Saturday, September 21, 2019

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- The Initiative on Global Markets finds substantial agreement among economists that inequality poses a threat to democracy. And Paul Krugman writes about the concerted efforts of corporate-funded Republicans to undermine the successes of California and other states implementing progressive policies.

- Andray Domise discusses the white supremacist roots of blackface and other means of dehumanizing minorities. Ritika Goel lists a few of the major instances of continued systemic racism in Canada. Sarmishta Subramanian points out the need for acknowledgements of racism to give rise to genuine change. And Jolson Lim notes that the NDP is the only party whose platform includes plans to deal with that ongoing discrimination.

- Martin Lukacs highlights how reconciliation with Indigenous people is just one of the areas in which Justin Trudeau's flashy photo ops have been followed by no substance whatsoever. And Jorge Barrera reports that Trudeau is ducking questions about whether he'll bother to comply with the rulings of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ordering an end to discrimination against First Nations children.

- Finally, Damian Carrington points out the role that re-wilding can play in repairing our natural environment. Jennifer Wells examines the feasibility of a publicly-owned push toward building electric vehicles at the Oshawa GM plant which is otherwise set to shut down. And UK Labour has announced its plan to make loans for electric vehicles interest-free.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Musical interlude

Phantogram - Into Happiness

Friday Evening Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Grace Blakeley discusses how the financialization of the economy has enriched a few at the expense of everybody else. And Blakeley and Harry Quilter-Pinner point out how social care in particular is suffering for having been turned into a profit centre.

- David Macdonald examines the anticipated effect of the NDP's wealth tax. George Monbiot proposes to go much further by setting an effective limit on individual wealth. And John Michael McGrath suggests that taxes on property flipping could both generate valuable revenue while also restraining excesses in housing speculation.

- Naomi Klein comments on the need for an ambitious Green New Deal, rather than the limited market mechanisms which are front and centre in Canada's discussion of climate policy. Andre Mayer points out that there's no conflict between the goals of transitioning to a clean economy and ensuring the availability of good jobs. And Andrew Nikiforuk reminds us that the people engaged in climate strikes aren't asking for anything more than for the rest of the world to catch up with what plenty of jurisdictions have already managed to achieve.

- Finally, Sarah Berman discusses what we'd see if Canada actually approached the fight to save a habitable planet as if it were a war.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Thursday Evening Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Martin Regg Cohn writes that Doug Ford's brutal austerity against the people who most need social support has been based on entirely made-up numbers. And David Climenhaga points out that Alberta's civil service has been shrinking over the past decade, showing that Jason Kenney is peddling lies of his own in pretending that public-sector workers can afford to take on more work for unconstitutionally-limited pay.

- Alex Hemingway discusses the need to extend democracy into our workplaces and economic planning - as even the U.S. and UK are having far more serious conversations about worker control than we are.

- Patrick Butler reports on new research showing that homeless people in the UK are being denied social housing precisely because they're poor enough to need it.

- Emma White suggests that it's time to explain climate change to recalcitrant politicians in terms that small children could understand. Lynn Giesbriecht reports on the Saskatchewan Party's choice to pull the plug on a solar installation program which was producing both clean energy and substantial economic activity. And Alex Kotch points out how Koch funding and Republican political power are being used to try to stifle the development of electric vehicles to keep people burning dirty fossil fuels.

- Finally, Shree Paradkar offers some important context for Justin Trudeau's multiple blackface and brownface revelations. And Debbie Douglas and Shalini Konanur recognize that Canada still needs to answer for and correct massive racial disparities.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Emily Stewart reports on Elizabeth Warren's message about the need to end corruption and corporatism in order to make U.S. politics work for people. Martin Wolf writes that a rigged economic system is undermining the prospect of viable democracy. And Andrew MacLeod examines where Canada's federal parties stand when it comes to tax fairness.

- Jennifer Wells makes the case for the federal government to buy GM's Oshawa plant as a hub for the development of electric vehicles in Canada. And the Guardian's editorial board offers its support to the spread of worker-owned industries as a means of sharing wealth and power.

- Oliver Milman reports on the growing desire for strong climate action in the U.S., with two thirds of the public demanding a policy response to our climate breakdown. Ben Ehrenreich discusses how public activism is vital in building the action needed to counter entrenched interests in business and government, while Geoff Dembicki wonders whether we'll see Canada's political parties match leading Democratic presidential contenders in calling out the oil industry as a villain. And Bill McKibben points out the significance of large pools of capital concluding they're not prepared to fund the continued degradation of our living environment.

- Meanwhile, Max Fawcett highlights how Jason Kenney is trying to amplify the most toxic of petro-politics.

- Finally, Fair Vote Canada has released the results of a new poll showing a strong majority of Canadians in favour of a proportional electoral system.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Huddled cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Ann Pettifor discusses how a Green New Deal will pay for itself while making use of readily available sources of financing. And Clive Thompson points out the positive social impacts of Dunkirk's decision to offer free transit.

- Meanwhile, Emily Holden reviews some of the most severe health issues caused by an ongoing climate breakdown. And Damian Carrington reports on the Food and Land Use Coalition's study into the massive agricultural subsidies which are contributing to environmental devastation.

- Matt Bruenig writes that the U.S.' existing welfare state is already doing plenty to alleviate poverty - and that it's entirely possible to eradicate poverty altogether by making better choices with current budget numbers:
(T)he market income poverty gap is $512 billion, which is to say that poor families are collectively $512 billion below the poverty line based on the distribution of market income. For disposable income, the poverty gap is $173 billion. This means that the welfare state cut the poverty gap by 66 percent.
(I)ncomes get above the poverty line at the 13.1st percentile, indicating that the disposable income poverty rate is 13.1 percent. But notice how much information you miss out on by only doing a head-count measure.

