Saturday, September 01, 2018

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Jagmeet Singh observes that much of the festering hate stoked by right-wing parties can be traced back to economic injustice and insecurity:
(I)f we really want to stop hate, we need to do more than just call it out. We need to recognize that it is growing economic inequality that creates the conditions for hate to fester. That’s the reality Andrew Scheer is trying to exploit: the economic injustice that has left so many very hard-working Canadians wondering why they can’t make ends meet, and what — or who — is to blame.

This summer I met a lot of those Canadians, Canadians who Scheer hopes will tune into his message. Workers juggling multiple jobs just to pay the rent and wondering why good quality, long-term work is so hard to find. Families that, every month, are just a few dollars away from not being able to pay their bills. Students grappling with debt and a job market with very little to offer. Seniors having to choose between paying for groceries and the medication they need. Parents struggling to find child care they can afford and rely on. Too many wondering how they’ll ever retire without living in poverty.
There is no excuse for inaction in the face of economic injustice. It’s time to implement real solutions.

Solutions like universal pharmacare, which economists say is more than feasible and will save us billions of dollars. Solutions like universal child care, which we know would more than pay for itself by allowing more parents, especially women, to go to work. Solutions like an immediate federal investment in housing, which we know would make an enormous difference to families struggling to pay skyrocketing rents for substandard accommodations.

We know we can help pay for these and other concrete solutions by finally clamping down on tax loopholes and tax havens, so that everyone in Canada, including the richest, pay their fair share. But Canadians have been waiting too long for that simple and fair fix.
- Thomas Kochan, Duanyi Yang, Erin Kelly and Will Kimball examine the widespread desire among U.S. workers to engage in collective action, even as Republicans go far out of their way to prevent anything of the sort. And Anna Patty reports on new IMF research showing how a labour market distorted in favour of employers is robbing workers of any share in economic development. 

- Cory Coleman reports on Regina's sharp increase in homelessness as a result of Scott Moe's decision to slash housing funding. And Philip Inman discusses how increased land values in the UK are enriching current owners while leaving everybody else behind.

- Finally, Brent Patterson calls out the dishonesty behind the Trudeau Libs' attempt to tie modest climate change policies to the publicly-funded expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure. Peter Tertzakian discusses some of the implications of a world in which clean energy is no longer scarce - though it's worth noting the additional result that investments based on seeking rents from tight markets for oil and other energy will lose any prospective upside. And Guy Dauncey sets out a few of the climate change options which might make a meaningful difference in saving a livable environment.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Musical interlude

Zuckerbaby - Andromeda

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Joseph Stiglitz writes that history has proven wrong the theory that the weak recovery from the 2008 economic crash was the result of "secular stagnation" rather than a woefully insufficient public policy response. And Sam Pizzigati points out how the U.S. public is picking up the bill for obscene executive pay rather than seeing public money used for beneficial purposes.

- Thomas Walkom points out the futility of signing trade deals with unreliable partners. And Theophilis Argitis observes that there's been no reality to past threats about the consequences of failing to follow Donald Trump's regressive economic policies.

- Oliver Milman reports on California's move toward 100% clean electricity, signalling how forward-looking jurisdictions are planning their energy futures.

- Rick Smith discusses how the defence of democratic decision-making has become a genuinely controversial issue in the face of right-wing politicians increasingly determined to warp electoral systems and public institutions to exclude any other voices. And Linda McQuaig notes that Doug Ford has picked up a class war on behalf of the rich where Mike Harris left off.

- Finally, Luke Savage highlights the need to properly define and apply the concept of populism, rather than using it as a shorthand which simultaneously dismisses legitimate criticisms of the status quo and reinforces misleading messages:
(T)he label’s almost uniformly negative connotation has created a parochial shorthand by which any serious critic of the status quo can be summarily dismissed regardless of their actual analysis or their ultimate political demands (whether you favour them or not, calls for tuition-free universities or universal social programs are categorically not equivalent to closed borders or fear-mongering about immigration). For another, it often has a way of needlessly glamorizing political behaviour that is, in fact, quite traditional. Is Doug Ford, for example, really a populist or is he just the scion of an entrenched political dynasty who’s cavalier with the truth and likes to say “folks” so much that people forget he’s a multimillionaire? Let’s avoid ascribing some ethereal mystique to good old-fashioned political posturing or demagogy. But finally, and most straightforwardly, incoherence is generally harmful for democracy—when people go to vote, we presumably would like them to have some idea of what they’re actually voting for, and not all populisms are created equal.
(I)n its contemporary usage, populism seems to be more of a floating signifier than something that usefully connotes a specific ideology, tendency, or political project. True, antiestablishment posture seems a common thread in these examples. But establishment and elites are themselves quite mutable terms and refer to completely different groups and institutions depending on who you ask. Are “elites” and members of the “establishment” state bureaucrats? Academics? The media? Corporate CEOs? People who prefer a glass of sherry to a pint of beer or happen to live in a major metropolitan area near the coast? The various individuals, parties, and movements cited above would likely offer very different answers.
As fashionable as it has become, then, the populist label may only be useful in a broad, aesthetic sense, and even then its value may be limited. Unhelpfully, it often grafts an aura of novelty on to well-worn ideological divides and, in the process, puts completely disparate politicians and movements into the same box. In trying to interpret various movements of the left and right, let us stop conflating a political style with a distinctive ideology.
[Edit: fixed typo.]

