Saturday, July 13, 2019

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Owen Jones offers a needed reminder that no matter how often it gets trotted out as a basis to ignore the ideological underpinnings of parties oriented toward the concentration of wealth and power, the concept of compassionate conservatism is nothing more than a self-serving myth.

- Donna Borak reports that the Trump tax giveaway to the wealthy has predictably led to a massive increase in the U.S.' deficit (which is of course now being used as an excuse to call to slash social supports). And Scott Kohn notes that almost immediately after reversing course from its own exercise in trickle-down fundamentalism, Kansas is seeing its economy and budget start to recover.

- David Hughes points out that the partisan politics behind the purchase and approval of the Trans Mountain have nothing to do with the public interest. Fiona Harvey reports on the lack of reporting and planning from the planet's worst corporate polluters. And Don Thompson reports on a new California spill in which hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil were dumped into a canyon.

- Bronwen Tucker reports that a year after Greyhound shut down its intercity bus service (even after the Saskatchewan Party dismantled STC based on belief in magical free-market replacements), nobody has stepped in to fill the void on any substantial scale.  And the Canadian Press reports on Jagmeet Singh's call for a national cycling strategy as part of the transition toward cleaner and more community-friendly transportation.

- Finally, Michelle Ghoussoub reports on research showing a direct connection between residential school attendance in one generation and the taking of Indigenous children into state care in the next.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Musical interlude

Delerium feat. Mimi Page - Blue Fires

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Mike Pearl discusses the climate despair of people understandably having difficulty working toward a longer term which is utterly neglected in our most important social decisions. But Macleans' feature on climate change includes both Alanna Mitchell's take on what a zero-emission future might look like, and an editorial calling for far more action to get there than either the Libs or Cons is willing to even suggest (let alone deliver).

- Meanwhile, Gregory Meyer offers a reminder as to how methane leaks make natural gas a non-starter when it comes to maintaining a liveable climate. And Nerilie Abram, Matthew England and Matt King point out the dangers of instability in giant Antarctic ice sheets.

- But John McMurtry discusses how the Koch Brothers and other plutocrats are trying to buy public ignorance to ensure that environmentally destructive plans are permitted. And David Climenhaga writes that Jason Kenney is looking to distract from any issue worthy of public discussion by funding conspiracy theorists to write fiction about environmental activists, while Graham Thomson also calls out the lack of any rational basis for Kenney's McCarthyite project.

- David Macdonald offers a primer on tax fairness for Canadians examining their options in this fall's federal election. And the Canadian Press analyzes how British Columbia's anti-speculation tax has collected $115 million for a fund dedicated to affordable housing.

- Finally, Jolson Lim reports on the decision of human rights advocates and labour representatives to resign from a Trudeau-appointed advisory body which was falling short of offering anything remotely resembling corporate responsibility.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Thursday Morning Links

 This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Robert Reich points out that the most significant political divide is the one between the wealthiest few and the rest of the population:
In reality, the biggest divide in America today runs between oligarchy and democracy. When oligarchs fill the coffers of political candidates, they neuter democracy.
The oligarchs know politicians won’t bite the hands that feed them. So as long as they control the money, they can be confident there will be no meaningful response to stagnant pay, climate change, military bloat or the soaring costs of health insurance, pharmaceuticals, college and housing.

There will be no substantial tax increases on the wealthy. There will be no antitrust enforcement to puncture the power of giant corporations. There will be no meaningful regulation of Wall Street’s addiction to gambling with other peoples’ money. There will be no end to corporate subsides. CEO pay will continue to skyrocket. Wall Street hedge fund and private equity managers will continue to make off like bandits.

So long as the oligarchy divides Americans – split off people of color from working-class whites, stoke racial resentments, describe human beings as illegal aliens, launch wars on crime and immigrants, stoke fears of communists and socialists – it doesn’t have to worry that a majority will stop them from looting the nation.
Divide-and-conquer allows the oligarchy free rein. It makes the rest of us puppets, fighting each other on a made-up stage.
- Paul Krugman writes about the Trump administration's dangerous coupling of additional incarceration and corporate corruption. And Bidesh Sarma and Jessica Brand rightly challenge the criminalization of poverty and homelessness.