The head-count measure implies that only the red wedge between the 13.1st percentile and the 24th percentile matters when we are talking about poverty reduction. But clearly all of that red to the left of the 13.1st percentile also matters. Indeed, that is the majority of the poverty reduction delivered by the welfare state.

What these poverty gap figures show us is that the welfare state is perfectly capable of cutting poverty dramatically. We just need to make it bigger.
- But then, Melissa Healy points out how the rural counties facing the most ongoing poverty also suffer from higher suicide rates.

- Finally, David Macdonald examines how the Cons' tax slashing plan - like so many before it - tries to use language about helping lower-income Canadians to shovel money toward the upper middle class while doing nothing for people actually living in poverty.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- The L.A. Times' editorial board comments on the need for everybody to pitch in toward a just transition which preserves a habitable planet - including by moving away from reliance on fossil fuels. But Natalie Hanman interviews Naomi Klein about what instead looks to be the start of barbarism which dehumanizes the people facing the worst effects of a climate breakdown.

- Kelly Grant reports on a plan for Toronto's University Health Network to build affordable housing to address some of the causes of ill health - signalling the lack of supports available outside the health care system. And Richard Schneider laments how many mental health issues are addressed through criminal courts.

- Torsten Bell discusses how any proposal to eliminate the UK's inheritance tax would provide grossly disproportionate benefits to the wealthy - offering a reminder of how Canada is exacerbating intergenerational inequality by lacking one to begin with.

- Finally, John Ashton writes about the need for public activism across Alberta to challenge the Kenney UCP's plans for austerity and attacks on workers.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Kerri Breen reports on the public's understandable frustration with Canada's political system. Don Martin offers a prime example as to why that's justified, as Justin Trudeau has cynically concluded that it would be counterproductive to stand up for people facing religious discrimination in Quebec as a result of Bill 21. And Karl Nerenberg examines Trudeau's track record of broken promises - including some of the most important commitments which earned him a look from progressive voters in 2015.

- Meanwhile, Charlie Smith notes that Jagmeet Singh may be ideally positioned to offer a desperately-needed alternative to corporate service as usual.

- Common Dreams takes note of a new study showing both the ubiquity of plastic ingredients in the bodies of German children, and a familiar pattern of inequality in which less wealthy children are more likely to face dangerously elevated levels of pollution.

- Chris Varcoe points out that the City of Medicine Hat has joined the ranks of traitors to Jason Kenney's fossil fuel cause by planning to shut down gas wells which can't produce a viable return.

- Finally, William Horobin discusses Thomas Piketty's latest book, including its proposals for political and economic remedies to the scourge of undue inequality.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Meghna Charkabarti interviews Branko Milanovic about the destructive amount of inequality embedded in capitalism as it's currently structured. Connor Kilpatrick and Bhaskar Sunkara argue that the corporate class has only tolerated an acceptable distribution of income and wealth when it's been accompanied by the credible threat of expropriation and nationalization. And Robert Frank reports on Thomas Piketty's push for a substantial wealth tax based on the principle that every billionaire represents a policy failure.

- Meanwhile, Denise Balkissoon highlights how our political system all too often excludes people who don't already enjoy a significant level of economic status and privilege.

- Sandy Garossino discusses how Jason Kenney has joined the club of strongman figures seeking to criminalize any attempt to protect our planet from environmental destruction. And the Globe and Mail's editorial board recognizes the threat Kenney poses to democracy.

- Jeremy Gong highlights the importance of closing the loopholes which have resulted in gig workers being treated as "independent contractors" rather than employees. But Sharon Block and Benjamin Sachs write that such recognition is only the first step toward providing the opportunity for collective bargaining.

- Finally, Christopher Guly wonders whether Justin Trudeau will pay a price for his betrayal of voters who believed his oft-repeated promise of electoral reform. And Andrew Coyne rightly laments another election campaign in which most voters are seen as superfluous to deciding who will hold power.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Musical interlude

The Philosopher Kings - Still The One

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Richard Wilkinson, Kate Pickett and Wanda Wyporska neatly summarize the insidious social effects of inequality:
(I)nequality is socially divisive, making status more important and strengthening the view that some people are worth more than others.

As we judge each other more by status, we fear more how we are judged. Status anxieties increase in all income groups, intensifying attempts to enhance appearances of personal worth – including through status consumption. Heightened social comparisons increase stress and doubts about self-worth, with consequences for health, violence, bullying, children’s educational performance, and addictions. And rather than increasing initiative and creativity, a large recent analysis showed that inequality makes societies less inventive, producing fewer patents per head of population. Falling well beyond the boundaries of economics, inequality’s effects now demand interdisciplinary research and political action.
- Meanwhile, Bob Ascah, Trevor Harrison and Richard Mueller discuss how Alberta can avoid what's already an overstated complaint about deficits and debt (to say nothing of the austerity which Jason Kenney plans to inflict as a "cure") merely by taking in public revenue remotely comparable to every other Canadian province.

- Michael Mann offers a reminder that we need a systemic transition in order to rein in catastrophic climate change. And Adele Peters writes that clean energy has already reached the point of being more affordable than fossil fuel alternatives such as natural gas - as long as the latter aren't receiving massive subsidies.

- Andrea Ledding reports on the exploitative and poorly-regulated logging industry which is threatening Saskatchewan's forests along with residents.