Thursday, August 30, 2018

New column day

Here, on the Saskatchewan Party's continued disregard for municipalities and other localized forms of governance - not to mention good government in general.

For further reading...
- Cory Coleman reports on the unanimous vote of Regina's City Council to stop corporate intrusion into Wascana Park.
- The Star-Phoenix and Leader-Post editorial boards criticized the Saskatchewan Party government's musings about moving municipal elections to suit Scott Moe's political schedule.
- Finally, D.C. Fraser reports on yet another combination of meddling and anti-accountability measures, as the employees who served as the public face of the province's attacks on the Justice for Our Stolen Children camp have been shuffled elsewhere.

[Edit: updated link.]

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Christo Aivalis discusses the future of organized labour and the need for workplace democracy in an era of increased automation:
New organizing models and shorter workdays are both viable solutions to address the struggles of encroaching automation, but neither strike to the heart of the matter that AI exposes. In our current capitalist system, the politics of automation are inherently adversarial, because while productivity increases and cost savings are consistently sought by owners, managers, and shareholders, the workers themselves don’t want to be displaced from the job that provides them their livelihood. Historically, many workers and socialists have acknowledged the immense social value automative processes have had in eliminating the most tedious and dangerous of jobs, meaning that we can shift our human resources in more productive and fulfilling directions. But automation driven primarily by profit motives serves to further concentrate power and wealth, making our society more unequal, and our democracy more imperilled. Even things like the basic income guarantee may fail to solve this issue, because putting the masses of people on mere subsistence incomes while an increasingly small number of owners and technical workers reap riches is more likely to lead to Elysium than to a just society.

So the rise of AI may well provide the conditions for a reinvigorated challenge to capitalism. Unions must not only bargain for better wages and conditions, but must push for mechanisms that give workers greater say in the direction of their workplaces, and a greater share of the value derived from actions which have traditionally served to unemploy them. But beyond bargaining, labour must align with politicians seeking to democratize workplaces and the wider economy by increasing the proportion of our economy owned not by capitalists, but by cooperatives and the public. If we are indeed at the precipice of a new industrial era, the only way to ensure 90 per cent or more of the population isn’t permanently marginalized from economic life is to demand that our democratic levers extend into the operation of industry. Put another way: in the automated age, democracy will need socialism.
- Wojciech Keblowski makes the case to abolish fares for transit to maximize the public good it can achieve. And Ricardo Tranjan discusses the crucial role of public service employment as a matter of both economic and social development.

- Maude Barlow and Sujata Dey offer a reminder that Canada can do just fine without NAFTA. Jerry Dias implores the Trudeau government to be willing to walk away from NAFTA negotiations if the Trump administration is being as reckless and heavy-handed as it appears. And Brent Patterson wonders whether an even worse NAFTA might serve as the impetus for a more fundamental challenge to elite-driven capitalism.

- Carlyn Zwarenstein writes about the value of harm reduction as a response to addictions issues. And Liam Britten reports that in keeping with its stellar early returns in managing British Columbia's public resources, John Horgan's government is suing opioid manufacturers for their harm maximization model of drug distribution.

- Finally, Bashir Mohamed highlights why birthright citizenship - and the associated recognition that no person should be treated as illegal or without status - is important for all Canadians.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Matt Bruenig makes the case for a social wealth fund in the U.S. And David Dayen offers a reminder that Alaska's dividend to citizens from its own wealth fund is both extremely popular and an effective treatment for many social ills.

- Meanwhile, Noah Zon and Hannah Aldridge point out (PDF) that lone-parent families continue to account for a high concentration of family and child poverty in Canada.

- Nicola Davis discusses the connection between climate change and nutrient deficiencies, while Pedro Nicolaci da Costa reports on new research showing how climate change may do far more damage to the U.S.' economy than previously assumed. Dana Nuccitelli points out that Donald Trump's attempt to do as little as possible to regulate greenhouse gas emissions will lead to large-scale health problems due to increases in other forms of pollution. And the Associated Press reports on the resignation of French environment minister Nicolas Hulot due to his refusal to serve as cover for a government unwilling to take action proportionate to environmental imperatives.

- Andre Picard cautions against any overreaction to a new study showing that alcohol has some negative health effects at any usage levels, noting that a public health approach which allows for moderate use represents the appropriate response to many kinds of potentially risky recreational behaviours.

- Finally, David Reevely notes that Tesla's quick win in court against the ill-thought-out cancellation of electric car rebates represents a prime example of the dangers of governing without thought.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Costumed cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Duncan Cameron writes that the Libs' anti-poverty "strategy" really isn't about much more than spin. And Katherine Scott asks when we'll see something which actually reduces poverty rather than merely taking one more step in measuring it.

