Monday, December 30, 2019

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Damian Carrington reports on the large amount of microplastics raining down on residents of the world's cities. Geoffrey Morgan notes that Alberta's farmers are starting to realize that they're going to be left with the mess left behind - including orphaned wells - as the oil industry disappears. And John Meiners discusses the complete lack of corporate accountability in the wake of hundreds of oil spills arising out of Hurricane Katrina.

- Meanwhile, Aaron Wherry and the Globe and Mail's editorial board each express cautious optimism about Canada's role in combating the climate crisis - though both seem far too willing to ascribe ambition for far stronger action to the likes of the Trudeau Libs who have demonstrated nothing of the sort.

- Laura Funk writes about the problems with social support systems which are designed to avoid paying benefits to people who have trouble navigating them, rather than to ensure people can get the help they need.

- The Globe and Mail's editorial board points out how young Canadians are getting left out of the federal government's new plans and programs.

- Finally, Paul Krugman writes about the grossly outsized influenced of the wealthiest few in U.S. politics. And David Dayen discusses how the corporate judge pipeline set up by and for the Republican party is putting people at risk by attacking necessary regulations.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Paul Thacker discusses the importance of addressing the climate crisis as a health issue. CBC takes a look at a few of the ways a deteriorating climate is affecting Canada. And Taylor Noakes points out the central role a national public transit strategy can play in both reducing carbon pollution and adapting to a changed climate, while the Guardian's editorial board points out the desperate need to shift away from car culture as it stands. 

- Tim Richter highlights how Edmonton's Housing First policy is reducing both immediate and long-term homelessness. And Nicole Braun discusses the importance of treating housing as a human right and basic necessity rather than primarily a source of wealth.

- Jerzy Eisenberg‐Guyot, Stephen J. Mooney, Amy Hagopian, Wendy E. Barrington and Anjum Hajat study the connection between labour organization and inequality, finding that stronger unions save lives when it comes to overdose and suicide mortality in particular.

- Meanwhile, Robert Reich discusses how Donald Trump has made his working-class voters far worse off while enriching the plutocrats who exploit them. And Tom Metcalf and Jack Witzig report on yet another year of massive increases in wealth for the most privileged few.

- Finally, Sam Gindin points out that any argument for socialist policies needs to include a vision as to the resulting society. And Meagan Day interviews Nathan Robinson about the ethical underpinning of socialism.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Andray Domise highlights the importance of fighting back against the excesses and harms of capitalism, rather than accepting it as being necessary or inescapable:

There’s no way around a simple reality for people who consider themselves to be on the left side of the political spectrum, the people who strive for widespread and radical, if not revolutionary, change—we’re getting our tails kicked. There’s no putting an end to that if people who hold left-leaning ideals cannot quit kidding themselves by believing that capitalism exists as a benevolent or even neutral social arrangement. If the left intends to win these fights, it must also stand in principled opposition to capitalism. 2020 is the year to do it.

“It is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism,” goes an observation by, depending on your sources, either Fredric Jameson or Slavoj Žižek. And the frightening thing is, not only does the world’s end become easier to imagine with each passing day, there is also a politically active bloc that intends to keep squeezing profits until the music stops.
...
Environmental policy is not the only one where norms have become warped to the point of immorality. In Toronto, where nearly half of renters are paying costs categorized by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation as “unaffordable,” it can take between two and 14 years to be placed into social housing. The situation is equally dire in Vancouver, where rising rents force tenants into recreational vehicles, and then the eventual possibility of being kicked out of RV camps en masse.

How does the federal government address any of this? By offering financial assistance and incentives to bolster people with tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of dollars stashed away to buy a home. Which of course helps the real estate industry, helps mortgage lenders, and does nothing for people pressed ever further into the reaches of poverty. Condo towers sprout up all along Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway and tent cities underneath it are bulldozed, while the earth continues to pirouette carelessly on its axis.
...

Our political, business and media class would like nothing more than to pretend that these are natural outcomes, that none of it is avoidable, and that the world is and always has been shaped according to the capricious whims of that unknowable free market.

But the truth of the matter is this: 58 per cent of Canadians have a favourable view of socialism, and 77 per cent of us believe the world is facing a climate emergency. Most Canadians find income inequality to be fundamentally un-Canadian, and there are, numerically, more of us than there are bankers, landlords, brokers and executives put together. The only way for the left to win this fight is for its political vision to expand beyond capitalism, and to capture the widespread desire to move on from its exploitative limits.

We’ve lived in that world for long enough. Time for it to end.
- Meanwhile, David Dayen discusses how the U.S.' media is allowing the financial sector to avoid any discussion of the policies desperately needed to restrain its wealth and influence. And Ian Welsh writes about the reasons for UK Labour's election defeat - with the role of a hostile media in an anti-social propaganda campaign ranking as a crucial factor.
 
- Cathy Crowe discusses a brutal decade for homeless people in Canada. 

- Mike Addelman comments on the lack of mental health care to meet the needs of people facing terminal illnesses.

- Tony Doucette interviews Susan Caxaj about the coercive environment facing migrant agricultural workers in Ontario. And Grace-Edward Galabuzi and Sheila Block examine the costs of racism in Canada's labour market. 

- Finally, Gundi Rhoades writes about the devastating impact of climate change on animals in Australia. And Ebony Bennett points out that Scott Morrison's government is continuing to subsidize fossil fuels and neglect any emission reduction or mitigation plans even while his country is ablaze.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Bernie Sanders and Rashida Tlaib discuss Donald Trump's holiday menu of serving the rich and feasting on the poor, while Paul Krugman comments on the cruelty of a Trump Christmas. And Nick Purdon and Leonardo Palleja tell the stories of people facing the increasing depth and breadth of homelessness in Toronto.