- Finally, Rob Carrick writes that Canada's housing policy needs to focus on making rental space available, rather than further driving up prices for would-be home buyers.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Lily Patchelder and David Kamin study the policy options available to increase public revenue by focusing on the wealthy, and find that there are multiple viable options:
The U.S. will need to raise more revenues in order to reduce these disparities, finance much-needed new services and investments, and address the nation’s long-term fiscal needs. This paper outlines policy options for raising a large amount of revenues primarily from the most affluent, first discussing potential incremental reforms and then focusing on four main options for more structural reform: (1) dramatically increasing the top tax rates on labor and other ordinary income, (2) taxing the wealthy on accrued gains as they arise and at ordinary rates, (3) a wealth tax on high-net-worth individuals, and (4) a financial transactions tax. Although we summarize the relative advantages and disadvantages of these approaches, we generally conclude that they all merit serious consideration. Several options are also complementary to one another.
- And dozens of UK economists sign on in agreement that their economy too needs to see wealth and power more fairly distributed.

- Max Fawcett points out that the oil industry's desperate wishes for another boom are unlikely to bear fruit. And Maddy Ewing discusses the opportunities to convert transit and freight transportation fleets to electrical vehicles.

- Christopher Cheung offers a reminder that the Libs' supposed national housing strategy is both grossly insufficient is terms of resources, and directed toward housing starts rather than needed rental housing. And PressProgress notes that Doug Ford is actively exacerbating Ontario's plague of homelessness. 

- Finally, Derrick O'Keefe comments on Jagmeet Singh's strong stance against the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Richard Partington discusses the rise of inequality and some of the options to combat it. And PressProgress points out the Parliamentary Budget Officer's conclusion that the NDP's plan for a wealth tax can turn money currently being hoarded by the ultra-rich into tens of billions of dollars in new revenue to help build a stronger Canada.

- Meanwhile, George Monbiot writes that the UK Cons are looking to push through Brexit primarily for the purposes of being able to use the shock to further enrich the wealthy. And Gillian Steward discusses the austerity in store for Alberta as Jason Kenney schemes to break his promise not to cut public services.

- Dana Brown examines the case for a public pharmaceutical manufacturer in the U.S. to ensure needed medications are affordable.

- Finally, Isabella O'Malley reports on the massive oil spill on Grand Bahama caused by Hurricane Dorian.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Brightened cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Damian Carrington reports on the Global Commission on Adaptation's research showing that we're woefully unprepared for catastrophic climate change - and that prevention today will far more than pay off in the future (except for those who consider climate apartheid to be an acceptable outcome). And PR Newswire points out the massive costs of the U.S.' existing air pollution (which Donald Trump and the Republicans of course want to exacerbate).

- J Mijin Cha and Jeremy Brecher recognize that climate action is entirely compatible with economic development and improved employment prospects. And Alex Balingall reports on the Assembly of First Nations' indication that it considers climate change to be the top priority in this fall's federal election.

- Allison Hanes writes about the harm Bill 21 is doing to Quebec's schools and other public institutions by implementing systematic religious discrimination as provincial policy. And Nicholas Keung discusses some of the community organizing being done to counteract the deliberate cultivation of bigotry and hate in the federal election campaign.

- And finally, Chris Hedges writes that longtime apologists for purely selfish capitalism are running scared in asking that they be allowed to determine for themselves what motives other than profit should be considered in the distribution of wealth.

Monday, September 09, 2019

Of pots and kettles

A genuine advocate for ethical politics could certainly find reason for concern with the Libs' cynical use of government announcements to build the profile of unelected candidates.

But the Pod People's Party deserves nothing but mockery for having the gall to complain that it constitutes anything other than plagiarism.

On abandoned responsibilities

The prelude to Canada's federal election campaign has brought several parties' views of human rights and government responsibilities under scrutiny.

Maxime Bernier has only exacerbated Stephen Harper's past anti-minority messages, building his PPC campaign largely on criticism of immigration generally.

Andrew Scheer has apparently recognized at least a political problem with broad attacks against refugees or minority groups. And so he’s taken to searching out targets one by one for his campaign’s two minute hate sessions, then challenging Justin Trudeau to join in denouncing them and declaring that they’ll be treated as non-people by the Canadian government.

And of course the Greens have been happy to welcome people motivated by religious bias and racism, as long as it offers a political wedge to benefit Elizabeth May.

But somehow, the current government hasn't been held to account for its disturbing response to the Cons' campaign theme.

The Liberals have been quick to point out that Scheer’s message about the likes of Jack Letts and Jon Venables has been inaccurate in fact, relying on tabloid gossip and idle speculation to assert non-existent connections between the Conservatives’ objects of hate and the Canadian government.

But in limiting their response that way, they’ve only reinforced Scheer’s underlying principle.

Others have pointed out that Canada is actually subject to both international agreements and moral obligations to address the actions of people abroad. But the Libs have brushed those aside - instead washing their hands of any responsibility to or for the people involved, and sending the message that they’ll readily treat some types of people as pariahs based on political considerations.

It shouldn't be acceptable for any party to quibble over where to draw the line in abandoning anybody. And it's doubly galling to see that message from a party trying to brand itself as a champion of human rights.

Fortunately, we've also seen an example of the right way to respond to attempts to exploit bigotry and hate for political gain. And we should be looking to support a government which is willing to challenge the exploitation of hate in all forms, not merely quibble with the accuracy of any particular attempt to invoke it.

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Taylor Scallon discusses how GDP numbers fail to capture the precarious circumstances facing far too many Canadians. Kerri Breen reports on Ipsos' polling showing a majority of Canadians seeing the political system as being rigged in favour of a privileged few. But in case anybody assumed those types of concerns would serve the interests of the populist right, Owen Jones points out how Boris Johnson's plan to push bigotry in response to self-inflicted austerity looks to be failing miserably.

- Karl Smith writes that U.S. Republicans have essentially abandoned any willingness to discuss stimulus in the face of any economic downturn, even as perpetually more evidence shows the long-term harms caused by short-term economic pain.

- Evgeny Morozov discusses how MIT's willing association with Jeffrey Epstein (in order to take his money and launder his reputation) reflects the moral bankruptcy within the tech sector.

