Saturday, August 10, 2019

Musical interlude

Tame Impala - Borderline

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Ernest Canning writes about the importance of treating corporatism as a specific and extreme position, rather than allowing it to define the political centre. And Norm McKee rightly argues that Canada's federal election campaign needs to include a focus on ensuring the rich pay their fair share - though he inexplicably fails to mention the NDP's plan to do just that.

- Christopher Leonard reports on Koch Industries' alarming track record of worker injuries and deaths at Georgia Pacific as it has sought to wring ever more production out of fewer and fewer exhausted employees - and the Koch brothers' determination to keep extracting immediate and unsustainable profits at the expense of workers.

- Julie Lalonde discusses the importance of working on improving our health care system to ensure Canadians receive the care we need, rather than merely being satisfied with it being less costly and dysfunctional than the U.S.'. And Eric Topal highlights the role organizing within the medical profession can play in pushing for policies which improve social health.

- The Rocky Mountain Outlook writes that the UCP's reckless combination of immediate corporate slashing and calculated uncertainty for all public services is only making life worse for Alberta's most vulnerable residents. And Tahirih Foroozan and Sarah Rieger examine Jason Kenney's choice to leave libraries in particular with doubts about their ability to operate.

- Finally, Brian Feldman observes that the apparent death of the headphone jack represents another worrisome step toward technology being proprietary rather than connected.

Friday, August 09, 2019

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Robinson Meyer writes about the latest IPCC report on how our climate crisis endangers the land we rely on. And George Monbiot responds by noting that it understates the need for changes in how we produce and consume food, while the Canadian Press notes that it already identifies serious risks to our food supply.

- Meanwhile, Joe Romm reports on BNP Paribas' research suggesting that the rise of affordable renewable energy will make all but the cheapest oil unusable even without taking into account the social costs of carbon pollution. And Peter McCartney points out that plenty of Albertans are already well aware that a transition away from fossil fuels is coming, meaning that the only question is whether we cause undue harm by delaying the inevitable.

- Megan Stacey and Randy Richmond write that London is losing the war against poverty due to addictions and a lack of affordable housing. And Jason Antonio reports on the harm inflicted by Scott Moe's self-serving policies on the people of Moose Jaw and across Saskatchewan.

- Jim Stanford comments on Australia's disastrous shift toward privatized and unequal education as Andrew Scheer tries to impose the same types of educational disparities in Canada.

- Finally, Zak Vescera discusses how Canada is failing to keep up with the threat of right-wing extremism.

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Joel Connelly reports on a new B.C. study showing the breadth and depth of the effects of a climate breakdown. Reuters examines the threat of water bankruptcy looming over a quarter of the Earth's population - including a substantial part of the Canadian Prairies. David Suzuki writes that climate deniers are having a perpetually more difficult time avoiding reality. And Charlie Smith discusses the impact the Extinction Rebellion has had around the world as it looks to make its mark in Canada.

- But Sarah Cox notes that reckless forestry and natural gas approvals are essentially choosing to facilitate environmental destruction and potentially species extinction. And Steven Hsieh reports on the Koch brothers' spending to shout down even the most modest of local transit plans in the name of maximizing the burning of fossil fuels (and the resulting damage to our planet).

- Arthur White-Crummey reports on Scott Moe's choice to turn away federal funding for major projects in Regina and Saskatoon solely for the sake of picking a political fight. And Mia Rabson discusses how Manitoba school boards have had to go around their provincial government due to Brian Pallister's similar decision to prioritize naked partisanship over the public good.

- Finally, Aditya Chakrabortty writes that economic policies designed to serve the super-rich have turned most of the UK's population into losers. Labor411 notes that Lowe's has joined the ranks of the corporations who have responded to Donald Trump's tax giveaways by slashing jobs. And Leslie Josephs and Michael Wayland write that workers are still trying to find some way to win a share of the windfall handed to the U.S.' wealthiest few.

New column day

Here, on how a public drug manufacturer could both secure Canada's supply of needed medications in the face of threats from both corporate greed and U.S. policy threats.

