Saturday, July 27, 2019

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Norm Farrell examines some of the root causes of a political system which lavishes benefits on the wealthy while neglecting people who actually need help.

- Natalie Kitroeff, David Gelles and Jack Nicas examine the role of deregulation in the multiple crashes of Boeing 737 Maxes. And following up on this week's column on the misuse of regulatory power to help entrenched corporate interests, CBC News reports that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is actively trying to enforce the righthink demanded by the meat and dairy industries even against avowedly "100% vegan" restaurants.

- Henry Mance discusses how Silicon Valley is exacerbating our climate breakdown. And Akshat Rathi points out the dangerous feedback loops which develop when people use ever more dirty energy to avoid the effects of extreme weather.

- The Canadian Press reports on a joint letter warning that Canadian pharmaceutical supplies could be used up by U.S. patients - though it's worth noting that the question of whether production can be ramped to meet the needs of Canadians and other purchasers is one where there's obvious room for action. And Jennifer Keesmaat writes about the need for our housing policy to include recognition of the value of rental homes, rather than focusing almost entirely on individual ownership.

- Finally, Cam Holmstrom offers a response to Elizabeth May's stunning claim that the water rights and needs of Indigenous peoples can be met by having the federal government hijack the sentencing of SNC Lavalin rather than living up to its own responsibilities.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Musical interlude

Elliot Middleton feat. Lynn Gunn - Begin

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- George Monbiot writes that the wealthiest few have responded to the rise of populism by funding their own killer clowns to assume power in place of anybody who might actually respond to the public interest. 

- And Chuck Collins calls for a 100% tax on estates over a billion dollars to ensure that accumulated wealth and power aren't left unchecked over a period of multiple generations. 

- Tom Parkin discusses the "battle of the bads" in this fall's federal election - along with the opportunity that raises for anybody who can rise even to the level of acceptability. And Robert Hackett writes about the importance of hope in overcoming inertia.

- Lee Wasserman questions why anybody is still building policy around the search for fossil fuels which can only contribute to climate catastrophe. David Climenhaga points out Jim Stanford's observations as to how Australia serves as a cautionary tale for anybody hoping to rely on private fossil fuel extraction and exporting as an economic panacea. And Norm Farrell highlights how British Columbia is essentially giving away its natural gas under the false assumption that sweetheart deals today will lead to remotely sustainable development in the future.

- Finally, Aleana Young writes that it's perfectly possible to run a small business while paying employees a living wage - and indeed that any business model which insists on employees living in poverty doesn't deserve to be granted special treatment by the government.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Derrick O'Keefe writes that our federal election should be focusing on the growing climate crisis, not being sidetracked by such trivialities as chocolate milk. (Though I'll argue that the two issues may sometimes point to the same key structural problems.) Cam Fenton has some suggestions for the questions which could be asked in a climate change debate. And Stephen Leahy points out that temperatures beyond the range of existing heat indexes could soon affect hundreds of millions of people in the U.S. alone.

- Anne Gaviola recognizes that the primary effect of the gig economy is to entrench the power of corporations over workers. And Mitchell Anderson calls out the Trudeau Libs for using public money to promote corporate malfeasance.

- Nora Loreto rightly argues that Canada has nothing to brag about in our own system of migrant detention.

- John Klein highlights Scott Moe's decision to promote racist symbols - now including the Confederate flag.

- And finally, PressProgress points out Brian Pallister's growing list of health care cuts, now including a third emergency room closure so far.

New column day

Here, on how the meat and dairy industries alone are offering far too many examples of how entrenched corporate interests are using both government power and their own clout to hide basic facts from the public.

For further reading...
- K. Annabelle Smith wrote about the history of veggie burgers. But more to the point, Kelsey Piper discusses the spate of anti-fact laws being used to try to legislate them out of existence as soon as they offer a viable alternative to meat products.
- Olivia Condon reported on the Weather Network's forced reversal after it dared to mention reducing beef consumption as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- And Ryan Flanagan reported on Andrew Scheer's attacks on a Canada Food Guide based on scientific knowledge (along with basic disclosure of unhealthy foods) when the alternative is complete subservience to industry.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Niki Ashton writes about Justin Trudeau's glaring failure to understand the importance of parity in services and genuine nation-to-nation recognition as core elements of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

- Helena Hanson points out that voters are entirely unsatisfied with both Trudeau and Andrew Scheer as electoral options. Karl Nerenberg explores the ramifications of Elizabeth May's willingness to back Scheer - particularly as it would allow Scheer to use effectively unfettered executive power. And Laura Nguyen discusses the hope Jagmeet Singh offers for racialized voters in an environment of increasingly loud bigotry and xenophobia.

- David Climenhaga writes about Calgary's appalling choice to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to further enrich Murray Edwards and the Flames while slashing basic services in the name of austerity.

