Saturday, July 28, 2018

Saturday Evening Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Joel Achenbach and Angela Fritz discuss how climate change is amplifying all kinds of extreme weather (with severe heat as only the most obvious example). And Umair Irfan examines some of the dangerous economic and social side effects of unprecedented heat waves.

- Matthieu Vincente highlights how the classification of workers can serve as a barrier to the exercise of collective bargaining rights and employment protections. And Tom Ayers reports on the large-scale use of foreign workers in Kameron Coal's Donkin mine at wages far beyond those offered to domestic workers - with few consequences for the operators who have breached the law to make that happen, even as the employer complains that even having its egregious violations reported publicly is too much.

- The CP and Leader-Post report on Rachel Notley's recognition that a responsible government can't simply leave rural residents stranded without transportation options - which is unfortunately in stark contrast to the Saskatchewan Party's apparent view.

- Brennan MacDonald and Vassy Kapelos point out that Justin Trudeau's decision to plow billions of public dollars into the Trans Mountain pipeline has served to give Donald Trump additional leverage in trade negotiations (among other worrisome consequences).

- Finally, Real Lavergne and Gisela Ruckert offer some vital background information for British Columbia voters about their electoral reform referendum.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Musical interlude

The War On Drugs - In Chains

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- The Economist discusses how income and wealth inequality lead to disproportionate influence on the part of the rich:
The relation between concentrated wealth and the political power of the rich is scarcely limited to political spending, or to America. The rich have many means to shape public opinion: financing nominally apolitical think-tanks, for instance, or buying media outlets. Although their power may sometimes be used to influence the result of a particular vote, it is often deployed more subtly, to shape public narratives about which problems deserve attention. Mr Epp and Mr Borghetto analysed bills brought before the parliaments of nine European countries between 1941 and 2014. Rising inequality, they found, is associated with political agendas more focused on matters related to “social order”, such as crime and immigration. Issues such as economic justice are crowded out. They attribute this to the “negative agenda power” of the rich. As their wealth increases, they have a greater ability to press politicians to emphasise some topics rather than others.

The evidence that concentrated wealth contributes to concentrated power is troubling. It suggests that reducing inequality becomes less likely even as it becomes more urgent. It implies that a vicious cycle of rising inequality may be developing, with a loss of democratic accountability as a nasty side-effect.
- Meanwhile, Jeff Stein reports on the global decline in business tax rates which has resulted from the corporate sector largely dictating the terms of political debate. Duncan Cameron writes that any tax system will influence the composition of our public discourse - and that for too long Canada's system (among others) has privileged the wealthy while silencing voices for progressive change. And PressProgress exposes one of the B.C. Libs' secret big-money fund-raising events. 

- Katherine Boothe debunks some myths about a national pharmacare program - and in particular the claim that there's any public benefit in handing the pharmaceutical industry exorbitant prices for an already-limited set of drugs under the status quo. And Steve Morgan discusses how Doug Ford's move to limit Ontario's public plan to make prescription drugs available to youth is a step in the wrong direction.

- Kevin Carmichael points out how parents would benefit far more from a universally accessible child care system than from child benefits alone. 

- Finally, Eleanor Ainge Roy reports on the introduction of paid domestic violence leave in New Zealand in order to ensure people facing personal threats aren't trapped by work obligations, while CBC News discusses its imminent implementation in New Brunswick as well.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

New column day

Here, on how Saskatchewan may be in the eye of a global heat storm, but shouldn't use that as an excuse to keep contributing to increasingly-dangerous climate change.

For further reading...
- Scientific American's temperature circle highlights how every country in the world is seeing higher temperatures than normal. And Brandon Miller surveys the recent heat wave around the globe. 
- CBC has reported on the recent extreme temperatures in Quebec and Ontario, British Columbia, and the Yukon and Northwest Territories.
- And again, the Prairie Climate Centre has examined the likely results of climate change for Saskatchewan - which even on their own would justify far more than the sad excuse for a plan offered up by the Saskatchewan Party.

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- The Equality Trust makes its submission to a UK study of social mobility by pointing out the need for increased equality as the first step:
To genuinely improve social mobility in the UK, the over-arching policy priority has to be for a massive and sustained reduction in economic inequality (so both income and wealth). This will require bold policies and, crucially, for such policies to be carried forward as an integrated Inequality Reduction Strategy, embedded across all government departments. Our new national Manifesto for a Fairer Society outlines the sort of policy changes required.

