Sunday, March 24, 2019

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Michael Mikulewicz and Tahseen Jafry discuss the responsibility wealthy countries bear for increasingly severe weather events - as well as the best way to start bearing an appropriate share of the resulting human and economic costs:
In all this inequality, the world’s wealthiest countries are heavily culpable. It stems from a complex economic system that disadvantages the Global South – not to mention the centuries-long experience of colonialism, the effects of which have hampered human development until this day.

In a world where 26 billionaires own as much wealth as the bottom half of humanity, the prospect of more frequent and intense climate disasters is only bound to exacerbate those inequalities. At the same time, Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe contribute only a small fraction of the emissions that are causing such disasters. The West’s responsibility – along with other big emitters such as China – is therefore also a matter of climate justice.
Besides the high-profile attempts to reduce global emissions, countries such as the UK should be offering support to poorer countries with everything from building flood defences to supporting social services to transferring technology. They should be forgiving national debt, redistributing wealth or at least giving them preferential trade deals to help them adapt to climate change themselves. This requires a rethinking not just of humanitarian aid but of development assistance in general. 
- Doug Cuthand highlights the need for a united front against white supremacy even as right-wing politicians try to wink and nod toward it. And Paul Willcocks discusses the mortality crisis among Indigenous teen girls as a glaring example of the conditions demanding a response from political leaders.

- Carhy Stephanow highlights how Saskatchewan's budget was nominally balanced on the backs of the poor who have seen already-inadequate standards of living do nothing but degrade over the Sask Party's time in power. And Jesse Winter points out the folly of pushing patients from hospitals immediately into homeless shelters rather than having appropriate housing available.

- Elieen Banks discusses how Jason Kenney's rhetoric about farms is based entirely in ignorance about NDP action to make farm work safer.

- Finally, Alex Marland writes about the dangers of the total control exercised by leaders' offices over elected Members of Parliament.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

On wilful blindness

One of the questions faced by the participants in any party leadership contest is the appropriate type of oppositional politics that's appropriate between candidates and their supporters. And there's certainly some reasonable incentive on the part of everybody involved to ensure that internal competitions don't become unduly personal such as to cause long-term rifts.

But there's also a severe danger where a candidate is able to win a leadership campaign without addressing what should be seen as potentially disqualifying issues. And indeed, where a party collectively agrees to look the other way in the face of serious problems rather than meaningfully evaluating for itself whether a prospective leader has an even remotely reasonable explanation for past wrongs, it can hardly be surprised if the general public comes to question both the leader and his sycophants when it gets the chance.

Jason Kenney and the UCP are in the midst of learning that lesson the hard way.

And as Saskatchewan's voters become aware of the serious issues which were mentioned barely if at all in the course of the Saskatchewan Party's leadership campaign, Scott Moe and his party may not be far behind.

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Alastair Sharp reports on the massive sums of money spent by oil barons in an attempt to undermine climate action. And Kyla Mandel reports on the Trump administration's willingness to allow the oil industry to threaten drinking water by failing to update decades-old lists of toxic chemicals to account for new scientific knowledge.

- Meanwhile, in case there was any doubt as to whether anybody can escape the consequences when science deniers get to set the public policy agenda, David Hasemyer points out how extreme floods have breached a U.S. Air Force base and destroyed equipment which wasn't protected against the effects of climate change.

- Timothy Wilson reports on political interference by Liberal MP Andrew Leslie to stop an investigation into corporate non-disclosure contrary to OECD guidelines. And the Globe and Mail's editorial board rightly observes that the Libs can't expect their SNC Lavalin scandal to do anything but hang over their heads until they allow for the truth to be told, while Murray Rankin makes the case for a public inquiry.

- The Current interviews Barbara Perry about Canada's glaring failure to take right-wing threats seriously in its terrorism watchlist. And Alleen Brown exposes how the U.S. has taken direction from the oil sector in cracking down on environmental activism while letting the menace of fascist grow unabated.

- Finally, James Keller writes about the continued effect of the "kamikaze candidate" scandal in forcing Alberta voters to distrust Jason Kenney. And PressProgress highlights some of Kenney's previous public statements which have proven to have been false.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Musical interlude

Gareth Emery feat. Gavrielle - Far From Home (Craig Connelly Remix)

New column day

Here, on how the federal Liberals and provincial Saskatchewan Party are both unduly concerned with optics around "balance" rather than budgeting for the good of their constituents.

For further reading...
- Pamela Palmater writes that the Libs' budget continues to neglect Indigenous women and children. Katherine Scott points out the absence of child care funding in the federal budget (which is even more glaring in light of cuts from Saskatchewan's already-meager resources). Paul Willcocks notes that one of the Libs' new spending items will result in lower-income renters subsidizing people who can afford to buy a house. And Joel Lexchin notes that when it comes to pharmacare, the Libs are doing nothing by eights which can be done by sixteenths instead.
- Meanwhile, CBC examines the Saskatchewan Party's tenuous claim to balance in any form. But more importantly, NUPGE recognizes that any nominal fiscal balance is based solely on Scott Moe imposing unacceptable burdens on the public service and the people who rely on social supports.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Linda Givetash discusses how the consequences of climate breakdown include impending water shortages in the UK. But rather than recognizing and acting on that danger, Theresa May's Conservatives are looking at Brexit as an excuse to do even less to protect the environment.

- Meanwhile, Grace Blakely highlights how the UK's outsourcing of public services has led to the usual pattern of corporate profits, bailouts and declining working conditions and social supports. And Tria Donaldson discusses how Saskatchewan is suffering as a result of a decade of Sask Party austerity.

- Noah Smith comments on the economic costs (in addition to the well-known social harm) caused by an opioid crisis which has been met with a grossly insufficient policy response.

