Saturday, May 21, 2016

Light blogging ahead

Taking a break for the long weekend and a couple of days beyond. Expect little to no blogging until next week.

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- James Wilt discusses a much-needed effort to map out the connections between fossil fuel corporations. And Bruce Campbell highlights how the resource sector is among the most prominent examples of regulatory capture in Canada.

- Meanwhile, Steven Chase notes that even as Stephane Dion tries to excuse the sale of arms to human rights abusers, Sweden is making a principled shift away from relying on inevitable human suffering as a profit centre.

- Michael Geist takes a look at the costs the Trans-Pacific Partnership figures to impose on Canada's economy - and the refusal of the deal's corporate backers to recognize that they exist.

- Dylan Matthews examines the impact of public tax records in ensuring improved pay equality and revenue collection. 

- John Anderson makes the case for postal banking to improve both our existing public services, and the availability of financial services for people who need them.

- Finally, Matt Gurney writes that the Trudeau Libs are indistinguishable from the Harper Cons in their total contempt for any opposition. And Chantal Hebert discusses how Trudeau's combination of figurative and literal strongarming of Parliament seems to have backfired.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Musical interlude

Jason Collett - Song and Dance Man

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Johnna Montgomerie makes the case to treat austerity as a failed experiment. But Laura Basu points out that misleading coverage of economic and fiscal news has led far too many people to see the damage done by austerity as originating from other sources.

- Meanwhile, the Economist examines how unduly strict monetary policy has led to the end of otherwise sustainable periods of economic growth. Chris Savage notes that Republican-governed Michigan is now handing the business sector more free money than it's collecting in corporate taxes. And Deirdre Fulton observes that the U.S.' own assessment shows that the Trans-Pacific Partnership isn't worth pursuing - which hasn't yet resulted in any change in the plans to keep pushing it.

- Selena Ross tells the story of Teta Bayan, the nanny who was prevented from testifying before Parliament about the temporary foreign worker program due to the Libs' preference to hear from the corporate sector first.

- CarbonBrief warns that we're a mere five years away from hitting the upper limit of the greenhouse gas emissions we can send into the atmosphere while suffering only moderate effects. Matt Smith highlights how the oil industry has chosen not to develop its own technologies which could have substantially reduced the damage we're doing to our planet. Nick Fillmore points out the glaring lack of media coverage of climate change compared to its expected consequences. And in a case in point, John Klein posts about the Saskatchewan Party's throne speech climate change denialism which has received no mainstream media attention. 

- Finally, Geoff Leo points out how the Saskatchewan Party is playing favourites with access to information requests, charging CBC a hundred thousand dollars more for less Global Transportation Hub documentation than it's prepared to supply to its ideological allies at the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Peter Mazereeuw reports on the growing opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership which may result in it never coming into force. And Jerry Dias reminds us why we should be glad if that movement wins out over the corporate forces who assembled it behind closed doors:
(T)he far more insidious part of the deal has nothing to do with trade or tariffs at all.

It is the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) system that would give corporations the right to sue governments for passing laws that hurt their ability to earn a profit -- even if those laws are in the public interest.

Think about that. A government gets elected to pass the laws that its citizens want -- and then gets sued under an international trade agreement for doing exactly what it was elected to do.

Think that won't happen? It already has.
Testifying before hearings into the TPP in New Zealand last week, Osgoode Hall law professor Gus Van Harten said that while ISDS provisions have existed in trade deals before, the TPP marks a watershed. That's because the TPP, along with a proposed trade deal between Europe and the United States, would expand coverage of ISDS provisions from 20 per cent of the world economy to up to 90 per cent .

That means that virtually the entire world economy would be ruled by these undemocratic ISDS tribunals, which put corporate profits ahead of public policy, the environment or labour rights. In fact, ISDS is a one-way street, with only private industries given the right to sue, while protecting them against state or citizen lawsuits.

The TPP, in other words, is a lop-sided deal that favours the rights of corporations over the people, a reflection of the blind faith placed in so-called free trade by our former Conservative government.
- Fernando Arce reports on the plight of migrant workers lacking any protection from Canada's federal government. And Desmond Cole sees the issue as one of the most stark examples of our seeing workers as disposable.

- Meanwhile, Anna Mehler Paperny reports on a continued pattern of immigrants being shut away in solitary confinement for years at a time due to the belief that option is easier than providing treatment.

- Chantal Hebert writes that Maryam Monsef's utterly senseless talking points on electoral reform are burning bridges to people who were more than willing to work with the Libs on a fair electoral system. And Jeremy Nuttall talks to Nathan Cullen about the obvious problems with the Libs' self-serving committee design.

