Saturday, December 28, 2019

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Andray Domise highlights the importance of fighting back against the excesses and harms of capitalism, rather than accepting it as being necessary or inescapable:

There’s no way around a simple reality for people who consider themselves to be on the left side of the political spectrum, the people who strive for widespread and radical, if not revolutionary, change—we’re getting our tails kicked. There’s no putting an end to that if people who hold left-leaning ideals cannot quit kidding themselves by believing that capitalism exists as a benevolent or even neutral social arrangement. If the left intends to win these fights, it must also stand in principled opposition to capitalism. 2020 is the year to do it.

“It is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism,” goes an observation by, depending on your sources, either Fredric Jameson or Slavoj Žižek. And the frightening thing is, not only does the world’s end become easier to imagine with each passing day, there is also a politically active bloc that intends to keep squeezing profits until the music stops.
Environmental policy is not the only one where norms have become warped to the point of immorality. In Toronto, where nearly half of renters are paying costs categorized by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation as “unaffordable,” it can take between two and 14 years to be placed into social housing. The situation is equally dire in Vancouver, where rising rents force tenants into recreational vehicles, and then the eventual possibility of being kicked out of RV camps en masse.

How does the federal government address any of this? By offering financial assistance and incentives to bolster people with tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of dollars stashed away to buy a home. Which of course helps the real estate industry, helps mortgage lenders, and does nothing for people pressed ever further into the reaches of poverty. Condo towers sprout up all along Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway and tent cities underneath it are bulldozed, while the earth continues to pirouette carelessly on its axis.

Our political, business and media class would like nothing more than to pretend that these are natural outcomes, that none of it is avoidable, and that the world is and always has been shaped according to the capricious whims of that unknowable free market.

But the truth of the matter is this: 58 per cent of Canadians have a favourable view of socialism, and 77 per cent of us believe the world is facing a climate emergency. Most Canadians find income inequality to be fundamentally un-Canadian, and there are, numerically, more of us than there are bankers, landlords, brokers and executives put together. The only way for the left to win this fight is for its political vision to expand beyond capitalism, and to capture the widespread desire to move on from its exploitative limits.

We’ve lived in that world for long enough. Time for it to end.
- Meanwhile, David Dayen discusses how the U.S.' media is allowing the financial sector to avoid any discussion of the policies desperately needed to restrain its wealth and influence. And Ian Welsh writes about the reasons for UK Labour's election defeat - with the role of a hostile media in an anti-social propaganda campaign ranking as a crucial factor.
- Cathy Crowe discusses a brutal decade for homeless people in Canada. 

- Mike Addelman comments on the lack of mental health care to meet the needs of people facing terminal illnesses.

- Tony Doucette interviews Susan Caxaj about the coercive environment facing migrant agricultural workers in Ontario. And Grace-Edward Galabuzi and Sheila Block examine the costs of racism in Canada's labour market. 

- Finally, Gundi Rhoades writes about the devastating impact of climate change on animals in Australia. And Ebony Bennett points out that Scott Morrison's government is continuing to subsidize fossil fuels and neglect any emission reduction or mitigation plans even while his country is ablaze.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Bernie Sanders and Rashida Tlaib discuss Donald Trump's holiday menu of serving the rich and feasting on the poor, while Paul Krugman comments on the cruelty of a Trump Christmas. And Nick Purdon and Leonardo Palleja tell the stories of people facing the increasing depth and breadth of homelessness in Toronto.

- Margaret McGregor and Larry Barzelai write about the amount of fracking taking place in British Columbia - and the risk it poses both locally and globally - with relatively little public attention.  Michael Barnard notes the likelihood that Canada as a whole will end up paying for Alberta's refusal to make fossil fuel polluters clean up their own mess. And Tzeporah Berman highlights the absurdity of approving massive tar sands projects while the federal government dithers in the face of a climate crisis.

- Andrew Jacobs points out the disconnect between big pharma which is making obscene amounts of money from mass-produced drugs, and the lack of resources available for anybody more interested in research than short-term profiteering.

- Joseph Bernstein discusses how our relationship with technology has developed to make us more isolated and alienated.

- Finally, Joe Sousek makes the case for UK Labour to make a decisive push for proportional representation following an election in which a party with far less than majority support will be inflicting years of suffering on the voters who opposed it.

New column day

Here, on how the criticisms which were used to push Andrew Scheer out of the Cons' leadership role in fact reflect the fundamental problems with a party built around selfishness as the sole ideal to be pursued.

For further reading...
- David Akin reported on Scheer's prolific spending when he was running for the Cons' leadership.
- David Pugliese listed some of Peter MacKay's most prominent scandals, including his use of a military helicopter for a personal fishing trip. Global News reported on the donor-funded (and publicly-subsidized) top-ups paid to Christy Clark and Brad Wall. And Adam Hunter reported on Stephen Harper's current ride on the Saskatchewan Party's gravy train (with whistle stops to boost the local nativist demogogues along the way).
- And Kevin Drum looked at another application of the view of conservatism as the practice of promoting selfishness.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Cats amidst chaos.

