Saturday, May 18, 2019

On cult leadership

Andrew Scheer's scheming with oil lobbyists in advance of this fall's federal election has received at least some attention. But it's worth pointing out just how drastic a step Scheer has taken in aligning himself with a shadowy group trying to push dirty energy sources as "miracles" rather than commercial substances.

By way of background, I'll suggest that for the most part, the public face of oil industry lobbying has involved appeals (even if often inaccurate ones) to what might at least be considered rational instincts.

To be clear, it's long been tiring to hear the constant drumbeat equating Exxon's profits with jobs and economic development - particularly when any reference to real-world evidence has found a tenuous connection between the two in the short term and divergence in interests in the long term. But at least that type of message recognizes that any attempt to justify government action facilitating the development of the oil sector depends on the acknowledgment of other, higher-ranking values - and implicitly allows for the possibility that those values may be better advanced through other means.

And even the most prominent attempt to introduce a values debate to discussion of Canada's oil sector was one which (however falsely) tried to distinguish oil production by location, not to sanctify the concept of fossil fuel production itself.

But now, an increasing proportion of the electorate recognizes the need to speed up the transition away from fossil fuels which all parties including the federal Conservatives once accepted. And it's also becoming obvious that there's no business case for fossil fuel development without accepting the utter destruction of our living environment.

In other words, the conflict between human interests and fossil fuel profits is one which can no longer be hand-waved away. 

And so we're now seeing the emergence of rhetoric turning the worship of dirty energy into a new religion - with Scheer joining Jason Kenney and Scott Moe as the highest-ranking and most prominent messengers in the effort to convert the public to the cause of valuing oil production above any human interest.

The obvious results of the campaign even in its infancy include the eager adoption of the religious language by right-wing commentators - in some cases coupled with an attempt to set up false sectarian wars.

They include Kenney's plan for a "war room" intended to ensure that any mere people who try to speak up for our planet get shouted down by publicly-funded propagandists.

And they've also included attempts to brand as heretics and public enemies well-respected journalists, scientists and public servants.

Of course, as noted toward the end of Liam Denning's report here, the fossil fuel industry itself has used the wording of religious doctrine to distinguish between in-groups and out-groups for decades.

But it's a new development for mainstream politicians to be openly using their positions of power to serve as missionaries for a death cult. And we should use any politician's willing association with the attempt to build a religion around oil - whether in collaborating directly, mirroring messages, or uncritically accepting policy goals - as a litmus test indicating a gross lack of fitness for office.

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Stewart Elgie and Nathalie Chalifour write about the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal's recognition of the importance of action on our climate crisis. Alexis Wright comments on the need for global action to address the common global problem of impending climate breakdown. Brian Eckhouse points out how China is making a massive investment in electric buses. Rob Nikolewski reports on a first federal push toward zero-emission vehicles in the U.S., while Liam Denning points out the important effect of more ambitious state-level initiatives (particularly in California) on the viability of dirty fuel producers. And Zoya Teirstein points out the carbon emissions spewed out by the plastics industry.

- Percy Downe discusses Canada's absolute failure to crack down on offshore tax evasion, both in terms of recovering money and in charging individual scofflaws. And Public Interest Alberta highlights how Jason Kenney plans to collect even less than that province's already-insufficient amount of revenue from wealthy corporations and individuals.

- Christina Howorun reports on the $16 billion maintenance backlog facing Ontario schools who are seeing their funding attacked further in the name of corporate tax handouts. And Creeden Martell reports on Saskatchewan's emergency room wait times - which are only getting worse contrary to the Saskatchewan Party's long-lost promise to address them.