- Josh Rubin interviews Jim Stanford about the reality that precarious work and stagnant wages are the result of policy choices. And David Madland offers some suggestions to move toward sectoral bargaining and broader labour power in the U.S.

- Finally, Gregory Shill laments the imposition of car culture as a matter of government decision-making. And Jonathan Cote and Peter Ladner write that a shift toward modernized transit to reduce the harms of excessive traffic should be a key election issue.

New column day

Here, on the bleatings from far too many corners that there's no right time to discuss meaningful policy choices - and the federal NDP's push to prove otherwise.

For further reading...
- The NDP's set of campaign commitments is here (PDF). And I'll be looking at some of the specific proposals in more detail over the summer.
- The Cons' sad excuse for a climate plan is receiving duly scathing reviews - even from some of the party's most reliable cheerleaders.
- Finally, one of the few other commentators to note the significance of the NDP's platform is Karl Nerenberg, while Jim Warren was the one to make the stunning claim that the party shouldn't have released anything at all. And the few voices questioning the NDP's policies in substance are ones whose opposition should be welcomed.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Cats amid wreckage.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Joanne Light and Cathy Orlando point out that we don't have any more time to waste in reining in a climate breakdown in progress. And Justin Ling writes that we should be far more concerned about Canada's massive and increasing deficit in action to avert a climate crisis than small amounts of ink on the federal balance sheet:
Even if Canada only contributes a fraction of the world’s emissions, we stand to shoulder a disproportionate share of the costs. Rising sea levels promise to displace populations along the coasts, increased rainfalls will require ever-larger bailouts for flooded communities in the East, and worsening wildfire seasons have wreaked havoc through the West.

To not prepare more actively to prevent and mitigate that – and to campaign, instead, on the few-hundred bucks in short-term savings that would come from doing nothing – takes the taxpayers for chumps.

Climate change is already costing us billions. If we don’t turn our entire government toward reducing and eliminating further emissions, and preparing and mitigating incoming effects, we’re only compounding the costs we’ll incur down the line.
- Meanwhile, Melanie Green points out that the ill effects of a climate breakdown extend to avoidable mental health difficulties for the people forced to confront it. And Andrew Van Dam reports on new research showing how living wages can ameliorate numerous social and health symptoms.

- Oliver Wainwright discusses the rise of the new form of corporate-designed company town. And Shawn Micallef argues that we shouldn't allow tech giants to demand the power to shape living spaces and monitor individual activity without accepting the accountability which should apply to any de facto government.

- But based on the examples reported by Ainslie Cruickshank and Jim Bronskill, we shouldn't pretend that public resources aren't also misused to monitor people for the benefit of the wealthy few (including the fossil fuel industry). And Sharon Riley exposes CAPP's lobbying efforts to ensure that nobody other than oil barons has any say in the decisions made around dirty energy projects.

- Finally, a new Upstream study examines the continued shame of appallingly high child poverty rates among status First Nations children. And Andrew MacLeod writes about the role racism plays in Canadian politics.

Monday, July 08, 2019

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Nick Falvo writes that Alberta would be far better served implementing a tax system more in line with the rest of Canada's provinces to increase revenue, rather than slashing social supports in the name of illusory budget balance. And the Globe and Mail's editorial board notes that multiple multi-million-dollar attacks on perceived political enemies make for a particularly appalling use of public money.

- Tracey Lindeman reports on new research showing that a massive chunk of Toronto's real estate market is being used for investment purposes rather than owner occupancy. And Cathy Crowe discusses the dangers of inadequate housing and other basic necessities when extreme heat strikes.

- CBC Radio talks to Sean Holman about the need for journalists to take climate change seriously. Fiona Harvey reports on the U.N.'s warning that disasters arising out of our climate breakdown are already happening at a rate of one per week.

- Meanwhile, Adam Morton rightly rebuts any attempt to paint natural gas as part of the solution to the climate crisis rather than a dangerous expansion of the problem.

