Saturday, August 31, 2019

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Greg Wilpert interviews Julia Wolfe about the contract between soaring incomes for CEOs, and stagnant ones for workers. And David Cooper observes that everybody benefits from a fair minimum wage.

- Christopher Cheung points out that the presence - or absence - of basic bathroom facilities offers a simple test as to whether cities are designed to be lived in by people.

- Zoe Ducklow interviews Tatiana Schlossberg about the relationship between consumer lifestyles and our climate breakdown and other environmental consequences.

- Patricia Aldana rightly calls out Canada's corporate elite (and their fully-owned political subsidiaries) for prioritizing resource sector profits over the rule of law in Latin America. And Mitchell Anderson notes that we don't have any standing to claim superiority over Brazil in our effect on the climate - though the answer should be that we accept being subject to the same type of pressure we ought to apply to other countries who also place short-term profits ahead of the viability of our planet. 

- Finally, Bernie Sanders highlights how media outlets motivated by a combination of easy profits and billionaire manipulations represent a threat to democracy. And Dennis Gruending discusses how the Koch brothers' dark money has harmed Canada's political debate.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Musical interlude

Big Sugar - Dear Mr. Fantasy

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Rick Salutin writes that Canada's lack of accessible housing arises primarily as the result of general inequality. Derek Thompson notes that youth athletics are just one more sphere of activity in which concentrated wealth is driving out participation by people who don't have that advantage. And Michael Mendelson reports on Doug Ford's latest plan to remove what little support already exists for the people who need it most.

- Kevin Carmichael asks why our government isn't ensuring that digital giants pay their fair share to support a society which offers a source of massive profits. And David MacDonald and Chris Roberts examine how large corporations have stolen from their workers by deliberately underfunding pension plans while finding enough spare cash to pay out massive dividends.

- Gamechangers examines how Justin Trudeau's attempt to turn public works into a private profit centre included appeals to Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund.

- Finally, Chris Selley comments on the latest revelations about Trudeau's betrayal of progressive voters on electoral reform:
(W)e are asked to believe that this scholar of electoral reform, who felt quite strongly that proportional representation was “bad for Canada,” was convinced by his caucus to “leave the door open at least a crack for proportional representation” because he thought (per Wherry’s interviews) that he might be “willing to be convinced that (he was) wrong.”

There is no evidence he was, in fact, willing. Instead we are to believe that the committee of Trudeau’s MPs and those of other parties that Trudeau tasked to study and consult on this matter at great expense, and that ended up recommending PR, only to have then-democratic institutions minister Maryam Monsef dismiss their work as not what she asked for, only steeled his resolve against PR. We are to believe that Trudeau forgot to stump for ranked ballots even occasionally, once he became prime minister, because — per Katie Telford, now Trudeau’s chief of staff, to Wherry — “then we wouldn’t have been doing a lot of other things.”
Truly, the mind boggles. A keen student of electoral reform would have known the New Democrats would never accept ranked ballots because PR is party gospel, and ranked ballots are beside the point to PR and not in their electoral best interests. A keen student of electoral reform would have known the Conservatives would never accept ranked ballots because they believe quite strongly in the status quo, and because they are also not in their electoral best interests.

The honest person Justin Trudeau purports to be cannot claim good intentions in this situation and expect to get away with it. I cannot ever recall seeing such an implausibly ambitious plea for clemency for such a transparently cynical record. It says a lot that he would even attempt it.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Liaquat Ahamed writes about the pattern of wealth concentrating in the absence of a countervailing force - and the need for a political response. Linda McQuaig discusses how the media largely ignores the eminently popular prospect of raising taxes on the people who have more wealth than they could possibly put to good use. And Ilya Bañares reports on the majority of Canadians who have a positive view of socialism - a number equal to those approving of capitalism.

- Meanwhile, Annie Lowrey writes that millennials who are already facing an economy rigged against them stand to bear the brunt of the next recession when it hits. And Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood and Zaee Deshpande discuss the importance of including social equity as an integral element of a just transition toward clean energy.

