Saturday, December 29, 2018

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Joe Vipond and Noel Keough highlight the gap between the global impetus to avoid climate breakdown and the narrow self-interest of the Alberta oil industry. Michael Bueckert discusses Jason Kenney's attempt to turn the government apparatus against the exercise of fundamental freedoms through boycotts. And Markham Hislop comments that violent rhetoric from Kenney and his supporters is entirely counterproductive. 

- Meanwhile, Janani Whitfield reports on the damage being done to Saskatchewan municipalities by oil and gas operators skipping their tax payments. Janis Searles Jones and Phillipe Cousteau write about the Taylor Energy oil spill which has been polluting the Gulf of Mexico for over 14 years. And Jennifer Ludden reports on the Trump administration's decision to let coal plants inflict mercury and other toxic emissions on unsuspecting citizens.

- Jennifer Keesmat argues that Canada's cities need to be designed for people rather than cars - particularly in light of the death toll piling up as vehicle traffic has been prioritized over pedestrian safety.

- Doug Cuthand writes on the potentially wide-ranging effects of a recent Ontario court decision finding that Canada's treaty obligations should be interpreted to recognize shared ownership and account for modern developments.

- Finally, Taylor Owen opines that after a year of even more outrages than usual, it's time for governments to meaningfully regulate the online platforms which currently exercise massive and unchecked power.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Musical interlude

Matthew Good - Bad Guys Win

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Matt McGrath and Dahr Jamail each point out some of the most important immediate effects of climate change. And Kate Marvel discusses the challenge we face in trying to avoid more severe breakdown in the longer term:
You may have heard that we have 12 years to fix everything. This is well-meaning nonsense, but it’s still nonsense. We have both no time and more time. Climate change isn’t a cliff we fall off, but a slope we slide down. And, true, we’ve chosen to throw ourselves headlong down the hill at breakneck speed. But we can always choose to begin the long, slow, brutal climb back up. If we must argue about what the view will be like when we get there, let’s at least agree to turn around first.

It’s true that we’re not going to get utopia. The planet has already warmed by one degree Celsius. Most of the coral reefs are going to die, and many of the glaciers will melt. Climate change is here, leaving grubby human fingerprints on parched, burned, flooded and melted landscapes. But we don’t have to settle for dystopia. It’s going to be worse, but it doesn’t have to be bleak. We can have a “topia,” an ordinary future where we go about ordinary lives in cities on stilts, missing what we’ve lost but looking forward to better things. There is light in the future that doesn’t come from burning.
- Meanwhile, the Mound of Sound is rightly concerned that international trade agreements will be interpreted as preventing governments from doing what's needed to salvage a liveable climate.

- Claire Cain Miller examines the cost of parenting - and the increasing inequality in how much money is available to be spent on children. And Alex Matthews-King discusses how economic factors can affect a child's brain development for life.

- Finally, Owen Jones writes about the value of the UK's council housing - and points out that MPs who live in communities with a range of incomes and life situations are far better positioned to engage with a full range of constituent concerns than those who isolate themselves in wealthy enclaves.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

New column day

Here, on the need for progressive leaders to treat consultation processes as a path to goals worth achieving rather than an excuse not to pursue them - particular in the face of right-wing politicians determined to reverse progress at the first opportunity.

For further reading...
- Ian Bailey notes that Quebec and Prince Edward Island represent the next hopes for electoral reform in Canada after the failure of British Columbia's referendum. And Crawford Kilian raises the possibility that a party merger may be the best short-term option in B.C. now that electoral reform has failed - though that would of course only worsen the problem with a limited range of choices.
- Katy Balls discusses how the UK's Brexit referendum may have turned some voters off for life (while also causing massive damage to the citizenry).
- The Globe and Mail has been tracking the massive damage being inflicted by Ontario based on Doug Ford's belief that having won power without a platform, he's entitled to radically alter policies without any regard for anybody but his cronies and donors. And Emma Graney reports on Jason Kenney's choice to pretend Alberta's next election is a formality - and to impose as much shock treatment as he can on the province if proven correct.
- Finally, Harry Cheadle writes about the Republicans' use of lame-duck sessions to undermine democracy where their opponents might otherwise be able to make use of popular mandates for change. And Ari Berman discusses how in addition to undermining specific elected officials, Republicans are also eliminating the availability of referendum processes after deciding they were being used too effectively to pass progressive policies.

Thursday Evening Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Howard Mann discusses the World Bank's new model for public-private partnerships which deliberately avoids placing any real risk with the profiteers who participate only to make money off of necessary infrastructure.

- The New York Times takes an in-depth look at the environmental damage being wrought by the Trump administration. And Jeffrey Kucik comments on the glaring lack of any meaningful environmental standards in international trade agreements.

- Hina Alam discusses the rapid deterioration of Western Canadian glaciers as yet another obvious effect of climate breakdown. And Monica Wilson notes that the crucial solution to plastic accumulation is to avoid creating waste at all.

- Ben Beckett examines some of the key fights faced by the labour movement in 2018 - and argues that the unions prepared to fight have been able to achieve some important gains.

- Finally, Michael Spence comments on the connection between policies aimed at further enriching elites, and the spread of both economic weakness and social unrest.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Wednesday Morning Links

Assorted content for your Wednesday reading.