Tuesday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- The Canadian Press reports on the Libs' desire to approve massive tar sands expansions no matter how the resulting production - to say nothing of the consumption left uncounted - would affect Canada's role in exacerbating a climate breakdown. And Janyce McGregor reports on the Libs' latest stalling tactics in applying fair tax obligations to stock options.

- Blair Fix studies how hierarchy dominates over education as a determinant of income in the U.S.' military.

- Alia Youssef examines how Muslim women have been affected by Quebec's discriminatory Bill 21.

- Stephanie Taylor reports on the difficulties Saskatchewan residents are facing in getting addictions treated. And Omar Mosleh tells the story of Randy Legarde's death - whose immediate causes remain unknown, but whose systemic roots in a lack of housing and social supports are only being exacerbated by the UCP. 

- Finally, Rick Salutin notes that populism - in one form or another - stands to exert significant influence within our political system, while Karolina Wigura and Jarosław Kuisz write about the importance of connecting to voters on an emotional level. And Adam Ramsey discusses how the UK Cons' majority can be traced largely to their promising to banish the political chaos they themselves caused.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Stephen Buranyi laments the reality that the public's increased awareness and concern about our ongoing climate breakdown isn't being reflected in political decisions. And Noah Smith writes that while the rapid drop in prices for renewable energy may help us avoid the worst possible climate outcomes, we shouldn't doom ourselves to the massive damage expected from a business-as-usual scenario.

- Erin Baerwald calls out the gross inaccuracy of Doug Ford's anti-wind crusade. Jeremy Klazsuz reviews Jason Kenney's year of attacks, while Scott Schmidt discusses the threat the UCP's war room poses to the public's freedom of expression. And Morgan Modjeski reports on the laughably overwrought shrieks of protest in response to a fairly standard Oxbow Christmas pageant which dared to include environmental themes.

- Eion Higgins reports on the spread of the #wouldyoushootmetoo hashtag in response to the news that the RCMP was prepared to shoot to kill peaceful land defenders.

- Chelsea Whyte discusses the tragic - and entirely avoidable - return of measles to the U.S. as a result of antivaxxers.

- Finally, Heather Mallick points out the economic and environmental damage we do by relying on Amazon. And Brendan Kennedy reports undercover on the working conditions facing Amazon's delivery drivers.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Kevin Drum writes about the need to address the climate crisis as a war for the future of humanity. And Will Wade reports on new research showing that we'll earn back more than the price of a rapid transition from fossil fuels to clean energy within less than a decade. And Ashley Martin discusses the need to combine climate action with social equity.

- Peter McCartney questions the contrived outrage from the oilpatch at the Lib government which has gifted it an eleven-figure pipeline. And Scott Schmidt laments the UCP's choice to use tens of millions of public dollars on an evil-clown-shoes war room rather than helping Alberta's people, while the Canadian Press reports on the combination of deception and intimidation that's served as its modus operandi.

- In a similar vein, Jessica Scott-Reid questions why Alberta's meat producers are pushing for "ag gag" laws which will prevent anybody from knowing the truth about any claims to humane treatment of animals.

- Finally, Andrew Jackson writes about the growing international push for a more progressive tax system, including the latest book by Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman:
In recent years, progressives and social democrats have begun to embrace a much bolder tax fairness agenda than was the case even five years ago. This is especially true in the United States where Democratic Presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have both made the case for a significant tax on large holdings of wealth, the closure of personal tax loopholes for investment income such as stock options, and serious corporate tax reform. In the 2019 federal election, the NDP similarly called for a wealth tax, higher taxation of capital gains in the personal income tax system, and a higher corporate tax rate.

These proposals counter the conventional wisdom that globalization forces countries to lower corporate and personal income taxes in order to attract mobile capital and highly skilled labour. It is indeed the case that the tax “burden” in most advanced economies has shifted from taxation of capital and the affluent to taxes on labour through regressive sales and payroll taxes, and lower income tax rates for the top 1% over the past two decades or so, even under supposedly progressive governments.

However, tax experts Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman argue in a new book that the issue of fair taxes is deeply political and that we can reverse the trend by pushing for real change...
(T)hey argue that countries should agree to not just to limit profit shifting, where some limited progress has already been made, but also to apply a minimum rate of corporate income tax. While this could be challenging, it is mainly very small countries who are most opposed. Big countries acting together should and could stop the erosion of the corporate tax base if they were prepared to stand up to the global elite.
Saez and Zucman are also major advocates of adding a wealth tax to our current arsenal of fair taxes, to be levied at a low but rising rate on very large fortunes. The aim would not be just, or even most importantly, to raise revenues, but to prevent the accumulation of huge fortunes which give the ultra rich far too much power and undermine democracy. Again, they believe that such a tax could be successfully levied in the United States, noting that the New Deal of the 1930s stretching into the post Ware period was deliberately intended to block the excessive accumulation of wealth.

The massive shift of taxes away from labour to the owners of capital in the US has been nothing short of staggering, undermining the fiscal base needed to support social programs and public services and exacerbating mounting inequality driven by the market economy. A major shift of direction is needed, and Saez and Zucman provide us with a well-documented analysis of tax injustice and a guide to needed reform.