Saturday, February 01, 2020

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Derek Thompson discusses how the U.S.' capitalist system has been designed to squeeze younger workers - leading to many of them being open to systemic change. And in the context of UK Labour's leadership campaign, Grace Blakeley writes about the need for socialists to talk in aspirational rather than merely incremental terms to ensure voters recognize that democratic change is possible:
The idea of ‘aspirational socialism’ is Long-Bailey’s answer to this problem. It was always going to be difficult to convince an electorate beaten down by a decade of austerity that their lives could suddenly be transformed for the better simply by ticking the right box on polling day. But reframing socialist transformation around the idea of ‘aspiration’ aims to cut through this pessimism and make Labour’s ideas seem more achievable. In the context of declining social mobility, stagnant wages and an impending climate catastrophe, it should not be difficult to argue that there exists a need for collective social transformation alongside individual self-advancement. 

Investing in our public services will allow people up and down the country to achieve their full potential, because you can’t build a better life for yourself if you can’t access a good education, decent healthcare and a safety net for when times get hard. Strengthening workers’ rights will allow people to work together to fight for better conditions, higher pay and dignity at work. And a Green New Deal will create jobs in places starved of investment for decades so that we can build a sustainable economy fit for the future.

Long-Bailey can argue that live in a rigged economy in which the rules are made and enforced by a tiny elite that profits from keeping wages down, rents high and ordinary people out of politics. The only way to challenge this model is to deliver a democratic revolution that will redistribute wealth and power away from the Westminster-based establishment and towards working people up and down the UK. 
Aspirational socialism and the democratic revolution can both be realised through the creation of genuinely democratic collective institutions, which can also provide a substantive socialist response to the call of ‘take back control.’ Abolishing the House of Lords, making the Bank of England publicly accountable and devolving power to local councils will all help to democratise and politicise the British state. Strengthening the labour movement, transforming corporate governance and introducing new models of corporate ownership will deliver a more democratic economy geared towards collective advance.
- David Segal reports on a $60 billion tax evasion scheme which is just now seeing European countries try to recover what's been stolen from the public purse. And Nicholas Shaxson makes the case for a unitary tax system to ensure corporations pay a fair share worldwide, rather than the patchwork under consideration by the OECD.

- Jordan Weissmann examines how private equity has destroyed major retail outlets. And Simon Wren-Lewis discusses how an increased political focus on the individual interests of the extremely wealthy has resulted in an unhealthy environment for many businesses.

- Finally, CBC examines how Finland has used a Housing First model to ensure that everybody has a home.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Musical interlude

Foals - Mountain At My Gates

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- George Monbiot recognizes that our climate policy needs to be based on maximizing our shift to a sustainable society, not on trying to barely reach insufficient emission reduction targets:
It’s not just the target that’s wrong, but the very notion of setting targets in an emergency.

When firefighters arrive at a burning building, they don’t set themselves a target of rescuing three of the five inhabitants. They seek – aware that they may not succeed – to rescue everyone they can. Their aim is to maximise the number of lives they save. In the climate emergency, our aim should be to maximise both the reduction of emissions and the drawing down of carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere. There is no safe level of global heating: every increment kills.

Maximisation is implicit in the Paris agreement: it requires governments to pursue “the highest possible ambition”. In its land-use report, the CCC repeatedly admits that it could go further, but insists it doesn’t need to, because its policies will meet the target. The target has supplanted the ultimate objective, which is to respond appropriately to the climate emergency. This is a classic vindication of Goodhart’s law: “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.”
The appropriate response to the climate emergency is a legal duty to maximise climate action. The CCC’s board should be disbanded and replaced by people whose mandate is rigorously to explore every economic sector in search of the maximum possible cuts in greenhouse gases, and the maximum possible drawdown. We have arrived at the burning building. The only humane and reasonable aim is to rescue everyone inside.
- Paul Krugman discusses how the movement to combat climate change has a far better grasp of economics than the elites trying to operate in denial. The Financial Times backs the EU's move toward carbon border taxes which ensure emissions can't be exported. And Emily Atkin notes that what's typically referred to as green-washing by the fossil fuel industry is better summarized as false advertising.