For further reading:
- Adam Houston and Amir Attaran have been warning about the dangers of a U.S. importation scheme for some time now. And Amina Zafar reports on the call from Canadian oncologists to ensure that needed cancer drugs are available, even as their suppliers have chosen to limit or discontinue them.
- Lauren Gambino reported on Bernie Sanders' caravan to highlight the availability of insulin in Canada which is entirely unaffordable in the U.S. And Hannah Frishberg reports on a particularly vivid example of the human cost of people scrimping on needed medications.
- Finally, both Andre Picard and Tom Koch point out the problems with allowing drug exports to the U.S. under the current, corporate-controlled system.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- George Monbiot writes that the fossil fuel companies most responsible for endangering our living environment are also polluting our politics:
...What counts, in seeking to prevent runaway global heating, is not the good things we start to do, but the bad things we cease to do. Shutting down fossil infrastructure requires government intervention.

But in many nations, governments intervene not to protect humanity from the existential threat of fossil fuels, but to protect the fossil fuel industry from the existential threat of public protest. In the US, legislators in 18 states have put forward bills criminalising protests against pipelines, seeking to crush democratic dissent on behalf of the oil industry. In June, Donald Trump’s administration proposed federal legislation that would jail people for up to 20 years for disrupting pipeline construction.

Global Witness reports that, in several nations, led by the Philippines, governments have incited the murder of environmental protesters. The process begins with rhetoric, demonising civil protest as extremism and terrorism, then shifts to legislation, criminalising attempts to protect the living planet. Criminalisation then helps legitimise physical assaults and murder. A similar demonisation has begun in Britain, with the publication by a dark money-funded lobby group, Policy Exchange, of a report smearing Extinction Rebellion. Like all such publications, it was given a series of major platforms by the BBC, which preserved its customary absence of curiosity about who funded it.
What we see here looks like the denouement of the Pollution Paradox. Because the dirtiest industries attract the least public support, they have the greatest incentive to spend money on politics, to get the results they want and we don’t. They fund political parties, lobby groups and thinktanks, fake grassroots organisations and dark ads on social media. As a result, politics comes to be dominated by the dirtiest industries.

We are told to fear the “extremists” who protest against ecocide and challenge dirty industry and the dirty governments it buys. But the extremists we should fear are those who hold office.
- Meanwhile, Michael Harris discusses the connections between Stephen Harper, the International Democratic Union, and right-wing vote suppression tactics in Canada and around the world.

- Noah Smith writes about the importance of equalizing the distribution of power as well as income and wealth, particularly by strengthening the voice of workers in economic decision-making.

- PressProgress highlights the Libs' plans to push the privatization of water services if communities want any federal support for essential infrastructure. 

- Finally, Nora Loreto calls out the myth of the "lone wolf" shooter by pointing out the structural factors which promote violence and hatred.

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Flattened cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- The Washington Post reports that July 2019 set new records as the hottest month ever measured on Earth. David Suzuki offers a reminder of the catastrophic consequences of failing to put and end to our climate breakdown. And Roger Harrabin warns against exploiting and abusing the land we rely on.

- Meanwhile, Amnesty International announces that it has joined the fossil fuel divestment movement based on its recognition that dirty fuel dependence is antithetical to the preservation of human rights. And Damian Carrington reports that the public is more concerned about the environment in the UK than it's ever been before.

- Juliet O'Neil reports on the Kenney UCP's publicly-funded campaign to silence Tzeporah Berman and other advocates for a healthy planet.

- The Star's editorial board rightly slams the Ford PCs for going out of their way to make life worse for Ontario's poorest residents. And CBC News reports that as part of Jason Kenney's Summer of Concealment designed to avoid forcing Andrew Scheer to answer for his government's actions, the UCP has cut off access to scholarship applications until long after students' tuition comes due.

- Finally, Paul Krugman rightly points out that violence and terrorism are inevitable end results of politicians choosing to foment hatred in order to cover for their discriminatory policy choices.

Monday, August 05, 2019

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your Monday reading.

- Steven Greenhouse discusses how the U.S.' economy is rigged against workers. And Eric Levitz writes that Donald Trump's giveaway to the rich worked only as a scam against the rest of the country.

- Matthew Townsend and Scott Lanman point out that minimum wage increases - both through legislation and through public pressure on large employers - have resulted in some meaningful improvement in retail worker pay. But Sask Mojtehedzadeh reports on the continued delay in any federal report on precarious work in Canada.

- Ryan Cooper writes that Democrats are beginning to recognize the dangers of pursuing trade agreements designed to enrich businesses at the expense of the public - though sadly we can't say the same for Justin Trudeau and his corporate Libs.