- Margaret McGregor and Larry Barzelai write about the amount of fracking taking place in British Columbia - and the risk it poses both locally and globally - with relatively little public attention.  Michael Barnard notes the likelihood that Canada as a whole will end up paying for Alberta's refusal to make fossil fuel polluters clean up their own mess. And Tzeporah Berman highlights the absurdity of approving massive tar sands projects while the federal government dithers in the face of a climate crisis.

- Andrew Jacobs points out the disconnect between big pharma which is making obscene amounts of money from mass-produced drugs, and the lack of resources available for anybody more interested in research than short-term profiteering.

- Joseph Bernstein discusses how our relationship with technology has developed to make us more isolated and alienated.

- Finally, Joe Sousek makes the case for UK Labour to make a decisive push for proportional representation following an election in which a party with far less than majority support will be inflicting years of suffering on the voters who opposed it.

New column day

Here, on how the criticisms which were used to push Andrew Scheer out of the Cons' leadership role in fact reflect the fundamental problems with a party built around selfishness as the sole ideal to be pursued.

For further reading...
- David Akin reported on Scheer's prolific spending when he was running for the Cons' leadership.
- David Pugliese listed some of Peter MacKay's most prominent scandals, including his use of a military helicopter for a personal fishing trip. Global News reported on the donor-funded (and publicly-subsidized) top-ups paid to Christy Clark and Brad Wall. And Adam Hunter reported on Stephen Harper's current ride on the Saskatchewan Party's gravy train (with whistle stops to boost the local nativist demogogues along the way).
- And Kevin Drum looked at another application of the view of conservatism as the practice of promoting selfishness.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Cats amidst chaos.





Tuesday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- The Canadian Press reports on the Libs' desire to approve massive tar sands expansions no matter how the resulting production - to say nothing of the consumption left uncounted - would affect Canada's role in exacerbating a climate breakdown. And Janyce McGregor reports on the Libs' latest stalling tactics in applying fair tax obligations to stock options.

- Blair Fix studies how hierarchy dominates over education as a determinant of income in the U.S.' military.

- Alia Youssef examines how Muslim women have been affected by Quebec's discriminatory Bill 21.

- Stephanie Taylor reports on the difficulties Saskatchewan residents are facing in getting addictions treated. And Omar Mosleh tells the story of Randy Legarde's death - whose immediate causes remain unknown, but whose systemic roots in a lack of housing and social supports are only being exacerbated by the UCP. 

- Finally, Rick Salutin notes that populism - in one form or another - stands to exert significant influence within our political system, while Karolina Wigura and Jarosław Kuisz write about the importance of connecting to voters on an emotional level. And Adam Ramsey discusses how the UK Cons' majority can be traced largely to their promising to banish the political chaos they themselves caused.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Stephen Buranyi laments the reality that the public's increased awareness and concern about our ongoing climate breakdown isn't being reflected in political decisions. And Noah Smith writes that while the rapid drop in prices for renewable energy may help us avoid the worst possible climate outcomes, we shouldn't doom ourselves to the massive damage expected from a business-as-usual scenario.

- Erin Baerwald calls out the gross inaccuracy of Doug Ford's anti-wind crusade. Jeremy Klazsuz reviews Jason Kenney's year of attacks, while Scott Schmidt discusses the threat the UCP's war room poses to the public's freedom of expression. And Morgan Modjeski reports on the laughably overwrought shrieks of protest in response to a fairly standard Oxbow Christmas pageant which dared to include environmental themes.

- Eion Higgins reports on the spread of the #wouldyoushootmetoo hashtag in response to the news that the RCMP was prepared to shoot to kill peaceful land defenders.

- Chelsea Whyte discusses the tragic - and entirely avoidable - return of measles to the U.S. as a result of antivaxxers.

- Finally, Heather Mallick points out the economic and environmental damage we do by relying on Amazon. And Brendan Kennedy reports undercover on the working conditions facing Amazon's delivery drivers.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Kevin Drum writes about the need to address the climate crisis as a war for the future of humanity. And Will Wade reports on new research showing that we'll earn back more than the price of a rapid transition from fossil fuels to clean energy within less than a decade. And Ashley Martin discusses the need to combine climate action with social equity.

- Peter McCartney questions the contrived outrage from the oilpatch at the Lib government which has gifted it an eleven-figure pipeline. And Scott Schmidt laments the UCP's choice to use tens of millions of public dollars on an evil-clown-shoes war room rather than helping Alberta's people, while the Canadian Press reports on the combination of deception and intimidation that's served as its modus operandi.

- In a similar vein, Jessica Scott-Reid questions why Alberta's meat producers are pushing for "ag gag" laws which will prevent anybody from knowing the truth about any claims to humane treatment of animals.

- Finally, Andrew Jackson writes about the growing international push for a more progressive tax system, including the latest book by Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman:
In recent years, progressives and social democrats have begun to embrace a much bolder tax fairness agenda than was the case even five years ago. This is especially true in the United States where Democratic Presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have both made the case for a significant tax on large holdings of wealth, the closure of personal tax loopholes for investment income such as stock options, and serious corporate tax reform. In the 2019 federal election, the NDP similarly called for a wealth tax, higher taxation of capital gains in the personal income tax system, and a higher corporate tax rate.

