Saturday, March 23, 2019

On wilful blindness

One of the questions faced by the participants in any party leadership contest is the appropriate type of oppositional politics that's appropriate between candidates and their supporters. And there's certainly some reasonable incentive on the part of everybody involved to ensure that internal competitions don't become unduly personal such as to cause long-term rifts.

But there's also a severe danger where a candidate is able to win a leadership campaign without addressing what should be seen as potentially disqualifying issues. And indeed, where a party collectively agrees to look the other way in the face of serious problems rather than meaningfully evaluating for itself whether a prospective leader has an even remotely reasonable explanation for past wrongs, it can hardly be surprised if the general public comes to question both the leader and his sycophants when it gets the chance.

Jason Kenney and the UCP are in the midst of learning that lesson the hard way.

And as Saskatchewan's voters become aware of the serious issues which were mentioned barely if at all in the course of the Saskatchewan Party's leadership campaign, Scott Moe and his party may not be far behind.

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Alastair Sharp reports on the massive sums of money spent by oil barons in an attempt to undermine climate action. And Kyla Mandel reports on the Trump administration's willingness to allow the oil industry to threaten drinking water by failing to update decades-old lists of toxic chemicals to account for new scientific knowledge.

- Meanwhile, in case there was any doubt as to whether anybody can escape the consequences when science deniers get to set the public policy agenda, David Hasemyer points out how extreme floods have breached a U.S. Air Force base and destroyed equipment which wasn't protected against the effects of climate change.

- Timothy Wilson reports on political interference by Liberal MP Andrew Leslie to stop an investigation into corporate non-disclosure contrary to OECD guidelines. And the Globe and Mail's editorial board rightly observes that the Libs can't expect their SNC Lavalin scandal to do anything but hang over their heads until they allow for the truth to be told, while Murray Rankin makes the case for a public inquiry.

- The Current interviews Barbara Perry about Canada's glaring failure to take right-wing threats seriously in its terrorism watchlist. And Alleen Brown exposes how the U.S. has taken direction from the oil sector in cracking down on environmental activism while letting the menace of fascist grow unabated.

- Finally, James Keller writes about the continued effect of the "kamikaze candidate" scandal in forcing Alberta voters to distrust Jason Kenney. And PressProgress highlights some of Kenney's previous public statements which have proven to have been false.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Musical interlude

Gareth Emery feat. Gavrielle - Far From Home (Craig Connelly Remix)

New column day

Here, on how the federal Liberals and provincial Saskatchewan Party are both unduly concerned with optics around "balance" rather than budgeting for the good of their constituents.

For further reading...
- Pamela Palmater writes that the Libs' budget continues to neglect Indigenous women and children. Katherine Scott points out the absence of child care funding in the federal budget (which is even more glaring in light of cuts from Saskatchewan's already-meager resources). Paul Willcocks notes that one of the Libs' new spending items will result in lower-income renters subsidizing people who can afford to buy a house. And Joel Lexchin notes that when it comes to pharmacare, the Libs are doing nothing by eights which can be done by sixteenths instead.
- Meanwhile, CBC examines the Saskatchewan Party's tenuous claim to balance in any form. But more importantly, NUPGE recognizes that any nominal fiscal balance is based solely on Scott Moe imposing unacceptable burdens on the public service and the people who rely on social supports.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Linda Givetash discusses how the consequences of climate breakdown include impending water shortages in the UK. But rather than recognizing and acting on that danger, Theresa May's Conservatives are looking at Brexit as an excuse to do even less to protect the environment.

- Meanwhile, Grace Blakely highlights how the UK's outsourcing of public services has led to the usual pattern of corporate profits, bailouts and declining working conditions and social supports. And Tria Donaldson discusses how Saskatchewan is suffering as a result of a decade of Sask Party austerity.

- Noah Smith comments on the economic costs (in addition to the well-known social harm) caused by an opioid crisis which has been met with a grossly insufficient policy response.

- Nora Loreto wonders whether the Christchurch massacre - and the role Canadian extremists played in laying the groundwork for it - might represent a tipping point in ensuring a needed crackdown on hate speech and violence. And Jim Waterson reports on Neil Basu's comments about the UK media's responsibility for radicalizing the far right.

- Finally, Rob Larson argues that we shouldn't accept the corporatist argument that freedom should be equated with unfettered greed, rather than the security for all types of people to be able to make choices.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Wednesday Evening Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Mark Olalde writes about the public subsidies being handed to U.S. resource companies who polluted water with toxic waste without having any plan or resources to clean up their messes. And Michael Mann and Bob Ward note that Donald Trump is using Stalinist tactics to try to protect polluters from facing regulation in the public interest. 

- Meanwhile, Tanya Lewis discusses the increasing harm climate breakdown is causing to human health around the globe. And Jennifer Francis reports on Don Kossick's first-hand experience as to how the destruction of climate change causes disproportionate damage to the countries least equipped to respond.

- CBC News reports on the view Canadians share with our counterparts around the world favouring increased taxes on the wealthy to fund improved social programs. And David Macdonald discusses how the Libs' budget falls far short of anything more than symbolism and half-measures.

