Saturday, November 10, 2018

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Owen Jones writes that a four-day work week being developed by UK Labour could represent an important step toward genuine personal freedom:
(I)t is extremely welcome that Labour’s John McDonnell has approached eminent economist Lord Skidelsky to head an inquiry into potentially cutting the working week to four days. It should be part of a new crusade for the left: of defending and expanding personal freedom.

The champions of free market fundamentalism promised their creed would bring us freedom. But it wasn’t freedom at all: from the lack of secure, affordable housing to growing job insecurity and rising personal debt, the individual is trapped. Nine decades ago, John Maynard Keynes predicted that technological advances and rising productivity would mean that we’d be working a 15-hour week by now: that target has been somewhat missed.
(A) shorter working week would enable us to redistribute hours from the overworked to the underworked. Lord Skidelsky’s inquiry would need to look at cutting the working week without slashing living standards: after all, Britain’s workers have already suffered the worst squeeze in wages since the Napoleonic wars. But cutting the working week would free the individual, giving millions of workers more time to spend as they see fit. Human freedom should be the core aim of modern socialism. The right to work less would be an act of liberation – and a cause the left should embrace.
- Meanwhile, PressProgress exposes Ontario Proud's pitch for six-figure corporate donations to try to prevent workers from ever achieving any improvements, while Jim Stanford warns the Ford government that merely seeking to turn back the clock is no way to develop viable policy.

- Sara Mojtehedzadeh reports on a push by Ontario students to achieve minimum wage parity with other workers. And Rob Shaw reports on British Columbia's move to put an end to contract-flipping attacks on public service workers.

- Rick Smith writes about the increasingly-visible human face of plastics pollution.

- Finally, Brent Patterson discusses the need to respond to what's wrong with the world with active steps to set matters right.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Musical interlude

Metric - Now or Never Now

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Roger Eatwell writes that the rise of anti-immigrant sentiment can be traced back largely to the sense that elite-dominated governments have failed to take care of citizens generally, while David Leonhardt likewise notes that inequality can all too easily lead to easily-exploitable resentment. And Geoff Sharpe is rightly worried that Canada's regressive conservatives are destroying any consensus on the value of cultural diversity.

- Richard McKellar offers his list of reasons why British Columbia voters should cast a referendum ballot for proportional representation. David Suzuki points out the importance of reflecting an increased diversity of viewpoints. And Seth Klein discusses why a proportional and cooperative system stands to produce improved policy outcomes.

- Stephen Tweedale argues that the NDP's focus should be on good policy more than populism. And the Notley government's move to ensure that social assistance keeps up with inflation represents a small but useful example.

- David Climenhaga points out how large tar sands operators have booked tens of billions of dollars in profits even while continuously extending demands to governments for still more giveaways and concessions. And while Diego Arguedas Ortiz' observations as to what every person can do about climate change are worth a read, they shouldn't take away from the urgent need to break free from political control by the resource sector.

- Meanwhile, Alex Hern reports on new research showing the gross waste of resources resulting from the "mining" of bitcoin and other alternative currencies.

- Finally, Eric Newcomer discusses the hidden costs of working in the gig economy.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Jovanka Beckles writes that the housing crisis in California - like those elsewhere - needs to be addressed through public investment in social housing rather than giveaways to private developers.

- Sharon Riley discusses Alberta's gigantic problem with unfunded oil production liabilities. But Regan Boychuk and Avi Lewis point out that it's not too late to make sure that the industry actually pays for the environmental damage it's caused - and that the result would be a massive boon for workers otherwise facing the decline of the fossil fuel sector.

- Meanwhile, both Bill McKibben and David Roberts note that massive amounts of oil industry spending served to undercut even modest U.S. state-level ballot measures to rein in pollution, protect the environment and transition toward a sustainable economy. And Julia Belluz writes that only a campaign of pure deception led to a ban on municipal soda taxes in Washington.

- Steven Chase reports on the Libs' refusal to pay any more attention to human rights in decision whether or not to arm dictatorships.

- Finally, Colin Bennett writes that the benefits of proportional representation include its comparative disincentive for political parties to rely on microtargeting and data manipulation.

New column day

Here, on how the U.S. midterms show the political risks of putting corporations over people - and how Saskatchewan citizens should take a hint as to who deserves to be voted out of office.

