Thursday, April 25, 2019

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- James Whittingham argues that the time for climate action measured in small household tweaks has long since passed. And Yanis Varoufakis and David Adler discuss the need for an International Green New Deal, while Stephen Buhler writes that oil industry workers recognize the importance of a Canadian version while worrying about being left behind in a transition process.

- Meanwhile, Kori Sidaway highlights how refineries are capitalizing on the right-wing carbon tax hysteria by taking far more in windfall profits than any increase attributable to new taxes (including in provinces where the federal carbon tax doesn't apply).

- Global Witness points out how trillions of dollars are being dumped into developing new fossil fuel projects which are entirely incompatible with averting climate breakdown. And Phil Willon reports that California may be joining Norway and other forward-thinking jurisdictions by defying Justin Trudeau's blinkered spin and taking action to limit any additional dirty energy development.

- The Canadian Press reports on Canada's painfully slow progress in catching up to the developed world on combating corporate corruption. And Ed Finn offers a reminder that our financial system has been set up to ensure that public projects are funded so as to produce private bank profits.

- Finally, Robert Benzie reports on the billion-dollar public price tag attached to Doug Ford's belief that beer is the only thing that matters. And Randy Robinson notes that Ford is slashing funding for flood protection just as rising waters threaten numerous Ontario communities.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Tom Parkin writes about the need for workers to be at the centre of a Green New Deal for Canada:
Those determined to reverse austerity, inequality and environmental damage need to help Canadians be clear that there’s a huge difference between a Green New Deal and a Green Neoliberal Deal. Something new that reproduces the same old downward pressure on wages, the same tax unfairness, the same lobbyist machine at the heart of the system – and the same bonanza pay-off for investors -- is no Green New Deal.

Policy designers also need to resist thinking a Green New Deal is just a stimulus package – a one-time boost of money to get the decarbonizing job done. An initial flush of stimulus should launch it, but a new deal isn’t temporary, it’s a re-setting of the economic model -- a change that keeps needed investments flowing and delivers economic benefits more equally.
Architects of a Green New Deal for Canadians can use federal authority where there is jurisdiction. They can re-establish co-operative federalism by reversing the tax-cut spiral and rebuilding provincial trust. And when that work is done, a Green New Deal can set out specific strategies that encourage provincial participation and shift the economic model to support public services, reduce inequality and decarbonize the economy. 

That policy work is challenging enough. But perhaps the biggest and most immediate challenge is to ensure working people get engaged -- that Canadians can spot a sham deal, and know a real Green New Deal is focused on improving their lives. Even the most artful federalism and smart policy crafting won’t amount to much if those it aims to benefit don’t want it.
- Susan Lazaruk reports on Vancouver's set of "big moves" to respond to a climate emergency, while the federal NDP has unveiled a full building retrofitting plan as the first plank in its climate platform. And David Roberts interviews Paul Hawken about his detailed set of plans to rein in and reverse global warming - featuring this tidbit on the only action the Saskatchewan Party can claim:

David Roberts

How big a role does carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) play in your schema?

Paul Hawken

None. It’s unaffordable. It doesn’t work. It has to work first, and then has to be affordable. Using carbon capture in Saskatchewan for depleted oil wells isn’t exactly a solution, especially when it’s only 40 percent capture and the company’s depending on the province to subsidize it.
- Meanwhile, the Canadian Press reports on the continued increase in Canada's greenhouse gas emissions even based on reported figures. And Zach Dubinsky reports on Environment Canada's revelation that tar sands operations are spewing 64 per cent more carbon emissions than they've previously acknowledged.

- Greg Jericho points out how Australia's citizens are among many who severely underestimate how unequally wealth is distributed in their country.

- Finally, Nora Loreto writes that online hate is threatening to undo what limited progress has been made in encouraging gender balance in Canadian politics. And Jonny Wakefield reports on new research documenting the dangers of hate-motivated violence in Alberta.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Cozy cats.