- Finally, David Atkins discusses how establishment Democrats (like their counterparts in Canada and elsewhere) are misreading the risks of the status quo:
When (typically older) establishment Democrats tell (typically younger) progressives that they can’t try to make big structural changes to make government operate more efficiently—by, say, breaking the logjam of the Senate filibuster—they are told to be patient because the risk of giving that much power to Republicans is too great. But in actuality, it isn’t. On climate change alone, it’s not hyperbole to suggest that if the next Democratic administration–assuming Trump is defeated in 2020—does not pass something akin to a Green New Deal within its time, the policy failure could hurtle humanity into a dark age. Healthcare, housing, and education crises don’t have the same apocalyptic consequences, but their unsustiainable trajectories demand no less immediate solutions. The Democratic administration that comes after Trump, whether it’s run by Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, or Kamala Harris, will realistically have to deal with these problems with fewer than 60 Democratic Senators and almost no hope of Republican crossover votes. Sure, if Republicans regain unitary control of government without the backstop of a filibuster, they could do some very bad things. But none of those things would be as bad as letting another 10 years of climate inaction and ballooning healthcare, education, and housing costs go unaddressed. It’s a matter of theories of power and fundamental risk assessment.
Meanwhile, all the above-mentioned environmental and economic crises will combine to create serious instability when the next recession comes, as it inevitably will. Americans are hard-pressed right now even with all the traditional indicators roaring. What happens in the next downturn? Typically, people respond to downturns by voting for change, and they expect politicians to deliver on it. The greatest risk is, when that day comes, conservatives are the only ones promising credible systemic changes––albeit, of course, wrong and immoral ones.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

On fanaticism

I've previously pointed out the connection between Andrew Scheer and an explicit effort to elevate the burning of fossil fuels to goal surpassing any interest in human well-being. But it's worth noting how much more extreme the same forces are becoming in order to serve the cause of extracting oil and gas - regardless of both the immediate and long-term human costs.

Kelly Weill reported here on the stunning machinations around emissions legislation in Oregon. There, voters elected Democrats to control all three branches of government, resulting in the introduction of a garden-variety, business-friendly cap-and-trade bill.

Republican state Senators responded by fleeing the capitol to deny quorum which would allow the legislation to pass. And that isn’t unprecedented.

But the Republicans also allied themselves with terrorist militias, openly threatening police officers if any effort was made to secure their return. Needless to say, that represented an unprecedented level of disregard for law and life (beyond the health costs of fossil fuels themselves), and all in the service of nothing more than untrammelled fossil fuel production.

We haven't yet seen the same explicit and immediate threats to life in the name of the oil sector. But we've absolutely seen the deliberate cultivation of both petrofanaticism and violent rhetoric - from Conservative-connected astroturf groups threatening civil war and attempting to silence anybody who dares to deviate from the oil industry's hymnbook, to a UCP government wasting public resources to demand fealty to oil barons (while conspicuously ignoring the much larger foreign influence on the pro-oil side).

And we should be calling out both the extreme voices and their powerful enablers at any turn - because the last thing we should be willing to accept is avoidable human cost in the name of the new worship of dirty energy.

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Susie Neilson discusses the growing health gap between the rich and the rest of the population in the U.S. And Ricardo Tranjan writes about the unfairness of an Employment Insurance system in which people with the most precarious work pay a higher proportion of their income while receiving less access to benefits.

- Ian McGugan comments on the sad reality that far too many voters are supporting clowns and charlatans in the absence of any perception that governments can genuinely change their lives for the better.

- Clive Doucet laments the fact that due to Justin Trudeau's self-serving calculation that he'd rather have the opportunity to win false majorities than implement a proportional electoral system, far too many Canadian voters may end up voting based on fear rather than values once again. And Marie-Danielle Smith notes that the Libs have abandoned any pretense that their corporate-friendly trade schemes can be described as progressive.

- Lois Ross' discussion of what farmers lost due to the Cons' trashing of the Canadian Wheat Board offers a reminder of what we stand to lose by failing to recognize the importance of public institutions. And Murray Mandryk recognizes that Saskatchewan is far better off for the failure of the Devine PCs' attempt to sell off SaskEnergy.

- Finally, Rebecca Traister points out the need for political commentary to reflect the changing face of the political system. And Alex Ballingall discusses the increasing recognition of the importance of the environment among Canadian voters, even as the two largest parties in Parliament go out of their way to offer as little as possible.