These proposals counter the conventional wisdom that globalization forces countries to lower corporate and personal income taxes in order to attract mobile capital and highly skilled labour. It is indeed the case that the tax “burden” in most advanced economies has shifted from taxation of capital and the affluent to taxes on labour through regressive sales and payroll taxes, and lower income tax rates for the top 1% over the past two decades or so, even under supposedly progressive governments.

However, tax experts Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman argue in a new book that the issue of fair taxes is deeply political and that we can reverse the trend by pushing for real change...
...
(T)hey argue that countries should agree to not just to limit profit shifting, where some limited progress has already been made, but also to apply a minimum rate of corporate income tax. While this could be challenging, it is mainly very small countries who are most opposed. Big countries acting together should and could stop the erosion of the corporate tax base if they were prepared to stand up to the global elite.
 
Saez and Zucman are also major advocates of adding a wealth tax to our current arsenal of fair taxes, to be levied at a low but rising rate on very large fortunes. The aim would not be just, or even most importantly, to raise revenues, but to prevent the accumulation of huge fortunes which give the ultra rich far too much power and undermine democracy. Again, they believe that such a tax could be successfully levied in the United States, noting that the New Deal of the 1930s stretching into the post Ware period was deliberately intended to block the excessive accumulation of wealth.

The massive shift of taxes away from labour to the owners of capital in the US has been nothing short of staggering, undermining the fiscal base needed to support social programs and public services and exacerbating mounting inequality driven by the market economy. A major shift of direction is needed, and Saez and Zucman provide us with a well-documented analysis of tax injustice and a guide to needed reform.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Heather Scoffield writes that a genuine commitment to fighting climate change could resolve multiple major issues facing Canada - while delay serves only to exacerbate them:
At the core of today’s western alienation and of today’s search for prosperity is a much larger issue: the future of energy in a warming climate.

It wasn’t on the agenda for the ministers and was only mentioned in passing in the prime minister’s mandate letter of marching orders for federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau. And that’s a missed opportunity to tackle the challenges of a carbon-based economy head-on and amplify what so many other key players in Canada are leapfrogging each other to act upon.
...
In an economy that depends so deeply on resource extraction, energy production and the financing and services around those sectors, climate change is primordial. In a recent paper from the Bank of Canada that sets out where central bank researchers need to assess the impact, the author points to oil and gas of course, but also real estate, agriculture and transportation. Electricity generation, infrastructure and any industry that uses a lot of energy are also on the front lines. Insurers, banks, pension funds, investment funds and real estate trusts are also in flux.

And from a consumer point of view, climate is affecting the price of everything, as well as the way we heat and cool our houses, drive our cars, clothe our children and prepare our food.

Global warming, and its fix — decarbonization — touches almost every corner of what we do, and the risks to the economy are enormous, starting now. At stake are our profits, our businesses, our governments’ tax revenues and our very quality of life
- But Marieke Walsh points out the gap between Canada's actions and its already-insufficient emission reduction commitments. And Keith Gerein discusses the utter lack of substance behind the anti-carbon-tax bleatings of the UCP and their right-wing allies.

- Jaskiran Dhillon and Will Parrish exposes the lethal violence authorized by the RCMP against peaceful land defenders in the interest of pushing through pipelines.

- Stuart Thompson and Charlie Warzel examine the information that can be gleaned - and the risks that can be created - from a single set of cell phone location data.

- Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood writes about the Libs' extension of EI sick leave benefits, while noting the need to go much further in filling in the gaps in our social safety net.

- And finally, Erica West comments on the multiple meanings of the term "emotional labour" - and the reality that all of them reflect the perpetuation of gender imbalances.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Musical interlude

Joywave - Obsession

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Brigid Delaney writes about the significance of the truth about climate breakdown. Graham Readfearn reports on the risk of outright firestorms as bush fires burn out of control. And Geoff Dembicki writes about a case from the Philippines seeing oil companies held responsible for the damage they've caused from a human rights perspective.

- Linda McQuaig highlights the absurdity of the financial sector whining about having been handed $15 billion in bonuses:
(D)espite their privileged perch, Canada’s big six banks have gotten away with paying extremely low taxes — the lowest in the G7. Partly by using tax havens, our wildly profitable banks have managed to reduce their taxes to a rate that is about one-third of the rate paid by other Canadian businesses, according to a 2017 Toronto Star investigation.

Some Canadians might wonder whether we are well served by our banks. In recent years, they’ve shut down branches across the country, leaving hundreds of rural and remote communities without a local branch. They’ve also declined to offer banking services to many low-income people, obliging almost two million Canadians a year to pay the hair-raising interest rates charged by payday loan operators.

Yet, proposals that Canada Post offer banking services at its 6,200 outlets across the country have been opposed by the big banks, which insist that they serve Canadians well.

Certainly they serve themselves well, with even a “bleak” year leaving bankers divvying up $15 billion in compensation, on top of their base salaries.
- Meanwhile, Jack Lakey writes that Doug Ford's campaign for corporate impunity includes an "ag gag" law seeking to criminalize anybody exposing the mistreatment of animals.

- Finally, PressProgress traces the third-party money used for Jason Kenney's benefit back to just two wealthy donors who attempted to route it through nearly 20 entities to avoid attention, while also offering an introduction to the corporate elites behind the Cons' party fund. And Alvin Finkel writes that "western alienation" is mostly a matter of elites seeking to provide an alternate enemy to the people they're exploiting.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Linsey McGoey discusses the historical case for abolishing billionaires rooted in Adam Smith's critique of plutocracy:
Smith was scathingly critical of the wealthy’s disproportionate power over government policymaking. He complained about the tendency of the rich to shirk tax obligations, unfairly passing tax burdens on to poor workers. He heaped scorn on government bailouts of the East India Company. He thought dirty money in politics was akin to bribery, and that it undermined the duty to govern impartiality. He wasn’t alone.