- Nora Loreto wonders whether the Christchurch massacre - and the role Canadian extremists played in laying the groundwork for it - might represent a tipping point in ensuring a needed crackdown on hate speech and violence. And Jim Waterson reports on Neil Basu's comments about the UK media's responsibility for radicalizing the far right.

- Finally, Rob Larson argues that we shouldn't accept the corporatist argument that freedom should be equated with unfettered greed, rather than the security for all types of people to be able to make choices.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Wednesday Evening Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Mark Olalde writes about the public subsidies being handed to U.S. resource companies who polluted water with toxic waste without having any plan or resources to clean up their messes. And Michael Mann and Bob Ward note that Donald Trump is using Stalinist tactics to try to protect polluters from facing regulation in the public interest. 

- Meanwhile, Tanya Lewis discusses the increasing harm climate breakdown is causing to human health around the globe. And Jennifer Francis reports on Don Kossick's first-hand experience as to how the destruction of climate change causes disproportionate damage to the countries least equipped to respond.

- CBC News reports on the view Canadians share with our counterparts around the world favouring increased taxes on the wealthy to fund improved social programs. And David Macdonald discusses how the Libs' budget falls far short of anything more than symbolism and half-measures.

- Matt Gurney writes that the Trudeau Libs seem bent on inflaming the SNC Lavalin scandal even more than they already have. And today's news that their spin about jobs was entirely fabricated surely can't help matters.

- Finally, the Edmonton Journal writes that Jason Kenney shouldn't be allowed to move the goal posts of acceptable political conduct by manipulating any system that could possibly affect his claimed entitlement to power. And Keith Gerein discusses the gross lack of ethics and integrity he's shown on the Alberta scene alone.

Progress delayed

It was roughly two years ago - in the 2017 budget - when the federal government announced changes to the parental leave available through Employment Insurance. Instead of being limited to 12 months of benefits, parents could elect to receive the same total benefit amount over a period of 18 months.

Leaving aside the modest nature of that change in federal policy, though, it's worth taking a close look at the Saskatchewan Party's response - especially compared to that of other provincial governments.

The changes first announced in early 2017 took effect at the federal level in December of that year. And some provinces acted quickly to make sure that their constituents had access to leave in order to make use of the new benefit structure.

Under Scott Moe, the Saskatchewan Party has chosen to do just the opposite.

Moe waited until multiple provinces had actually enacted changes to their leave periods before so much as suggesting that he'd follow the federal benefit structure as a matter of course. The Saskatchewan Party then waited until last November to introduce a bill (Bill 153) - and the legislation needed to ensure the availability of an extended parental leave period remains stuck (PDF) at second reading by choice.

But if the Moe government is holding off as long as possible in actually providing any increased leave period, it's finding other uses for the change in federal policy.

Most notably, the Saskatchewan Party is engaged in data mining off a petition seeking declarations of support for the very policy it's delaying (while also setting up a default option for anybody who signs to receive Sask Party spam in perpetuity). And if new parents have needlessly been deprived of otherwise-accessible benefit options for over a year because Moe prefers to drag his heels for political gain...well, that doesn't seem to be of any concern for him.

To sum up, the path of Saskatchewan's parental leave policy highlights the reality that the Saskatchewan Party stands out as gratuitously delaying progress compared to its provincial counterparts, even as it falsely pretends to champion the policy it's actually obstructing. And it's worth keeping that gap between spin and reality in mind as Moe unveils today's budget.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Blanketed cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Ahmed Sati offers some important - if belated - recognition of the need to fight against exclusionary bigotry. Jessica Davis focuses on the particular urgency in addressing right-wing terrorism. Thomas Woodley comments on the importance of having our political leaders do their job in repudiating Islamophobia - though Scott Moe for one plainly isn't up to the task. And Branko Marcetic argues that we can defeat hatred with strong public resistance.

- Rebecca Solnit points out why white supremacists' hostility toward anybody other than themselves results in contempt for our planet as well as for most of its inhabitants.

- But there's reason for optimism that nihilism isn't winning out even in the U.S., Robinson Meyer reports on a jump in public concern about climate change along with political steps to combat it. And Warren Bell notes that a younger generation is responding to ongoing delays by pushing for more responsible decisions than we've seen to date. 

- Meanwhile, Leigh Thomas also reports on broad support across OECD countries for increased taxes on the wealthy. Canadians for Tax Fairness offers its list of loopholes which should be closed in the federal budget. And Amy Bemeikis reports on a widespread call for Australia to focus on improving wages as it approaches a general election.

- Finally, Micah Uetrecht discusses how today's precarious job market can be traced back to a historical strategy to diminish the value of women's work. And Katherine Scott offers some suggestions as to what could be included in the federal budget to start closing the persistent gender gap - including child care and progressive tax reform as crucial elements.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Robert Reich writes about the laughable spin that the Trump Republicans' giveaways to the privileged and elimination of supports for the vast majority of people result in anything approaching a meritocracy:
The monstrous concentration of wealth in America has not only created an education system in which the rich can effectively buy college admission for their children. It has distorted much else.

It has created a justice system in which the rich can buy their way out of prison. (Exhibit A: money manager Jeffrey Epstein, who sexually abused dozens of underage girls, yet served just thirteen months in a private wing of a Palm Beach county jail.)

It has spawned a political system in which the rich can buy their way into Congress (Exhibit B: Reps. Darreill Issa and Greg Gianforte) and even into the presidency. (Donald Trump, perhaps Starbuck’s Howard Schultz).

And a health care system in which the super-rich can buy care unavailable to others (concierge medicine).

Meritocracy remains a deeply held ideal in America. But (the) nation is drifting ever-farther away from it. In the age of Trump, it seems, everything is for sale.
- Paul Krugman offers a reminder that the growing gap between the rich and the rest of us is the result of policy choices rather than inevitable trends. And James Meadway discusses the need to develop a new, broader movement in support of egalitarian economics.