On self-serving claims

Others have pointed out a few of the problems with Stuart Thomson's hagiography of Jason Kenney. But let's take a look at one part of Kenney's spin which can be tested against other available evidence - and which highlights just how implausible his claims are.

Here's Kenney on the UCP's plan to slash taxes for corporations:
It may seem eccentric to stake the farm on a massive corporate tax cut even as populist politicians around the globe are taking aim at big business, but Kenney believed he had an ace up his sleeve: The party’s internal polling on the issue was absolutely off the charts.

“It was like, shocking,” Kenney said in an interview with the Post. “I was even shocked. It was like 70-30 in favour of this. There’s like 25 per cent of the population that wanted us to go deeper, wanted us to go to a 50-per-cent reduction in the business tax rate.”
Setting aside the folly of shaping tax policy based primarily on polling rather than the actual impact of rates and revenues, how likely is it that public opinion would actually be anywhere near what Kenney claims?

I'm not aware off hand of public polling on the exact same issue, and would certainly be interested to see what's out there. But there has been plenty of polling across Canada around related aspects of tax policy - with findings including:
  • only 14% of respondents across Canada accepting the claim that we should engage in a race to the bottom against the U.S. (which is effectively what Kenney claims a large majority supporting);
  • 69% of respondents nationally supporting increased taxes on the rich to support the poor (a number which matches Alberta's support for corporate tax increases in the past), and
  • 90% of Canadians ("consistent across provinces") agreeing that it's wrong for corporations to dodge taxes and demanding legislative action to stop tax avoidance.
It would thus seem probable that Kenney is overstating public support for a scheme which serves him and his backers than that it's a remotely accurate statement of the public's position - particularly when it's paired with Kenney's concurrent argument that any dissenting voices need to be silenced. And Albertans who gave Kenney too much of the benefit of the doubt during the campaign will need to be wary of letting him make dubious claims as to what they want.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Kurtis Alexander points out how climate change is exacerbating the gap between wealthy and poor countries. Megan Mayhew Bergman highlights the importance of discussing climate change even where it's all too often treated as a taboo topic, while Jeff Sparrow points out that politicians are largely lagging behind the public's interest in climate action. And Kyle Pope and Mark Hertsgaard note that we also need to see more and better coverage of the impact a collapsing climate has on our lives.

- Meanwhile, Zach Dubinsky reports on new research suggesting that the tar sands are producing even more carbon pollution than previously assumed.

- Peter Walker reports on new research from the UK showing how first-past-the-post politics may tend toward extreme positions and poor reflections of public values by forcing voters into one of two camps. And the Canadian Press reports on Prince Edward Island's election and referendum which may finally bring proportional representation to Canada.

- The Financial Post points out a new survey showing an increasing number of Canadians - now 48 per cent - saying they're $200 or less per month away from insolvency. And Melody Judilla writes about the need for the rich to start contributing their fair share to a functional society.

- Finally, Julian Borger reports on the U.S.' plans to block any resolution prohibiting the use of rape as a weapon of war if it's taken to include any access to support for victims.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Robin Sears writes that it's long past time for Canada's wealthiest people and corporations to start paying their fair share of taxes. And Leo Gerard points out how the U.S. has gone in exactly the wrong direction by slashing its corporate tax rates and revenues to no end other than the further concentration of wealth, while Alexandre Tanzi notes that the upper middle class up to the 90th percentile is suffering as a result of an economy designed to favour only the most privileged few.

- Meanwhile, Karina Roman reports on the Libs' pathetic response to the glaring lack of protection for pensions and benefits in cases of corporate restructuring.

- Stephen Leahy writes about the absurdity of expanding the environmental destruction wrought by the extraction of Alberta's tar sands even as the world grapples with imminent climate catastrophe, while Mike Doherty interviews Bill McKibben about the role Canada needs to play to avert disaster. And Brent Patterson discusses the Extinction Rebellion and its efforts to foster direct action in the face of governmental climate negligence.