For further reading...
- Dana Milbank discussed how the Republicans' tax giveaway to the rich was motivated entirely by a desire to secure campaign funding, particularly to hold the House of Representatives. And we can see how well that plan turned out.
- Meanwhile, Rana Foroohar notes that the Democrats' success can be traced in no small part to their increasing willingness to stand up to corporate interests.
- Libby Belson writes that Sam Brownback's willingness to use Kansas as a guinea pig for extreme austerity and trickle-down economics helped elect a Democratic governor in an otherwise red state. Ann North highlights Gretchen Whitmer's winning Michigan campaign based on having the government start ensuring residents have access to basic services. And David Dayen discusses how Scott Walker's giveaway of public money and policymaking to Foxconn led to his downfall.
- Finally, CBC News reports on the Saskatchewan Party government's awareness that its hand-selected bypass conglomerate isn't particularly interested in responding to vehicle access issues. Adam Hunter reports on Ken Cheveldayoff's declaration that the Saskatchewan Party has no problem further commercializing Wascana Park while pretending that corporations are doing people a favour by capturing public spaces. And David Boles contrasts the NDP's call for public spending to be linked to community benefit agreements against the Saskatchewan Party's insistence on putting corporate profits (including toothless imported labour) ahead of the province.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Merran Smith and Dan Woynillowicz comment that the new climate denial involves denying that any solutions are possible. Blake Shaffer points out that the Trudeau Libs' inexplicable decision to favour coal power over other alternatives for the next decade serves to undermine any claim to responsible climate policy. And Jim Bronskill reports on CSIS' continued spying against peaceful pipeline protesters and environmental advocates.

- Damian Carrington reports on new research connecting air pollution from vehicle use to increased childhood obesity. And Alison Griswold discusses the growing movement toward free public transit in European cities - even as our trend has seen transit in any form becoming less accessible.

- The Canadian Press reports on a lawsuit which responds to the retroactive awarding of exemptions for illegally-built fracking dams in British Columbia by seeking to ensure that such gross disregard for the environment and the law won't be rewarded. And Christopher Pollon writes about the aftermath of the Mount Polley tailings pond spill - which has resulted primarily in Imperial Metals receiving additional permits to dump hazardous waste, while failing to be held to account for its damage to Quesnel Lake.

- Victor Fuchs studies the cost factors in the U.S.' health care system, and finds that employment-based coverage leads to higher costs and unequal coverage - a point which applies equally to prescription drugs and other benefits commonly covered through work in Canada.

- Finally, Tom Wall discusses how austerity wages are driving UK health sector workers into poverty. And Kathryn May reports on PIPSC's efforts to better organize professionals working in the gig economy rather than standard employment.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Sheltered cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- The Guardian's editorial board writes that stagnating and even declining life expectancies and nother indications of declining social health are the result of purely political choices:
In 2010 a government-commissioned review looking at the relationship between health and wealth – only the third officially sanctioned attempt to do so in 30 years – came to the conclusion that life expectancy is linked to social standing and so is the time spent in good health. Lower life expectancies in the UK were not those associated with destitution but rather despair and expectation. Poorer people suffer diseases because of bad diets, a lack of exercise, smoking, poor pay and job insecurity. Its message was twofold. First, government intervention was necessary to ensure that people’s freedoms were not bad for their health. Second, the state had a responsibility to assure people’s material security. Tory health secretaries did no more than pay lip service to such ideas. The result has been rising death rates.
...In terms of length of life, the UK lags behind other developed nations. Young people are now less likely to live longer than their parents. Ministers initially blamed the figures on flu deaths. A more plausible explanation is the politics of austerity, which had an excessive impact on the poor, the disabled and the elderly. Local councils cannot pay for home visits, cuts have led to rising levels of homelessness, fuel poverty and food bank visits. It is shocking that 18-year-olds with learning disabilities may well not live long enough to draw their pension.
At the heart of this debate is the government’s refusal to engage with inequality. This is an error borne out of ideology. We know that children from poorer backgrounds are more affected by the rise in childhood obesity. So why allow the number of children living in poverty to breach 5 million by 2022, up from around 4 million at present? It is because a key belief in free-market societies is that they reward the industrious and punish the idle. In this system, individuals must have the freedom to choose – and with that freedom would come responsibility. The market, in this system, would not only improve British society; it would remoralise it. To have faith in such an unfettered model of capitalism is a political choice. When applied to public health, the appalling price appears to be to stall progress in life expectancy.
- Meanwhile, Chris Buckley and Mary Marrone highlight how Doug Ford is going out of his way to make life even more precarious for Ontario workers. Noah Smith comments on the effect of crushing student loan debt on millennials. Paul Davidson reports on a new study showing that nearly two-thirds of U.S. jobs are insufficient to support a middle-class standard of living. And Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson and Ed Crooks discuss yet more evidence that tax giveaways to the rich have done nothing to even indirectly benefit anybody else.