- Meanwhile, the Alberta Federation of Labour highlights how Jason Kenney is determined to make matters worse.

- Bee Wilson writes about the drastic changes in our food production and consumption patterns over a period of just a couple of decades. And Cam Goff is rightly concerned that the Libs want to tilt Canada's plant breeding system toward rent-seeking and exclusion rather than collaborative evolution.

- Finally, Branko Marcetic points out that corporatism and anti-regulatory zealotry are behind the deaths in two Boeing 737 Max 8s (along with countless other avoidable tragedies).

Saturday, March 16, 2019

On obvious motives

Murray Mandryk is absolutely right in his point as to why Scott Moe and his government shouldn't be using the trappings of power to intervene in Alberta's election campaign. But in claiming there's no explanation, he unfortunately misses Moe's obvious and problematic motive for doing so.

After all, it's been no secret for quite some time that the ironically-named Saskatchewan Party's fund-raising strategy includes regular appeals to - and massive donations from - corporate Alberta. And both his predecessor and Moe himself have clung stubbornly to a model which allows outside donors to swamp Saskatchewan's sources of party revenue whenever they see fit.

Given the Saskatchewan Party's choice to retain a system in which out-of-province donors form a major part of its fund-raising constituency, there can't be any doubt as to why Moe sees an incentive to stick his nose into Alberta politics to build his profile with those extraprovincial sources of funds. And the choice to serve Calgary corporations rather than Saskatchewan voters is an even more important and urgent problem than any loss of decorum.

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Linda McQuaig highlights the false promise that a market aimed at enriching billionaires will somehow benefit anybody else. Chris Giles reports on the continually-expanding gap between soaring CEO pay and stagnant wages for workers in the UK. And Anna North discusses how the U.S.' college admission bribery scandal connects to the psychology of wealth - as the most privileged few try to launder their fortune in order to give their heirs a fraudulent leg up through the prestige of elite universities.

- Meanwhile, Robert Reich points out the perpetual Republican lie that the deficits they've caused with tax giveaways to the rich should be explained (and addressed) as matters of social program costs. And PressProgress notes that Canada's level of social spending continues to be among the lowest in the developed world, at a lower proportion of GDP than in 1990.

- Rebecca Solnit offers well-earned praise and encouragement to the climate strikers who are driving leaders toward much-needed action.

- Brenna Owen reviews the updated version of Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie's Slow Death by Rubber Duck, including its recognition that some of the most harmful substances identified around the time of its previous publication (notably bisphenol A) are now being foisted on people in unanticipated ways even after being removed from other products.

- Finally, David Climenhaga discusses how Jason Kenney is succumbing to the perils of conservative politics in Alberta. And his observations look all the more apt now that Kenney's campaign's manipulation of the UCP's leadership race is under investigation by the RCMP.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Musical interlude

Darude & Ashley Wallbridge feat. Foux - Surrender

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Nathan Robinson discusses how the language of "meritocracy" is used to entrench structural inequality:
The inequality goes so much deeper than that, though. It’s not just donations that put the wealthy ahead. Children of the top 1% (and the top 5%, and the top 20%) have spent their entire lives accumulating advantages over their counterparts at the bottom. Even in first grade the differences can be stark: compare the learning environment at one of Detroit’s crumbling public elementary schools to that at a private elementary school that costs tens of thousands of dollars a year. There are high schools, such as Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, that have billion-dollar endowments. Around the country, the level of education you receive depend on how much money your parents have.

Even if we equalized public school funding, and abolished private schools, some children would be far more equal than others. Two and a half million children in the United States go through homelessness every year in this country. The chaotic living situation that comes with poverty makes it much, much harder to succeed. This means that even those who go through Singer’s “front door” have not “gotten in on their own”. They’ve gotten in partly because they’ve had the good fortune to have a home life conducive to their success.

People often speak about “equality of opportunity” as the American aspiration. But having anything close to equal opportunity would require a radical re-engineering of society from top to bottom. As long as there are large wealth inequalities, there will be colossal differences in the opportunities that children have. No matter what admissions criteria are set, wealthy children will have the advantage. If admissions officers focus on test scores, parents will pay for extra tutoring and test prep courses. If officers focus instead on “holistic” qualities, pare. It’s simple: wealth always confers greater capacity to give your children the edge over other people’s children. If we wanted anything resembling a “meritocracy”, we would probably have to start by instituting full egalitarian communism.
There’s something perverse about the whole competitive college system. But we can imagine a different world. If everyone was guaranteed free, high-quality public university education, and a public school education matched the quality of a private school education, there wouldn’t be anything to compete for.
- Nick French similarly writes that an expensive and exclusive university system serves mostly to create social immobility. Jamiles Lartey points out that there are plenty of legal mechanisms used to give children from rich families unfair advantages beyond the illegal ones exposed this week. Patti Bacchus focuses in on the problems with exclusive private schools in particular. Matt Kwong contrasts the right's trumped-up complaints about affirmative action against the actual factors which prevent fair access to post-secondary education. And Clare Lombardo notes that it's particularly pernicious that accessibility standards for students with disabilities are being illegally exploited for cash.

- Franklin Foer discusses the broader battle - and lack of success - against political and economic systems based on corruption. And Charlie Angus points out how the SNC-Lavalin scandal pulls back the curtain on Ottawa's similarly compromised power culture, while David Pugliese reports on the illegal outing of an attempt to find out about defence industry abuses as an example of the steps governments willingly take to undermine reporting of corporate wrongdoing.