- Margot Young examines how the Libs' housing policy falls far short of both the party's own rhetoric and the needs of Canadian residents. And Josh Rubin points out the lack of rental construction even as soaring rents reflect an obvious need.

- Finally, Emily Eaton and Nick Day study how Saskatchewan's education system perpetuates the power of the oil industry.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Derrick O'Keefe highlights how Canada's election would look if coverage focused on the issues which feature strong public support, rather than the two painfully unappealing perceived front-runners who ignore them:
(T)he Ipsos poll results released an enormous potential for class-based demands aimed at reducing economic inequality in Canada. A whopping 67 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement “Canada’s economy is rigged to advantage the rich and powerful,” while only 10 per cent disagreed.

Relatedly, polling done earlier this year for North 99 found 67 per cent in support of a wealth tax on the super-rich. A mere 14 per cent were opposed to the hypothetical new tax, which would apply at a 2 per cent rate on fortunes over $50 million. (The NDP has included a wealth tax in their election platform, proposing a 1 per cent surtax on fortunes over $20 million.)
Last month, author and researcher Seth Klein released polling he had commissioned from Abacus looking at public opinion on climate and a potential Green New Deal in Canada. The results showed 72 per cent support for a Green New Deal here and only 12 per cent opposed. However, the polling also found limited awareness. “In Canada, only a minority are aware or think they have heard of the term ‘Green New Deal.’ Fourteen per cent say they have definitely heard something about it while 19 per cent think they have heard something.”

In other words, the Green New Deal is wildly popular, but only a small minority actually know much about it. This gap is the most important polling result of all, and it points to the great potential for a surge in support for parties and candidates who wholeheartedly push Green New Deal policies. Taken together with the poll numbers on the wealth tax and the rigged economy, we can see there’s a significant and largely untapped potential in Canada for a politics that unabashedly pushes for tax fairness and climate justice.
- And Andrew Coyne comments on the lack of a meaningful distinction between the Trudeau Libs and the Scheer Cons.

- Mike Scott points out that the global transition toward electric vehicles stands to make almost all current oil production uneconomical. And Barry Saxifrage writes about Canada's dirty fleet of vehicles, along with the opportunity for economic development as part of the much-needed transition to EVs.

- Finally, Brian Hennigan discusses the criminalization of poverty and homelessness as a prime example of the exploitation of the working class.

Friday, September 06, 2019

Musical interlude

Metric - Risk

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Giri Savaraman and Jim Stanford point out the importance of a more collaborative and inclusive economy, even as Australia's right-wing government pushes in the opposite direction:
The problem has not been an absence of productivity growth: our productivity can always be improved, but real wages already lag far behind what productivity growth is occurring. The bigger problem is the failure to share the fruits of productivity growth. And the international evidence is clear that stronger worker rights and collective bargaining also tend to result in a better distribution of income, both among workers and between workers and firms. In other words, better worker rights lead to a larger economic pie that gets more evenly distributed.

The Coalition and its business allies would turn the clock back to a labour market even more dominated by the unilateral power of employers to hire and fire, unilaterally set wages, and take maximum advantage of the desperation of an underutilised, precarious workforce.
Countries with more collaborative, balanced IR systems are eating our lunch in international competition. The solution to that challenge cannot be to suppress wages even further, to disempower and fragment workers even more. If we really want to build a collaborative, innovative, inclusive, dynamic economy, the reforms we badly need in labour law are exactly the opposite of those advanced by the suddenly-vocal warriors of the business community, and its friends in this government.
- Meanwhile, James Meadway writes that it's a good sign that UK Labour's plans to share control and ownership over economic resources with workers is earning the ire of the privileged few seeking to keep a stranglehold on them. And Kate Aronoff discusses the need to take on fossil fuel barons head-on in order to achieve any progress in averting climate disaster. 

- Matto Mildenberger and Erick Lachapelle examine the strong public will for climate action in Canada - including majority support in every riding in the country. But Charlie Gardner and Claire Wordley point out that we need to convert awareness and support into action, rather than counting on captured governments to do what's right. And Nathalie Baptiste notes that climate gentrification is well underway as the wealthiest people try to buy an escape from the damage they're doing to our planet.

-  Finally, Alex Usher writes about the implications of relying on tuition - and particularly inflated levels for foreign students - as the primary funding mechanism for universities. 

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Ian Welsh discusses the reality as to how economic decisions are made - and how we've allowed corporate control to remain in place even after it's failed even on its own terms:
All systems have to do only one thing: whatever is required to keep the system in power.

That’s all they have to do. Whether or not human welfare is advanced or not; whether or not we care about animals or nature is irrelevant to the raw calculus of power and staying in power, until it effect staying in power.

If the hoi polloi can be kept from revolting or demanding (remember demands are based on “or else,” they are not requests) well then, the powerful will not do anything that does not increase their power or money. They will only care about human welfare outside of their own group if they feel they must, or if, as happens occasionally, they see their group as being something other than the elite group.

Right now elites don’t care about other humans enough to reshape the money and political systems (the same thing, ultimately) to prioritize human welfare, avoid a great-die-off, or stop climate change. This is clear. It is not arguable, it is a fact, based simply on their actions.
...Capitalism requires both outside management and an insistence on market discipline. It is most important that market discipline be on the large actors, not the small ones, because the large ones set the terms of the market and make most of the allocative decision. When you offer people too cheap loans, they will take them, but you are the one offering them: you are the one in the wrong.

Price signals must encourage doing the right thing. When those with market power either misbehave or mis-allocate money, they must lose their power to do so.
- And Rebecca Leber reports on Elizabeth Warren's recognition that we can't avert a climate breakdown while allowing the fossil fuel sector to pretend that large emitting industries and energy sources aren't the bulk of the problem.