The reality is that the historical case for abolishing billionaire privileges has a long heritage, stretching to enlightenment thinkers and the revolutionaries they inspired, including countless enslaved and working-class people in forgotten graves.

Thomas Paine, the 18th-century British radical whose writing helped to spur the American Revolution, called for the establishment of a wealth fund, financed by taxes on property, that would give every woman and man a lump sum of money in both early adulthood and again in old age. Today, basic income policy proposals revive this idea.

The handouts to the rich that he complains about in Wealth of Nations have never entirely disappeared. Instead, a language of “free trade” has obscured the government’s role in favouring the wealthy. Just look at the past 30 years, a time of ever-growing subsidies to pharmaceutical executives who gouge consumers with unacceptably high drug prices; tax gifts to tech corporations that lobby to erode worker and consumer protections; the ever-replenishing “money-tree” of quantitative easing programmes that rain on the rich while the poor work ever-longer hours.

Smith did talk about the invisible hand. But he also wrote about the “invisible chains” that structure people’s lives. He and his revolutionary friends understood that wealth inequality could become a type of invisible cage. He taught his readers a simple lesson: keep the power of the rich in check.

- Meanwhile, Michal Rozworski examines how so many British voters cast ballots for a Conservative government which they knew couldn't care less about their well-being.

- Scott Leon and Brittany Andrew-Amofah offer some suggestions to improve the availability of housing due to its critical effect on people's health. BC Housing studies the effect of non-profit housing on property values and concludes that the former doesn't harm the latter. And Angela Sterritt reports on the Squamish Nation's plan to build 6,000 rental housing units in Vancouver.

- Meanwhile, Zak Vescera reports on the response of landlords to the Moe government's short-sighted welfare changes - with the predictable effect being an avoidable increase in evictions.

- Finally, H.M. Jocelyn highlights how the Trudeau Libs have sold out Canadian sovereignty and privacy to the Trump administration.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Curled-up cats.


Tuesday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- David Ritter writes that a gross failure to act against a climate breakdown causing out-of-control wildfires and unprecedented temperatures is creating a crisis of legitimacy for Australia's government. Chris Hatch and Barry Saxifrage discuss the failure of the world's governments to turn dozens of climate meetings into meaningful progress. And Samantha Beattie examines Imperial Oil's deliberate climate denial after its own research confirmed the damage carbon pollution is doing to our planet.

-  Meanwhile, Hiroko Tabuchi reports on a single Ohio methane leak spewing more carbon pollution into the air than some entire countries. Which is of course an ideal time for a reminder that Jason Kenney doesn't want leaking methane to be regulated.

- OneZero examines the environmental injustice in Detroit, where deadly pollution is concentrated in clusters of poor and minority residents.

- Finally, Heather Scoffield discusses how the Trudeau Libs have abandoned their progressive promises and rhetoric now that they're again ensconced in power. And Amanda Terfloth offers a devastating account of how people are suffering from the Libs' stalling on universal national pharmacare.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Sarah Schulman discusses the importance of sleep as a determinant of health, arguing that a safe bed is the first step toward addressing all kinds of social ills.

- Laura Lynch interviews Adria Vasil about the massive amount of avoidable waste generated by a combination of online shopping and corporate brand valuation.

- Thomson Reuters reports on the justified anger of the world's smaller countries in response to the climate obstruction of the wealthiest countries on the planet. And Eleanor Boyle points out that if we recognize the importance of the fight against a climate breakdown, we should be willing to accept rationing as part of our battle plan.

- Gil McGowan, Guy Smith, Heather Smith, Mike Parker, Rory Gill and Jason Schilling argue that Jason Kenney has no right to turn the retirement savings of Alberta workers into a bailout fund for a dying oil industry. And Murray Mandryk points out the immaturity behind Scott Moe's trial balloons about claiming power over immigration and policing - though the more important factor in Moe's announcements looks to be a complete absence of independent thought as he instead parrots whatever Kenney says. 

- Finally, Nora Loreto highlights how Quebec's Bill 21 singles out minority women as being forced to choose between their faith and culture or the ability to support a family.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Chris Hatch discusses the glaring contradictions between Canada's lip service to the fight against climate change, and its actions in pushing to expand dirty energy production for decades to come. The Globe and Mail's editorial board rightly recognizes that increasing the production and consumption of natural gas isn't an answer to our climate emergency. And Shanti Nair reports that Chevron and other major oil companies are accounting for a dim future for fossil fuels in their asset valuations.

- Meanwhile, Janet French reports on Jason Kenney's layoffs of agriculture and forestry workers - presumably in keeping both with his party's austerity and his hostility toward evidence-based decision-making. And Steve Thomas points out that Ireland offers one of many examples of the ill effects of the two-tiered health care being pushed by the right.

- Joseph Zeballos-Roig highlights how the U.S. has systematically transferred money from workers to employers by replacing corporate tax revenue with payroll deductions. And Dan Fumano reports on the predictable use of bundled individual donations to skirt British Columbia's new donation limits. 