- Sarath Peiris points out that after using the issue briefly to beg for federal money, the Saskatchewan Party has resumed neglecting the province's liability for abandoned oil and gas wells.

- And finally, Allison Jones reports on the Ford PCs' decision to slash flood management funding just as its importance is most readily apparent.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Morris Pearl and Pramila Jayapal make the case for raising more revenue from the people with the most to contribute. And Jayati Ghosh notes that a minimum effective corporate tax rate would go a long way toward avoiding the offshore sheltering of corporate wealth.

- Dan Traficonte and Ian Wells write about the need for public research and planning to support a Green New Deal. And Ellen Brown examines the potential for public banking to both better address underserved communities, and ensure that investment serves the common good.

- Meanwhile, Michael Leger points out how SNC Lavalin fits into the legacy of corporate and political cronyism reinforced by the Trudeau Libs - though I'd hope there's little doubt that we should expect more from our leaders than to accept self-serving spin about the economy depending on lawless corporatists never being held accountable for their actions. And Laila Yuile writes the SNC Lavalin is now trying to manipulate public opinion the way it's already pulled the strings in Trudeau's PMO.

- Dorothy Woodend interviews Phyllis Ellis about the hidden dangers lurking in poorly-regulated cosmetic and personal care products. And Sigal Samuel offers a reminder of the gender data gap resulting from the default assumption that consumers and patients are men.

- Finally, Omar Mosleh discusses the spread of violent white supremacy which is causing significant fear in Edmonton's minority communities. And Antonia Zerbisias highlights the need to fight the normalization of reactionary conservatism.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

On full considerations

Max Fawcett is right to a point in discussing the need to acknowledge the political problems with carbon taxes as matters stand now. But there's a serious problem with the conclusion he tries to draw.

It's true that carbon taxes were originally - and understandably - pitched as the form of greenhouse gas emission reduction which fit best with laissez-faire economic theory. And there are still a few lingering aftereffects of that outlook, including the British Columbia tax which remains on the books after being implemented by the right-wing Campbell Liberals. 

But if the opportunity for a consensus has been lost, we shouldn't pretend that has anything to do with carbon taxation as a theory.

Surely we're past the point where anybody will pretend for a second that the oil lobby and its servants on the right will engage in good faith with any type of proposal which might cut back on the profits linked to dirty energy.

For the most egregious example, remember that it took approximately two minutes for the Liberals to abandon a carbon tax after the 2008 federal election. And as soon as that happened, Stephen Harper's Cons in turn started slamming a cap-and-trade system of the type included in their own election platform as being a carbon tax in order to try to capitalize on their existing line of messaging.

Likewise, Doug Ford's PC government in Ontario scrapped a cap-and-trade regime which served as a substitute for the federal carbon tax - only to go to court to challenge the federal system it volunteered to join.

Moreover, even as the political environment for all types of climate policy has worsened, so too has our global climate outlook.

Policies which might have been sufficient to rein in climate change on their own if implemented twenty years ago will be insufficient to turn matters around in the next decade from a far worse starting point. And even a strict regulatory crackdown on industries alone would leave a dangerous amount of carbon pollution untouched, as households have historically represented a substantial percentage of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions.

In sum, the effort to avoid climate breakdown needs to include all available tools. And we can't afford to let a group of manipulative arsonists-for-hire dictate how we're supposed to avert a future conflagration.

[Edit: fixed wording.]

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Matt McGrath reports on David Attenborough's warning of an impending climate catastrophe. And Moira Fagan and Christine Huang examine the widespread recognition around the world of the importance of averting a climate breakdown.

- Jonathan Watts reports on polling showing half of UK respondents are willing to pay more in order to avoid polluting our oceans with plastic. But Oliver Milman points out Donald Trump's attempt to push poorly-regulated offshore drilling - indicating that the powers that be are far behind the public in recognizing the importance of our natural environment.

- John Stapleton and Yvonne Yuan note that Canada's official poverty line doesn't take into account the higher effective food prices facing lower-income people.

