Saturday, January 11, 2020

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Ben Jenkins rightly calls out Australia's right-wing government and media for caring not a whit for the people seeing their country go up in flames:
If you were holding out hope that the cynical and partisan way we currently talk about climate change can’t possibly hold in the face of actual climate disasters — when it’s undeniably manifested itself in unbreathable air and burning homes and smoldering coastline — let go of that hope now. These fires have shown the status quo to be a stubborn thing, possibly an immovable one. It’s rooted fast in place by money and politics and ideology.
Even from a cynical standpoint, there seems to be very little to gain in playing down a national crisis of this sort. A strong response rallies the nation. It shows you’re a leader who acts. Best of all, there’s no partisan division to navigate. It is a political truism that everyone, regardless of how they vote, does not want the country to be on fire.

But this isn’t about people, it’s about ideology, and to accept the unprecedented scale of the fires and act accordingly is to accept that the climate is changing and something needs to be done. That’s it. To me, this is the most striking aspect of the crisis — the debate about how best to douse a burning country has been seamlessly press-ganged into service in the ongoing culture war, all of which is amplified and buttressed by an increasingly demented right-wing media and an absurdly powerful fossil fuels lobby.
In this crisis, the conservative media have defended Morrison against the most benign attacks even as the death toll climbed and the fury mounted; they have dismissed experts with decades of in-field experience as “activists”; they’ve spread thoroughly debunked theories about these fires being caused by environmentalists’ opposition to preventative land clearing; even bushfire victims themselves were branded as “feral” when they had the temerity to heckle the PM during a photo opportunity in their fire-ravaged town of Cobargo. Possibly most telling of all, Craig Kelly, a member of Morrison’s government, went on UK television to deny any link between the fires and climate change, where even a wet gollum like Piers Morgan couldn’t let it pass. Back home, pundits on Sky News defended him, saying that they “didn’t know anymore more across the science than [Kelly].”

And so warnings weren’t heeded, rescue efforts weren’t funded, Hawaiian jaunts weren’t called off, not through incompetence, but through sheer bloodymindedness. If you take one thing away from all of this, know that there are people in both the government and the media who would sooner see the country burn than confront the enormity of this problem.

All of this should terrify you, because the appalling response to this crisis in Australia isn’t an aberration. Like the fires themselves, it’s the product of years of adverse conditions — a dominant conservative press, a powerful fossil fuel lobby, a class of politicians in the thrall of both — that would look very familiar the world over.
- Damien Cave likewise calls out Rupert Murdoch's role in spreading disinformation and anti-climate propaganda in the face of a public emergency. Emily Holden discusses the oil industry's investment in controlling any conversation about the climate crisis. And Vikram Dodd and Jamie Grierson report that the UK is choosing to label people fighting for our survival as extremists to be subject to extra surveillance and control.

- Spencer Jakab writes about the readily-avoidable damage being inflicted by natural gas flaring. And Chris Varcoe's reporting on the UCP's closed-door development of policy for orphan wells only looks to highlight another area in which the public will be expected to bear the cost of environmental destruction wrought by the oil sector.

- A new Pew Research poll shows that fully 70% of Americans view their economic system as unfairly favoring those who already have the most. And Reuters/Ipsos finds majority support for a wealth tax as one means of addressing the unfairness.

- Finally, James Hurley reports on a wave of foreclosure forgery in the UK comparable to what took hold in the U.S. after the 2008 economic crisis.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Musical interlude

Esthero feat. Miguel - Many Times

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Simon Holmes a Court challenges the argument that any country or industry can opt out of being part of the response to our climate crisis. And Emily Holden comments on the oil industry's control over public discussions about climate change, while Christopher Knaus examines the disinformation campaign intended to deflect responsibility for Australia's record temperatures and catastrophic bushfires.

- Nichole Dusyk points out that the Canada Energy Regulation's assumptions about future oil production represent an all-in bet on humanity's failure to stop the climate breakdown. And Robyn Allan exposes how the Trudeau government's Trans Mountain pipeline purchase was designed to leak public money to fossil fuel tycoons from day one - and is succeeding in that task.