- Andrew Jackson points out that rather than putting an end to Donald Trump's preposterous tariffs on steel and aluminum, the Trudeau Libs have actually handed the U.S. even more ability to control trade with unverifiable claims of "national security".

- Finally, Andrea Huncar reports on the observation of the Office of the Correctional Investigator that Canada's prison system far too frequently uses force as a response to mental health issues.

Monday, November 05, 2018

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Alexi White points out how tall tales about "welfare fraud" have been used as excuse to trap people in poverty. And the Star's editorial board is rightly concerned about a social assistance review from a Ford government which couldn't care less about anybody besides its wealthy donors.

- Meanwhile, Dogwood looks into the big developer money behind the forces trying to fend off electoral reform in British Columbia. And Ben Protess, Robert Gebeloff and Danielle Ivory discuss the Trump administration's choice to forfeit billions of dollars in penalties for corporate wrongdoing as a prime example of what businesses buy with their political donations and influence.

- Bruce Campbell points out that Canada has failed to learn needed lessons from the Lac-M├ęgantic explosion even when it comes to rail safety - to say nothing of the broader problem with corporate self-regulation.

- Alex Ballingall discusses the prospect of a left-wing populist movement in Canada oriented toward empowering people while reducing the control of the corporate elite. And Joshua Zeitz notes that the most progressive policies on offer from the U.S. Democrats represent a return to the party's post-war roots.

- And finally, Doug Cuthand calls out the Saskatchewan Party for going out of its way to damage relationships between Indigenous peoples and the provincial government.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

On strategic implications

One of the most worrisome aspects of first-past-the-post politics is the reality that a party can take what amounts to unaccountable power for an election cycle based on frivolous and/or misleading messages which just barely nudge public opinion against another option around election day. And parties which don't have any interest in the concept of honest government to begin with have been particularly unscrupulous in pushing the envelope.

It shouldn't then be any surprise to see the same dishonest tactic emanating from the billionaire-funded forces trying to avoid electoral reform in British Columbia. But for voters, the referendum should be seen as an opportunity not only to ensure that votes are fairly counted, but also to ensure that political parties have an incentive to prove themselves as trustworthy to voters and competing parties alike - rather than counting their ability to game a system which allows them to gaslight their way to power.

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Gary Younge discusses how regardless of the outcome of the U.S.' midterm elections, democracy is on the defensive against a Republican attack on voting rights. Janet Reitman goes into detail about the consequences of the U.S.' law enforcement system failing to do anything about the dangerous buildup of violent white nationalism. And Tabatha Southey rightly points out the lack of any reason to hand a platform to a demagogue, while also offering some suggestions as to how any debate including Steve Bannon should have gone.

- Meanwhile, Paul Krugman comments that it's impossible to square support for the Republicans with either a clean conscience or any grounding in reality.

- The CCPA's latest Monitor examines the relationship between finance and the citizenry - including Michal Rozworski's piece on the connection between Canada's urban housing crisis and its increasing personal debt. And Al Jazeera interviews Leilani Farha about the global effects of treating housing as a means to accumulate wealth rather than a human right.

- Murray Mandryk writes that whatever plausibility the Saskatchewan Party has tried to claim for its Global Transportation Hub plans is going up on smoke as it appears more and more likely that the only private-sector participants had to be gifted land and services to go along.

- Finally, Michael Mann comments on the connection between climate breakdown and the increasingly extreme weather seen this summer. And David Olive writes that Doug Ford and other climate change denialists and obstructionists are positioning themselves firmly on the wrong side of history.