- Finally, Sirvan Karimi notes that Canada's federal election saw yet another set of gross distortions between voter preferences, party support and seat counts. And Royce Koop discusses the opportunities to be found in a minority Parliament, while noting that they'd be far more regularly found under a proportional electoral system.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Musical interlude

The Stills - Changes Are No Good

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Paul Krugman writes that the most frightening aspect of the U.S. Republicans is the party's commitment to climate destruction for political gain:
My sense is that right-wingers believe, probably correctly, that there’s a sort of halo effect surrounding any form of public action. Once you accept that we need policies to protect the environment, you’re more likely to accept the idea that we should have policies to ensure access to health care, child care, and more. So the government must be prevented from doing anything good, lest it legitimize a broader progressive agenda.

Still, whatever the short-term political incentives, it takes a special kind of depravity to respond to those incentives by denying facts, embracing insane conspiracy theories and putting the very future of civilization at risk.

Unfortunately, that kind of depravity isn’t just present in the modern Republican Party, it has effectively taken over the whole institution. There used to be at least some Republicans with principles; as recently as 2008 Senator John McCain co-sponsored serious climate-change legislation. But those people have either experienced total moral collapse (hello, Senator Graham) or left the party.

The truth is that even now I don’t fully understand how things got this bad. But the reality is clear: Modern Republicans are irredeemable, devoid of principle or shame. And there is, as I said, no reason to believe that this will change even if Trump is defeated next year.
- Meanwhile, the Red Deer Advocate reports on the Blackfalds school dance which was shut down due to a petro-parent's threats against any climate-related education. Geoff Dembicki examines how Imperial Oil fits among the oil giants which has spent decades denying its own scientific research about climate change. And Carl Meyer reports on the federal environment and sustainable-development commissioner's finding of a lack of coordination on environmental policy.

- Charles Mudede offers a reminder of the large number of U.S. workers making far less than a living wage. And Heidi Shierholz and David Cooper report on the Trump administration's plans to drastically increase the size of that group by facilitating the abuse of a reduced minimum wage for workers who may receive tips. 

- Scott Sinclair examines the effects of the new NAFTA, with marginal gains for workers far outweighed by dangers to the environment.

- Finally, the Broadbent Institute charts the plummeting taxes applied to Canada's wealthiest people and corporations - even as we're told that basic needs such as housing, food and medicine are beyond the means of the federal government which has engaged in decades of giveaways to the rich.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

New column day

Here, on how the Libs' throne speech continues their pattern of paying lip service to climate action while using public resources to make matters worse.

For those interested in the calculations as to the climate impact of new pipelines, the numbers I've used are as follows.

Brian Jean called here for pipelines and port facilities to export an additional two million barrels per day of oil, representing 730,000,000 barrels per year.

The EPA calculates the effect of oil consumption at .43 metric tonnes per barrel - or an additional 314 MT of CO2 per year just from the consumption of the additional oil exports. And Natural Resources Canada references (PDF) the International Energy Agency's calculation that production emissions are about 25% of the total resulting from fuel consumed, resulting in another 105 MT generated on the production side, for a total of 419 MT per year. (I assume, probably too generously, that new oil sands production won't be any dirtier on the production side than oil generally.)

By way of comparison, the best-case scenario for a $50 per tonne carbon price is to reduce emissions by 90 MT per year. And even assuming a higher price results in the same incremental emission reductions (again probably too generous an assumption), that would leave Canadians to pay an additional $232.78 per tonne just to account for the effects of the additional two million barrels produced and consumed.

For further reading...
- Aaron Wherry is far too kind in claiming Justin Trudeau is putting anything at stake in setting new targets for long after he'll be out of office - but his column at least gives a strong indication of the coverage the Libs want. And Adam Radwanski is closer to the mark in noting that Trudeau isn't prepared to do anything meaningful to alleviate the climate crisis.
- Chantelle Bellerichard reports on the demand from some Indigenous peoples for an updated cost estimate on the Trans Mountain pipeline. And Robyn Allan points out how the federal government has already misled the public by concealing updated information about the soaring price.
- The New York Times reports on the "super emitter" effect of methane leaks - which Jason Kenney wants to eliminate from any tracking and reduction regulations in Alberta. And Tzeporah Berman points out the climate damage which we can expect from the Teck Frontier mine which is also on Kenney's tar sands wish list.
- And finally, Climate Action Network International offers its latest review (PDF) of countries' climate commitments - with Canada ranking again among the world's worst offenders.

[Edit: fixed wording.]

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Laurie Macfarlane writes about the interconnected economic, democratic and environmental crises facing the UK - and the opportunity voters have to address all three in today's election. And a group of political and thought leaders from around the globe lends its support to Jeremy Corbyn and UK Labour as offering needed hope for the many.

- Isabel Sawhill reviews Binyamin Appelbaum's The Economists' Hour, and points out how the dogma of laissez-faire economics has produced intolerable human costs for no apparent economic benefit. And Jim Hightower argues that the moment has come to ensure that the richest few pay their fair share through higher taxes.

- Cassandra Szklarski reports on the connection between where a person lives and their likelihood of suffering an avoidable death.

- Finally, Marc Lee calls for social housing which provides needed homes without building in a layer of profit for developers. And Brittany Andrew Amofah and Rebecca Cheff highlight how a true universal pharmacare program would make life more affordable for the people who most need it.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Wednesday Night Cat Blogging

Poised cats.




Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- As affordability takes a central place in most Canadian election campaigns, Kofi Hope and Katrina Miller propose a definition based on public health:
Health is the great equalizer. No matter where we’re from, what our values are, what our age or our political beliefs, we all want to have a healthy and long life. And if we agree on that, then we can say affordability is about the amount and type of resources we need to live a healthy and thriving life.
...
To thrive means to be able to have time for family and friends, pursue a hobby and travel occasionally, along with covering the basic necessities. Individual income is only one component of a broader social safety net that supports a thriving population; employers, government and community all play pivotal roles too.