- Larry Elliott recognizes that personal changes will fall far short of turning the tide when it comes to our climate crisis. And Robinson Meyer notes that there's no way to reverse foreseeable damage such as the destruction of the Amazon rain forest once we've gone too far.

- Finally, as Manitoba considers its options for a new provincial government, James Wilt examines the damage wrought by Brian Pallister since he took power.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- John Nichols interviews Bernie Sanders about the importance of resurrecting the principle of economic rights. Gallup examines how the American public is again recognizing the value of unions. And Simon Goodley writes about the positive effects of shortening the work week to 4 days by pointing out how productivity increases in weeks which are shorter due to holidays.

- But of course, we can count on our right-wing demagogues to never let evidence get in the way of their goal of shredding social bonds. On that front, Michelle Bellefontaine reports on the UCP's first fiscal update, featuring their declaration that they'll keep corporate tax giveaways in place regardless of whether or not they result in promised jobs or investment. And Doug Allan points out how Doug Ford plans to slash funding to Ontario's health care system which is already struggling to meet patients' needs.

- Geoff Zochodne reports on BMO's decision to exit the reinsurance market - with the risks of climate change representing a substantial part of the reason.

- Janyce McGregor reports on the Libs' insistence on pushing a free trade deal with the same Bolsonaro regime that's facilitating the destruction of the Amazon rain forest. And this - as Scott Gilmore points out - at a time when the rest of the world is learning to work around Donald Trump and his ilk.

- Finally, Christopher Guly writes that the Libs haven't succeeded in stifling any discussion of electoral reform - and that they can expect any possible multi-party negotiations to include that as a must.

In plain sight

Robyn Urback is rightly concerned about the lack of discussion of Quebec's systematic discrimination by most of Canada's federal parties - only to gloss over the strong position taken by Jagmeet Singh and the NDP.

Matt Gurney laments the lack of a remotely reasonable climate debate between the Libs and Cons, while failing to mention the NDP's New Deal at all.

And Neil MacDonald complains about an election based on mudslinging between the Libs and Cons, while only noting in passing that the NDP is offering meaningful solutions to the social ills those parties are ignoring.

If only there were some pattern as to how this fall's election might produce results Canadians actually want - and how the media can advance the discussion past the cynical politics of Trudeau and Scheer.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Cozy cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Paul Krugman writes about the U.S. Republicans' new complaint of evil eye economics - though it shouldn't come as much surprise that people who treat the economy as nothing more than a confidence game would object to anybody pointing out how the public is being conned.

- Alex Kotch writes about David Koch's legacy of destruction. And Suketu Mehta writes about the manufactured anti-immigration message which has allowed the racist right to grow across much of the developed world.

- Meanwhile, Ian Tucker interviews David Wallace-Wells about the pattern of policy hypocrisy which includes the Libs' determination to build pipelines at public expense while posturing as climate champions.

- Michael Laxer highlights how the Libs' housing plan for Nunavut involves funding only a tiny fraction of even the most immediate needs.

- Finally, Keith Gerein calls on Jason Kenney to acknowledge the evidence that supervised consumption sites save lives. And Andre Picard questions why we're happy to accept the social consumption of alcohol in bars while acting squeamish about the equivalent for any other substance. 

Monday, August 26, 2019

On mixed signals

Cam argues that the Libs' latest messaging on carbon pricing is a mistake in the sense of a political gaffe. And watching only the headlines today, that take would appear to be borne out.

But I'll respond that while a posture of studied ambiguity about carbon pricing may represent an error in strategy, it does reflect a deliberate choice.

And to be clear, an utter lack of clarity as to their plans for carbon pricing is exactly the message the Libs have chosen to offer:
In a news conference Monday morning, McKenna used careful phrasing to say that the current plan has no “intention” of going past $50 per tonne since it ends in 2022, but then added that decisions about future price increases will be made after discussing it with provincial governments.