- Tristan Hughes discusses Jason Kenney's war against the environment and its defenders. Matt McGrath writes that keeping greenhouse gases at anything below catastrophic levels may require a major change of course as soon as the end of 2020. And Anthony Davis points out some of the mental barriers to the change we urgently need to make.

- Finally, Jonathan Watts discusses a push to treat environmental damage as a war crime.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Festooned cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Osita Nwanevu describes the higher-brow forms of bigotry and wilful ignorance being pushed by U.S. Republicans for upper-class audiences. And Kate Aronoff discusses the racial undertones of yet another wave of red-baiting.

- Meanwhile, David Climenhaga highlights how Canadian right-wing governments are fully adopting the Republican playbook - including by denying constituents the benefit of funding from other levels of government for partisan gain. And Alan Freeman takes note of the dubious company Jason Kenney has joined in using public money to target perceived political opponents for harassment.

- Andrew Parkin writes that Canadian voters recognize the importance of a national climate change plan. And Dan Tong, Qiang Zhang, Yixuan Zheng, Ken Caldeira, Christine Shearer, Chaopeng Hong, Yue Qin and Steven J. Davis examine the effect of a phaseout of existing fossil fuel infrastructure - concluding that it alone could keep global warming under 2 degress Celsius.

- But Arwa Mahdawi laments the fact that far too many politicians insist on continuing business as usual - fossil fuel subsidies and all - rather than working toward a habitable future.

- Carolyn Ferns discusses the need for the federal government to start taking the importance of child care seriously.

- Finally, Sahil Jai Dutta, Samuel Knafo, Richard Lane, Ian Lovering and Steffan Wyn-Jones point out how neoliberal economics based on the alleged impracticality of centralized planning have ultimately resulted in exactly that - only carried out for corporate rather than public purposes.

Monday, July 22, 2019


Some parties and leaders recognize the stakes in determining how to manage a minority Parliament:
I asked Mr. Duceppe what he thought would happen if the prime minister refused to accept such an ultimatum. He replied that a government defeat so soon after a general election meant the Governor General would have to turn "to one of us" to form a government. We both knew that meant Stephen Harper and his Conservatives. I asked Mr. Duceppe if he could accept such an eventuality. He was not only clear that he could, but he would.
Realizing immediately the full magnitude of what was at stake, I knew I had to walk away. I was not about to participate in any scheme cooked up by the Bloc and the Conservatives that would put the country in the hands of Stephen Harper.
And some, well...
With three months until Canadians vote in the next federal election, Green party leader Elizabeth May says her big hope for the final result is a minority government over which she can exert some influence.

In fact, May thinks that influence could even get the Conservatives to drop their dyed-in-the-wool opposition to carbon taxes if it means the difference for them between governing or spending more time in opposition.

"People change their minds when they see the dynamic of a way a Parliament is assembled and maybe think, 'Killing carbon taxes isn't such a good idea if the only way I get to be prime minister is by keeping them,' " May says.
Federally, May says she could support a minority government of any party but only if that party is serious about acting to stop climate change.

"We will negotiate with anyone, we will talk to everyone, but we won't compromise on climate action," she says.
Meanwhile, let's keep in mind that it's a single vote of confidence following the 2008 election that gave Stephen Harper the ability to stay in office rather than facing the consequences of pushing to exacerbate an economic meltdown with cuts and political attacks.

May might well be able to get the Cons to say they'll change their position on climate policy for the purpose of taking power. She'd have far less leverage in getting them to follow through when they have the option of running away from Parliament.

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Aditya Chakrabortty writes about the dangers of accepting gross inequality based on the hope that billionaires will make up in charity what they fail to contribute in tax revenue:
For the super-rich, giving is really taking. Taking power, that is, from the rest of society. The billionaires will get exclusive access to the “vision” for the reconstruction of a national landmark and they can veto those plans, because if they don’t like them they can withhold their cash. Money is always the most powerful casting vote, and they have it. Never mind that much of this cash actually comes from the public, as French law grants a whopping 66% tax relief on any donation – the power is entirely private. The annual cap on such contributions doubtless constitutes a prudent reason for the big donors to stagger their generosity.

Whether in France or Britain or the US, the rich give money to the grand institutions at the heart of our cultures to secure their social status in plaques and photo opportunities. In much the same way, they fund our political parties, then enjoy the kickbacks when they form a government. As Julia Cagé, an economist at Paris’s SciencesPo, points out, some of the same people pledging donations to Notre Dame were also among those who funded Macron’s rise to the presidency. In her recent award-winning book, to be published in English next year as The Price of Democracy, Cagé calculates that 600 wealthy people in France gave between €3m and €4.5m to Macron’s election campaign. In other words, 2% of all donors made up between 40 % and 60% of all En Marche funding. Within a few months, the new president cut taxes on the wealthy, giving his richest donors “a return of nearly 60,000% on their investment”. Just as with Notre Dame – a tiny deposit, a lot of influence and one hell of a payout.
- And Stephanie Bailey's observations as to how wealthier people can play a large part in mitigating our climate crisis are noteworthy primarily for the lack of any apparent action.