- Canadians for Tax Fairness presents (PDF) a set of proposals for Canada's leaders and voters to discuss as the federal election approaches:
We have proposals in four different areas, with details provided below.
A. Ensure corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share by closing regressive tax loopholes and making taxes more progressive
B. Tackle international tax evasion, avoidance and tax havens
C. Improve corporate transparency
D. Combat climate change and support sustainable development
The fair tax plan...could generate over $40 billion annually in additional revenues for the federal government (as well as additional revenues for provincial governments where they would benefit from a broader federal tax base with fewer loopholes).

These additional revenues could, for example, easily fund:
  • Affordable child care for all plan, with a $1 billion investment in 2020 and an additional $1 billion each year for ten years to 2030.
  • A national universal pharmacare for all plan, estimated to cost $10 billion more than what federal and provincial governments now pay, providing average savings of $600 per household.
  • Free university and college tuition for all Canadians. Total tuition fees amount to about $9 billion (including foreign students, net costs would be lower without the tuition tax credit).
  • Elements of a “green new deal”, such as energy retrofitting of buildings and 40%of Canada’s homes, reducing homeowner energy use and bills by an average of 30% each, and improving the efficiency of other buildings by 50% at an estimated cost of $6 billion annually(and generating over 80,000 jobs annually).
- The Beaverton offers this year's definitive response to the Fraser Institute's ludicrous spin on public revenue.

- Finally, Tom Scocca discusses the violence which has resulted from the U.S.' acceptance of the spread of racism and bigotry. And Jonathan Montpetit calls out Francois Legault for endorsing attacks against minorities.

Sunday, August 04, 2019

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Noah Smith comments that while we shouldn't necessarily try to adjust GDP for other necessary elements of individual and social well-being, we should avoid treating it as a catch-all measure in assessing policy choices:
GDP does have plenty of flaws, even as an economic indicator. First of all, it leaves out a lot of things that represent real value. When your dad washes the dishes, that represents value creation -- if the dishwashing took place in a restaurant, it would be compensated monetarily, but since it happens for free at home, it gets ignored. GDP also ignores the value of leisure -- if you pay $10 to see a movie in a theater, it gets counted in GDP, but if you have an equal amount of fun hanging out with your friends, that value isn't counted.

Beyond these deficiencies, there’s the broader fact that economic value isn’t the only kind of value. Japanese people, for instance, are on average poorer than Americans in purely material terms, but the very low crime, efficient urban design, and clean streets and buildings has real value that isn't counted in economic statistics. The U.S. and Canada, meanwhile, have an abundance of natural beauty and open space that adds little to GDP, while many European and Asian countries enjoy advantages in health and life expectancy that are also uncounted. These are the kind of things that Bhutan and New Zealand are trying to account for, some of which are also included in the United Nations’ Human Development Index. GDP also doesn’t account for inequality or other issues of distribution.

A third problem with GDP is that it’s not much more than a snapshot of the present. It represents the amount of economic value that’s produced this year, rather than the amount that can be produced sustainably during the coming decades or centuries. Chopping down rainforests, draining aquifers, exhausting topsoil and burning fossil-fuel that contributes to climate change all raise GDP, but don’t necessarily make humanity better off in the long run.
Instead of trying to update GDP to include sustainability, health, education, happiness, equality, leisure, and safety, leaders should monitor these things independently. Fortunately, there is every indication that most of them do this already.
So instead of trying to fix GDP, it's better to simply remember its limitations. It is not the one economic number to rule them all, but simply one of a broad set of indicators of a society’s success.
- Meanwhile, Andrew Simms highlights the damage done by neoclassicals economics built around unduly narrow standards for success together with grossly implausible assumptions about the relationship between people and corporate actors.

- Jeffrey Sachs writes that first-past-the-post voting systems represent one of the most important common denominators in the rise to power of Donald Trump and Boris Johnson. And James Butler examines how Johnson looks to be handing unprecedented amounts of power to lobbyists looking to enrich their clients at the expense of the public.

- Dale Marshall rightly argues that Canada can't pass the buck when it comes to reining in greenhouse gas emissions. And Michael Segalov points out the need for governments to make public transit a more practical option if we want people to shift away from higher-emitting forms of transportation.

- Finally, Chuka Ejeckam argues that after decades of draconian drug policy which has placed disproportionate burdens on racial minorities, Canada's decriminalization process has been designed to ensure that the gains from a newly legal market are concentrated in already-privileged groups.