- Matt Gurney writes that the Trudeau Libs seem bent on inflaming the SNC Lavalin scandal even more than they already have. And today's news that their spin about jobs was entirely fabricated surely can't help matters.

- Finally, the Edmonton Journal writes that Jason Kenney shouldn't be allowed to move the goal posts of acceptable political conduct by manipulating any system that could possibly affect his claimed entitlement to power. And Keith Gerein discusses the gross lack of ethics and integrity he's shown on the Alberta scene alone.

Progress delayed

It was roughly two years ago - in the 2017 budget - when the federal government announced changes to the parental leave available through Employment Insurance. Instead of being limited to 12 months of benefits, parents could elect to receive the same total benefit amount over a period of 18 months.

Leaving aside the modest nature of that change in federal policy, though, it's worth taking a close look at the Saskatchewan Party's response - especially compared to that of other provincial governments.

The changes first announced in early 2017 took effect at the federal level in December of that year. And some provinces acted quickly to make sure that their constituents had access to leave in order to make use of the new benefit structure.

Under Scott Moe, the Saskatchewan Party has chosen to do just the opposite.

Moe waited until multiple provinces had actually enacted changes to their leave periods before so much as suggesting that he'd follow the federal benefit structure as a matter of course. The Saskatchewan Party then waited until last November to introduce a bill (Bill 153) - and the legislation needed to ensure the availability of an extended parental leave period remains stuck (PDF) at second reading by choice.

But if the Moe government is holding off as long as possible in actually providing any increased leave period, it's finding other uses for the change in federal policy.

Most notably, the Saskatchewan Party is engaged in data mining off a petition seeking declarations of support for the very policy it's delaying (while also setting up a default option for anybody who signs to receive Sask Party spam in perpetuity). And if new parents have needlessly been deprived of otherwise-accessible benefit options for over a year because Moe prefers to drag his heels for political gain...well, that doesn't seem to be of any concern for him.

To sum up, the path of Saskatchewan's parental leave policy highlights the reality that the Saskatchewan Party stands out as gratuitously delaying progress compared to its provincial counterparts, even as it falsely pretends to champion the policy it's actually obstructing. And it's worth keeping that gap between spin and reality in mind as Moe unveils today's budget.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Blanketed cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Ahmed Sati offers some important - if belated - recognition of the need to fight against exclusionary bigotry. Jessica Davis focuses on the particular urgency in addressing right-wing terrorism. Thomas Woodley comments on the importance of having our political leaders do their job in repudiating Islamophobia - though Scott Moe for one plainly isn't up to the task. And Branko Marcetic argues that we can defeat hatred with strong public resistance.

- Rebecca Solnit points out why white supremacists' hostility toward anybody other than themselves results in contempt for our planet as well as for most of its inhabitants.

- But there's reason for optimism that nihilism isn't winning out even in the U.S., Robinson Meyer reports on a jump in public concern about climate change along with political steps to combat it. And Warren Bell notes that a younger generation is responding to ongoing delays by pushing for more responsible decisions than we've seen to date. 

- Meanwhile, Leigh Thomas also reports on broad support across OECD countries for increased taxes on the wealthy. Canadians for Tax Fairness offers its list of loopholes which should be closed in the federal budget. And Amy Bemeikis reports on a widespread call for Australia to focus on improving wages as it approaches a general election.

- Finally, Micah Uetrecht discusses how today's precarious job market can be traced back to a historical strategy to diminish the value of women's work. And Katherine Scott offers some suggestions as to what could be included in the federal budget to start closing the persistent gender gap - including child care and progressive tax reform as crucial elements.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Robert Reich writes about the laughable spin that the Trump Republicans' giveaways to the privileged and elimination of supports for the vast majority of people result in anything approaching a meritocracy:
The monstrous concentration of wealth in America has not only created an education system in which the rich can effectively buy college admission for their children. It has distorted much else.

It has created a justice system in which the rich can buy their way out of prison. (Exhibit A: money manager Jeffrey Epstein, who sexually abused dozens of underage girls, yet served just thirteen months in a private wing of a Palm Beach county jail.)

It has spawned a political system in which the rich can buy their way into Congress (Exhibit B: Reps. Darreill Issa and Greg Gianforte) and even into the presidency. (Donald Trump, perhaps Starbuck’s Howard Schultz).

And a health care system in which the super-rich can buy care unavailable to others (concierge medicine).

Meritocracy remains a deeply held ideal in America. But (the) nation is drifting ever-farther away from it. In the age of Trump, it seems, everything is for sale.
- Paul Krugman offers a reminder that the growing gap between the rich and the rest of us is the result of policy choices rather than inevitable trends. And James Meadway discusses the need to develop a new, broader movement in support of egalitarian economics.

- Meanwhile, the Alberta Federation of Labour highlights how Jason Kenney is determined to make matters worse.

- Bee Wilson writes about the drastic changes in our food production and consumption patterns over a period of just a couple of decades. And Cam Goff is rightly concerned that the Libs want to tilt Canada's plant breeding system toward rent-seeking and exclusion rather than collaborative evolution.

- Finally, Branko Marcetic points out that corporatism and anti-regulatory zealotry are behind the deaths in two Boeing 737 Max 8s (along with countless other avoidable tragedies).