Saturday, May 25, 2019

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Leslie Hook offers a reminder of the dangers of methane as a particularly damaging type of carbon emission which is both associated largely with fossil fuel production, and poorly tracked when it is emitted. And the Edmonton Journal makes the case for Jason Kenney to abandon his campaign rhetoric about scrapping any carbon tax (along with so much of the simplistic talking points which propelled him to power). 

- Merran Smith highlights the transition toward clean energy which is already taking place. And Tabatha Southey points out the glaring gap between the media's minimal recognition of existing clean energy, and its ostentatious cheerleading for the oil sector the face of economic and environmental reality.

- J. David Hughes examines the real reasons for increasing gas prices in British Columbia (contrary to the spin of fossil politicians trying to pretend it has anything to do with the TransMountain pipeline). And PressProgress points out that residents are well aware that it's big business that's making fuel unaffordable - which is exactly why renewables which aren't subject to the same scarcity represent a superior option for everybody but the privileged few accustomed to leveraging their closely-controlled resources into windfall profits.

- Kelly Crowe points out the Trudeau Libs' international position of trying to suppress information about the causes of exorbitant prescription drug prices. And NPR takes note of the continued pattern of exploitation by big pharma, as a new gene therapy treatment is being priced at a record $2.1 million per dose.

- Finally, Julia Conley writes about the growing income gap between CEOs and other workers. Joe Neel discusses new polling on the financial insecurity and lack of access to health care in the rural U.S. And John Cairns reports on Ryan Meili's rightful criticism that Scott Moe is utterly failing to address the root causes of crime and other social illnesses, while Kevin Doherty's return as a lobbyist offers a reminder as to how immediate profits for donors and insiders have always been the Saskatchewan Party's only focus.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Musical interlude

The Postal Service - The District Sleeps Alone Tonight

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Sarah O'Connor examines how the future of work may echo past practices - including a misleading picture of wages for gig work which is assumed to be more stable than is actually the case. And Astra Taylor discusses how socialism is growing in popular appeal in response to the inequality which has festered under neoliberal capitalism:
(T)he growing popularity of socialism may spring at least in part from the longer-term failures of this negative-branding campaign: Tell enough people struggling to make ends meet that socialism will allow them to consult a doctor without fear of bankruptcy, and perhaps to enjoy a restorative paid vacation now and then, and some are bound to think it sounds like a pretty good idea. That was definitely the gist of a well-traveled social media meme this winter that featured a Fox News segment on Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and the other left-aligned lawmakers sworn in to the 116th Congress; it counterposed sweetly smiling headshots of the alleged socialist insurgents alongside bullet-pointed policy goals, such as free college and Medicare for All, that actually poll quite well in American opinion surveys. The graphic made socialism seem not only appealing, but also au courant, thus inadvertently chipping away at decades of carefully crafted propaganda.

(R)esearch shows that many Americans who receive direct federal benefits, including Medicare and Social Security, wrongly report that they have never received government aid—perhaps because these are services they feel they have paid for, like any other product. The challenge for socialists, then, involves bringing what the political scientist Suzanne Mettler has called the “submerged state” above ground and into the light in order to identify and expand its benefits and beneficiaries, democratize its mechanisms, and decommodify more and more areas of life.

Decommodification is a key element of this process—“There should be no profit motive connected to things that human beings cannot survive without,” as Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor put it when we spoke—and not as radical a move as it may seem. Placing things beyond the market purview is hardly an untested or utopian concept. Public schools, for example, are based on the conviction that education is something everyone is entitled to, regardless of their ability to pay. Countries with universal health care have come to a similar determination about medicine, deciding potentially lifesaving medical treatments should not be limited to those who are wealthy enough to afford them. Every minute of every day, we use infrastructure and access information, from public roads to weather forecasts, that are universal and free. This is why democratic socialists are right to focus, for the time being, on proposals like Medicare for All and free college.

But the question at the center of socialism, Taylor continued, is not what services the state should provide—such as whether or not public housing should be more widely available, or whether there should be a jobs guarantee or a basic income or both—but rather who owns the state. “For me, socialism is about the collective control of society by the majority of people,” she says. “Right now, the majority of people, the people who create society’s wealth, never get asked questions about how society should be run.”
- And if we needed any further reminders as to how power is being used primarily to entrench inequality, Jen St. Denis reports on the federal government's lack of action in response to money laundering in Canada. Alex Hemingway rightly questions the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority's eagerness to introduce corporate control into the health care system. And Sharon Riley exposes how Alberta may soon be automating the licensing process for oil and gas wells, ensuring that no human being evaluates the safety and environmental concerns raised by their use.

- Meanwhile, Don Pittis offers a reminder that clean energy already offers more opportunity for workers than dirty fossil fuels - and this before any level of government has planned out a meaningful transition from the latter to the former.

