Saturday, August 25, 2018

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Melissa Benn discusses how private schools entrench a class divide within a generation - and argues that they should be eliminated in favour of an inclusive education system:
(W)e urgently need to renew the conversation about the private-public divide, and move beyond the superficial, profoundly apolitical debates of recent years. These have chiefly been characterised by the rolling out of the same information again and again, almost as if the private schools were not human creations but unchallengeable phenomena like the weather or religious deities. Over and over we are told: private schools achieve higher results; their graduates vacuum up the majority of places at the best universities; they take all the top jobs; they dominate the top of society. There is, as a result, a continual stirring up (with the liberal help of a few capital letters) of resentment, envy and panic – “Private pupils are SIX TIMES more likely to get A* grades at GCSEs than those at state schools”; “A third of private pupils score 3 A* grades at A-level compared to one in TEN at state schools” – finely seasoned with a good dollop of hopelessness: “The awful truth: to get ahead you need a private education.”
If we are to move the conversation on, then, we need to be clear that the success of private education is not replicable precisely because it offers the already socially and economically privileged superior resources and opportunities that inevitably augment their confidence and capabilities in every sphere. Private day schools now cost, on average, £14,500 a year – more than the annual disposable income of the average English family. Boarding is a great deal more costly. The annual fees of a top private school such as Westminster, which sends more students to Oxbridge than any other school in the country, are around £35,000 a year for boarders. Compare this with the average per-pupil spend in a state secondary school of between £4,000 and £6,000 a year. But the difference is not only in simple resources, for the spread of pupils at many state schools will include those from deprived or struggling families, compounding the pressures on their education and those who teach them, while a private school is in general recruiting from the already affluent, literate and enterprising. Thus, we need to publicly acknowledge that the success of private education is far less to do with character building or autonomous governance than the powerful alchemy of several kinds of advantage.

Now, more than ever, there is a strong moral and political argument in support of integration. At a time of growing divides and damaging inequality, we urgently need public institutions that bring the nation together, not further separate and divide us. For many in the UK, the idea of a unified education system to which all subscribe is too great a leap of the imagination, too daring a proposition – and yet the benefits of a common schooling could be immense.

Finland teaches us not only that state education will never be considered truly first-rate until we give all our children the same high-quality schooling, but also that a country that educates its children together has a better chance of being at ease with itself than one that segregates different parts of the population from an early age.
- And the BBC reports on Scotland's new policy making sanitary products available for free to students in order to remove one obvious drain on students' limited resources.

- Karri Munn-Venn makes the case for a federal budget which focuses on people's well-being, not merely GDP and profits. Gideon Resnick reports on Bernie Sanders' proposal to tax large employers who rely on social benefits to make up for their failure to pay a living wage. And David Olive offers a reminder of the tangible benefits of minimum wage increases.

- Meanwhile, Maya Bhullar talks to Hazel Corcoran the role workers' co-operatives can play in building a diverse economy with shared benefits.

- Finally, the New York Times' editorial board examines how harm reduction strategies are reducing the number of opioid-related deaths at the state level.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Musical interlude

Sloan - Believe In Me

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Jesse McLaren and Kate Hayman discuss how better treatment of workers can reduce the strain on a province's health care system:
As front-line health-care providers we urge the premier to follow the Hippocratic principle, “first, do no harm,” and to not intervene to stop the $15 per hour minimum wage and paid personal emergency leave days.

If Ford is interested in ending hallway medicine, he should support policies that prevent people from getting sick in the first place: a higher minimum wage, and paid personal emergency leave days for all Ontarians.

Low wages prevent people from accessing healthy food, safe shelter, and filling their prescriptions. According to a study by the Canadian Medical Association Journal, 1-in-10 Canadians can’t afford to fill or renew their prescriptions, and this rises to a third for low-income families. When patients can’t afford to preserve their health and take their medicine, they often end up in hospital.

Until this year, the situation was even worse for Ontarians without paid personal emergency leave days. The seemingly obvious medical advice to “stay home when you’re sick” is impossible for those who can’t afford to.
When it comes to labour policy, all the premier has to do to start supporting the people and help end hallway medicine is … nothing. Let the minimum wage increase, and protect access to paid personal emergency leave days.

Backtracking on legislation designed with input from health providers, public health experts, and economists will only hurt vulnerable Ontarians and our health-care system.
- Samantha Marcus reports on New Jersey's new legislation allowing striking workers to access unemployment benefits - a development arising out of the mistreatment of telecommunications workers. And Erica Johnson reports on the latest revelations as to how employees in similar positions at Bell and Rogers have been expected to pressure customers.

- Eric Holthaus discusses the new generation of climate activists which has never known the issue as anything but an imminent existential threat. Clare Hennig points out the problems with treating climate conditions which are still subject to substantial change in both directions as a "new normal". And Jon Queally reports on the gall of the fossil fuel sector in demanding handouts to protect against the rising sea levels caused by its carbon pollution.

- Finally, Nikolas Barry-Shaw highlights just the latest poll showing that Quebecers don't share the obsession of their political class with discriminatory identity politics.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

New column day

Here, on how the Libs' national poverty reduction strategy manages to aim low yet still set us up for failure on its own terms.