- Matt Elliott offers a reminder that the costs of infrastructure don't stop merely because a project's initial photo ops have come to an end. 

- Matthew Stanley writes about the long and ongoing struggle to address structural inequalities in the U.S.

- Robert Raymond discusses the well-funded campaign to portray extractive capitalism as a solution rather than a source of inequality. And the British Medical Journal takes note of new research showing that a modest minimum wage increase can substantially reduce suicide rates (among other social benefits).

- Finally, Andrew Coyne writes about the advantages of minority governments compared to the zero-accountability model which is the norm in majority Parliaments.

[Edit: fixed typo.]

Thursday, January 09, 2020

New column day

Here, on the new year's early reminders of the generous treatment of corporations and their CEOs compared to workers.

For further reading...
- David MacDonald's look at CEO pay is here (PDF).
- And Toby Sanger's study of corporate tax freedom day is here (PDF). From that, I'll particularly highlight this figure as to the accumulation of corporate cash in comparison to the total amount held in machinery, equipment and intellectual property:

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Kate Aronoff offers a reminder that the right's constant bleating about limiting government spending never applies to the cost of wars of choice.

- Laura Glowacki reports on how Doug Ford's choice to allow rent increases will only make matters worse for Ontario's poorest residents. And Andrea Horwath and Sol Mamakwa discuss the urgent need for a mental health strategy for Indigenous people facing high suicide rates.

- PressProgress highlights how Canadians have to make do with far fewer paid vacation days than people throughout most of the developed world. Robert MacDonald discusses how the gig economy fits into the broader deterioration of working conditions. And Paul Willcocks rightly argues that it's past time for Canadian jurisdictions to follow the lead of California and other governments which are legislating protections for gig workers.

- Finally, Lee Drutman makes the case for a proportional electoral system from the U.S.' perspective - with lessons which we'd do well to learn in Canada as well.

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Occupied cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Martin Lukacs writes that the Trudeau Libs' attempts to put a glossier face on politics as usual may be running into a less than compliant public:
Not just in Canada, but around the world we have seen the emergence of an airbrushed, focus-grouped avatar liberalism—“yuppie simulacrum of populist breakthrough,” in Perry Anderson’s words—to face the challenge from a democratic-socialist left and an ugly resurgent right. This model of politics was ground-tested by the Obama administration and is today exemplified in the “extreme centrism” of Trudeau, French President Emanuel Macron, and U.S. Democratic politicians like Pete Buttegieg and Beto O’Rourke. What these men all share in common is an effort to forge a new consensus that can salvage the failed yet still pervasive neoliberal governing logic that counts extreme inequality and climate breakdown as its most obvious consequences.

Alongside a continued support for privatization, deregulation, corporate tax cuts, and a slow withdrawal of the welfare state, these political figures have tinkered around the edges to give their conservative economic policies a patina of emancipatory progressivism. Trudeau offered reforms, like a means-tested Canada Child Benefit, more representation of women and racialized people in cabinet and the civil service, and incremental measures on climate change. But none of Trudeau’s actions have so far threatened the authority of corporate interests to set the political agenda.

In rare moments, Trudeau has been candid about his role as a diligent manager of the status quo. Describing his government’s early achievements in a late-2016 interview with the Guardian (U.K.), the prime minister said: “We’re actually able to approve pipelines at a time when everyone wants protection of the environment. We’re being able to show that we get people’s fears and there are constructive ways of allaying them—and not just ways to lash out and give a big kick to the system.”

While the brand of the messenger of this formula has evidently been damaged since then, the formula itself lives on.
If “radical centrism” of the kind offered by Trudeau is not helping this situation, the question is whether it will be the right-wing who seizes on popular insecurity and directs it toward scapegoats, or whether a resurgent left can channel it in a movement against vested interests.

