Saturday, June 08, 2019

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Lana Payne comments on the war being waged by Canada's right-wing governments against workers.

- Dion Rabouin writes about the product of decades of giveaways to the rich - as the obscenely wealthy literally can't find any use for massive amounts of money other than to hoard it, even while refusing to pass any of it along. And Elizabeth Capelle discusses both how housing has become financialized, and how to reorient our view of it to serve the interests of people beyond the 1%.

- Frederick Hewitt points out how some of the most several long-term dangers of a climate breakdown involve the types of food supply disruptions which proved the undoing of past civilizations. Christopher Flavelle notes that the increasing recognition of the dangers of climate change is leading to higher costs and lower use of insurance to guard against foreseeable risks. And while Susan Delacourt wonders whether the climate crisis will lead to full social mobilization, the most telling part of her column is the thoroughly uninspired (and uninspiring) response from the Lib government:
My colleague here in the Star’s Ottawa bureau, Alex Ballingall, asked Environment Minister Catherine McKenna this week about whether wartime examples could inspire more collective public action on climate change.

“Look, I mean, I am very supportive of more ambition on climate change. I hear good ideas every single day. I mean I think the idea that you need to link climate action with people and making sure that you are focused on how do you improve lives is critical,” McKenna told Ballingall. But the minister also said that any ambition has to be tempered with, yes, affordability. “People want action on climate change but they want life to be affordable and at the same time creating good jobs.”

So, not exactly Dunkirk or D-Day, at least not yet. Bill Nye may need a bigger blowtorch.
- Finally, Bruce Campbell comments on the need for a public inquiry into the Lac-M├ęgantic disaster and points out some of the questions which remain unanswered to this day. And Penelope Simons notes that the Libs' distaste for corporate accountability is endangering Canada's global reputation.

Friday, June 07, 2019

Musical interlude

Matthew Good - Decades

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Justin Fisher laments the fact that we're still talking about first steps toward combating a climate crisis after decades of understanding the problem. Jake Woodier points out that Brexit has been the UK's recent distraction from the most important issue facing humanity. And Joseph Stiglitz is the latest to compare a Green New Deal to avert climate breakdown with the scale and urgency of a wartime mobilization:
When the US was attacked during the second world war no one asked, “Can we afford to fight the war?” It was an existential matter. We could not afford not to fight it. The same goes for the climate crisis. Here, we are already experiencing the direct costs of ignoring the issue – in recent years the country has lost almost 2% of GDP in weather-related disasters, which include floods, hurricanes, and forest fires. The cost to our health from climate-related diseases is just being tabulated, but it, too, will run into the tens of billions of dollars – not to mention the as-yet-uncounted number of lives lost. We will pay for climate breakdown one way or another, so it makes sense to spend money now to reduce emissions rather than wait until later to pay a lot more for the consequences – not just from weather but also from rising sea levels. It’s a cliche, but it’s true: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

The war on the climate emergency, if correctly waged, would actually be good for the economy – just as the second world war set the stage for America’s golden economic era , with the fastest rate of growth in its history amidst shared prosperity. The Green New Deal would stimulate demand, ensuring that all available resources were used; and the transition to the green economy would likely usher in a new boom. Trump’s focus on the industries of the past, like coal, is strangling the much more sensible move to wind and solar power. More jobs by far will be created in renewable energy than will be lost in coal.
The mobilization efforts of the second world war transformed our society. We went from an agricultural economy and a largely rural society to a manufacturing economy and a largely urban society. The temporary liberation of women as they entered the labor force so the country could meet its war needs had long-term effects. This is the advocates’ ambition, a not unrealistic one, for the Green New Deal.

There is absolutely no reason the innovative and green economy of the 21st century has to follow the economic and social models of the 20th-century manufacturing economy based on fossil fuels, just as there was no reason that that economy had to follow the economic and social models of the agrarian and rural economies of earlier centuries.
- But if we needed a reminder of the ease with which serious dangers to the public get ignored or forgotten, Benjamin Kentish notes that tens of thousands of Britons still live in buildings covered in the same material which caused the spread of the devastating Grenfell Tower fire.