- Finally, Matthew Taylor, Arthur Neslen and Libby Brooks report on the massive climate strikes taking place today involving students from around the globe. Matt Ford notes that an emerging generation is rightly seeing the threat of impending climate breakdown as its motivating cause. And Abraham Gutman writes that a people-driven Green New Deal may be the source of hope needed to end multiple forms of despair - including the addictions crisis created by the pharmaceutical industry.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Eugene Lang takes note of the connection between rising populist anger and stagnant or falling wages for far too many people. And Chloe Rockarts writes about Jason Kenney's plans to make matters even worse in Alberta by declaring war on workers.

- Both Drew Kann and Stephen Leahy discuss new research showing how our window to meaningfully avoid extreme climate breakdown is closing - and how we need to mobilize all the resources we can to preserve a habitable planet. Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood discusses the final report from Canada's Just Transition Task Force which recognizes the need for a shift toward cleaner energy with support for the workers currently relying on unsustainable employment.

- Canadians for Tax Fairness offer a modest set of budget priorities which would result in increased revenue and reduced inequality.

- PressProgress highlights the Canadian Federation of Nurses' Unions' case study in corporate influence outweighing the public interest, as the Libs are allowing pharmaceutical giants to dictate the terms of any prescription drug policy.

- Finally, Don Pittis writes about the growing movement to enforce anti-trust law against tech monopolists. Ole Hendrickson offers some suggestions to counter the corporate capture of public institutions - including by setting up inclusive and transparent decision-making structures to reduce the effect of back-room lobbying.  And Laurie Macfarlane reminds us that we're already in a planned economy - meaning that our most important decision is whether to allow the wealthy to be the only ones with authority to make the plans which determine our collective future.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Armine Yalnizyan comments on the need for a widespread and sustained challenge to the corporate powers which currently dominate political and economic decision-making:
(P)ublic and private investments are the twin engines that propel shared prosperity. But where will the money come from for the public role? Labour is taxed more heavily than capital, but labour’s share of GDP is falling in most places, and within labour’s share inequality is rising. Meanwhile, as fewer companies dominate more markets, globe-straddling corporations are becoming larger and more difficult to regulate and tax. In a period that begs for more international coordination, the backlash against globalization and rise of nationalism may hobble rather than strengthen protections of the weak against the strong.

The antidote — people more involved in the decisions that affect them, more diversity at the table — has challenges too. Social dialogue is the secret sauce of better, more durable decision-making; yet tripartite processes (labour, business, government) have limits.

Business interests are consistent and well-organized. Newly elected governments may be determined to undo the work of their predecessors. Labour does not speak with one voice, and the most exploited workers are rarely represented by a union or covered by basic social protections. In local or global processes, shared problem-solving is often dominated by corporate interests, bringing us back to the beginning: popular rejection of business-as-usual.

Still, history is laden with examples of the weak wresting power from the powerful, creating more bountiful futures for all. A century ago millions of women seeking equality, workers without protections, and a tsunami of immigrants collided with the interests of a handful of corporate titans and politicians.

Shift happened. It’s happening again. Women, workers and migrants don’t wield much power, but, as a new generation of leaders are showing the world, they are the people who change the power dynamics of societies that are stuck in a rut. Buckle up. It’s always a bumpy ride when the status quo is faced with a renewed vision of power and purpose.
- Franklin Foer discusses how kleptocracy has become the primary economic model in the U.S. and around the globe. And Marie-Danielle Smith reports that the OECD is understandably monitoring any preferential treatment of SNC-Lavalin as an indicator of the tolerance of corruption in Canada.

- Sarah Cox reports on British Columbia's massive liabilities attached to orphaned fracking sites - signalling that the problem already identified in Alberta is more widespread than previously publicized.

- Jim Stanford offers some observations on the renewed push for a living wage. And Robert Booth and Matthew Holmes report on the promising move toward a four-day work week among an increasing number of UK businesses.

- Finally, Raizel Robin discusses the case to treat secure access to food as a human right, rather than a market commodity which is out of reach for far too many.

[Update: Corrected day. It's Thursday somewhere, right?]

Monday, March 11, 2019

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Andrew Mitrovica gives due credit to Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott for showing there's some honour to be found in Canadian politics - though the Libs' subsequent loyalty tests have made it all too clear how limited that is. And Alan Freeman warns of the unfairness of a two-tier justice system in which well-connected businesses never answer for their crimes.

- The Canadian Press reports on the Saskatchewan Party's continued disregard for treaty rights and the safety of Indigenous people when it sees an opportunity to pander to exclusionary voters.

- Meanwhile, Chris McGreal discusses the destruction and absorption of family farms by U.S. agribusinesses.

- Edward Keenan reports on the unexpected passage of Mike Layton's longstanding plan to make wastewater polluters pay as an example of the value of persistence in politics.

- Vanessa Branch highlights the many ways in which homeless people are excluded from their communities due to a lack of public resources to accompany the best efforts of civil society and volunteer groups.

- Finally, Brandie Weikle reports on a new survey showing a majority of Canadians to be unhappy with their current work income.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Ellie Mae O'Hagan writes about the need for economic equality to be at the core of any push to eliminate the gender gap. And PressProgress highlights how the Trudeau Libs have gone in the wrong direction with tax handouts which favour wealthy men.

- The BBC reports on Michelle Bachelet's message that inequality tends to go hand in hand with violations of human rights. And Ephrat Livni points out how the gig economy is based on little more than blatant attempts to evade a century's worth of protection for workers. 

- Alan Pyke discusses the Republicans' choice to reduce the IRS' resources to rein in large-scale tax evasion while encouraging increased scrutiny of low-income earners. Paul Morgan-Bentley reports on the open use of tax havens in the UK, while also pointing out how the Cons have raised large amounts of money from the people hoarding wealth offshore. And Jim Waterson and Alex Hern report on the massive pro-Brexit spending by a secretive group funded entirely by dark money.