“In 2016, we negotiated for a year with provinces and territories that included a price on pollution until 2022,” she said. “So there’s no intention to go up beyond that, any decision would be made in discussions with provinces and territories and stakeholders.”

She was asked specifically if she’s ruling out price increases beyond 2022, but didn’t respond directly. “All we’ve done is we’ve negotiated until 2022, so I’m not in a position to negotiate anything past that,” she said. “I think that there’ll be an election in 2023 and I think that might be a discussion for that election.”
While it's true that the Cons were quick to seize on the shift in position, the more important gap between the Libs' position and other policy options is that on the other side.

After all, it's generally recognized that the existing carbon price falls far short of representing a viable answer to our climate crisis - leaving the Libs vulnerable to significant challenges from the NDP (and the Greens) offering far more thorough proposals to a growing pool of voters whose desire for meaningful climate action will influence their ballots.

By deliberately failing to take any position, the Libs figure to be trying to take the best of both worlds: their environmentally-branded candidates (echoed by the Cons) can hint at increased carbon prices they haven't committed to, while the national campaign can point to the lack of any promise and accuse the Cons of fearmongering for asserting as a certainty something which isn't actually in their platform.

Unfortunately, that political ploy will serve only to muddy the waters for voters who demand more than deliberate obfuscation (along with counterproductive choices) in confronting the most serious challenge of our time. And anybody serious about reining in our carbon pollution will need to make clear that the Libs can't claim the benefit of their consciously-cultivated doubt.

Update: And this is surely exactly what the Libs were after - credit as a party to "fight climate change" from a prominent environmental voice, without actually presenting a plan or even a promise to develop one. 

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Peter Wade reports on new polling showing that American voters remain angry about a political system which benefits a privileged few at the expense of everybody else. Jake Johnson reports on Bernie Sanders' message that it's time for workers to win the class war that's been waged against them by the 1%. And Dave McKee discusses the importance of organizing new industries and business models to ensure employers can't evade effective collective action.

- Suzanne Bearne writes about Gary Bloch's efforts to ensure patients have the income they need to avoid illnesses caused by poverty. But PressProgress points out how Doug Ford is trying to make Ontario's poorest residents even worse off.

- Andrew Jackson writes that for a Green New Deal to achieve a just transition to a clean economy, it will need to include an industrial strategy to ensure that workers share in the benefits.

- David Miranda is the latest commentator to highlight how Jair Bolsonaro's corporatism is responsible for the burning Amazon rain forest. And Gary Yohe and Michael Mann point out the exploitative mindset behind both our climate crisis and the rise of bigoted populism.

- Finally, Joel Lexchin explains why we shouldn't settle for the Libs' patchwork plans and incrementalism when universal pharmacare is within reach.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Sunday Evening Links

Assorted content for your Sunday reading.

- Binyamin Appelbaum discusses the folly of having turned economic decision-making over to people who somehow saw income inequality and the concentration of wealth as desirable ends. And Geoff Zochodne points out that Canada has been suffering from the "American disease" of having corporate cash converted into stock buybacks rather than the investment promised by the purveyors of corporate tax cuts.

- Meanwhile, Andrew Baker and Richard Murphy suggest a framework which could set minimum standards for corporate tax rates, and ensure that multinationals aren't able to avoid paying their fair share by sending income or assets offshore.

- Simon Tisdall writes that Donald Trump's musings about trying to buy Greenland are revealing in highlighting the belief that the parts of the natural environment facing the brunt of a climate breakdown are ripe for further exploitation. And Andre Pagliarini notes that a burning Amazon is another particularly glaring example of the same exploitative mindset, while Robert Hackett discusses how the fight against the Trans Mountain pipeline purchase and expansion represents a crucial step toward reversing it in Canada.

- Finally, Catherine Ford calls out Jason Kenney for stacking the deck against Alberta's most vulnerable workers in appointing a panel to cheerlead for a lower minimum wage.