- Rafferty Baker reports on research showing how harm reduction steps are reducing the still-alarming number of deaths caused by opioids. And Barbara Krantz points out that as serious as the opioid crisis is, far more people die due to alcohol - even as Canada's right makes it a core policy to try to push people to drink more.

- Trade Justice Network Canada discusses how the new NAFTA is anything but progressive - no matter what talking points the Trudeau Libs use in trying to push it through.

- And finally, Paul Romer suggests that a tax on targeted advertising could both raise revenue, and reduce the amount of user tracking that contributes to hidden dangers online.

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Thursday Evening Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Jonathan Aldred calls out the combination of handouts to the rich, cultivated attitudes of self-reliance and antisocial assumptions which have exacerbated inequality over the past few decades:
European countries have, on average, more redistributive tax systems and more welfare benefits for the poor than the US, and therefore less inequality, after taxes and benefits. Many people see this outcome as a reflection of the different values that shape US and European societies. But cause-and-effect may run the other way: you-deserve-what-you-get beliefs are strengthened by inequality.

Psychologists have shown that people have motivated beliefs: beliefs that they have chosen to hold because those beliefs meet a psychological need. Now, being poor in the US is extremely tough, given the meagre welfare benefits and high levels of post-tax inequality. So Americans have a greater need than Europeans to believe that you deserve what you get and you get what you deserve. These beliefs play a powerful role in motivating yourself and your children to work as hard as possible to avoid poverty. And these beliefs can help alleviate the guilt involved in ignoring a homeless person begging on your street.

This is not just a US issue. Britain is an outlier within Europe, with relatively high inequality and low economic and social mobility. Its recent history fits the cause-and-effect relationship here. Following the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979, inequality rose significantly. After inequality rose, British attitudes changed. More people became convinced that generous welfare benefits make poor people lazy and that high salaries are essential to motivate talented people. However, intergenerational mobility fell: your income in Britain today is closely correlated with your parents’ income.

If the American Dream and other narratives about everyone having a chance to be rich were true, we would expect the opposite relationship: high inequality (is fair because of) high intergenerational mobility. Instead, we see a very different narrative: people cope with high inequality by convincing themselves it is fair after all. We adopt narratives to justify inequality because society is highly unequal, not the other way round. So inequality may be self-perpetuating in a surprising way.
- David Climenhaga predicts that the UCP's review of health services - like so many before it - will cost more than it ever recoups in promised efficiencies. Brielle Morgan, Katie Hyslop, Cherise Seucharan and Tracy Sherlock highlight the absurdity of offering more money to foster families to house children after findings of poverty-based "neglect" than to the vulnerable families who only lack sufficient financial resources to be able to provide an adequate home. And Jesse Snyder reports on new research showing how blinkered fearmongering against carbon pricing stands to increase the cost of any climate progress.

- Brendan Kennedy discusses what the future will look like in New Brunswick as climate change continues to exacerbate the flooding which has become commonplace in recent years. And Charlie Smith looks at the effect of a movement away from air travel on cities such as Vancouver which currently rely on air traffic as a major part of their local economies.