- Brigid Delaney writes about the profound physical effects of Australia's summer of scorching heat and uncontrollable fire. Laura Kane interviews Mike Pearson about the harm Trans Mountain construction is inflicting on natural salmon habitats. And Kieran Leavitt offers a reminder of the known health risks of fracking.

- Faisal Chaudhry points out the web of intellectual property provisions which lock in massive profits for the pharmaceutical industry while limiting access to needed medications.

- Finally, Katie Hyslop examines how to eliminate single-parent poverty in British Columbia. Corey Ranger calls out the Kenney UCP's targeted attacks on Alberta's most vulnerable people. And Darren Walker writes about the need for structural change - rather than philanthropy - in order to improve the living conditions of the people now suffering the most.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Kate Andrias notes that governments can ensure better jobs for everybody by fostering collective bargaining strength.

- John Favini writes that cooperation is deeply embedded in our biology - contrary to the spin that we naturally seek and require competition.

- Marc Edelman points out how the U.S.' laissez-faire governance has left rural areas in desperate need of development. And Mitchell Anderson writes that Jason Kenney has abandoned rural Alberta by imposing provincial funding cuts, strongarming municipalities into additional policing costs, and telling them never to expect to recover hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes and fees left unpaid by the oil sector.

- Louise Bradley discusses the importance of investing in mental health - and not only through corporate promotional campaigns. And Trish Hennessy offers her take as to how we should discuss the social determinants of mental health.

- Finally, Bill Curry reports that Canada's federal capacity to invest in people has been cut down by more than a billion dollars per year due to additional costs from the Libs' tax baubles.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Wednesday Afternoon Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Laura Flanders interviews Naomi Klein about the connection between the climate crisis and inequality - including her recognition that any attempt to address the former without simultaneously responding to the latter is doomed to fail:
But there are a lot of people who say, “Got it, we understand. We have to deal with racism and homelessness and health care, but right now we have a pollution, environmental recycling, consumer problems. Let’s just focus with that, with plastics or with the supply chain.”

Right. And frankly, I think that that has been the approach of the mainstream green movement for a long time. Sometimes said explicitly, sometimes sort of sotto voce, which is like, “Look, let’s just save the planet first and then we’ll deal with, you know, racism and inequality and gender exclusion and sort of just wait your turn.” And that doesn’t go over very well because for people who are on the front lines of all of those other crises, they’re all existential. I mean, if you can’t feed your kids, if you’re losing your house, if you are facing violence, all of it is existential.

And so, we just have to accept that we live in a time of multiple overlapping intersecting crises and we have to figure out how to multitask, which means we need to figure out how to lower emissions in line with what scientists are telling us, which is really fast. And we need to do it in a way that builds a fair economy in the process. Because if we don’t, people are so overstressed and overburdened because of 40 years of neoliberal policy, that when you introduce the kinds of carbon-centric policies that try to pry this crisis apart from all the others, what that actually looks like is you’re going to pay more for gas, you’re going to pay more for electricity. We’re just going to have a market-based response. And so, it’s perceived as just one more thing that is making life impossible.
- James Purtill writes about the lack of trust people throughout the developed world have in the likelihood that the efforts of workers will be rewarded - and the frustration they've developed with the capitalist system which has produced that disconnect. And Nicole Aschoff highlights how corporations are downright eager to sacrifice people's lives in the name of maximizing their short-term profits.

- Doug Cuthand writes that the increasingly disproportionate share of Indigenous people within Canada's prison population reflects ongoing discrimination within a colonial society. And Justin Brake reports on the RCMP's treatment of public support for Indigenous land protection as a threat to be beaten back through the power of the state.

- Finally, Max Fawcett points out that the UCP's plans to tie university funding to post-graduation income are particularly ill-suited for a boom-and-bust economy where the degrees which seemed most valuable a decade ago are turning into dead ends now.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Relaxed cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Gabriel Winant reviews Matt Stoller's Goliath, and discusses in the process the importance of challenging the assumptions capitalism as a system rather than presuming that it can be rendered just merely by taking steps to break up immediate monopolies. And Alexandra Posadzki's reporting on threats from Rogers if the federal government tries to make access to networks more affordable only confirms the need for a national public alternative to the telecom oligopoly. 