For example, if the government covers some essentials, like prescription drugs and tuition, and subsidizes others, like housing and recreation programs, its contributions would all count toward the resources needed to live a healthy life. Our government can play a critical role in closing the gap between the haves and have-nots, not only by making basic goods more affordable but also by expanding public services and supports.

Viewing affordability as a commonly shared and holistic goal of health provides stable footing to consider an important question: Is our government making a healthy life possible for the many, or for the few?
- Meanwhile, Andrew Coyne writes that the Libs' signature tax cut fails by any measure other than that of electioneering.

 - Kendall Latimer reports on Provincial Auditor Judy Ferguson's findings about the desperate need for improved mental health supports in northern Saskatchewan. Max FineDay and Doug Cuthand implore our governments to act in response to the crisis of Indigenous suicides. And Marcus Gee notes that a culture of toxic masculinity feeds into addictions and deaths for many workers.

- Yasmin Jiwani reminds us that the Ecole Polytechnique massacre represents just one example of the violence which confronts women every day.

- Finally, Alex MacPherson reports on the Saskatchewan Party's shoot first, ask questions later approach to illegal fund-raising tactics.

Monday, December 09, 2019

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Rachel Shabi writes that UK Labour's plans for universal social investments would be both more compassionate and more efficient than the Conservative-created tearing patchwork.

- Simon Jäger, Benjamin Schoefer and Jörg Heining study (PDF) the positive effects of worker representation in corporate governance. And Michael Laris and Ian Duncan report on the consequences of Boeing's obsession with short-term capital interests which led it to conceal defects on its planes.

- Fiona Harvey reports on the vast swaths of ocean facing oxygen deficiencies caused by climate change - as well as on the latest research from the European Environment Agency showing how incremental economic gains (to the extent they exist at all) are far short of being worth the destruction of a liveable environment. And Matt McGrath reports on the Global Carbon Project's conclusion that global emissions continue to rise even as the visible effects of carbon pollution become far more difficult to avoid. 

- Finally, CBC News reports on the increase in support for proportional representation in the wake of Canada's federal election. And PressProgress points out some of what's missing from the Libs' throne speech.

Sunday, December 08, 2019

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Tom Blackburn writes about the UK's rare opportunity to elect a government which is actually committed to empowering workers.

- Don Pittis writes that an effective transition toward a clean energy economy will result in far superior outcomes for workers than an insistence on propping up a dying fossil fuel sector. But Wal van Lierop points out the immense amount of lobbying the oil industry carries out to ensure it receives handouts and policy privileges over sustainable alternatives. 

- Gary Mason discusses the dangers of putting the health and well-being of seniors in care in the hands of distant foreign corporations. 

- Dina Al-Shabeeb highlights the growing number of working people struggling to survive poverty in Vaughan (and elsewhere). And Michael Spratt points out how cuts to Legal Aid systems leave everybody worse off by denying access to justice to the people who need it most.

- Finally, Graham Thomson points out both Jason Kenney's desire to create a political environment of perpetual conflict, and his utter inability to handle any punishment of his own a once he gets his wish.

Saturday, December 07, 2019

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Abby Innes writes that the UK's general election reflects a decision point as to whether to discard neoliberalism to serve the public, or democracy for the benefit of plutocrats. And Trish Hennessy looks at Cleveland's move to ensure a democratic economic system, including by ensuring that the provision of services to institutions like universities and hospitals is designed to benefit local workers.

- Erika Shaker and Simon Enoch examine the oil industry's control over what's taught to Saskatchewan children. And Stephen Maher writes about Jason Kenney's outrageous diversion of Alberta pensions to try to goose the profits and share prices of fossil fuel operators.

- Jason Warick reports on Saskatchewan's unconscionable backsliding in ensuring access to urgent psychiatric care. And a new CUPE report examines the deterioration of long-term care even as an aging population stands to impose even greater needs.

- James Glave and Brendan Haley examine the importance of energy efficiency as part of British Columbia's progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. And Jim Harding points out that the Moe/Ford/Higgs nuclear sideshow is merely a diversion from the work which needs to be done sooner and more effectively to avert the worst of a climate crisis.

- Finally, Nora Loreto discusses how the 30th anniversary of the École Polytechnique massacre fits into the wider picture of violence against women in Canada.

Friday, December 06, 2019

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Linda McQuaig writes about the fallout from the ideology of constant privatization - and a precedent from Canada's past as to how public institutions can meet essential social purposes:
C. D. Howe was a towering figure during the war, and he has been credited with transforming Canada from a largely agriculture-based society to an industrial one. His legacy lives on today – somewhat ironically – through the C.D. Howe Institute, a business-funded think tank that has consistently promoted pro-market ideas. While Howe shared these ideas, it was actually his development of Canada’s wartime Crown corporations with their substantial manufacturing capabilities that laid the foundation for Canada’s evolution into a modern industrial nation. Once the war was over, Howe reverted to his conventional pro-market views, pushing for privatization rather than envisioning a future for the promising public enterprises he had built.

Many decades later, we are now faced with an urgent need to evolve beyond a modern industrial nation, powered by fossil fuels.

An enormous mobilization, on a scale similar to the one orchestrated by C.D. Howe, will be essential to fundamentally redesign our economy and society for the global green energy revolution. Indeed, given the urgency of the task if we are to avert climate disaster, it’s clear that a massive campaign of government planning, oversight and ownership – along the lines of what was achieved during the war through government planning and Crown corporations – will be needed.

