Saturday, January 28, 2017

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Naomi Klein writes that Donald Trump's cabinet represents a direct takeover of the U.S. government by the corporate oligarchy - and comments on what the progressive movement needs to do to fight back:
Let us be clear: This is not a peaceful transition of power. It’s a corporate takeover. The interests that have long since paid off both major parties to do their bidding have decided they are tired of playing the game. Apparently, all that wining and dining of politicians, all that cajoling and legalized bribery, insulted their sense of divine entitlement.

So now they are cutting out the middleman and doing what every top dog does when they want something done right — they are doing it themselves. Exxon for secretary of state. Hardee’s for secretary of labor. General Dynamics for secretary of defense. And the Goldman guys for pretty much everything that’s left. After decades of privatizing the state in bits and pieces, they decided to just go for the government itself. Neoliberalism’s final frontier. That’s why Trump and his appointees are laughing at the feeble objections over conflicts of interest — the whole thing is a conflict of interest; that’s the whole point.

So what do we do about it? First, we always remember their weaknesses, even as they exercise raw power. The reason the mask has fallen off and we now are witnessing undisguised corporate rule is not because these corporations felt all-powerful; it’s because they were panicked.
All this makes Trump incredibly vulnerable. This is the guy who came to power telling the boldest and brashest of lies, selling himself as a champion of the working man who would finally stand up to corporate power and influence in Washington. A portion of his base already has buyer’s remorse, and that portion is just going to grow.

Something else we have going for us? This administration is going to come after everyone at once. There are reports are of a shock-and-awe budget that will cut $10 trillion over 10 years, taking a chainsaw to everything from violence-against-women programs, to arts programs, to supports for renewable energy, to community policing. It’s clear they think this blitzkrieg strategy will overwhelm us. But they may be surprised — it could well unite us in common cause. And if the scale of the women’s marches is any indication, we are off to a good start.
- Meanwhile, Vikram Patel highlights how extreme inequality in India - which doesn't seem to be improving with economic development - fits into the broader global political picture.

- Sarah Boseley reports on Neena Modi's research showing the stark connections between childhood poverty and a wide range of health problems. And CBC discusses how workplace instability too is linked to health issues, as restructuring and layoffs tend to lead to sick leave and depression.

- Reuters reports on the latest major oil spill to highlight the dangers of rubber-stamping pipelines without recognizing the risks to the environment around them. And Emma Gilchrist notes that British Columbia's much-repeated talking points about "world-leading" oil spill responses don't mean for a second that anybody is prepared to deal with foreseeable disasters.

- Finally, Chantal Hebert examines where the Libs now stand on electoral reform, and points out that even their attempts to stack the deck in favour of false majorities have been met with strong public pushback.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Musical interlude

Iris - Guide On Raging Stars

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- The Canadian Labour Congress offers its suggestions as to how international trade agreements can be reworked to ensure a more fair global economy. But Bill Curry reports that we're first more likely to see public interest regulation undermined from within Canada as the provinces sign away their authority to prioritize anything but corporate profits.

- Norm Farrell points out how Christy Clark's B.C. Libs have poured hundreds of millions of public dollars into the pockets of their donors to buy power which was never needed. And Murray Mandryk argues that it's long past time to allow for the direct quid pro quo between donors who benefit from public spending, and a premier whose income is tied directly to their unlimited partisan contributions.

- Rachel Giese is rightly appalled by the fact that a child suicide crisis within Canada's First Nations is being ignored by the media and the federal government alike. And Gloria Galloway exposes an internal report confirming that on-reserve health services in general continue to be grossly underfunded.

- Marc Lee discusses the "green paradox" which is resulting in far too much effort being put into quickly extracting and exporting as many fossil fuels as possible while other countries are still willing to burn them. And the Star-Phoenix' editorial boards reminds us why we need to be highly skeptical about the Wall Saskatchewan Party's refusal to acknowledge or admit the environmental dangers posed by the sector.

- Meanwhile, Rachel Cleetus examines how the undermining of environmental regulators such as the EPA has immediate and destructive effects on citizens.