- Cat Hobbs examines (PDF) the value of public ownership and democratic decision-making in ensuring that everybody has climate-friendly housing. And Bridgette Watson offers a reminder of the importance of stable housing in allowing people to recover from addictions.

- Julia Lurie examines how Purdue Pharma developed an astroturf "movement" to increase the sale of addictive pain medication.

- Finally, Tom Sigurdson highlights how a strong organized labour movement helps all workers.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Kate Aronoff asks how much destruction is needed before we'll start taking climate change seriously - though the answer at this point looks to be that no amount of damage will be enough to move a substantial number of politicians off their insistence on putting fossil fuel extraction ahead of human well-being.

- Andrew Leach highlights the contrast between the real problems with Alberta's oil sector, and the Conservative talking points insisting that a dirty and costly industry will boom again if only people clap louder for it.

- David Climenhaga discusses how Jason Kenney has laid the groundwork to slash and privatize Alberta's health and education systems to fund corporate tax giveaways. Ricardo Tranjan maps out the per-student cuts faced by Ontario's schools under Doug Ford. And PressProgress notes that Brian Pallister's self-proclaimed achievements include saddling Manitoba with Canada's second-worst ER wait times even while slashing the number of emergency rooms accessible in the first place.

- Finally, P.E. Moskowitz writes about the far right's attempt to squelch all views other than their own in the name of "free speech".

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Perched cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Paul Krugman weighs in on the scam that is trickle-down economics, particularly in the form of tax-free zones which encourage domestic tax evasion.

- Timothy Taylor writes about the changing nature of work - while highlighting that workers who value secure and stable employment are seeing few opportunities. Paul Willcocks examines the deterioration of work over time, while noting that political choices are responsible. And Pilita Clark questions the spread of extreme work hours which add nothing to an individual's contribution or development.

- Anna Mehler Paperny discusses how necessary mental health care is available only to the rich in Canada - though the NDP of course plans to change that.

- Finally, Stephen Maher rightly challenges Joe Oliver's attempt to treat a global climate breakdown as a positive for Canada:
Oliver is echoing a view from the most strident Canadian oil executives, who argue that because Canadians produce a small share of global emissions, we would be foolish to do much to cut them. (They never mention, by the way, that we have among the world’s highest emissions per capita.)

This is a fallback position. They previously argued, and Oliver seemed to agree, that the cause of  climate change was unproven, just as cigarette manufacturers long argued that there was no conclusive evidence that smoking caused cancer.

As the tobacco industry gave up on the pro-smoking argument and started instead warning the public about the dangers of tobacco taxes, the fossil industry is now abandoning the scientific debate and making arguments about what we should do about the situation: not much.

(H)ow hard-hearted do you have to be to look at the biggest ecological and humanitarian disaster in history and think of the economic upside? Only the most flinty-eyed analyst can relish the opportunities created for Canadian farm producers if heat and water shortages make much of India uninhabitable, creating new opportunities for pulse exporters once our Indian competitors have been forced out of business.

Oliver’s arguments are so thin, his conclusions so predictable that he risks losing the respect traditionally accorded to statesmen opining on matters of public importance...

Monday, September 02, 2019

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your Labour Day reading.

- Hassan Yussuff discusses what's at stake for Canadian workers in this fall's election campaign. And Binyamin Applebaum and Damon Winter rightly point out that while one job can be difficult enough, there are added stresses where workers need to try to satisfy more than one employer in order to scrape by.

- Alyssa Battistoni and Thea Riofrancos write about the importance of a Green New Deal oriented toward economic as well as environmental justice. And Matt Bruenig examines how UK Labour's inclusive ownership funds would serve to keep some wealth in the hands of the workers who generate it, while Jim Pickard and Robert Shrimsley take a look at Jeremy Corbyn's plans for a more fair economy and society in general.

- Trevor Tombe calls out a few of the more glaring falsehoods behind Jason Kenney's separatist messaging.

- Finally, John Michael McGrath offers a reminder that neither the Libs nor the Cons has any reason to brag about their record on same-sex marriage.

Sunday, September 01, 2019

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- David Lazarus writes about the fundamental dishonesty needed to keep purveying trickle-down spin in the face of all evidence. And Richard Rubin discusses how U.S. Democrats are having a serious discussion about the merits of progressive income and wealth taxes - even as Canada's two corporate parties treat anything of the sort as being off the table.

- Carlito Pablo notes that alongside its basic failure to address the supply and affordability of housing generally, the Libs' tax credit for home buyers is flat-out unavailable in the most expensive housing markets where the need is most acute.

- Doug Cuthand points out that the burning of the Amazon rain forest represents a particularly stark - but all-too-familiar - example of colonial disrespect for land and the Indigenous people who rely on and protect it. And Kendra Pierre-Louis points out that fires are becoming more frequent and severe around the globe as a result of our ongoing climate breakdown.

- Diana Yoon and Ian Borsuk make the case for Canada to stop validating Jair Bolsonaro's exterminationism. And Simon Tisdall notes that far too many governments are looking to exploit the effects of climate chaos rather than lifting a finger to prevent it - with Donald Trump's musings about buying a melting Greenland as just one of the more glaring examples.

- Finally, David Thurton reports on the Libs' lack of any plan to deal with the Arctic region after a full term in government.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Greg Wilpert interviews Julia Wolfe about the contract between soaring incomes for CEOs, and stagnant ones for workers. And David Cooper observes that everybody benefits from a fair minimum wage.

- Christopher Cheung points out that the presence - or absence - of basic bathroom facilities offers a simple test as to whether cities are designed to be lived in by people.

- Zoe Ducklow interviews Tatiana Schlossberg about the relationship between consumer lifestyles and our climate breakdown and other environmental consequences.