Once again, the task is too big and too important to be left to the private marketplace.
- And Marie Aspiazu notes that Canada's corporate telecom oligopoly is looking to ensure that the price of access to the Internet doesn't get any more affordable. 

- Alex Hemingway points out how unduly low property taxes in Vancouver lead to inequality and speculation, while depriving the city of money to provide needed services.  

- Bob Barnetson discusses how the Kenney UCP is stripping nearly all labour and employment rights from farm workers. And Brennan Doherty reports on the expectation that rail workers will function under a state of fatigue.

- Finally, Jordan Gill talks to Theresa McClenaghan about the reasons why smaller nuclear power is merely a distraction rather than an answer to our energy and environmental needs. And Jim Green's earlier post on the subject is well worth a read.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Those who will not hear

Since the Saskatchewan Party tried to push nuclear power when first elected to office, it's heard from the public about their grave (and justified) concerns.
Overall, while there is some support for nuclear power generation, the overwhelming response to this public consultation was that nuclear power generation should not be a choice for Saskatchewan, whether it is intended to serve the needs of Saskatchewan people only, or for a combination of Saskatchewan people and other provinces or states.
It's heard from international financial markets that nuclear development is seen as a major risk factor.
Moody’s Investors Services warns in its new report — “New Nuclear Generation: Ratings Pressure Increasing” — that it may view nuclear construction plans as a negative.

Moody’s worries that investment in new nuclear is so costly that it amounts to a “bet the farm” strategy. It increases business risk and operating risk.
It's heard from other Canadian provinces about the lack of any economic basis for nuclear power. 
The Ontario Energy Board has indicated that any price higher than $3,600 per kilowatt of power capacity would be uneconomical when costed against alternatives such as natural gas and renewable energy options. Bruce Power has indicated its intention to build two 1,000 megawatt reactors in Saskatchewan at a cost of between $8 and $10 billion. Using Bruce Power’s conservative price estimate, its proposal works out to approximately $4,000 per kilowatt – a price that exceeds the Ontario Energy Board’s economical cutoff.
It's seen other countries phase out nuclear altogether, while facing a reckoning from decades of generating hazardous waste without a plan to manage it.
When it comes to the big questions plaguing the world's scientists, they don't get much larger than this.
Where do you safely bury more than 28,000 cubic meters -- roughly six Big Ben clock towers -- of deadly radioactive waste for the next million years? 
This is the "wicked problem" facing Germany as it closes all of its nuclear power plants in the coming years, according to Professor Miranda Schreurs, part of the team searching for a storage site. 
Experts are now hunting for somewhere to bury almost 2,000 containers of high-level radioactive waste. The site must be beyond rock-solid, with no groundwater or earthquakes that could cause a leakage. 
The technological challenges -- of transporting the lethal waste, finding a material to encase it, and even communicating its existence to future humans -- are huge.
And faced with all those voices confirming the folly of pushing nuclear power, Scott Moe's response has been...to barge ahead based on the belief he doesn't have to listen to anybody.

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Crawford Kilian highlights how ongoing inequality is among the many factors leading to stagnant life expectancies in Canada. Jim Stanford points out that tax cuts don't do anything to help workers facing stagnant wages due to policies designed to leave them under the thumb of employers. And Jamelle Bouie discusses the folly of the U.S. Democrats - or any party seeking to win under a progressive banner - failing to properly stand for the interests of workers.

- Brent Patterson lists the glaring failures of the Trudeau Libs' climate policy as the world again meets to try to plan to ameliorate the climate crisis. And the Canadian Press reports on new research showing that severe weather is the largest contributor to soaring food prices.

- Val Avery writes about the dangers to Canada's public health care system posed by Brian Day's attempt to enshrine privatized medicine as a Charter right. And Bob Bell, Danyaal Raza and Stefan Superina offer a warning as to how a two-tiered system led to the degradation of public services in Australia.

- Neil Macdonald calls out the continued gap between the Libs' words about reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, and their actions bent on preserving discrimination and avoiding compensation as long as they possibly can. And Doug Cuthand writes that it's long past time to provide compensation for breaking up First Nations families.

- Finally, Duncan Cameron writes about the authoritarian government being imposed on Alberta by Jason Kenney.

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Dormant cats.




Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Rupert Neate writes about the twelve-figure tax avoidance by the U.S.' largest tech firms, while noting that Amazon stands out as the worst offender. And Meagan Day interviews Ramesh Srninivasan about the need to democratize the administration of the Internet.

- Meanwhile, Grace Blakeley makes the case to socialize the financial sector to ensure it serves the public rather than facilitating the concentration of wealth. And Anoosh Chakelian hopes that a devastating report on child poverty will offer a much-needed reality check in the course of the UK's general election.

- Animal Justice notes that Jason Kenney and Doug Ford are following in the Republicans' footsteps by planning to punish people for attempting to expose animal abuse.

- Chris Turner writes about Kenney's pursuit of modern-day McCarthyism. And Graham Thomson notes that rather than representing a necessary result of otherwise justifiable choices, the framing of large number of people as enemies is central to Kenney's political strategy. 

- Finally, Omar Washington writes that the re-election of Justin Trudeau in the wake of his blackface exploits represents a sad failure on the part of Canada's electorate. And Jordan Bober argues that Trudeau should at least recognize the need to put electoral reform back on the table after an election which has produced some of the most distorted first-past-the-post results yet.