While we support the dissemination of best practice that promotes high educational attainment we are sceptical that it will have much impact. Interventions that try to correct for the impact of inequality on social mobility (early years education intervention, parenting interventions and so on) have (a) a very weak evidence base and (b) fail to address the "causes of the causes" (thus the interventions will be needed for ever and ever) and are (c) very expensive and, therefore, subject to changes in governments and political priorities (and in relation to political priorities, we would like to state that there is no evidence that expanding grammar schools will improve our education system or our chronic social immobility, in fact, quite the reverse).

In any event, such interventions cannot be expected to correct the enormous dead-weight of problems created by inequality for families - debt, long working hours and chronic stress leading to more mental and physical illness.
- Allie Conti discusses a new research paper on the detachment of the ultra-rich from the rest of society. And Jay Willis notes that the Trump administration's giveaways to the wealthy are only making matters worse.

- Meanwhile,  Bruce Japsen points out how Trump's barriers to social benefits will drastically increase administration costs and limit access without serving any useful purpose.

- Raffy Boudjikanian reports on TransAlta's laundering of its coal lobbying effort through the University of Alberta.

- Finally, Palko Karasz writes about the wave of ocean-dumped garbage now hitting the Dominican Republic and other coastlines. Julia Short points out how climate change has made our oceans more acidic than they've been in millions of years. Umair Irfan discusses what has made rising temperatures particularly dangerous for residents of areas not build to account for them. Ryan Cooper offers a reminder that reining in climate change offers substantial economic opportunities, while ignoring it will only cause economic harm in the long run. And Jonathan Watts highlights how our consumption of natural resources has continued to grow to increasingly unsustainable levels.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading...

- Thomas Torslov, Ludvig Wier and Gabriel Zucman examine the shifting of corporate profits to tax havens - and the false promise that corporate tax cuts will serve any purpose other than to undermine the collection of needed revenue by countries with real economies. And Liz Alderman notes that Portugal's rejection of austerity has led to better economic and social results than the alternative of cuts and suffering.

- Tom Saler writes about new archaeological research tracing inequality dating back thousands of years - and finding it to be a matter of choice rather than inevitability. And Meagan Day points out that inequality (particularly at the very top) continues to get worse by the year.

- Alex Finnis reports on the UK's largest jump in poverty since Margaret Thatcher was in power. Thiemo Fezter studies (PDF) the role the UK Cons' austerity played in fomenting support for the far-right UKIP as well as the disastrous Brexit vote. And Polly Toynbee writes about the added demands being placed on the UK's citizenry to plan for their government's irresponsibility out of already-limited resources:
Eight years of austerity has only cut debt by shifting a financial deficit on to a social deficit everywhere else. Philip Hammond, the chancellor and austerian-in-chief, has said taxes must rise to pay for the NHS, but he will return to his autumn budget besieged by needs in every threadbare service. Austerity was not accompanied by telling the public to expect less of everything for ever.
 or now, the Brexit crisis distracts from all its other failures. When the former attorney general Dominic Grieve tells Sky News that no deal will cast us into “a state of emergency – basic services we take for granted might not be available”, Cassandra-like, he is ignored as Project Fear mark two. But when Doug Gurr, the head of Amazon UK – no political player – warns of “civil unrest” within two weeks of a no-deal guillotine, we should all sit up and pay attention. He said that to Dominic Raab, the Brexit secretary, at a meeting with business chiefs last Friday: Amazon is making contingency plans.

Everyone will take fright at the government’s own warnings to businesses and households. John Manzoni, the head of the civil service, told MPs last week that a no-deal break would be “almost unimaginable”, and have “horrendous consequences”. Already the government warns that the M26 in Kent will be a “holding area” for 1,400 trucks to ease gridlock as 10,000 lorries a day are potentially delayed by new EU customs checks. Mazoni warns of the need to stockpile food and medicines: “We have to put contingencies in place.” Stockpiling food – that’s an order to panic! And why not – half our food is imported, of which 80% comes from Europe via Dover.
Conspiracy theorists claim a “deep state” really controls this country, a civil service and a dark establishment that prevent any radical change. That theory is now being tested to destruction. This has been the worst session of parliament in recent memory: the next may be worse. There is no deep state – nothing out there to save us from self-inflicted disaster. Only we can save us from ourselves.
- Samira Shackle discusses the value of viewing crime primarily as a condition to be treated, rather than an excuse to inflict punishment.