- Finally, Robert Cribb and Marco Chown Oved weigh in on Canada's role in facilitating tax evasion by enabling corporate coverups. And Dave Seglins, Rachel Houlihan and Zach Dubinsky offer some proposals to fix the system.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

New column day

Here, on the hope that this past weekend's protests will be just the start of an activist response to Donald Trump and his corporatist and authoritarian allies.

For further reading...
- Robert Booth and Alexandra Topping reported on last weekend's rallies from a global perspective. Tanara Yelland discussed the march on the ground in Washington, while Caroline Mortimer commented on the protest in Sandy Cove, Nova Scotia and Morgan Modjeski wrote about the one in Saskatoon. And Kate McInturff rightly criticized far too many commentators for downplaying the significance of a widespread, international and women-based protest.
- On the subject of areas crying out for further activism, Human Rights Watch highlighted Russia's steps to minimize domestic violence and its perpetrators. And Adam Bienkov wrote about Theresa May's plans to make the UK in to even more of a haven for corporate tax avoidance, while Dave Seglins, Rachel Houlihan and Zach Dubinsky again reported on Canada's own poor track record in that area.
- Finally, I again mention SaskForward as a prime opportunity to start shaping what Saskatchewan's popular agenda will look like in the years to come.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Scott Sinclair offers his take on what we can expect Donald Trump to pursue in renegotiating NAFTA, and points out that while there are some options which might boost Canadian manufacturing and other sectors, it's also possible that matters could get far worse for the citizens of all three included countries.

- Dave Seglins, Rachel Houlihan and Zach Dubinsky report on how Canada's lax system of corporate transparency and lack of enforcement allows us to be used by international tax evaders. And Justine Hunter highlights Bev Sellars' clever move to expose British Columbia's easily-abused system of mineral title by herself staking a claim to the land owned by Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett.

- Emma Paling reports on NASA's latest video showing how the Earth is warming, while Arthur Neslen examines the more extreme weather and other climate change fallout anticipated for Europe. And Bob Weber reports on new research showing how even small amounts of fracking fluids cause substantial damage to fish and other wildlife. 

- PressProgress takes a look at the latest study showing that the effect of an increased minimum wage is to boost pay without affecting employment numbers.

- Finally, David Climenhaga writes about the case of Sudden Apocalyptic Deficit Syndrome which Brad Wall is trying to inflict on Saskatchewan:

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Downward facing cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Owen Jones writes that we should give credit for the failure of the Trans-Pacific Partnership to the popular opposition which will be need to push back against Donald Trump, rather than pretending it represents a win for Trump himself:
That Trump has any ownership over TPP is a travesty, and a damning indictment of the Democratic establishment. The new president’s rightwing populism combines xenophobia, protectionism and policies which directly enrich the Donald Trump class. Yes, American workers have suffered years of stagnating or falling wages and the decimation of industries, devastating the communities they sustained. Both Republicans and establishment Democrats are responsible, and never considered the possibility they were creating anger and resentment which one day a vulgar demagogue would exploit.
Progressives oppose trade deals like TPP because they cost jobs, shift wealth and power to large corporations, drag down workers’ terms and conditions in a race to the bottom and threaten democracy. TPP – like the hopefully fatally wounded Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership – gave multinationals the ability to sue elected governments in secret courts for policies that threaten their profits. Here is an example of capitalism on a collision course with democracy and sovereignty.
A programme of investing in US infrastructure may provide a much-needed short-term boost to the US economy, but combined with tax cuts for wealthy Americans and big business, Trumpism represents a grave economic danger. As is the style of rightwing populists, scrutiny – let alone dissent – will be portrayed as treachery. All the more reason for US progressives to stand firm.

Nothing that Trump does is motivated by the interests of the average American. A megalomaniac plutocrat like Trump scapegoats foreigners while promoting policies which directly enrich his associates. Don’t fall for a single thing he does. Resist, don’t normalise, isolate him, exploit divisions within the Republicans. Don’t fuel the impression that Trump is anything other than a charlatan who encourages working Americans to blame anyone but the men like him who are responsible for the multiple ills that define this wealthy but unjust society.
- John Christensen, Nick Shaxson and Duncan Wigan discuss (PDF) the "finance curse" facing countries which rely unduly on oversized financial sectors (with damaging consequences for neighbours as well). And Alex Cobham points out that even if Theresa May's first inclination is to barge ahead with a plan to make the UK even more of a tax haven, the EU has no incentive to play along in negotiating Brexit terms.

