nobody trusts experts anymore from an NGO or from a third party, saying: 'You know what? We don't trust what you've done.'"

After Mount Polley, that can be marked down as famous last words.
- Richard Brennan reports on a federal-provincial program which will provide money for affordable housing in Toronto. But as Brennan notes, the real story lies in what isn't included: the city is barred from using a dime of it for maintenance rather than new construction, meaning that the senior levels of government will maximize their photo ops while actively refusing to do anything to maintain the existing (and equally necessary) housing stock.

- Finally, Frances Russell weighs in on the continued clash in values between a progressive Canadian public and a hard-right Con government. But Paul Adams notes that based on current popular support, that conflict could be resolved in the next federal election by a Con collapse into third place among federal parties.


  1. Anonymous10:05 a.m.

    If the EKOS poll Paul Adams talks about is to be believed, not only are the Conservatives and Stephen Harper losing their standing in the polls, their is also a trend in more and more Canadians believing that the Government and the Country are going in the wrong direction. Of course, polls can be misleading, but if it's true I think their is a good chance or unseating the Conservatives in the next election, possibly with a Liberal-NDP coalition. Although I'm not sure how well Trudeau and Mulcair would work together, since it seems like they really dislike each other...

    1. I have my doubts that personal animosity would cause any problem if there's an opportunity to form a coalition. The bigger question is whether the Libs would revert to their default refusal to consider a coalition for political reasons (figuring they'd have a better chance of winning a later majority if they refused to cooperate with the NDP and left Harper in power in the short term) - and it's anybody's guess on that point.