- Patricia Aldana rightly calls out Canada's corporate elite (and their fully-owned political subsidiaries) for prioritizing resource sector profits over the rule of law in Latin America. And Mitchell Anderson notes that we don't have any standing to claim superiority over Brazil in our effect on the climate - though the answer should be that we accept being subject to the same type of pressure we ought to apply to other countries who also place short-term profits ahead of the viability of our planet. 

- Finally, Bernie Sanders highlights how media outlets motivated by a combination of easy profits and billionaire manipulations represent a threat to democracy. And Dennis Gruending discusses how the Koch brothers' dark money has harmed Canada's political debate.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Musical interlude

Big Sugar - Dear Mr. Fantasy

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Rick Salutin writes that Canada's lack of accessible housing arises primarily as the result of general inequality. Derek Thompson notes that youth athletics are just one more sphere of activity in which concentrated wealth is driving out participation by people who don't have that advantage. And Michael Mendelson reports on Doug Ford's latest plan to remove what little support already exists for the people who need it most.

- Kevin Carmichael asks why our government isn't ensuring that digital giants pay their fair share to support a society which offers a source of massive profits. And David MacDonald and Chris Roberts examine how large corporations have stolen from their workers by deliberately underfunding pension plans while finding enough spare cash to pay out massive dividends.

- Gamechangers examines how Justin Trudeau's attempt to turn public works into a private profit centre included appeals to Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund.

- Finally, Chris Selley comments on the latest revelations about Trudeau's betrayal of progressive voters on electoral reform:
(W)e are asked to believe that this scholar of electoral reform, who felt quite strongly that proportional representation was “bad for Canada,” was convinced by his caucus to “leave the door open at least a crack for proportional representation” because he thought (per Wherry’s interviews) that he might be “willing to be convinced that (he was) wrong.”

There is no evidence he was, in fact, willing. Instead we are to believe that the committee of Trudeau’s MPs and those of other parties that Trudeau tasked to study and consult on this matter at great expense, and that ended up recommending PR, only to have then-democratic institutions minister Maryam Monsef dismiss their work as not what she asked for, only steeled his resolve against PR. We are to believe that Trudeau forgot to stump for ranked ballots even occasionally, once he became prime minister, because — per Katie Telford, now Trudeau’s chief of staff, to Wherry — “then we wouldn’t have been doing a lot of other things.”
Truly, the mind boggles. A keen student of electoral reform would have known the New Democrats would never accept ranked ballots because PR is party gospel, and ranked ballots are beside the point to PR and not in their electoral best interests. A keen student of electoral reform would have known the Conservatives would never accept ranked ballots because they believe quite strongly in the status quo, and because they are also not in their electoral best interests.

The honest person Justin Trudeau purports to be cannot claim good intentions in this situation and expect to get away with it. I cannot ever recall seeing such an implausibly ambitious plea for clemency for such a transparently cynical record. It says a lot that he would even attempt it.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Liaquat Ahamed writes about the pattern of wealth concentrating in the absence of a countervailing force - and the need for a political response. Linda McQuaig discusses how the media largely ignores the eminently popular prospect of raising taxes on the people who have more wealth than they could possibly put to good use. And Ilya Bañares reports on the majority of Canadians who have a positive view of socialism - a number equal to those approving of capitalism.

- Meanwhile, Annie Lowrey writes that millennials who are already facing an economy rigged against them stand to bear the brunt of the next recession when it hits. And Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood and Zaee Deshpande discuss the importance of including social equity as an integral element of a just transition toward clean energy.

- Larry Elliott recognizes that personal changes will fall far short of turning the tide when it comes to our climate crisis. And Robinson Meyer notes that there's no way to reverse foreseeable damage such as the destruction of the Amazon rain forest once we've gone too far.

- Finally, as Manitoba considers its options for a new provincial government, James Wilt examines the damage wrought by Brian Pallister since he took power.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- John Nichols interviews Bernie Sanders about the importance of resurrecting the principle of economic rights. Gallup examines how the American public is again recognizing the value of unions. And Simon Goodley writes about the positive effects of shortening the work week to 4 days by pointing out how productivity increases in weeks which are shorter due to holidays.

- But of course, we can count on our right-wing demagogues to never let evidence get in the way of their goal of shredding social bonds. On that front, Michelle Bellefontaine reports on the UCP's first fiscal update, featuring their declaration that they'll keep corporate tax giveaways in place regardless of whether or not they result in promised jobs or investment. And Doug Allan points out how Doug Ford plans to slash funding to Ontario's health care system which is already struggling to meet patients' needs.

- Geoff Zochodne reports on BMO's decision to exit the reinsurance market - with the risks of climate change representing a substantial part of the reason.

- Janyce McGregor reports on the Libs' insistence on pushing a free trade deal with the same Bolsonaro regime that's facilitating the destruction of the Amazon rain forest. And this - as Scott Gilmore points out - at a time when the rest of the world is learning to work around Donald Trump and his ilk.

- Finally, Christopher Guly writes that the Libs haven't succeeded in stifling any discussion of electoral reform - and that they can expect any possible multi-party negotiations to include that as a must.

In plain sight

Robyn Urback is rightly concerned about the lack of discussion of Quebec's systematic discrimination by most of Canada's federal parties - only to gloss over the strong position taken by Jagmeet Singh and the NDP.

Matt Gurney laments the lack of a remotely reasonable climate debate between the Libs and Cons, while failing to mention the NDP's New Deal at all.

And Neil MacDonald complains about an election based on mudslinging between the Libs and Cons, while only noting in passing that the NDP is offering meaningful solutions to the social ills those parties are ignoring.