- Finally, Simon Dyer offers six factors to look for in determining whether a climate policy is viable. And David Miller highlights how the NDP's climate plan measures up to the scope and urgency of our climate crisis.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Statuesque cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- In his Arnold Amber Memorial Lecture, Alex Himelfarb offers his take on the dangers of austerity and the loss of collective action:
1. Austerity is toxic.
2. It is built on a lie, and on a withered idea of freedom and a hollowed out notion of citizenship.
3. Austerity is self-perpetuating, trapping us, stunting our political imagination.
4. We nevertheless do have alternatives. There are always alternatives. Big change is hard, but given the risks, the stakes, the opportunities, big change is urgent, and bold is exactly what’s needed if we are to meet our challenges and break out of the austerity trap.
5. A new generation of leaders is giving us reason for hope, though clearly there’s no reason for complacency.
Right wing governments embrace deficits.  They need them to justify cuts to vital services, cuts that they couldn’t sell otherwise. They create them through their tax cuts, occasionally aided by accounting tricks. At the same time they describe these self-induced deficits as poisonous. There are, we are told,  both moral and economic imperatives for eliminating deficits and balancing budgets. Otherwise the sky will fall. Spoiler alert. It won’t. We are told that governments are like households and must live within their means, an analogy that would be more apt if households like governments could print money. Households can’t. Governments do.  Austerity isn’t simply the consequence of tax cuts, it may often be their purpose.
- Bernie Sanders discusses the need for political leaders to understand and meet the needs of the working class, rather than assuming that governance consists solely of catering to the wealthy. And Mathew Lawrence writes that Sanders' plans to empower workers could be just as effective outside the U.S. context, including in the UK.

- Meanwhile, the New York Times' editorial board calls out Donald Trump for going out of his way to further distort the balance of workplace power in favour of employers.

- Katie Hyslop reports on new polling showing that a large majority of British Columbia oppose tax breaks for elite private schools, particularly in the context of constant cries of poverty when it comes to the public school system.

- And finally, Crawford Kilian reviews Dave McGrane's new book on the evolution of the federal NDP.

Monday, June 03, 2019

Monday Evening Links

Miscellaneous material for your Monday reading.

- John Paul Tasker reports on the final report of the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. And Kenyon Wallace highlights the need for meaningful federal action in response - though if the Libs are deviating at all from their usual all-talk-no-action stance, it's by trying to avoid even the plain wording of the report.  

- Emma McIntosh and Mike De Souza report on the reality that the reclamation of the environmental destruction wrought by Alberta's oil sector could take thousands of years. But Nafeez Ahmed warns that if we don't stop the damage to our planet from carbon pollution, human civilization as we know it may not last more than a few decades.

- Meanwhile, Geoff Dembicki points out how the Green New Deal concept which holds out the promise of just transition to clean and sustainable energy sources has built on the work behind the Leap Manifesto. And Elise Stolte theorizes that the regular spread of wildfires and blankets of smoke should jolt Alberta to recognize the need to join in the effort.

- Canadians for Tax Fairness highlights the unfairness of the Canada Revenue Agency striking secret deals with systematic tax evaders while directing its enforcement activities toward people who don't have money to stash offshore.

- Finally, Matthew Klein observes that the best way to reduce crime - and particularly recidivism - is to invest in legitimate social supports for people who would otherwise lack legal means to provide for themselves.

Sunday, June 02, 2019

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Stephen Maher writes that Michael Cooper's choice to give voice to the Christchurch shooter's manifesto represents a test of Andrew Scheer's willingness to take action to match his words. And Scheer's choice to quietly shuffle Cooper out of a single committee assignment - rather than actually showing him the door in response to premeditated hate speech - seems to offer a clear wrong answer. 

- Keith Gerein laments Jason Kenney's insistence on betting Alberta's future on ideological tax cuts which have proven to be losing gambles everywhere else they've been tried. And Jesse Ferreras points out that Kenney's predictable response to wildfires exacerbated by our climate breakdown is to deny the science plainly connecting the two.

- Murray Mandryk notes that Yancoal's simultaneous palm-greasing at the municipal and provincial levels offers yet another example of the types of seedy pay-for-play politics which prevail in Saskatchewan in the absence of basic donation restrictions.

- Meanwhile, the CP reports that Manitoba has decided to fund coverage of Mifegymiso, leaving Scott Moe's government as the most regressive of conservative parties in the country in refusing to do the same.

- Finally, Alex MacPherson reports on the increasing recognition of how people are worse off for the Saskatchewan Party's destruction of STC - as well as the NDP's plans to restore and improve service.