- Joseph Stiglitz offers his diagnosis as to how our economy came to be grossly unbalanced in favour of the wealthy - and his suggestions as to how progressive capitalism might be possible:
Beginning with the Reagan era, economic policy played a key role in this dystopia: Just as forces of globalization and technological change were contributing to growing inequality, we adopted policies that worsened societal inequities. Even as economic theories like information economics (dealing with the ever-present situation where information is imperfect), behavioral economics and game theory arose to explain why markets on their own are often not efficient, fair, stable or seemingly rational, we relied more on markets and scaled back social protections.

The result is an economy with more exploitation — whether it’s abusive practices in the financial sector or the technology sector using our own data to take advantage of us at the cost of our privacy. The weakening of antitrust enforcement, and the failure of regulation to keep up with changes in our economy and the innovations in creating and leveraging market power, meant that markets became more concentrated and less competitive.
We are now in a vicious cycle: Greater economic inequality is leading, in our money-driven political system, to more political inequality, with weaker rules and deregulation causing still more economic inequality.
The prescription follows from the diagnosis: It begins by recognizing the vital role that the state plays in making markets serve society. We need regulations that ensure strong competition without abusive exploitation, realigning the relationship between corporations and the workers they employ and the customers they are supposed to serve. We must be as resolute in combating market power as the corporate sector is in increasing it.
- Finally, Murray Mandryk rightly questions Scott Moe's willingness to serve as Jason Kenney's lapdog rather than paying attention to the needs of Saskatchewan's residents.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Musical interlude

Goldie - Inner City Life

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content for your Friday reading.

- Paul Krugman offers a reminder that the gap between the 1% and the rest of us is far larger than most people are permitted to see:
(T)here’s also a big difference between being affluent, even very affluent, and having the kind of wealth that puts you in a completely separate social universe. It’s a difference summed up three decades ago in the movie “Wall Street,” when Gordon Gekko mocks the limited ambitions of someone who just wants to be “a $400,000-a-year working Wall Street stiff flying first class and being comfortable.”

Even now, most Americans don’t seem to realize just how rich today’s rich are. At a recent event, my CUNY colleague Janet Gornick was greeted with disbelief when she mentioned in passing that the top 25 hedge fund managers make an average of $850 million a year. But her number was correct.
Why should we care about the very rich? It’s not about envy, it’s about oligarchy.

With great wealth comes both great power and a separation from the concerns of ordinary citizens. What the very rich want, they often get; but what they want is often harmful to the rest of the nation. There are some public-spirited billionaires, some very wealthy liberals. But they aren’t typical of their class.

The very rich don’t need Medicare or Social Security; they don’t use public education or public transit; they may not even be that reliant on public roads (there are helicopters, after all). Meanwhile, they don’t want to pay taxes.
(W)e should be able to understand both that the affluent in general should be paying more in taxes, and that the very rich are different from you and me ­— and Bernie Sanders. The class divide that lies at the root of our political polarization is much starker, much more extreme than most people seem to realize. 
- Sean Coughlan discusses how hollowing out of the middle class is destabilizing both our economy and our political environment. And Brent Patterson highlights the need to challenge an economic model based on selling what's shiny and new rather than building and preserving what matters.

- Crawford Kilian views the Notre Dame cathedral fire as a vivid example of the dangers of neglecting the maintenance of our social goods, while Aditya Chakrabortty notes that the ability of a few ultra-wealthy people to throw around hundreds of millions of dollars in response shows that there are plenty of resources available to actually take better care of ourselves and our world. And Carol Kroeger comments on the need for our political leaders to similarly pay far more attention to helping people, and far less to manipulating them to preserve their own power.

- Finally, Anne Kingston laments Canada's backsliding in lacking any female jurisdictional leaders, while noting that broken promises of proportional representation are a significant part of the problem. And Melanie Green discusses the harassment of Rubab Qureshi in response to her mere recognition that Islamophobia is a problem.