- Finally, Eric Pineault comments on the trend toward extreme oil extraction - and the need to start building our economy on a more stable and less dangerous foundation.

New column day

Here, on the CCPA's recent report on the continued shame of child poverty (particularly on reserve) and the Wall government's lack of any interest in changing the reality that over two-thirds of Saskatchewan children on reserve live in poverty.

For further reading...
- The CCPA's previous report from 2013 covering similar issues is here.
- The Wall government's throne speech - complete with climate denialism and zero mentions of poverty among other lowlights - is here (PDF). And the single mention of First Nations involves one power contract encompassing only one First Nation.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Miles Corak reviews Branko Milanovic's new book on the complicated relationship between globalization and income inequality. Dougald Lamont examines the current state of inequality in Canada. And Matthew Yglesias takes a look at research showing that inequality and social friction can be traced back centuries based on the income levels associated with particular last names.

- David Macdonald and Daniel Wilson study the appalling levels of poverty among indigenous children. And Kristy Kirkup follows up by talking to First Nations leaders about the poverty facing their members (both on and off reserve), while CBC notes that resource-sharing with First Nations leads to reduced poverty rates.

- Alex Himelfarb rightly points out the importance of an open and inclusive process to discuss electoral reform. But Neil MacDonald writes that the Libs appear to have stacked the deck to prevent that needed conversation from happening, while Alison documents Marc Mayrand's warning as to how much time will be needed to implement a new electoral system. 

 - Chris Hall reports that the Libs are still stalling on anything to do with C-51, as now even a first set of changes which wasn't supposed to require extensive consultation - including the implementation of any oversight - is being delayed.

- Finally, Kady O'Malley reports that the Libs are planning to put Parliamentary business entirely in the hands of Justin Trudeau and his cabinet.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Basking cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Alison Crawford reports on the Libs' failure to pass any new legislation to allow collective bargaining for RCMP members - leaving them with even less than the system which was already found to be unconstitutional. And Jake Johnson discusses the consequences of the U.S. corporate sector's war on unions:
In a climate of intense insecurity, cultivated by both the hostile corporate setting and the wider economic context of the United States in the 21st century, workers hesitate to speak out against their employers for fear of losing their jobs. "Lives depend on these wages," the report notes. "Usually, there are few other options in the area, and these options likely pay lower wages."

Outrage sparked by horrendous working conditions is thus overshadowed by intense shame and, ultimately, resignation. "Workers clearly get the message that they if they want to keep their job, they need to endure what happens inside the plant — or, in the words of many, 'allí está la puerta' ('there’s the door')."

This sense of helplessness is felt across many industries and is largely the result of a ruthless, decades-long effort by highly class-conscious elites to dismantle unions and undercut potential threats to the accumulation of profit.
(E)ven as profits soar, the most vulnerable workers remain stuck in an untenable scenario — horrified by their conditions but lacking an outlet through which they can voice their discontent.

There is a reason, then, that economic elites are waging unabashed class war: They understand that organized labor is a threat to corporate power. Unions are a redistributive force, one that endangers the ingrained paradigm of concentrated wealth.
- Meanwhile, Hugh MacKenzie calls out the financial sector's attempts to divert any discussion of pensions toward schemes to skim ever-increasing management fees off of Canadians' retirement savings. And Dwayne Winseck points out the inevitable effects of Bell's planned takeover of MTS as an example of corporate oligopoly at its worst.

- Jim Bronskill reports that the Libs seem inclined to pair any increase in the authority of the Information Commissioner with an unaccountable ministerial veto - which might actually make it even more difficult for Canadians to get access to the records which matter most.

- Finally, the Star calls for the Libs to reverse the Cons' gratuitously-punitive changes to the pardon system.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Monday Morning Links

Assorted content to start your week.

- Karen Palmer writes about a push by U.S. doctors to follow in Canada's footsteps with single-payer health care - even as a few profiteers seek to tear our system apart:
Global evidence shows that private insurance does not reduce public system wait times. The Achilles heel of health care in several European countries, such as Sweden, has been long waiting times for diagnosis and treatment in several areas, despite some private insurance. After Australia introduced private insurance to save the government money, those with private insurance have faster access to elective surgery than those without. Divisions in equitable access to care is one of the biggest challenges now facing countries that have adopted multi-payer systems.