- Matt Bruenig discusses the many opportunities available to expand the reach of public ownership in the U.S.:
The state can very competently own retail and manufacturing companies by simply buying up their stock and acting like an institutional investor. For instance, a social wealth fund created by the federal government could gradually buy up stock in Amazon and Walmart to get into retail and buy up stock in US Steel and General Motors to get into manufacturing. The latter is not even a hypothetical because the government did recently buy up almost all of the GM stock during the financial crisis, though it subsequently sold off its stake.

The genius of modern finance has been to create corporate ownership arrangements that allow basically anyone, including the government, to own shares of any company in any sector while being as involved (or uninvolved) as they want to be in steering the company. A federal social wealth fund, like the one I advocate, should be able to take advantage of modern shareholding institutions to expand public ownership into every aspect of the US economy.
- The Globe and Mail's editorial board offers a reminder of the need for multi-generational thinking - not in the sense of the Cons' spin about deficits and debts, but in the sense of using our collective power to build a healthy society and sustainable economy. And Matthew Taylor reports on UK Labour's plans to transition to a clean energy economy, while Liliana Camacho calls for a similar green jobs strategy in Ontario.

- Davide Castro comments on the folly of austerity - and the narrowly-defined self-interest of a few wealthy individuals which keeps it in the policy mix despite its obvious flaws. And James Brokenshire reports on the growing recognition even among UK Cons that homelessness and other avoidable problems are the result of anti-social policies - though that's not stopping them from continuing their gratuitous cuts to public services.

- Finally, Daniel Tencer points out how wage stagnation and soaring real estate prices have made it impossible for younger workers to own homes in many Canadian cities.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Monday Afternoon Links

Miscellaneous material for your Monday reading.

- Gerard Di Trolio discusses the need for an active labour movement to respond to the contempt for collective action shared by the Libs and the Cons. And Nicole Goodkind reports on the Trump administration's plan to deprive workers of billions in wages by opening up new loopholes for joint employers.

- Andrew Jackson debunks the efforts of right-wing propaganda mills to try to provoke tax revolts at a time when the more serious issue is a lack of revenue to address obvious social needs.

- Michele Biss points out that the Libs' new measure of poverty falls short of recognizing the importance of needs such as child care and prescription drugs in defining an acceptable standard of living. And Jordan Press reports that the Libs disregarded their own expert report on poverty by refusing to recognize freedom from poverty as a fundamental right.

- Meanwhile, Claire Kelloway writes about the U.S.' growing reliance on dollar stores as source of (unhealthy) food as a source of ill health and inequality.

- Finally, Dan Gardner highlights how the need for universal action against a slow climate breakdown runs into our instincts to perceive threats only in the shorter term. But James Temple writes that the experience of climate-related natural disasters is beginning to bring the reality home to people who may not have fully appreciated the danger.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Jeffrey Sachs writes that the fight against climate breakdown demands a concerted solution to global problem - rather than political wrangling over whether anybody will accept any responsibility for desperately-needed change. And Adam Tooze points out the foreseeable political threats posed by rising sea levels.

- James Wilt notes that a carbon tax at the levels on offer in Canada will fall far short of making a meaningful dent in our obligations - and argues that a relatively narrow issue placed front and centre for the political benefit of both the Cons and Libs is keeping us from having a necessary discussion about how to accomplish far more. And Harry Zehner writes about the problems with a neoliberal response to climate change:
In practice, neoliberalism favors the wealthy over the working class, the entrenched powers over social mobility and the individual over the collective good. It takes the training wheels off of global capitalism through deregulation and tax cuts, giving corporate powers free reign to raze the environment in the name of their bottom line. It chips away at the power of unions, collective action and the idea of social welfare, preferring to let a rigged market decide who prospers.
Neoliberalism doesn’t believe in systemic inequality. Instead, it tells those stuck in generational poverty that if only they worked harder and acted smarter, they would be rewarded by the free market’s unbiased invisible hand. The neoliberal ethos tells us climate change is a result of our personal habits, of our commute to work, of our diet, of our heating bill, while a handful of companies responsible for the vast majority of emissions get tax cuts and subsidies. Since its mainstream introduction by Thatcher and Reagan, neoliberal ideals have led to worsening wealth inequality, stagnant wages and a dwindling middle class.
It is this thinking that informs policies like Macron’s fuel tax.
The incentive-based logic behind the tax, that a high fuel price will lead people to switch to more efficient means of transportation, is faulty. Fossil fuel dependence is more than a personal choice, despite what the free-market enthusiasts would like you to believe. A working woman or man from France or the United States or Nigeria or Vietnam can’t respond to the brute force of a fuel tax if there’s no feasible alternative for them to turn to. Fossil fuel addiction exists on a structural level, not an individual one. 
By attempting to implement a surface level solution to a deeply ingrained problem, Macron handed the Right a talking point on a silver platter. His botched tax has likely set substantive climate action back years. At the same time, it has provided much needed clarity. There is only one path forward: governments must intervene to ensure affordable, ecologically friendly alternatives. Placing the burden of environmental healing on the working class isn’t just unfair; it’s impractical.
- Meanwhile, Mia Rabson reports on the Libs' claim that a move toward more efficient transportation may bridge the massive gap between the emission reductions they've promised and the policies they've offered.

- Karl Nerenberg points out how the Libs are alienating workers across the country even as they offer far more public resources to the oil sector than to other, cleaner forms of development.

- Nisha Kansal and Arnav Agarwal discuss the importance of health care as a human right, including for migrants who are currently excluded from the Canadian health care system.

- Finally, Lana Payne offers a few inspirational stories of activism to celebrate over the holidays and take as examples in the new year.