- Bill Curry points out that contrary to the Libs' homilies to tax fairness, the highest-income Canadians actually paid less in taxes in 2016 than the previous year - confirming that there's far more work to do in making the tax system more progressive. And Noah Smith discusses the U.S.' predictable discovery that lower capital gains taxes lead only to more wealth for the rich.

- Richard Partington reports on calls for the UK to stop relying on land speculation as a substitute for actual economic growth. And Emily Lazatin and Simon Little examine new polling showing Vancouver renters hoping for a real estate crash to make desperately-needed housing more affordable.

- Carla Green reports on the apocalyptic threat climate change poses to California. Damian Carrington and Lily Kuo report on new research showing the developmental damage done by air pollution. And Judith Marshall points out the similarities between tailing point spills in British Columbia and Mexico, while James Wilt notes that the public stands to be stuck with a massive bill for reclamation if Imperial Metals goes bankrupt.

- Finally, Paula Simons writes that the only real threat to Canada's identity as a country where everybody is welcome arises from the Cons' attempt to import Donald Trump's xenophobia.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Arno Kopecky points out that new highs in nominal standards of living around the globe are being paired with unprecedented environmental damage which puts our future at risk. And Laila Yuile responds to John Horgan's version of the line that any smaller jurisdiction can avoid responsibility for the planet by minimizing its contribution to a collective action problem.

- Don Lenihan asks whether "polarizing" political developments are doomed to fail - though the example of a carbon tax seems like an odd one, as it drew support from across the political spectrum (including being implemented by B.C.'s right-wing Libs) before attacks became incorporated into the core message of the Cons and their provincial cousins.

- Arif Jetha discusses how precarity is harmful to workers’ health. And Michael Mendelson offers a reminder that complex rules and stringent requirements around social benefits lead to worse outcomes for both recipients and governments.

- Tom Parkin notes that the Libs are trying to paper over a failure to keep their infrastructure promises by repackaging planned projects through the high-cost privatized infrastructure bank. And Mairin Prentiss reports on the Libs’ outsourcing of military cleaning work.

- Finally, Owen Jones comments on how the UK’s oligarch-controlled media has distorted public impressions and stacked the political deck in favour of the right.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Emma Paling discusses how the security of a basic income provides the opportunity to escape an abusive relationship. And Jim Stanford collects four views of a basic income from Australia, including this (PDF) from Ben Spies-Butcher:
There are two broad ways that politicians talk about welfare and social services that create these very different dynamics. One way is to tell a story of shared need. We all get sick, we all need Medicare. We all get old, we all need the pension. Those needs are often experienced differently. Some people get sick more than others. But the story focuses on what we have in common, and the policy is designed to emphasise what unites us. This creates a politics of universalism, and it does so even when the policy isn’t technically universal. In fact, there is little genuinely universal about Australia’s social policy; the pension sits next to super, Medicare next to subsidies for private health insurance. But the politics of these programs is based on a story of shared need, and so powerful is that story that even governments that initially opposed Medicare now legislate to retain it, and both sides of politics feel compelled to defend the pension.

The other story is one of rule following and deservingness, and ultimately of division. We can see it most obviously with immigration. Our expensive, unaccountable and inhumane system of offshore detention is the end result a form of ‘wedge politics’ based on showing how some people are deserving and others are not. The logic of ‘queue jumping’ mirrors the logic of breaching and quarantining for Newstart – it suggests there is a legitimate way to behave to access help, and if you do not behave that way you are cheating the system and should be refused. Conditionality is thus the cornerstone of wedge politics, it is the mechanism both to ‘test’ deservingness and to demonstrate to the public the importance of recipients being deserving. Of course, in both cases the very mechanismsthat are overtly designed to ‘test’ deservingness ultimately cause everyone to fail. In the public’s mind all refugees are suspect, and all those on Newstart are stigmatised.

It has been a very long time since progressives have won a debate about wedge politics. Victories are much more likely when campaigns reframe their goals in the language of universalism – as in ‘marriage equality’ and ‘love is love’. Of course, income payments are not the only way to reduce inequality and establish dignity. Decent jobs and social services are also important. Basic income is not a magic bullet, and when it is pitched as a retreat from those claims, as cheaper than public services or a safety net for mass unemployment, it is clearly not a progressive claim at all. But in the world we have, income is a basic social need – like health, education and housing – and income from employment is not guaranteed. In the short run, at least, it is an essential part of any progressive vision.
- The Equality Trust introduces its push for an Ownership Charter toward a more democratic economy in the UK.

- Jesse Eisinger writes that there may be a reason why the authors of extensive criminal activity around Donald Trump expected to avoid answering for their actions, as it's only the increased scrutiny of the political context that's led to the investigation of the type of white-collar crime which all too often goes unaddressed.

- Finally, Christo Aivalis examines some of the aftereffects of Maxime Bernier's announcement of a new, hard-right federal party. And Brent Patterson highlights the need for a serious response to Bernier's move to tap into the xenophobic sentiment that's done so much harm in other developed countries.