- Charlie Smith writes that we shouldn't be surprised by the reality that Justin Trudeau is far more interested in serving SNC-Lavalin than citizens. And Jen St. Denis reports on a push by Democracy Watch and Dogwood for closer scrutiny of corporate donations to Canadian politicians and parties.

- And finally, Karl Nerenberg discusses the alternative the NDP can offer to a status quo of alternating Lib and Con corruption schemes:
For the NDP, the imperative of the current crisis is more an issue of responsibility than crass political opportunity.

Canadians deserve a viable alternative to the wounded Trudeau government other than the not-very-comforting Harper Conservatives, led by Scheer.

To position themselves as that progressive alternative, NDPers have to do more than call for an independent inquiry. They have to formulate clear, muscular, well-formulated -- and perhaps outside-the-box -- policy proposals.

For instance, what should the federal government do if SNC-Lavalin were to become a target for foreign takeover, perhaps piece by piece. Is there any course of action that would save jobs and expertise, and protect shareholders, other than in effect condoning corporate criminality by letting the company off the hook for serious crimes committed overseas?

What about some form of public, cooperative or community ownership? The Quebec government's public pension fund, the Caisse de dépôt et placement, already owns a significant chunk of SNC-Lavalin's publicly traded shares. Would it now be a good idea for the federal government to enter into talks with the Quebec government about a possible joint federal-provincial effort to transform SNC-Lavalin into some sort of entirely publicly owned entity? That is the sort of bold and creative thinking a focused and serious progressive party should be doing right now.

Saturday, March 09, 2019

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Sandy Garossino offers a reminder of the large-scale corruption - including bribery supporting dictatorial regimes and multiple instances of illegal practices in Canada - at the root of the Libs' SNC Lavalin scandal. Andrew Coyne comments on the parallels between SNC Lavalin's lobbying blitz and the PMO's assault on prosecutorial discretion. And Michael Harris highlights how the Libs' attempt at a political defence has not only failed on its own terms, but also reflected a dangerous eagerness to intrude on the criminal justice system.

- Steven Rosenfeld examines Jason Kenney's dubious UCP leadership campaign as a warning for the integrity of U.S. elections which might be subject to similar manipulation. And Graham Thomson writes that the secret recording of an MLA's office hints at the UCP's continuing authoritarian tendencies.

- Lucas Powers reports on the gun lobby's intimidation of physicians who have the audacity to point out that shootings have severe health implications. And John Bowden reports on research showing that to nobody's surprise, more lax gun laws correlate to a higher number of mass shootings.

- CTV Regina examines the lack of affordable rental housing in Regina as market units are left vacant instead of being priced at a level accessible to lower-income tenants. Greg Mercer writes about the even more glaring lack of housing on First Nations in Canada, with the recent state of emergency at Cat Lake representing just the latest example. And Peter Walker reports on UK Labour's plans to make tenancies secure and affordable.

- Finally, Megan Mayhew Bergman discusses the connection between environmental racism and climate change:

Friday, March 08, 2019

Musical interlude

Zuckerbaby - Heavy

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Melanee Thomas writes that we need to change our political system, rather than blaming women for the barriers placed in their way:
Ethos – that set of values and beliefs that guide our politics – is key to explaining why women remain so under-represented in Canadian politics. My research using Swedish data confirms how raising levels of women’s representation can engage them with politics. Swedish political parties in 1974 implemented a voluntary gender quota to ensure they elected more women. Over time, the proportion of women in Sweden’s national legislature, the Riksdag, rose from about 20 per cent in the 1970s to over 45 per cent today. What’s most interesting is that as more women were elected, it sparked greater interest among other women in politics. Sweden differed from Canada in that it took action to get women on par with men in their political institutions. Here, where only 26 per cent of MPs are women, the number is still too small to spark the same increased interest in politics among women.

This shows how ethos matters: If women observe how politics remains closed to them, no amount of resources or individual interventions will make them want to participate more in politics. A more effective route is to transform what our politics look like. The Swedish example shows this can be done by changing the collective belief: Women belong in politics.
- And David MacDonald examines how most of Canada's federal tax loopholes are grossly biased to favour men over women.

- Jeanna Smialek reports that U.S. employers who refuse to offer higher wages are complaining they can't find workers to accept their terms. And Sara Mojtehedzadeh reports on Ontario's cuts to enforcement against temp agencies which systematically violate employment standards and health and safety laws.

- Finally, Ed Finn challenges the Libs' spin that it's worth making governments complicit in corporate crime and corruption in the name of temporarily clinging to jobs which can be eliminated on a whim. And Don Martin highlights how the burgeoning lobbying industry can only be explained by the perception that access to power is the path to sustained wealth.

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Tim Wu writes that the U.S.' political system is serving to allow a privileged few to ignore the policy preferences and interests of the vast majority of citizens:
About 75 percent of Americans favor higher taxes for the ultrawealthy. The idea of a federal law that would guarantee paid maternity leave attracts 67 percent support. Eighty-three percent favor strong net neutrality rules for broadband, and more than 60 percent want stronger privacy laws. Seventy-one percent think we should be able to buy drugs imported from Canada, and 92 percent want Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices. The list goes on.