If only there were some pattern as to how this fall's election might produce results Canadians actually want - and how the media can advance the discussion past the cynical politics of Trudeau and Scheer.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Cozy cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Paul Krugman writes about the U.S. Republicans' new complaint of evil eye economics - though it shouldn't come as much surprise that people who treat the economy as nothing more than a confidence game would object to anybody pointing out how the public is being conned.

- Alex Kotch writes about David Koch's legacy of destruction. And Suketu Mehta writes about the manufactured anti-immigration message which has allowed the racist right to grow across much of the developed world.

- Meanwhile, Ian Tucker interviews David Wallace-Wells about the pattern of policy hypocrisy which includes the Libs' determination to build pipelines at public expense while posturing as climate champions.

- Michael Laxer highlights how the Libs' housing plan for Nunavut involves funding only a tiny fraction of even the most immediate needs.

- Finally, Keith Gerein calls on Jason Kenney to acknowledge the evidence that supervised consumption sites save lives. And Andre Picard questions why we're happy to accept the social consumption of alcohol in bars while acting squeamish about the equivalent for any other substance. 

Monday, August 26, 2019

On mixed signals

Cam argues that the Libs' latest messaging on carbon pricing is a mistake in the sense of a political gaffe. And watching only the headlines today, that take would appear to be borne out.

But I'll respond that while a posture of studied ambiguity about carbon pricing may represent an error in strategy, it does reflect a deliberate choice.

And to be clear, an utter lack of clarity as to their plans for carbon pricing is exactly the message the Libs have chosen to offer:
In a news conference Monday morning, McKenna used careful phrasing to say that the current plan has no “intention” of going past $50 per tonne since it ends in 2022, but then added that decisions about future price increases will be made after discussing it with provincial governments.

“In 2016, we negotiated for a year with provinces and territories that included a price on pollution until 2022,” she said. “So there’s no intention to go up beyond that, any decision would be made in discussions with provinces and territories and stakeholders.”

She was asked specifically if she’s ruling out price increases beyond 2022, but didn’t respond directly. “All we’ve done is we’ve negotiated until 2022, so I’m not in a position to negotiate anything past that,” she said. “I think that there’ll be an election in 2023 and I think that might be a discussion for that election.”
While it's true that the Cons were quick to seize on the shift in position, the more important gap between the Libs' position and other policy options is that on the other side.

After all, it's generally recognized that the existing carbon price falls far short of representing a viable answer to our climate crisis - leaving the Libs vulnerable to significant challenges from the NDP (and the Greens) offering far more thorough proposals to a growing pool of voters whose desire for meaningful climate action will influence their ballots.

By deliberately failing to take any position, the Libs figure to be trying to take the best of both worlds: their environmentally-branded candidates (echoed by the Cons) can hint at increased carbon prices they haven't committed to, while the national campaign can point to the lack of any promise and accuse the Cons of fearmongering for asserting as a certainty something which isn't actually in their platform.

Unfortunately, that political ploy will serve only to muddy the waters for voters who demand more than deliberate obfuscation (along with counterproductive choices) in confronting the most serious challenge of our time. And anybody serious about reining in our carbon pollution will need to make clear that the Libs can't claim the benefit of their consciously-cultivated doubt.

Update: And this is surely exactly what the Libs were after - credit as a party to "fight climate change" from a prominent environmental voice, without actually presenting a plan or even a promise to develop one. 

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Peter Wade reports on new polling showing that American voters remain angry about a political system which benefits a privileged few at the expense of everybody else. Jake Johnson reports on Bernie Sanders' message that it's time for workers to win the class war that's been waged against them by the 1%. And Dave McKee discusses the importance of organizing new industries and business models to ensure employers can't evade effective collective action.

- Suzanne Bearne writes about Gary Bloch's efforts to ensure patients have the income they need to avoid illnesses caused by poverty. But PressProgress points out how Doug Ford is trying to make Ontario's poorest residents even worse off.

- Andrew Jackson writes that for a Green New Deal to achieve a just transition to a clean economy, it will need to include an industrial strategy to ensure that workers share in the benefits.

- David Miranda is the latest commentator to highlight how Jair Bolsonaro's corporatism is responsible for the burning Amazon rain forest. And Gary Yohe and Michael Mann point out the exploitative mindset behind both our climate crisis and the rise of bigoted populism.

- Finally, Joel Lexchin explains why we shouldn't settle for the Libs' patchwork plans and incrementalism when universal pharmacare is within reach.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Sunday Evening Links

Assorted content for your Sunday reading.

- Binyamin Appelbaum discusses the folly of having turned economic decision-making over to people who somehow saw income inequality and the concentration of wealth as desirable ends. And Geoff Zochodne points out that Canada has been suffering from the "American disease" of having corporate cash converted into stock buybacks rather than the investment promised by the purveyors of corporate tax cuts.

- Meanwhile, Andrew Baker and Richard Murphy suggest a framework which could set minimum standards for corporate tax rates, and ensure that multinationals aren't able to avoid paying their fair share by sending income or assets offshore.

- Simon Tisdall writes that Donald Trump's musings about trying to buy Greenland are revealing in highlighting the belief that the parts of the natural environment facing the brunt of a climate breakdown are ripe for further exploitation. And Andre Pagliarini notes that a burning Amazon is another particularly glaring example of the same exploitative mindset, while Robert Hackett discusses how the fight against the Trans Mountain pipeline purchase and expansion represents a crucial step toward reversing it in Canada.

- Finally, Catherine Ford calls out Jason Kenney for stacking the deck against Alberta's most vulnerable workers in appointing a panel to cheerlead for a lower minimum wage.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Saturday Morning Links

This and that for your weekend reading.