- Finally, CBC News notes that British Columbia's property speculation tax has worked out exactly as planned, recovering substantial revenue from non-residents who can easily afford it while avoiding any effect on 99 per cent of residents beyond the need to file a form.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Friday Evening Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- PressProgress digs into Statistics Canada's findings about precarious work in Canada, highlighting the connection between temporary work and subpar pay and working conditions:
According to a report by Statistics Canada, published Tuesday, the percentage of Canadian workers hired on temporary contracts increased from 11.8% in 1998 to 13% in 2018 — faster than the growth of permanent jobs over the last 20 years.

Those temporary jobs typically offer lower wages, fewer benefits and lower rates of unionization. Last year, the report notes, temporary employees earned on average $21.80 per hour, while permanent employees earned $27.71 per hour.
Data by Statistics Canada indicate that since the federal Liberals took office in 2015, the percentage of temporary workers remained between 13.3% and 13.7%. 

But this national trend hasn’t irked the federal government. Back in 2016, Liberal finance minister Bill Morneau said Canadian workers “have to accept” short-term and precarious employment.

However, as McQuarrie wrote in the Globe and Mail: “It’s a mistake to treat this as a norm we have to accept.”
- Karl Nerenberg points out how billions of dollars dumped into the criminal justice system would be far better spent improving the social conditions which actually cause crime. And Richard Florida discusses new research showing how children are far less healthy if they face lengthy commutes to school.

- Bill McKibben notes that we've wasted any time we had to spare in averting a climate breakdown, and need to start electing leaders committed to immediately dealing with the carbon crisis. Devon Rowcliffe writes about the need for Jagmeet Singh to become the top choice for voters looking for a just transition to a clean energy economy - including by challenging fossil fuel subsidies at the provincial level. And Eliza Barclay and Jag Bhalla offer responses to just a dozen of the most common (and painful) excuses to delay climate action.

- Meanwhile, Jason Warick reports on a study showing the Saskatchewan Party's pitiful record on environmental conservation. John Paul Tasker notes that Andrew Scheer's idea of energy policy is to force through pipelines that even the oil industry doesn't want. And Clare Hennig reports on a Senate committee's decision to ignore the votes of elected officials to try to push oil shipments along the B.C. coast.

- Finally, Adaner Usmani discusses how class struggle is necessary for the preservation of democracy. And Ezra Klein points out the increasing recognition among U.S. Democrats that counterweights to corporate power are essential to both political success and good governance.

Musical interlude

Jeremy Vancaulart feat. Danyka Nadeau - Hurt

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- The Guardian offers a few expert perspectives on how to fix the U.S.' broken economic system. And Hassan Yussuff writes that the centennial of the Winnipeg General Strike should remind us of the importance and power of mass political action.

- Randy Robinson challenges Doug Ford's multiple forms of austerity by pointing out Ontario's fiscal picture already involves a small public sector funded by insufficient revenues. And Martin Regg Cohn's revelations about plans for even more devastating cuts highlight how Ford's inclination is to do even more damage than he's inflicted already.

- Meanwhile, Cillian O'Brien reports on Oxfam's renewed push for a universal child care system which would lead to massive returns on public investments.

- Chris Hall writes that Canadians are recognizing the value of properly taxing the online services that have turned tech giants into some of the world's most powerful corporations.

- Finally, Marie-Danielle Smith reports on the Libs' failure to fund the Auditor General's office to allow it to carry out planned reviews. And Murray Mandryk rightly criticizes the Sask Party's decision to set aside any interest in facts as opposed to talking points.

New column day

Here, following up on these posts as to how the federal NDP is leading the way in setting policy in line with the realities of an impending climate breakdown.