Monday, December 02, 2019

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Will Hutton discusses how the U.S.' monopolistic economic system threatens anybody who becomes subject to its whims. And Eric Levitz points out how a wealth tax which ensures that everybody is required to contribute to the price of a functional civilization should appeal to "law and order" voters - particularly when the alternative is to be told that the wealthiest people are too rich to be subject to the rules.

- Katy Jones writes about the reality of the working homeless who can't find any housing despite holding down regular employment. And Christine Rankin reports on Feed Ontario's findings about increased food bank use and continued poverty. 

- Markham Hislop examines Efficiency Canada's provincial policy scorecards, showing Saskatchewan second from the bottom. And Bryan Eneas reports on the dozens of people out of work due to Scott Moe's destruction of the solar sector, while CBC News reports on Moe's insistence on instead pouring more public funding into nuclear power with no regard for the cost or environmental dangers.

- Meanwhile, Alex MacPherson reports that the Saskatchewan Party is also including foreign junkets on its list of spending priorities even as Saskatchewan's residents are stuck with deteriorating services.

- Finally, Mark Maslin writes about the five corrupt pillars of climate change denial.

Sunday, December 01, 2019

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Laurie Macfarlane writes that contrary to the dogma of budget scolds, the truly reckless course of action is to fail to invest public money in state capacity:
After four decades of neoliberalism, the state’s capacity has been drastically hollowed out. Key public functions have been outsourced to management consultants and private service providers, while the application of private sector management techniques to the public sphere has placed civil servants in an administrative straightjacket. Tasked with delivering such a large increase in public investment tomorrow, it’s likely that what’s left of the public sector would struggle to invest on the scale and pace required. 
 
But this is not an excuse for inaction. As the above chart shows, the public sector has delivered much higher levels of investment in the past, and many countries around the world continue to do so today. Many of humanity’s boldest advances – from the internet and microchips to biotechnology and nanotechnology – were only made possible by strategic public investments that were made by dynamic, mission-oriented public institutions. In many of these areas the private sector only entered much later, piggybacking on the advances made possible by long-term, high-risk public investment.

If the next government is to transform its economy on the scale that is required to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century, it’s clear that it must urgently rebuild public sector institutions, and increase their capacity to think and act big.
- Bob Baldwin points out the dangers of setting up comparatively small and inefficient provincial pension plans based on shaky assumptions about future demographics. And Robert Fraser argues that the provinces trying to operate in denial as to the waning future of the fossil fuel sector should take a lesson from Ontario's loss of manufacturing jobs in the wake of NAFTA.

- Meanwhile, Seth Klein and Gil McGown offer a constructive suggestion to fund a just transition away from industries which pose unacceptable threats to our climate. And Kevin Smith discusses both the desperate need to improve the capacity of our public health care system, and the importance of federal involvement in that work (including by returning to its historical commitment to 50-50 funding).

- Finally, PressProgress reports on the devastating effects of a ransomware attack on Nunavut's public infrastructure.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Olivia Bowden reports on new research showing that the harmful health effects of air pollution are even worse than previously known.

- But in case anybody was under the illusion that we'd expect polluters to pay for the cost of their damage, Chris Varcoe points out that Jason Kenney is demanding that the oil companies who have left his province with hundreds of billions of dollars in reclamation liabilities be let off the hook in favour of federal funding. Mitchell Anderson notes that continued subsidies for the fossil fuel sector are based on nothing more than wilful ignorance about the future of energy. And Jamie Kneen examines how a tax system designed to favour mining companies produces no discernable benefit to the public.

- Julia Conley reports on the strong popularity of a wealth tax in the U.S. - including among voters across the political spectrum. But Rob Evans, Felicity Lawrence, David Pegg and Caelainn Barr expose how U.S. tycoons have been funding the UK's anti-social right. And Max de Haldevang discusses new revelations about Walmart's offshoring of profits to avoid paying U.S. taxes.

- Danilo Trist and Matt Saenz study the strong poverty-reducing effects of even the U.S.' limited income support programs.

- Finally, Derrick O'Keefe discusses the importance of treating housing as a matter of meeting residents' needs, rather than assuming it can only be built for the purpose of enriching developers. And James Wilt highlights the central role strong public transit can play in addressing both environmental and social pressures. 

Musical interlude

Meg Myers - Running Up That Hill

Friday, November 29, 2019

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Joseph Stiglitz discusses how the failure of neoliberalism to provide gains for any but the wealthiest few has led to risks to the democratic systems which have been treated as tied to laissez-faire economics. And Armine Yalnizyan challenges the false assumption that increased inequality can be justified in the name of competitiveness.

- Sarah Lawryniuk writes about the potential for Jason Kenney's wanton destruction of Alberta's public sector to produce massive social unrest along with economic damage. Rethinking Poverty writes about the importance of having policy designed by the people who experience its consequences, rather than being imposed out of ignorance by privileged people who presume anything that doesn't affect them personally must not matter. And Ash Sharkar writes that the UK's election may determine whether citizens see any hope of dealing with collective problems at the ballot box.

- Thomas Walkom puts Kenney's trumped-up complaints in perspective compared to the the enormity and importance of the global climate crisis. And Stephen Buranyi calls out the new form of conservative climate denial, which involves barely acknowledging the danger but refusing to do anything to actually cut greenhouse gas emissions.

- But Noah Smith writes that no matter how firmly oil-backed politicians remain in denial, there's no avoiding the fact that the age of fossil fuels is coming to an end.

- Finally, Jane Philpott and Danyaal Raza write that the time is now to put a national Pharmacare program in place.