- In turn, the consequences of the failure to rein in greenhouse gas emissions caused primarily by the wealthiest have included record temperatures around the globe, along with unprecedented heat and wildfires in the Arctic region. 

- Rick Paulas makes the case to stop directing public resources toward restricting access to transit, and instead ensure that basic transit is freely available.

- And finally, Emily Guendelsberger discusses how an increasing number of jobs are calculated to cause "chronic mild stress" which inevitably results in employee burnout (but avoids the possibility that workers will have access to any social supports).

Sunday, July 21, 2019

On denialism

Others have already pointed out the substantive recklessness of Brian Pallister's refusal to accept federal funding for climate projects in the education system. But Pallister's choice of wording - that of a "hoax" - may be even more significant than the money involved.

After all, the "hoax" terminology is entirely familiar within discourse about climate change. From Donald Trump to Ezra Levant, Breitbart to the Friends of Science, merchants of doubt about settled climate science have regularly used the word to attack the reality of climate change.

And in case one wanted to pretend there's some difference in context, the word is no more accurate when advanced by Pallister than in the regular spewing of outright climate denialism.

The federal government is in fact collecting revenue; it is in fact making money available for education systems; Pallister is in fact rejecting it. There's no hoax here by any rational definition of the term - raising the question as to why Pallister is choosing to use such a loaded word in the context of his government's position on the climate crisis.

While there are a few possible explanations for Pallister's choice to echo the preferred wording of the climate death cult, it's hard to see how any would be anything but a gross condemnation of his leadership.

Is he deliberately targeting his message toward the prejudices and misinformation of climate change denialists? Or is the information he's currently choosing to hear on climate issues so grossly slanted that he can't begin to discuss climate policy without turning into Anthony Watts on stilts?

Either way, Pallister looks to be going further than ever before in rejecting even his own government's recognition of facts to reinforce the message of Canada's gang of climate vandals. And Manitoba voters should take note of his extremism before allowing him to keep turning away funding for community priorities in the name of climate destruction.

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Erika Beauchesne discusses the benefits of a wealth tax as both a means of reducing inequality, and a source of revenue for public priorities:
Canada’s NDP has proposed a one per cent tax on wealth over $20 million as part of its election platform. The party doesn’t include much detail yet but estimates it could generate several billion dollars a year.

Pundits have been quick to pounce on a wealth tax as too extreme, difficult or costly. A National Post column last month asked: “What is the problem to which creating a wealth tax is a solution?”

Growing inequality is the problem.

The richest families in Canada are now more than 4,400 times wealthier than the average family, according to a study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

This widening gap has gone hand-in-hand with declining social and economic mobility. The CCPA found that family dynasties are more likely to keep their money in the family than they were two decades ago thanks to light taxes and loopholes that primarily benefit the wealthy, while Statistics Canada recently reported that family income mobility has declined since the 1980s.
There’s debate among economists about the pros and cons of annual wealth taxes, and whether inheritance taxes and other taxes on capital and wealth would work better. Canadians for Tax Fairness, an organization that advocates for fair and progressive taxation, has called for restoring an inheritance tax on high-wealth estates to narrow Canada’s widening wealth gap, make our tax system fairer and generate funds to pay for public services. Democratic leadership contender and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders proposed a similar plan to expand the estate tax for inheritances over US$3.5 million.

The question and debate should no longer be whether we have increased taxes on wealth and capital, but what form they should take. We should thank the NDP for getting this debate going in Canada, and look forward to seeing what other federal political parties propose.
- And Douglas Todd notes that a failure to adequately tax wealth as opposed to income has left British Columbia in the position of subsidizing foreign ownership of desperately scarce housing.

- Melanie Green offers some important background information as a British Columbia inquiry begins analyzing the cause of soaring gas prices being used by right-wing politicians to attach carbon pricing. Paul Cowley reports on another estimate showing that Alberta faces tens of billions of dollars in well reclamation liabilities left unfunded by the corporations who have extracted oil and gas. And Andrea Palframan reports on the work of the Heiltsuk Nation in documenting the lack of any effective oil spill response along B.C.'s coastline.

- Paul Wells writes that Andrew Scheer's anti-Canada Food Guide bombast can only be the product of a politician taking voters for idiots. And the Star's editorial board argues that we shouldn't allow anybody to play political with health and nutrition.

- Finally, Rick Salutin points out the sheer folly of Doug Ford's insistence that Ontario students earn online credits rather than receiving a full education at school.