For further reading...
- Mia Rabson reported on the NDP's push to halve Canada's greenhouse gas emissions in the next decade, including by ending the subsidies which would otherwise lock us into continued pollution.
- Geoff Dembicki discusses how the Libs' climate policies would leave us on pace for a climate disaster as some worthwhile ideas are more than outweighed by the failure to account for major sources of carbon pollution. - Cameron Brick comments on the significance of inertia in our personal habits which affect our own contributions to climate change. But Alex Boutilier reports on polling showing that even Conservative voters don't buy their party's obstructionism, recognizing the importance of carbon pricing and other policies to avert climate disaster.
- Finally, Alexander Kaufman examines Jay Inslee's detailed climate plan - which should serve as an example for others to emulate. And Peter Walker reports on UK Labour's plan for a massive investment in solar panels on millions of homes as part of a green industrial revolution.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Karl Nerenberg writes that the ultimate test of the public's willingness to facilitate a climate breakdown is fast approaching - but that the parties pushing delay and denial may be surprised with the outcome. Brett Chandler challenges the argument that we're somehow entitled to act only once everybody else - including China and other developing countries - has slashed carbon emissions first. And Doug Cuthand rightly calls out the environmental vandals using their power today to leave a damaged world for future generations.

- Meanwhile, Sandra Laville reports on new research demonstrating the climate harms of single-use plastics.

- Josephine Moulds writes about the millions of UK workers trapped in poverty due to insufficient wages and employment standards. And Rajeshni Naidu-Ghelani reports on Statistics Canada's latest data on the sharply increasing number of temporary jobs.

- PressProgress highlights how Jason Kenney's corporate tax giveaways project to cost billions of dollars and result in the loss of tens of thousands of jobs. And Arthur White-Crummey's report on Saskatchewan's alarming emergency room waiting times offers a reminder as to what happens when a government is more devoted to slashing public services than ensuring their availability.

- Finally, Eleanor Ainge Roy reports on New Zealand's move toward budgeting based on well-being, including addressing poverty and mental health as core principles.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Slumbering cats.

On transitions

I'll offer a reply to Cam's knee-jerk response to the federal NDP's long-overdue push for the basic necessities of responsible economic and environmental policy - including real carbon emission reductions and an actual transition away from fossil fuel dependence.

Simply put, there's no reason to read every word of the announcement with the type of misleading spin we'd expect from our political rivals. And on a fair reading, the NDP's stance on averting a climate crisis is exactly what we should be hoping for.

To be clear, I'll agree that the NDP's focus should be on a just transition. But the essence of a transition is moving from point A (dependence on dirty energy for both domestic use and export) to point B (converting to a clean and sustainable economy on all fronts) - not looking for excuses to stay in place.

Contrary to what Cam claims, a just transition is entirely consistent with cleaning up the mess from the status quo, which should fully assuage any concern about dealing with abandoned well sites. And it's also consistent with ensuring income security and new opportunities for workers who have come to depend on the system which needs to be replaced.

But the concept of a just transition is entirely incompatible with using our limited resources to sustain and expand the broken system which we know needs to be wound down. And so a bright line of no subsidies for fossil fuel expansion and operation (as distinct from the transition away from them) makes eminent sense.

Indeed, the Libs have already let down both their 2015 supporters and a younger generation of new voters by not only breaking their promise to end fossil fuel subsidies, but instead pouring billions into expanding the dirty energy sector. And so there's a massive opportunity for the NDP to offer a genuine alternative.

Meanwhile, as I've pointed out, we've also been offered a cautionary tale about the folly of trying to out-cheerlead corporate parties when it comes to further enriching the oil industry. While making progress on many other fronts, Rachel Notley tried desperately to limit Jason Kenney's ability to argue with any credibility that he and his party would be more friendly to oil barons. But ultimately, Notley succeeded largely in leaving Alberta voters with the impression that their ballot question should be who was in fact more subservient to the sector.

That's not an argument the NDP can expect to win. Nor is it one worth pursuing.

Instead, the NDP at all levels needs to offer the means to actually meet our responsibility to maintain a liveable planet while respecting the interests of workers and citizens generally - not follow down the Trudeau path of delaying and triangulating in the face of an existential crisis. And the key next step will be to make sure voters understand how we can all benefit from accomplishing that goal, rather than allowing the Cons and their oil industry backers to convince the electorate that it can't be done.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Eoin Higgins discusses a new report by Elizabeth Warren and Pramila Jayapal on a U.S. political system which is even more corporatist than ever under the Trump administration.