- Meanwhile, John Clarke argues that after recognizing that housing is a right, we should take the necessary step of taking what's going unused for the benefit of the people whose needs aren't being met.

- Tom Spears reports on the failures of Ottawa's P3 LRT system - which has only make public transit as a whole less reliable for people who would otherwise use it.

- Shannon Gormley discusses the Libs' loose relationship with the rule of law where it conflicts with the interests of accumulated capital.

- Trevor Harrison laments the Kenney government's choice to mirror the Trump administration in its disdain for the truth. And Michael Coren questions Doug Ford's choice to provide payoffs to parents rather than resources for a viable public school system.

- Finally, Meghan Bell writes that any effort to improve mental health at a societal level will need to address the inequalities and stresses which undermine our well-being.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Asher Schecter interviews Emmanuel Saez about the realities of growing inequality - and the denialists looking to exacerbate it. And Chris Hayes talks to Gabriel Zucman about the benefits of a wealth tax.

- Laurie Monsebraaten reports on a new study showing how Canada could eradicate poverty with a basic income. And Alison McIntosh and Rebecca Graff McRae examine what a basic income could mean for Alberta.

- Meanwhile, Steven Greenhouse and Sharon Block each discuss a new study calling for a boost to the bargaining power of American workers, with an emphasis on sectoral bargaining which eliminate the race to the bottom between employers. And Jim Stanford writes that we shouldn't attribute to technology what's actually the result of choices in defining the power relationship between employers and workers:
Technology is neither our friend nor our enemy as the world of work changes. And workers face far more urgent problems than being made redundant by automation. Today they confront pervasive precarity, stagnant and unequal incomes, and an absence of voice in their work lives. These challenges cannot be fixed either by the automatic working of market forces or by the advances of digital technology. Instead, they demand quick and powerful responses from policy-makers and other labour market stakeholders.

By focusing on the demand side of the labour market, not just the supply of skilled workers, we can ensure there are fulfilling, productive jobs for future well-trained graduates to fill. By giving workers more protection and more say over technology and how it is managed (rather than leaving those decisions solely up to employers), we can attain a better balance between the goals of profitability and the goals of decent, secure work. By building more representative and participatory structures and processes to address both existing and future workplace challenges, we enhance our collective capacity to manage technological change more successfully and fairly.
- Zaid Noorsumar discusses how profit motives are distorting Ontario's home care system. And the Canadian Labour Congress is pushing for the new minority Parliament to finally implement a national pharmacare system to ensure cost isn't a barrier to the medication people need.

- Finally, Benjamin Perrin declares his recognition that supervised consumption sites are needed as a matter of basic compassion.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Linda McQuaig points out that what normally gets claimed as a higher life expectancy arising out of capitalism in fact consists of publicly-implemented sanitation.

- Richard Denniss rightly argues that no job - including that of a politician - is worth endangering the habitability of our planet. And George Monbiot writes that we should gladly accept being labeled "extreme" if that's what it takes to preserve a liveable environment.

- Sara Hastings-Simon notes that there's a chance to transition toward producing rare earth minerals if we're willing to stop subsidizing fossil fuels instead. But Beth Gardiner reports that the oil industry is looking to keep on pushing its products - even if that means ramping up an already-appalling amount of plastic waste in order to replace the extraction of oil and gas for burning. And David Suzuki observes that we're already seeing insufficiency coverage of the ecological crises we face today.

- Meanwhile, Karl Bode and Matthew Gault report on the latest moves toward planned obsolescence for corporate benefit, as the choice to stop supporting "legacy" systems forces people to agree to scrap products which they'd prefer to keep using.

- Finally, Chantelle Bellerichard reports on the Office of the Correctional Investigator's observation that the gross over-representation of Indigenous people in Canada's prison system is only getting worse.