- Finally, Michael Harris writes that we should neither put up with Justin Trudeau's contempt for social and environmental justice, nor buy for a second the view that Andrew Scheer is an acceptable (or the only) alternative.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- The Star's editorial board rightly criticizes Doug Ford for his propensity to announce massive cuts first, then begrudgingly acknowledge their unconscionable consequences later. Linda White, Elizabeth Dhuey, Michal Perlman and Petr Varmuza note that Ford's cuts to child care will be particularly harmful for low-income families with parents working or studying full-time. And Madeleine Ritts calls out the PCs for blaming individuals for systemic poverty (and denying them the essentials of life as punishment).

- Meanwhile, Robert Booth reports on the connection being drawn between the UK Cons' similar attack on the poor, and the historical blight of workhouses. And Chris Vallance discusses the medicalization of the symptoms of poverty, including the overprescription of drugs in response to the inevitable stresses of precarity.

- Ronald Labonte, Courtney McNamara, Deborah Gleeson and Eric Crosbie point out how the new NAFTA can be expected to harm public health by preventing governments from regulating in the public interest. And Ed Finn discusses how the corporate push toward processed foods and a focus on convenience over nutrition is making us all less healthy.

- Mitch Potter highlights how the Libs are echoing the Cons' anti-refugee rhetoric and policy as this fall's federal election approaches.

- Finally, Jonathan Michie points out that employee-owned businesses perform significantly better than their corporate counterparts, but are limited in their development by government and financial policies which stifle them.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

On defining images

I've previously linked to Doug Cuthand's column on the climate obstructionists who are endangering our future. But I'd think it's worth putting his most powerful conclusion in a form which better connects the perpetrators to the problem.

And so...

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Jerry Taylor writes that any reasonable evaluation of the risks associated with a climate breakdown demands that we transition away from carbon pollution as quickly as possible. Aria Bendix points out that multiple major U.S. cities stand to become uninhabitable over the next few decades due to the consequences of climate change. Moira Welsh notes that Toronto is unprepared for the frequency and intensity of floods which are hitting it on a regular basis. And Sarah Rieger writes that Calgary's drinking water is at risk of contamination from wildfires upstream. 

- Atiya Jaffar discusses the growing movement for a Green New Deal in Canada, while Yanis Varoufakis is hopeful that a similar plan can united Europe's progressive forces. And Andrew Nikiforuk sets out a few of the most damaging myths about pipelines which have distorted any discussion of climate policy and fossil fuels in Alberta (and beyond).

- Eric Doherty points out how a transformation of transportation infrastructure needs to be part of any viable climate plan, while Cat Hobbs notes that common ownership will be a crucial feature of a transit system that better serves users while reducing carbon emissions. And Matthew Taylor points out how a reduction in work hours may play an important role in answering the climate crisis.

- David Hagmann, Emily Ho and George Loewenstein study the harmful effects of small "nudges" which lead people toward greater opposition against carbon taxes. But Neil Macdonald (for all the issues elsewhere in his reasoning) argues that a similar effect applies to carbon taxes themselves in distracting from, and undermining public support for, any more thorough transition to a clean society. 

- Finally, Lisa Xing discusses OpenMedia's push for a right to repair linked to electronics sold and used in Canada.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Friendly cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- CBC interviews David Wallace-Wells and others about the need for collective action as the only viable response to a climate crisis and the despair it would otherwise produce:
"Individual action simply can't get us to zero [carbon] emissions," [Wallace-Wells] told Tapestry host Mary Hynes. "Ultimately, those efforts are marginal compared to what can be achieved through policy and through politics, and that for me is why we need to focus on those levers."
"So for an individual to step out of that and really try to make sense of this very large threat to our societies and our ways of life  — especially if you have been raised to believe that this is a good thing or this is just life as you know it — is very difficult." 
But the University of Oregon associate professor [Kari Norgaard] says channeling energy into structural changes can help ease some of that anxiety.

"Climate change is very big, it's very scary. It's not something we can work on alone. As more people in each community begin to [mobilize], it not only makes it more pleasant and meaningful along the way, but it brings momentum to the whole."
- Perla Hernandez writes about the missed opportunity to address climate change in Newfoundland and Labrador's provincial election - though the resulting minority legislature will hopefully result in some needed ability to prod the government to action. Sarath Peiris points out that the bleating about an environmental assessment bill by Canada's Dirty Half-Dozen denialist right-wing leaders has no basis in fact. And Heriberto Aruojo writes about the threat Jair Bolsonaro's government poses to the Amazon rain forest with global implications.

- Robert Booth reports on Human Rights Watch's observations as to how the UK Cons' austerity caused large amounts of child hunger. And Mark Rice-Oxley and Patrick Butler write about the wider precarity facing workers in the EU.