- Sally Weale writes that the gender pay gap which persists in today's workplaces starts as early as childhood, with girls receiving less allowance and on more strict conditions than boys.

- Lizanne Foster slams Christy Clark for looking out only for number one even as her government has ignored or actively exacerbated the needs of British Columbia's most vulnerable citizens.

- Finally, Tom Parkin takes a look at Guy Caron's campaign to lead the federal NDP - with a particular focus on his work to ensure public policy furthers the cause of equality, rather than being used to favour banks over people.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Monday Evening Links

Miscellaneous material for your Monday reading.

- Rahul Kalvapalle reports on the latest Ipsos poll showing how younger Canadians expect to lead a worse life than the generations who went before them.

- PressProgress examines how inequality has been burgeoning under Christy Clark's B.C. Lib government. And Maimuna Majumder notes that the toxic effects of higher inequality include an increased number of hate crimes.

- Jacqueline Sullivan reports on a UC Berkeley study showing that a $15 minimum wage in Fresno substantially improved wages without any net effect on employment.

- CBC reports on the Stoughton oil spill - which took place on Friday, but concealed from the public until today. And the Council of Canadians rightly calls for the provincial government to start being open and honest about pipeline inspection results given the risks which keep materializing, while Ian Johnston and Tom Batchelor report on Australia's attempt to bury a damning report on climate change.

- Finally, Geoff Leo reported on the latest Global Transportation Hub coverup, as the provincial government used unlawful delay tactics to avoid offering the truth about the GTH scandal.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Bessma Momani writes that Donald Trump's plan to leave the U.S. at the mercy of unregulated financial markets figures to cause another crisis comparable to - or worse than - that of 2008:
Nearly 10 years ago, the U.S. financial industry was exposed as a glorified Ponzi scheme that bundled toxic assets and failing mortgages into seemingly respectable pension plans and investment schemes that were sold across the world. The Obama administration spent its first term, with global support of the G20 and other countries focused on tighter international standards, to introduce regulations that the financial industry bitterly fought but lost. These regulations, loosely known as the Dodd-Frank act in the U.S. Congress, are about to be dismantled, bit by bit.
But it can get worse. In an era of what economists call secular stagnation, where we have a global savings glut, fewer global investment opportunities and low interest rates, global money is also pouring into the United States on expectations of a surge in infrastructure spending, a clampdown on offshore corporate tax havens and the lowering of Dodd-Frank financial regulations.

This is coinciding with global money leaving many emerging market economies that look geopolitically unsettled, such as Turkey, and those rattled by Mr. Trump himself, such as Mexico. With a euro zone that looks shaky in a post-Brexit era and experiencing a rise of nationalists competing in a slew of upcoming elections, ironically, the U.S. still manages to look like the safest investment for the capital industry. Meanwhile Chinese plutocrats are charging Communist Party members with corruption as President Xi Jinping conveniently also consolidates his hunger for centralized power, causing another slow exodus of Chinese wealth.

Here we have the perfect storm brewing of hot money going into the United States in search of higher interest rates and the likely dismantling of financial regulations meant to place a check on speculative bankers and investors. The end result might just be that we return to the same conditions of the mid-2000s, the eve of the international financial crisis. The sky is not yet falling, but the cracks are getting wider and wider and we ought to start listening to Chicken Little on the global economy.
- Meanwhile, Mike Palecek reminds us how Canadians could enjoy both improved accessibility and lower costs in banking services with a postal bank - so long as the possibility isn't squelched to preserve profits for private banksters.

- Dani Rodrik examines the sometimes-conflicting pressures in trying to reduce inequality at the level of both countries and individuals within them. And the Sunday Times reports on one practice sure to exacerbate both, as Italy is planning to require immigrants to perform unpaid labour in order to seek asylum.

- Finally, Sean McElwee examines why on abortion (and other issues) widely-shared progressive positions are losing out in the U.S. due to the lack of stronger connections between partisan politics and popular movements.