Saturday, April 13, 2019

Deep thought

Sure, on the surface one might expect refugee claimants to be displeased to be deported and subsequently killed based on Justin Trudeau's decision to outsource their assessments to the Trump regime. But won't they feel better for having received an empty reassurance they were welcome in the meantime?

(See also: Andrew Coyne and Martin Patriquin.)

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Alex Hemingway points out that British Columbia has a long way to go in raising readily-available revenue in order to provide even the essentials of life for its residents. And Toby Sanger examines the foreseeable distribution of Jason Kenney's tax slashing scheme - with the wealthy few (including foreign investors) predictably walking away with a windfall, while most people end up significantly worse off.

- Meanwhile, Andrew Nikiforuk argues that Alberta voters need to make their decisions based on realities rather than wishful thinking about the future of fossil fuels. And Kim Conway writes that current oil sector workers know better than to buy Kenney's line of spin.

- Arthur White-Cummey reports on the dozens of Saskatchewan schools which are being forced to operate over capacity due to the Moe government's refusal to provide adequate funding. And Stephanie Taylor reports on the Saskatchewan NDP's push to protect GSAs from meddling social conservatives.

- Sarah Ghabrial and Sheetal Rawal discuss the reality of Trudeauvian Liberalism which allows for diverse representation in theory only so long a single privileged white male remains entitled to dictate terms to everybody. And Karl Nerenberg examines the pitiful set of default options between Trudeau's fecklessness and Andrew Scheer's frightfulness. 

- Finally, Paul Willcocks offers five reasons to worry about the RCMP's secret monitoring of social media.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Musical interlude

Metric - Dark Saturday

Friday Morning Links

Assorted material to end your week.

- Nick Falvo writes that artificially low taxes at the expense of Saskatchewan's well-being are nothing to brag about:
(T)axes can help finance important social spending, such as poverty in First Nations’ communities, affordable housing and child care. The province’s on-reserve rate of child poverty is nearly 70 per cent, second highest in the country after Manitoba.
Second, taxes share the wealth, making a province more equitable. Increasing personal income tax rates can be especially effective at reducing income inequality. Yet, Saskatchewan’s top marginal tax rate is the lowest among all Canadian provinces, meaning its personal income taxes are the least effective in Canada at redistributing income.

Third, taxes can discourage undesirable behaviour, such as excessive consumption of energy, alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking. France tripled cigarette prices by raising taxes every year between 1990 and 2005. During this time, cigarette consumption in that country was cut in half.
Finally, taxes can reduce public debt. Saskatchewan’s public debt-to-GDP ratio currently sits at 25.8 per cent and is expected to hit 27.6 per cent by 2023.

And where do Saskatchewan taxes as a whole currently stand in comparison with other provinces? A recent report found Saskatchewan to have Canada’s lowest tax rate as a percentage of GDP, at just 27.1 per cent. Meanwhile, Quebec’s stood at 37.3 per cent. And therein lies thick irony: Premier Moe attributes Quebec’s more generous social programs to equalization, rather than to higher tax rates.

This should all make us all pause for thought. Do we want to pay low taxes if it means more poverty in First Nations’ communities, more homelessness and insufficient child care? For most residents of Saskatchewan, I think the answer is no.
- Murtada Haizer and Steven Moranis write that public investment in social housing produces substantial social and economic returns beyond the initial sticker price. And Chris Arsenault points out the need to update our infrastructure to account for climate change. 

- Karl Nerenberg calls out Justin Trudeau for his choice to legitimize the Cons' anti-refugee messaging. And Robyn Urback points out the lack of any factual basis to treat the number of asylum claimants in Canada as a problem at all.

- Finally, Erica Johnson and Ensa Uda expose the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada's willingness to let banks rewrite a report into their own exploitation of consumers. Jen St. Denis reports on the lack of any RCMP resources being used to investigate money laundering in British Columbia. And the Canadian Press reports on the Libs' continued delays in establishing even a toothless ombudsperson to review the actions of Canadian corporations abroad.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Donald Gutstein examines the crucial difference between advancing toward a zero-carbon economy, and incentivizing further fossil fuel development through misleading terms such as "low-emission". And Arthur White-Crummey reports on Nic Rivers' response to the Saskatchewan Party's attempt to self-assess climate policy while avoiding any recognition of the province's emissions which contribute to a global climate breakdown.

- Meanwhile, Bob Weber points out the reality that the high oil prices relied on for past booms are almost certainly a thing of the past.

- Duncan Cameron highlights how Jason Kenney is relying on an authoritarian playbook in his quest for power in Alberta. PressProgress reports on a new analysis showing the widespread use of bots to influence the election in Kenney's favour. CBC reports on the voting fraud used to place Kenney in his current position as UPC leader. And David Climenhaga wonders how a party seemingly swimming in money and resources could have failed as badly as the UPC has in reviewing and vetting candidates.

- Finally, Erika Shaker discusses the importance of strength in numbers to challenge Doug Ford's attacks on education, while David Bush examines the role of the labour movement in fighting back against Ford. And Jon Henley reports on the success of Operation Libero in countering right-wing populism in Switzerland.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- George Monbiot contrasts the message of neoliberalism as freedom against the reality that it imposes severe corporate control on anybody short of the billionaire class:
(N)eoliberal theology, as well as seeking to roll back the state, insists that collective bargaining and other forms of worker power be eliminated (in the name of freedom, of course). So the marketisation and semi-privatisation of public services became not so much a means of pursuing efficiency as an instrument of control. Public-service workers are now subjected to a panoptical regime of monitoring and assessment, using the benchmarks von Mises rightly warned were inapplicable and absurd. The bureaucratic quantification of public administration goes far beyond an attempt at discerning efficacy. It has become an end in itself.