For further reading...
- CTV interviews Trish Garner about what's missing from the Libs' plan. Community Food Centres Canada discusses the danger that a vague and unfunded plan will be used as an excuse for inaction. And the Maytree Foundation is more optimistic, but also notes the need to move from aspirations to rights and actions.
- Matthew Johnson discusses how a basic income could significantly reduce work-related stress, while James Mulvale laments the end of Ontario's pilot project.
- Finally, Nima Maleki writes about the inherent moral implications of our policy choices - and the reality that the continuation of poverty comes from a failure to properly distribute what's already more than sufficient wealth.

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Simon Wren-Lewis discusses how media negligence allowed austerian economics to be treated as credible long after any pretense of academic merit has been debunked.

- Kevin Milligan and Tammy Schirle examine the relationship between income and life expectancy in Canada - featuring both the comparatively good news that we haven't seen a U.S.-style increase in the disparity between high and low incomes, and the reality that the preexisting gap also hasn't been reduced.

- Meanwhile, Joan Grant comments on the growing housing gap in the UK, as homeowners have become wealthier while housing has become ever less accessible for renters.

- Bethany Hastie and Daniel Mare identify a few simple changes to ensure British Columbians in precarious work are able to exercise their freedom of association and improve their working conditions. And Celine McNicholas, Samantha Sanders and Heidi Shierholz offer their set of suggestions to bolster workers' rights south of the border.

- Emily Atkin points out the need for a sea change in our transportation infrastructure as part of any meaningful effort to rein in greenhouse gas emissions. But the Canadian Press reports that the Trudeau Libs' main priority is instead to ensure that public spending on transit comes at the price of interest payments to private investors.

- Finally, Eli Day writes about a long-overdue movement to ensure that U.S. prisoners - along with anybody else with a stake in public policy - are able to exercise their right to vote.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Ajit Zacharias, Thomas Masterson and Fernando Rios-Avila study the economic well-being of U.S. households, and find a stagnant standard of living including a falling base income for the median family. Josh Bivens and Ben Zipperer confirm that in the past few decades, workers have only seen meaningful wage gains at the end of extended periods of low unemployment - meaning they're the last to benefit from economic growth. And Craig Chamberlain highlights new research showing how stronger unions benefit all kinds of workers.

- Danny Dorling points out how the UK is seeing tens of thousands of "excess deaths" this year - and how the Conservative government isn't even willing to acknowledge a problem.

- Patrick Collinson reports on landlords' discrimination against people who receive housing benefits in the UK.

- Meagan Day makes the case for a publicly-owned bank to ensure that needed financial services are available and affordable for everybody.

- Finally, Alejandra Bravo writes about the need to treat Doug Ford's attacks on democracy as a reason to organize, rather than allowing him to breed public apathy and resignation.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Cats seeking cover.

Tuesday Evening Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Gary Mason discusses how politicians are fiddling while our planet burns. And Jonathan Watts reports on the strongest sea ice in the Arctic breaking up for the first time in recorded history, as well as the likelihood that Arctic warming bears part of the blame for exceptionally hot summer weather getting "stuck" elsewhere.

- CBC News reports on the Libs' choice to set unambitious poverty reduction targets - yet also positioning themselves to fail by refusing to commit a single nickel to the cause in the next dozen years. And PressAssociation takes note of new research from the UK showing that a family with two minimum-wage earners will still fall short of a bare minimum "no frills" lifestyle, while Caitlin Morrison reports on the explosion of household debt that's temporarily papering over insufficient wages.

- Trish Hennessy and Ricardo Tranjan point out that skilled professionals are vulnerable to the forces causing precarity and economic insecurity.

- Seth Klein and Vyas Saran make the case for electoral reform in British Columbia:
Our current two-party system narrows our political choices and limits our discourse, discouraging bold and long-lasting policies. FPTP can only reflect so many viewpoints in the rooms where policies, laws and other important decisions are made—and what does get through tends to be heavily shaped by elite interests, if not catering to them outright. When we limit our capacity to consider a wider range of views and evidence, it takes years to address serious issues like climate change and unaffordable housing, and change only happens when we’re deep in crisis-mode, if at all.

British Columbians cannot afford to wait until we are unbearably deep in poverty, priced out of our cities, and experiencing the full impact of climate change for our representatives to take action.
- Finally, Travis Lupick offers a simple reminder that the elimination of supervised injection sites will result in people dying.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Linda Solomon Wood comments on the absurdity of the federal cabinet meeting in a province facing rampant wildfires and not planning to utter a word about climate change. Will Steffen discusses how environmental feedback loops may make inaction even more costly and dangerous than previously assumed.

- Joe Romm examines how fracking is poisoning U.S. water supplies - particularly where they're already the most scarce. And Sarah Rieger reports on the prospect that Alberta may soon be facing perpetual drought conditions.

- Perrin Grauer offers a reminder that the people who have the least will be hurt the most by extreme weather and other consequences of climate change. And Amy Walker notes that in a similar vein, cust to public transportation have their most severe effect on people facing a gap between where work is available and where housing is affordable.

- Meanwhile, Richard Newell and Daniel Raimi point out that the growth in renewable energy has thus far served to supplement rather than replace dirty energy - signalling that an "all of the above" approach will do nothing to drive a needed transition from fossil fuels to renewables.

- Finally, Gabor Mate discusses the need to treat drug use as part of the human condition, not a basis to exclude and ostracize users.