There are some hopeful signs. Class politics have made a return to western countries, however haltingly in Canada. Polls show enormous popularity for wealth taxation and programs like a Green New Deal. While the NDP under Jagmeet Singh has stopped its slow slide to the centre, its ability to advocate in opposition for the vastly ambitious policies that Canadians are evidently hungry for has yet to be seen.

The moral clarity and passion shown by a new crop of young left-wing parliamentarians suggests one way forward. But ultimately what we need is a voice for a radically different vision for the country—a vision rooted in redistribution, solidarity, and equality. Nothing less will test the Liberal government’s continued success in capturing voters by saying progressive things they may not ever mean.
- And Canadians for Tax Fairness points out that we've already reached Corporate Tax Freedom Day, with Canadian businesses having made enough money in the first work week of the year to pay all they'll be asked to contribute to a functioning country.

- Geoff Davies writes about the failure of neoliberal economics in Australia. And Royson James highlights how the Eglinton Crosstown LRT serves as a prime example of the dangers of public-private partnerships.

- Nicola Davis reports on the connection between severe childhood deprivation and permanent harm to brain development.

- Finally, John Vidal laments the loss of a decade in taking meaningful action against a global climate breakdown. And while Amanda Cahill raises the possibility that the fossil fuel sector should foot the bill for this year's calamitous bushfires, Reuters reports that Australia's Liberal government is instead responding with continued denialism.

Monday, January 06, 2020

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Rick Smith offers some reasons for hope in 2020 even in the face of a grim start to a new year. And Cory Doctorow writes about the need to start dreaming up, and giving effect to, alternatives to a corporate-driven economy and society which are endangering the future of humanity.

- Chris Maisano interviews Jonathan Rodden about the structural disadvantages facing progressive parties under distorted, winner-take-all electoral systems. And Ryan Grim examines how Bernie Sanders' campaign is empowering and supporting volunteers to reach a greater range of voters than traditional political methods.

- Scott Schmidt rightly argues that there's no value in the media reproducing false political talking points as facts in the name of balance - particularly when the UCP's communications strategy depends on it doing exactly that. And Jeremy Klaszus highlights how the UCP's constant attacks are designed to prevent people from seeing how they're being harmed by Jason Kenney and company. And Bob Barnetson writes about Kenney's ongoing war on workers.

- Meanwhile, with the Trump administration desperate to lie its way into a war with Iran, Nathan Robinson offers a handy guide to avoid being duped by pro-war propaganda.

- Finally, Kelsey Piper writes that Bill Gates has joined the ranks of the uber-wealthy who recognize the need to pay a more fair share toward the price of civilization.

Sunday, January 05, 2020

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Scott Gilmore writes about the glaring need for Canada's politicians to show more capacity for shame - through it's worth noting both a global pattern to the same effect, and the dangers of trying to draw "both-sides" equivalency (as Gilmore does) in circumstances where the problem is asymmetrical.

- Carrie Tait reports on Jason Kenney's foisting of additional policing costs on municipalities which are already suffering from the UCP's cutbacks elsewhere. And Jennifer Hamilton writes about the UCP's gross neglect of Alberta's social and infrastructure needs as it tries to wring out every possible cent for its corporate benefactors.

- Samantha Beattie points out how little progress Canada has made on the climate change front over the past decade. Cynthia Banham rightly argues that we can't accept politics as usual in response to environmental threats to our ability even to sleep or breathe. Joelle Gergis writes that we're seeing the most dire scientific predictions come true as our climate breaks down, while Linden Ashcroft notes that the panic in Mallacoota is merely what we can expect in the future. And Mike Foley discusses how Australia's wildfires are only amplifying the damage by releasing far more carbon pollution.

- Meanwhile, Jay Greene reports on Amazon's threats against employees who dare to question its contribution to the climate crisis.

- Finally, the Globe and Mail's editorial board highlights the reality that Canada can't expect added population in its already-congested urban centres to rely on car culture for transportation. And Mario Canseco discusses new polling showing strong support in B.C. for the province's speculation tax which turns secondary and/or investment properties into funding for improved housing.