Multi-payer systems are administratively complex and expensive, explaining why the U.S. health insurance industry spends about 18 per cent of its health care dollars on billing and insurance-related administration for its many private plans, compared to just 2 per cent in Canada for our streamlined single payer insurance plans. Hospital administrative costs are lowest in Canada and Scotland — both single payer systems — and highest in the U.S., the Netherlands, and the U.K. — all multi-payer systems.
Abundant evidence shows private insurance is at the root of what ails the U.S. system. Dr. Marcia Angell, co-author of the Physicians’ Proposal, Harvard Medical School faculty and former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, sums it up: “We can no longer afford to waste the vast resources we do on the administrative costs, executive salaries, and profiteering of the private insurance system.” 

A Canadian-style single payer financing system would save the U.S. about $500 billion annually.

Meanwhile, in Canada, abandoning our single payer health care system for a U.S.-style multi-payer system would be the worst possible outcome for Canadians.
- Amy Traub highlights how worker activism led to a substantial increase in the minimum wage paid to employees of U.S. government contractors. And Rosa Marchitelli examines the abuse of migrant farm workers as an example of what happens when employees are completely at the mercy of their employers and others.

- Samantha Page reports on new research showing the devastating environmental impact of fracking. And Jordon Cooper writes that we should see the Fort McMurray wildfire as exactly the time to discuss the wider effects of climate change.

- Chris York discusses Ken Loach's new film on the treatment of people who receive social assistance.

- Finally, Andrew Coyne rebuts a few of the more preposterous talking points against electoral reform. And Tom Parkin argues that we should expect a new electoral system to be based on equal representation, not the Libs' political interests.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Murray Dobbin argues that the Trudeau Libs' response (or lack thereof) to wealthy tax cheats will tell us what we most need to know about their plans for Canada.

- Meanwhile, Tonda MacCharles reports on Justin Trudeau's plans to abandon Canada's longstanding commitment (however neglected in practice) to providing a fair level of foreign aid. And Tom Boggioni exposes the U.S.' use of foreign aid threats to try to keep cancer medicine unaffordable in Colombia.

- Sarah Neville points out how workplace power imbalances can create an environment ripe for sexual harassment and other forms of employee abuse. And David Graeber theorizes that part of the current gap can be explained by the proliferation of what he describes as "bullshit jobs".

- Benjamin Radcliff examines the relationship between political systems and happiness economics, and finds that social democracy is the system most conducive to well-being:
The policies most conducive to human wellbeing turn out to be essentially the same ones that Einstein himself originally suggested: those associated with social democracy. In reviewing the research in 2014, Adam Okulicz-Kozaryn, a political scientist at Rutgers University-Camden in New Jersey, found that ‘societies led by leftist or liberal governments (also referred to as welfare states)’ have the highest levels of life satisfaction, controlling for other factors. Looking across countries, the more generous and universalistic the welfare state, the greater the level of human happiness, net of other factors.
If commodification is so harmful to humans, while the greater market system itself contributes so much to human society, the obvious solution is to maintain the essential features of the market while introducing public policies that serve to ‘decommodify’ workers and their families. Simply put, a society is decommodified to the extent that individuals can maintain something like a middle-class existence if they are unable to successfully sell their labour power as a commodity due to illness, old-age, disability, the need to care for a family member, the desire to improve one’s position through further education, or simply the inability to find (good) jobs when times are hard. The greater the level of decommodification, the easier it is for more people to survive without winning in the labour market.

The creation of a social safety net (the much-maligned ‘welfare state’) is essential to decommodifying people. It assures that those unable to find work will be provided with a minimum income, coupled in its most expansive form with other programmes that limit the extent to which one’s wellbeing is dependent on income – such as ‘family allowances’ (ie child support payments provided by the public), subsidised daycare and housing, and the availability of healthcare as a social right, ie as something (like police protection) that one receives because one is a citizen, not because one can pay for it.

Labour unions also play a vital role in helping decommodify people, by providing a degree of protection to workers against the arbitrary whims of employers; the higher wages and benefits of unionised workers tend to raise the wage floor for all. Finally, labour market regulations can cover all employees, even those not in labour unions. These protections, in some countries, protect all workers, assure them paid vacation and sick days, maintain high levels of workplace safety, and might even (as in codetermination schemes) provide workers with a say in how the business is managed. All this serves to not only reduce insecurity and other forms of stress, but helps contribute to an environment in which workers feel that they are treated with the dignity and respect all persons deserve.
- Finally, Bruce Johnstone observes that the Saskatchewan Party's corporatist economic philosophy - like that of so many other right-wing governments - is failing miserably even on its own terms.