- Trevor Hancock wonders why governments don't pay more attention to public health which would both produce improved social outcomes, and save public money. And a group of Ontario resident physicians highlights how Doug Ford's attacks on public health will harm their patients.

- Finally, Libby Davies offers a reminder that a strong progressive message is necessary for the NDP to succeed both in winning votes and seeing its values implemented.

Monday, May 20, 2019

On buried dangers

There have been a few recent reports dealing with issues surrounding the Northern Village of Pinehouse - including a systematic refusal to answer access to information requests to which continued at last notice, the disappearance of the village's website and public records, an inspection recommending the removal of Pinehouse's mayor and a councillor which has turned into a formal inquiry and audit, and the recusal of Finance Minister Donna Harpauer from all discussions due to a close personal connection to the councillor in question.

But most of the media discussion of the village's current circumstances avoids a crucial piece of background information - even as the mayor who has also been recommended for removal identifies the significance of the issue, without recognizing that it provides no excuse for thumbing his nose at legal obligations.

The relationship between Pinehouse and the nuclear industry has long been the source of justified concern. The same leadership now dismissing any obligations of transparent governance include the same people behind a sketchy deal which included millions of dollars in payments from Areva and Cameco in exchange for a cover-up of the social and environmental impacts of uranium mining.

And the village's leadership tried to volunteer Pinehouse for a nuclear waste disposal site through communications - which were exposed through what was then at least a marginally functional access to information system under the current administrtion. The attempt to become a dumping ground for radioactive waste was ultimately ruled out due to a lack of support in the community.

So let's turn the spin around.

Does it make sense that Pinehouse would be uniquely unable to meet its access to information obligations - both compared to its own history and compared to other Northern and rural communities - even as it receives substantial funding from the uranium industry to cover what would normally be municipal expenses?

Does it make sense that Pinehouse would be unable to meet basic access to information requirements, but have enough spare resources lying around to provide free accommodations to cabinet ministers whenever they see fit to stop by? And wouldn't cabinet ministers themselves be expected to notice the problem with accepting that type of gift before somebody else identifies it?

Ultimately, Pinehouse looks only to be a particularly vivid example of the Saskatchewan Party's governing mindset in both its service of industry over people, and its contempt for accountability. And everybody rightly looking at Pinehouse and asking how its administration can be left in place should be asking the same about the province.

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your Monday reading.

- Susan Bradley reports on Dave Phillips' observations as to how Atlantic Canada is already facing the effects of a climate breakdown. Cameron Brick discusses the importance of seeing ourselves as more than consumers in developing a response to our climate crisis. And David Roberts highlights how Jay Inslee has provided the details of a plan to meet the goals of a Green New Deal for the U.S. (which should in turn be adaptable for use elsewhere).

- Kate Bratskeir points out the large amount of plastic being burned in the U.S. (and the resulting harms to health and the environment). But Lisa Friedman reports that the Trump administration's response to deaths caused by air pollution is to make up numbers to cover up the problem. And Jeff Lewis reports that the Libs are teaming up with Jason Kenney to facilitate the dumping of toxic water from tar sands tailings ponds into sources of drinking water.

- Christine Berry and Joe Guinan offer a look at what a Corbyn Labour government could mean for UK politics and society.

- Bobby Hristova reports on levels of drunkenness as one of the areas in which Canada stands out dubiously among our peers - and this before the plans of right-wing governments to substitute increased alcohol consumption for responsible governance are fully implemented.

- Finally, Eliza Mackintosh reports on Finland's success in educating children to recognize and respond to propaganda.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Ian Austen discusses how Justin Trudeau plans to offer nothing but more of the same broken promises and favoritism for the Libs' corporate benefactors. And Mike Smyth examines what's set to be unearthed in British Columbia's money laundering inquiry - which of course never would have existed if the Libs' provincial cousins had clung to power.

- Vik Adhopia reports on the Libs' participation in a "national pharmacare program" forum which in fact consisted solely of corporate lobbying against universal prescription drug coverage. And Robert Jago points out what's missing - and misleading - in the Greens' outdated Indigenous policies.

- The UN points out how a climate breakdown will threaten food production around the globe, while Gaia Vince writes about the need for immediate and drastic steps to limit the damage from our climate crisis. Thomas Walkom discusses Jagmeet Singh's strong stance advancing a just transition toward a clean energy economy in Canada. And Kevin Griffin points out the immediate benefits of converting to electric vehicles, while CBC News reports on the development of zero-emission transport trucks in Alberta as a result of the Notley NDP's climate policy.

- Finally, CBC News also reports that like his predecessor, Scott Moe is insistent on energy sources which involve digging up hazardous substances with no regard for the lack of a safe disposal system - even if that means converting fossil fuel power production to nuclear (and in the process ignoring the public backlash against the Saskatchewan Party's previous attempt to pitch nuclear power).

[Edit: fixed formatting.]