- Meanwhile, Sarah Petz reports on Boots Riley's recent talk in Winnipeg - including his emphasis on the need for direct activism alongside work within partisan politics. And Martin Regg Cohn offers a reminder to the Ford PCs that there's more to democracy than a government acting without accountability between elections.

- Tim Dickinson reports on new research showing that the U.S.' subsidies for fossil fuels exceed even its bloated defence budget. And the Canadian Press reports on Enbridge's multi-billion dollar quarterly profits, while Emma McIntosh takes note of the Alberta municipalities facing fiscal ruin due to deadbeat resource extractors.

- Morgan Lawrie highlights the need for wildlife corridors to give animals some hope of finding a suitable habitat as our climate breaks down.

- Michael Coteau makes the case for a right to repair as a means of both saving consumers money, and reducing avoidable waste and environmental destruction.

- Finally, Philippe Fournier points out how Canada's Parliament would look under current voting intentions if the Libs had followed through on their promise of electoral reform.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Daniel Drenzer reviews Joseph Stiglitz' People, Power and Profits, while noting the importance of pairing progressive policy ideas with a plan for implementation. And Laura Davison points out how Donald Trump's massive tax losses which kept him from contributing to the U.S.' public coffers involved some of the same loopholes now being exploited by the likes of Amazon.

- Melanie Marquis reports on the NDP's plans to ensure that tech giants pay their fair share. And the Canadian Press points out the reality that online monopolists are currently thumbing their noses at Canadian laws intended to protect privacy and election integrity.

- Robin Levinson-King weighs in on the use of Vancouver's real estate market for large-scale money-laundering, while Mike Smyth writes about the need for a public inquiry. And Mike Crawley reports that Doug Ford's war on facts includes concealing information about foreign buyers which would enable the public to know about similar issues in Ontario. 

- Meanwhile, Heather Boushey argues that we need to better measure income and wealth across a full population, rather than counting on top-heavy GDP and stock market indicators as a full answer to how an economy is performing.

- Finally, Lizzy Buchan reports that a strong majority of UK voters want to see sharp decreases in greenhouse gas emissions to reach zero net emissions by 2050. And Shawn McCarthy points out that two-thirds of Canadians are opposed to the right-wing provincial governments who are both refusing to implement any substantial climate policies in their provinces, and trying to prevent any action to pick up the slack at the federal level.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Tony Burman writes about the seismic change we can expect as the importance of our climate crisis - as well as the need to act on a global basis - starts to permeate our political decision-making. And KC Golden warns that the oil companies who have been the worst offenders in both causing and denying climate change are now trying to use the first steps toward a policy response to escape from any liability for their actions.

- Meanwhile, Jimmy Thomson writes about the challenge of developing cleaner fuel sources to replace outdated and environmentally-harmful diesel fuel generators in isolated communities across northern Canada. The Canadian Press reports on new research showing how climate breakdown is leading to the acidification of Arctic water. And Blake Shaffer notes that vehicle emissions are just one more area where Canada is the world's worst per-capita offender in contributing to the global climate crisis.

- Emily Holden reports on a new international agreement to stop the dumping of plastic waste on less wealthy countries. But Sandra Laville points out how plastics lobbyists are attempting to undermine any effort to limit the indiscriminate disposal of their products in the UK.

- Mitchell Anderson discusses how conventional economics have contributed to environmental disasters - including the impending extinction crisis - by neglecting to value a habitable planet as part of our economic system.

- Finally, Trevor Harrison highlights the bias in Jason Kenney's budget panel which is under orders not to look at revenues (or the cost of corporate tax giveaways). And Hulya Dagdeviren and Jiayi Balasuriya examine how the UK's austerity served largely to dump even more debt and financial stress onto lower-income households.