The defining political fact of our time is not polarization. It’s the inability of even large bipartisan majorities to get what they want on issues like these. Call it the oppression of the supermajority. Ignoring what most of the country wants — as much as demagogy and political divisiveness — is what is making the public so angry.
In our era, it is primarily Congress that prevents popular laws from being passed or getting serious consideration. (Holding an occasional hearing does not count as “doing something.”) Entire categories of public policy options are effectively off-limits because of the combined influence of industry groups and donor interests. There is no principled defense of this state of affairs — and indeed, no one attempts to offer such a justification. Instead, legislative stagnation is cynically defended by those who benefit from it with an unconvincing invocation of the rigors of our system of checks and balances.
As the United States begins the process of choosing the next president and Congress, we need to talk more openly about which candidates are most likely to deliver the economic policies that the supermajority wants. Yes, the people can be wrong about things, but so too can experts, embedded industry groups and divisive political factions. It is not a concession to populism, but rather a respect for democracy, to suggest that two-thirds of the population should usually get what they ask for.
- Meanwhile, Jen Gerson discusses how the SNC Lavalin scandal shows the corruption underlying far too much of Canadian politics. Andrew Coyne comments on the Libs' attempt to exercise political control while insisting Jody Wilson-Raybould was free to decide - as long as she did so in favour of their donors and political allies. And Craig Scott highlights the dangers of normalizing political interference in prosecutorial discretion as the Libs are now trying to do.

- David Climenhaga points out how the Libs' attempt to change the channel with an announcement on prescription drugs fell short of an actual pharmacare program. And indeed, Kelly Grant notes that the distraction tactic didn't include any meaningful details.

- Damian Carrington points out new research showing the wide reach of the unintended spread of microplastics. And Tiffany Lizee reports on the role fracking is playing in causing earthquakes in Alberta.

- Finally, John Cassidy discusses how the principles behind the Green New Deal can be met with technology that's already readily available - as long as petropolitics don't stand in the way.

New column day

Here, on how RBC's survey about continued parental funding for adult children demonstrates the need for improved social supports to assist young adults who lack the same family resources.

For further reading...
-  George Lakoff set out the distinction between "strict father" and "nurturant parent" worldviews in the context of the rise of Donald Trump. And he discussed the "eighteen and out" portion of the strict father model in his interview with Hayward Alker here (PDF).
- Responding to the RBC survey, Laura Hensley points out how family supports are a two-way street, with many parents also requiring assistance from working-age children.
- Finally, while the column doesn't get into policy prescriptions as to how income supports might be set up, I'll note that the amount of parental support normal among parents in RBC's survey (a median amount of just under $6,000 per year for younger adults and $4,000 for those in their thirties) would fit into a modest basic income model.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Yves Engler writes that the Libs' SNC-Lavalin scandal represents a fully expected consequence of a foreign policy based on acquiescing in corruption:
...Trudeau went to bat for SNC after the firm had either been found guilty or was alleged to have greased palms in Libya, Bangladesh, Algeria, India, Kazakhstan, Tunisia, Angola, Nigeria, Mozambique, Ghana, Malawi, Uganda, Cambodia and Zambia (as well as Québec). A 2013 CBC/Globe & Mail investigation of a small Oakville, Ontario-based division of SNC uncovered suspicious payments to government officials in connection with 13 international development projects. In each case between five and 10 per cent of costs were recorded as “‘project consultancy cost,’ sometimes ‘project commercial cost,’ but [the] real fact is the intention is [a] bribe,” a former SNC engineer, Mohammad Ismail, told the CBC.

While the media has covered the company’s corruption and lobbying for a deferred prosecution agreement, they have barely mentioned SNC’s global importance or influence over Canadian foreign policy. Canada’s preeminent “disaster capitalist” corporation, SNC has worked on projects in most countries around the world. From constructing Canada’s Embassy in Haiti to Chinese nuclear centres, to military camps in Afghanistan and pharmaceutical factories in Belgium, the sun never sets on SNC.
SNC has been one of the largest corporate recipients of Canadian “aid.” The company has had entire departments dedicated to applying for Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), UN and World Bank funded projects. SNC’s first international contract, in 1963 in India, was financed by Canadian aid and led to further work in that country. In the late 1960s the firm was hired to manage CIDA offices in African countries where Canada had no diplomatic representation. In the late 1980s CIDA contracted SNC to produce a feasibility study for the Three Gorges Dam, which displaced more than a million Chinese. During the occupation of Afghanistan CIDA contracted SNC to carry out its $50 million “signature project” to repair the Dahla dam on the Arghandab River in Kandahar province ($10 million was spent on private security for the dam).
Even SNC’s use of bribery has a made-in-Ottawa tint. For years Canada lagged behind the rest of the G7 countries in criminalizing foreign bribery. For example, into the early 1990s, Canadian companies were at liberty to deduct bribes paid to foreign officials from their taxes, affording them an “advantage over the Americans”, according to Bernard Lamarre former head of Lavalin (now SNC Lavalin). In 1991, Bernard, the older brother to SNC Lavalin’s subsequent head Jacques Lamarre, told Maclean’s that he always demanded a receipt when paying international bribes. “I make sure we get a signed invoice,” he said. “And payment is always in the form of a cheque, not cash, so we can claim it on our income tax!”
As the recent scandal demonstrates — and the Financial Post noted years ago — SNC has “considerable lobbying power in Ottawa.” Placing its CEO among the 50 “Top People Influencing Canadian Foreign Policy”, Embassy magazine described SNC as “one of the country’s most active companies internationally”, which “works closely with the government.” The now-defunct weekly concluded, “whoever is heading it is a major player” in shaping Canadian foreign policy.

And, as it turns out, in shaping the way things are now done at home in Ottawa.
- Brett Christophers points out the UK's massive selloff of public land, while recognizing that the result is the loss not only of common wealth but also of uses tied to public stewardship.

- Vaughn Palmer comments on the finding of a B.C. scientific panel that the province has failed to collect even basic information about the risks posed by an environmentally-destructive and poorly-regulated fracking industry. And Robyn Allan points out why whoever wins power in Alberta's provincial election needs to come to grips with the fact that the tar sands are a declining economic sector.

- Don Pittis writes about the prospect that small communities can serve as centres for technological development in order to avoid the further congestion of urban areas.