- Ryan Nunn, Jimmy O'Donnell and Jay Shambaugh study how the U.S.' labour movement has been ground down by corporate-controlled governments - and how workers in all kinds of workplaces are worse off as a result. And Robin Tress cautions against allowing businesses to dictate what constitutes the "public interest".

- Meanwhile, Jolson Lim reports that the vast majority of Canadians recognize that businesses and wealthy individuals need to contribute more toward the cost of building a functional society.

- Kate Aronoff highlights how any effective climate plan needs to include some idea how to overcome structural barriers put in place by the fossil fuel sector, rather than presuming that it will be remotely willing to cooperate in saving a habitable planet. And the CP reports on Greenpeace's call for an end to trade negotiations which would not only validate Brazil's destruction of the Amazon, but provide further protection for corporations wanting to get in on the damage.

- Graeme Benjamin reports on the justified backlash against anti-immigration billboards being used to advertise for the PPC. But Victoria Gibson notes that the Libs' actions have been entirely in keeping with the philosophy of locking up newcomers to Canada, as the number of children in immigration detention doubled in just the last year.

- Finally, Meera Bains writes about the plight of Amrit Kaur and others who have been driven out of Quebec workplaces by Bill 21.

Bottom lines and shifting goalposts

I noted last night that there's no validity to complaints about the NDP ruling out support for a Con government. But if anybody wants to point out which party's stance on supporting anybody else as a possible government does seem problematic, there's yet more odd spin coming from the Greens:
Needless to say, the bottom-line demand to "protect human rights" would be far more meaningful if Elizabeth May hadn't previously declared recognition of fundamental rights to be optional among her own candidates. And if the Greens were somehow to end up holding what would be at best a narrow balance of power, it's hard to see a way out for May which doesn't involve breaking some pre-election commitment if negotiations in a minority Parliament end up running into the issues raised by Bill 21, including the possibility of federal intervention.

On the one hand, May could try to whip her members on a subject where she's currently telling them they're free to do as they see fit. But in the process, she'd confirm that any promise of MP independence is illusory. 

Or more likely, she'd end up discarding one of her only two core commitments on the altar of expediency. But if it's easily foreseeable that one of her "bottom lines" will be erased at the first opportunity, progressive voters have every reason for concern about her judgment - especially when she sees supporting the Cons as an option to be left on the table.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Musical interlude

Foals - In Degrees

On clear positions

What should have been considered an entirely uncontroversial bit of news - that, like his predecessors, Jagmeet Singh has publicly stated that he's not interested in putting a Con government in power - has instead given rise to a truly impressive display of projection and selective amnesia. So let's set the record straight.

No, it's not accurate to say "but Jack Layton would never have done that!". To the contrary, Layton did it as well, releasing this passage in his own book when he was still leading the NDP and strategizing about post-election options:
I was not about to participate in any scheme cooked up by the Bloc and the Conservatives that would put the country in the hands of Stephen Harper.
And it's even more preposterous to suggest that it's "rare for a party leader to take options off the table so early in an election cycle".

The previous three federal election cycles have all been marked by the Libs trying to lay the foundation for their strategic voting racket by loudly trumpeting a refusal to countenance any post-election coalition with the NDP, even if the result was to leave Stephen Harper in power. And at every opportunity, they've indicated after the fact that they didn't mean a word of that spin.

Similarly, while the Cons have regularly run on multiple incorrect and unprincipled claims (that the party with the most seats governs, and that coalitions of any kind are illegitimate), they've never held to those positions when they've perceived any hope of seizing power by discarding them.

If there's any difference between the NDP's position and that of competing parties, it's that the NDP can be counted on to base its level of willingness to cooperate with other parties on reasonable principles, and to follow through on its commitments. And Singh is rightly upholding that well-established tradition.

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Mia Rabson reports on a new Climate Action Network report card showing that Canada's plans for greenhouse gas emissions are as bad as any in the G8, projecting to lead to the same 4 degree temperature increase which would result from from Donald Trump's outright denialism. And Marc Jaccard concludes that the Cons' excuse for a climate plan will actually result in increases in Canada's greenhouse gas emissions over the next crucial decade.

- Meanwhile, Eliane Brum highlights how humanity as a whole is facing severe risks from Brazil's deliberate destruction of the Amazon rain forest in the name of short-term profits.

- Alicia Bridges reports on new research showing how even conventional oil production in Saskatchewan may be resulting in serious risks to drinking water. And Stephanie Tobin examines the false promise of offshore oil spill cleanup - where even ideal conditions result in 90% of what's dumped into water being left there to contaminate marine areas.

- Olivia Tobin reports on Jeremy Corbyn's warnings about the generation of young people being left behind by the UK's Conservative government, while Jagmeet Singh comments on the similar problem with the increasing precarity facing young Canadians. And Heather Scoffield writes about the experience of poverty among people being told they should be grateful for stagnant gaps between the wealthy and the rest of us.

- Finally, Jill Filipovic discusses new research showing how "pro-life" positions are primarily about asserting male dominance over women.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

New column day

Here, on how right-wing provincial governments across Canada are deliberately denying benefits to their constituents solely to try to avoid any credit going to the federal level in advance of this fall's election.

For further reading...
- Murray Mandryk, Sarath Peiris and plenty of letter writers have already pointed out the pettiness of Scott Moe's refusal to fund projects in Regina.
- Mia Rabson reported on Brian Pallister's refusal to accept funding for energy efficiency in schools (along with the subsequent federal workaround), while Sean Kavanagh has reported on the lack of funding already suffered by Manitoba's education system under an austerian regime.
- John Geddes reports that gas station owners proposed less misleading stickers about fuel prices - but that Doug Ford was unwilling to do anything other than force them to feed into anti-carbon tax messaging.
- Finally, David Climenhaga has also pointed out the similarities between Canada's right-wing clique and a decade of Republican obstructionism.