Its perversities afflict all public services. Schools teach to the test, depriving children of a rounded and useful education. Hospitals manipulate waiting times, shuffling patients from one list to another. Police forces ignore some crimes, reclassify others, and persuade suspects to admit to extra offences to improve their statistics. Universities urge their researchers to write quick and superficial papers, instead of deep monographs, to maximise their scores under the research excellence framework.
New extremes in the surveillance and control of workers are not, of course, confined to the public sector. Amazon has patented a wristband that can track workers’ movements and detect the slightest deviation from protocol. Technologies are used to monitor peoples’ keystrokes, language, moods and tone of voice. Some companies have begun to experiment with the micro-chipping of their staff. As the philosopher Byung-Chul Han points out, neoliberal work practices, epitomised by the gig economy, that reclassifies workers as independent contractors, internalise exploitation. “Everyone is a self-exploiting worker in their own enterprise.”

The freedom we were promised turns out to be freedom for capital, gained at the expense of human liberty. The system neoliberalism has created is a bureaucracy that tends towards absolutism, produced in the public services by managers mimicking corporate executives, imposing inappropriate and self-defeating efficiency measures, and in the private sector by subjection to faceless technologies that can brook no argument or complaint.
- Meanwhile, Kate Aronoff points out that a Green New Deal would enhance general well-being and foster genuine freedom while also protecting our planet.

- Damian Carrington points out that whatever choices we make, future generations will need to make do with far smaller carbon footprints than we've come to expect.  And Daphne Bramham highlights the influence millennial voters can have on this fall's federal election if they elect to participate.

- Nora Loreto calls out the Trudeau Libs for a federal budget whose treatment of refugees - including dismissing their claims in bulk, and playing up claims of nonexistent security risks. And Teresa Wright reports on the resulting outrage on the part of refugees and their advocates.

- Finally, Sally Bakewell and Lisa Lee report on the increasing level of risk being taken in the funding of corporate debt. And Richard Shillington studies how tax-free savings accounts have predictably favoured the wealthy over the lower-income people they were supposed to assist - with higher-income people taking advantage to a greater extent even as a percentage of income.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Clothed cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Simon Enoch examines Scott Moe's bait-and-switch when it comes to carbon taxes, including his utter refusal to offer any other plan for province-wide emission reductions as a substitute for consumer-based carbon pricing. And Aaron Wherry points out how any carbon tax falls far short of the actual social cost of carbon. 

- Alissa Quart offers a reminder that the perceived necessity of second jobs and side gigs is a sign of a broken economic system which makes unfair demands of workers. And the Economist charts the pessimism many Americans have about the course of the next few decades when it comes to their standard of living, their health and their environment.

- Fay Faraday argues that Canada needs to stop exploiting migrant workers. But Bill Curry writes that the Libs are instead following the Trump/Scheer plan to strip rights and protections away from immigrants, including by slipping a blanket denial of refugee claims into an omnibus budget bill.

- Finally, Geoff Dembicki discusses Jason Kenney's choice to make his UCP into a breeding ground for bigotry. And Hugh MacKenzie studies the effect of the UCP's platform (or Kenney's even more austerian promises), concluding that its anti-social cuts would lead to the loss of tens of thousands of jobs.

Monday, April 08, 2019

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Robert Reich offers a reminder that the Trump administration is just the most glaring example of the utter breakdown of any pretense of meritocracy in the U.S.

- Daniel Zamora interviews Niklas Olsen about the dangers of replacing the idea of government representing the outcome of communal decision-making with a series of consumer-style brand choices.

- Carla Santos Kandier writes that it's unrealistic to expect a climate crisis to be averted by the version of a market system that's biased heavily in favour of polluting industries. And Seema Syeda discusses the importance of the movement to get financial institutions to stop funding the destruction of a habitable climate.

- Duncan Kinney discusses how Jason Kenney's exclusionary social conservatism is far out of touch with most Alberta voters. And Jen Gerson notes that even small-c conservatives are understandably concerned about the UCP's questionable ethics and bizarre moral crusades.

- Finally, Andrew Coyne writes that the most important concern arising from the Libs' SNC-Lavalin scandal is their attempt to normalize political meddling in all types of independent decision-making. Tom Parkin argues that it will be impossible to see our constitutional order as safe without a complete about-face from Justin Trudeau - including genuine contrition under circumstances where's he's treated it first as a strategic possibility to be focus group tested, then something that's entirely beneath him. And the Ottawa Citizen's editorial board points out how the entire remaining Lib caucus opted for a cover-up, rather than maintaining any interest in discovering the truth behind a serious issue.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Ryan Meili writes about the need for leaders to listen to bona fide activists regardless of their cause - while drawing an important distinction where events are staged based on hate and/or misinformation.

- Jack Knox recognizes that the work of averting a global climate breakdown requires good faith action by all parties, not the oil-and-gaslighting we've become accustomed to from Andrew Scheer, Scott Moe, Jason Kenney and so many others.

- Ben Parfitt writes that the SNC-Lavalin scandal reveals the expectation by large corporations that their wrongdoing will be swept under the rug. And Charlie Smith points out how Justin Trudeau's typical Lib slipperiness is rightly viewed with skepticism by voters.

- Larry Elliott reports on the UK Cons' deliberate increases in poverty and inequality by stealth, as money cut from social benefits was handed to higher-income individuals in the form of tax goodies rather than being used for its stated purpose of reducing a deficit.

- Finally, Jane Cordy and Raymonde Gagne write about the urgent need to invest in reducing the harm caused by opioid addiction.