- Finally, Corey Robin discusses the need for a challenge to neoliberalism in the economic discipline to address philosophical issues as well as policy choices.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Café cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Paul Wells weighs in on the far-too-long-delayed exposure of Justin Trudeau's fundamental phoniness - particularly when it came to his promise that Canada had seen its last first-past-the-post election:
The operating assumption seems to be that we’re simply supposed to read between the lines—that we’ll understand that when Trudeau speaks he is not to be taken seriously.

Why would he? In June 2016, I asked Trudeau whether he had a preference in the electoral-reform debate he had promised in the previous year’s election, and whether his preference would influence the outcome. It was the sort of question you ask even when you know the answer. Everyone knew Trudeau wanted preferential ballots, which would favour large parties like his.
He swore that wasn’t so. “I’m really open to listening to Canadians. And actually, I have moved in my thinking toward a greater degree of openness toward what Canadians actually want.” So while Liberals would prefer ranked ballots, “Canadians might not agree. And I think this is an important conversation to have, where we do have to respect Canadians.”

Months later, he told the Toronto Star editorial board that he wasn’t about to throw in the towel. “Canadians elect governments to do hard things, and don’t expect us to throw up our hands when things are a little difficult,” he said. “ ‘Oh, it’s more difficult than we thought it could be and therefore we’re just going to give up.’ No, I’m sorry, that’s not the way I was raised, that’s not the way I’m going to move forward on a broad range of issues, regardless of how difficult they may seem at a given point.”

Eight weeks later, he abandoned electoral reform because the emerging consensus was for the reform option he didn’t like, proportional representation. I don’t even know what you do with a guy who acts like that. Eventually he took to wearing his abandonment of a key platform plank as a badge of honour. He wasn’t going to endanger Canadian democracy by keeping an election promise. Not all heroes wear capes.
- Meanwhile, Catharine Tunney reports on the Libs' new party line that corporations are "entitled" to a legal system which relieves them of being prosecuted for bribery and corruption. And Murray Mandryk contrasts the principle shown by the two former federal cabinet ministers who have stepped down against the choice of the Saskatchewan Party's one-time reformers to cover up their party's scandals.

- John Michael McGrath writes that Doug Ford has added municipalities to the list of bodies who are expected to avoid any planning or decision-making since their actions in the public interest might interfere with the PC's governing agenda. And David Climenhaga writes about Jason Kenney's attempt to sell trickle-down snake oil to Alberta.

- Sarah Anderson discusses the push from some U.S. Democrats for a financial transactions tax to ensure that high-frequency traders can't extract wealth from the broader economy.

- Finally, Matt Bruenig charts the distribution of wealth inequality by race in the U.S. And PressProgress points out that nominal economic growth in Canada hasn't led to any improvement in wages or the distribution of income.

Monday, March 04, 2019

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Katrina vanden Heuvel discusses the importance of pushing toward universal child care in order to relieve avoidable stress on families.

- Allison Jones reports that the Ford PCs are only making matters worse by ordering school boards not to hire to fill developing vacancies due to imminent provincial funding restrictions. And Emma Graney reports on the Jason Kenney UCP's similar message that increasing student populations and costs will be met with funding freezes if he gets the chance to impose austerity on Alberta's education system.

- Meanwhile, Kelly Crowe discovers what experts have to say about Ford's arbitrary health reorganization.

- Gil McGowan points out that the UCP's plan to bet on oil booms and corporate giveaways is even more foolish than the similar choices which have busted in the past.

- Finally, Lynn Parramore writes about the connection between economic inequality and opioid-related deaths even when social supports are available.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Ed Finn writes that the Trudeau PMO's interference on behalf of SNC-Lavalin confirms Canada's plutocratic rule under Libs and Cons alike. And Carole Cadwalladr and Duncan Campbell report on Facebook's use of promised jobs to bribe its way out of the regulations which are supposed to protect citizens from corporate abuse.

- The Star's editorial board implores the Libs not to settle for a watered-down version of national pharmacare out of subservience to big pharma.

- The Edmonton Journal highlights the progress Alberta has made in reducing child poverty by half since the NDP first formed government.

- Meanwhile, Alex Soloducha reports on Saskatchewan's grossly inadequate social supports which make it impossible for people living in poverty to find housing. And Derek Cornet points out the continued scourge of hunger in the province.

- Gregory Beatty offers a reminder of the culture lost as a result of the Saskatchewan Party's elimination of the film industry - particularly as Netflix invests across Canada other than in Saskatchewan.

- Finally, Lana Payne discusses the Scheer Conservatives' choice to embrace racism out of political convenience.

Saturday, March 02, 2019

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Crawford Kilian reviews Richard Johnston's Canadian Party System: An Analytic History, and in the process points out how a sensible federal political system would include the NDP as one of the primary options to form government. And Jamie Maxwell discusses how Jagmeet Singh's by-election victory in Burnaby South may offer a preview of a progressive populist message which has a strong prospect of resonating nationally.

- Alanna Smith reports on Jason Kenney's determination to shovel free money toward his corporate masters through wholly gratuitous tax cuts. And AUPE examines what Kenney's combination of stagnant funding and determination to privatize services would do to the health of Albertans.

- Meanwhile, Kirsten Bernas comments on the federal money being left on the table by Manitoba's PCs who can't be bothered to negotiate an agreement to combat poverty and homelessness.

- Bryan Bicknell reports on the lives saved by the opening of a supervised consumption site in London, ON. And Chelsea Laskowski reports on AIDS Saskatoon's leadership in opening the province's first safe injection site, while Heather Polischuk notes that Regina is once again far behind the curve.

- Finally, Jennifer Scarlott discusses the importance of building an environmental movement which amplifies historical victims of environmental discrimination.