- Finally, Duncan Cameron makes the case for a national public bus service to more than fill the void left by Greyhound's disappearance.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Cats at rest.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Matt Bruenig points out that public ownership of businesses produces a number of beneficial incidental effects, including by ensuring that knowledge and investment stay in place over time rather than being subject to the whims of the capital class.

- Sarah Smarsh discusses how a failure by politicians to take on the corporate class has opened the door for people to vote for self-destructive populism. And Mike Colledge and Chris Martyn comment on the need to foster shared values and interests - including our common humanity and empathy for people in need - as an antidote.

- Steven Singer notes that any attempt to draw correlations between private schools and educational outcomes can be traced readily to differences in income.

- Alicia Bridges reports on the aftermath of Husky's salt water leak near Turtleford. And Global News reports on the belated investigation into the release of toxic gas affecting Unity - resulting in precisely zero consequences to the business responsible other than an order to comply with the law it was violating in the first place.

- Finally, Alex Ballingall and Alex Boutilier rightly challenge the rhetoric portraying the presence of refugees in Canada as a crisis. And Liam Casey tells the stories of a few of the refugees awaiting the hearing of their refugee claims in Toronto.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Giri Sivaraman and Jim Stanford challenge the right-wing dogma that unions - and unions alone among private actors - should be expected to provide benefits independent of any contributions. Fiona Onasanya discusses the need for collective action to push back against exploitation by corporate behemoths like Amazon. And Doug Nesbitt highlights the role organized labour plays in combating workplace racism.

- Meanwhile, Noah Smith points out that Donald Trump's giveaways to the wealthy have predictably resulted in wage cuts for workers. And Josh Hoxie tallies up the U.S.' lost public revenue just from tax cuts implemented since 2000 at $10 trillion.

- Katherine Martinko warns against putting too much stock in corporate branding campaigns rather than laws and policies which meaningfully improve environmental outcomes.

- David Suzuki reminds us that we can't hide from the consequences of climate change. And Karen Bartko reports on the latest spills in Alberta's oil patch.

- Finally, Jacob Serebrin reports on new research showing how Quebec's public child care system has enabled a far larger number of women to participate in the workforce.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

On public interests

Plenty of others have pointed out the most direct lie in Jason Kenney's attempt to blame Alberta's NDP for the decisions of an Ontario court dealing with Carillion's Canadian bankruptcy. But it's worth taking a look at the much more fundamental lie at the core of Kenney's complaint.

As mentioned in the very article linked to by Kenney, the privatization of Alberta's highway maintenance operations took place under his Conservative predecessors.

It was the PCs who put a high-risk foreign operator in charge of maintaining a wide swath of the province's highways in the first place (PDF) due to their distaste for public services. And they further put the public at Carillion's mercy (PDF) just in time for the corporate house of cards to come toppling down. 

In response, Alberta's NDP has been criticizing (PDF) the PC's determination to push public-sector austerity as an excuse for privatization, and calling for decisions about infrastructure to be made by and in the interests of citizens.

Needless to say, that fault line remains between the two parties. The NDP continues to want public services to function under public control for the benefit of citizens and local businesses alike. And Kenney continues to be determined to undermine public services by selling them off or exposing them to corporate competition or control at every turn.

Of course, neither Kenney nor his corporate backers are about to let the facts get in the way of an attack on Rachel Notley. But voters in Alberta (and elsewhere) should note that there's only way to avoid having the public interest turned into an afterthought in business proceedings - and that's to make sure Kenney and his ilk don't get to lock governments into privatization scams.

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Katie Dangerfield reports on new research showing that carbon pricing can be an economic benefit, while unrestrained climate change would be disastrous. Bill Curry and Shawn McCarthy report that Scott Moe has eagerly lumped himself in with Doug Ford as Canada's most ignorant premiers, as the rest of the country's provincial leaders are still working toward meaningful climate policy. And David Climenhaga notes that the climate-denier coalition is relying purely on political bluster rather than any plausible constitutional argument.

- Noah Smith examines the impact of academic research funding, and finds that directing money toward universities which already have plenty of wealth and prestige makes for a poor use of research dollars.

- Edward Keenan exposes the utter failure of John Tory's privatization of fire inspections which left fire safety in Toronto in the hands of a fraud.

- Douglas Todd discusses how the polarization of first-past-the-post politics does far more to boost extremism than a more proportional system which tends to require that multiple viewpoints be addressed in a governing coalition. 

- Finally, CBC reports on the rightful outrage in response to the Saskatchewan Party's attempt to remove the Justice for Our Stolen Children camp through the courts.