Friday, March 01, 2019

Friday Evening Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Kate Aronoff highlights the lack of realism on the part of "adult" politicians demanding that the existential threat of climate breakdown be met with a grossly insufficient response. And Anders Fremstad and Mark Paul write about the dangers of an ideology of climate inaction:
Climate wonks regularly warn that “business as usual” cannot avert climate change. But, while that is true, the phrase itself betrays a neoliberal obsession with making “business” fit for purpose – a tweak here, a nudge there – as if citizens were merely passive subjects of larger economic forces. We all have an active role to play in shaping the economy. But to do so requires that we first shake off the constraints that neoliberal thinking has placed on the public imagination.
The policies that have resulted from this mindset – defunding or otherwise curtailing public investment, deregulating the economy, and decentralizing democracy – have prevented the US from weaning itself off fossil fuels. Policymakers from both parties have refused to advocate, or even countenance, public investments in carbon-free alternative energy sources and infrastructure.

The belief that government can only ever impede economic dynamism represents a sharp departure from the Keynesian worldview that dominated policymaking from the 1940s to the 1960s. Policies based on the belief that government spending on public goods complements the private sector, rather than crowding it out, helped the US achieve unprecedented growth in the postwar era.

In a Keynesian economic regime, government interventions are regarded as necessary to solve coordination problems, which is precisely what climate change is. Sadly, a brief revival of Keynesian thinking after the 2008 financial crisis was quickly stifled by the politics of austerity across the West, foreclosing efforts to reduce GHG emissions through large public investments in transportation, green public housing, and research and development.
- Ben Parfitt rightly questions how subsidies for increased fossil fuel extraction can possibly be reconciled with a viable climate policy. Sarah Lawriniuk discusses the impact suburban sprawl is having in exacerbating carbon pollution. And Nicole Mortillaro reports on the progress some countries have made in actually reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

- Paul Adams laments the current single-issue hive mind in Canada's political media, particularly in contrast to the wide coverage once expected from any newspaper.

- But lest anybody think that this week's common focus hasn't given rise to some worthwhile commentary, Murray Mandryk argues that we should seek more political leaders willing to tell difficult truths. And Hayden King theorizes that Jody Wilson-Raybould's revelation of the rot in Canadian colonial politics could help lay the groundwork for something better.

- Finally, Luke Savage makes the case to abolish the extreme concentration of wealth in order to ensure that everybody is able to meaningfully participate in political decision-making.

Musical interlude

Foals - Exits

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Chantal Hebert, Andrew Coyne and Paul Wells all weigh in on yesterday's revelations by Jody Wilson-Raybould about the Trudeau PMO's protection racket on behalf of SNC-Lavalin. And Andrew Nikiforuk examines the track record of corruption both from SNC-Lavalin in particular, and within the P3 sector generally.

- Nikiforuk also calls out the continued flaws in the National Energy Board's "reconsideration" of Trans Mountain (required due to another example of the law being broken in the name of corporate interests). And Norm Farrell examines British Columbia's resource selloff which is seeing the resource sector extract more while contributing less in royalties.

- Meanwhile, PressProgress exposes the latest in astroturfing, being a lobby group trying to advocate for credit card fees and bank fees.

- Mike Crawley reports on Doug Ford's move to shutter an agency intended to give citizens a fighting chance in challenging developers on zoning decisions.

- And finally, Fred Imbert reports on Warren Buffett's continued call for a tax system which ensures that he and his billionaire ilk pay a fair share.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- David Roberts sets out the big picture surrounding the Green New Deal, as essentially nobody other than the activists supporting it has made any effort to deal with the reality of impending climate breakdown:
(T)hat’s the context here: a world tipping over into catastrophe, a political system under siege by reactionary plutocrats, a rare wave of well-organized grassroots enthusiasm, and a guiding document that does nothing but articulate goals that any climate-informed progressive ought to share.

Given all that, for those who acknowledge the importance of decarbonizing the economy and recognize how cosmically difficult it is going to be, maybe nitpicking and scolding isn’t the way to go. Maybe the moment calls for a constructive and additive spirit.

The GND remains a statement of aspirations. All the concrete work of policymaking lies ahead. There will be room for carbon prices and R&D spending and performance standards and housing density and all the rest of the vast menu of options for reducing emissions. None of those policy debates have been preempted or silenced. 

And yes, there are any number of ways it could go off the rails, politically or substantively. Everyone is free, nay, encouraged to use their critical judgment. 

But the circumstances we find ourselves in are extraordinary and desperate. Above all, they call upon all of us to put aside our egos and our personal brands and strive for solidarity, to build the biggest and most powerful social force possible behind the only kind of rapid transition that can hope to inspire other countries and forestall the worst of climate change.
- Meanwhile, Ban Ki-moon highlights why the UK needs to stop subsidizing the extraction and burning of fossil fuels in developing countries.

- Adam Johnson calls out the lack of any scrutiny of an obvious scheme by the same people who have pushed wars and humanitarian atrocities on the U.S.' behalf for three decades to continue that pattern in Venezuela. And Kevin Tillman argues against yet another illegal U.S. invasion.

- Steve May comments on the willingness of Andrew Scheer and the Cons to join forces with avowed racists. labour

- Finally, Derek Thompson writes about the obsession with "workism" that pushes workers to accept perpetually deteriorating job conditions and lives based on the social expectation they'll see work as its own reward.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Jay Shambaugh, Ryan Nunn and Stacy Anderson write about the lasting effects of racial and regional inequality.

- Samuel Stein discusses the lessons activists can take from New York's successful pushback against Amazon's demands for billions in public giveaways. And Joseph Stiglitz writes about the available means to ensure that multinational corporations pay their fair share.

- Von Mattias Punz points out Portugal's success after rejecting austerity in favour of social development. And Ian Hussey takes note of Alberta's increase in service-sector employment after it boosted its minimum wage (contrary to the spin of the corporate lobby).

- Finally, Christo Aivalis discusses the continued importance of unions, including their role in building democracy both in workplaces and in general: