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No struggle for what you believe in is ever futile.
Updated: 53 min 6 sec ago

Musical interlude

Fri, 07/29/2016 - 16:30
Broken Bells - Holding On For Life

Friday Morning Links

Fri, 07/29/2016 - 07:51
Assorted content to end your week.

- Bjarke Skærlund Risager interviews David Harvey about the history and effect of neoliberalism:
I’ve always treated neoliberalism as a political project carried out by the corporate capitalist class as they felt intensely threatened both politically and economically towards the end of the 1960s into the 1970s. They desperately wanted to launch a political project that would curb the power of labor.

In many respects the project was a counterrevolutionary project...
...
(F)or globalization to work you had to reduce tariffs and empower finance capital, because finance capital is the most mobile form of capital. So finance capital and things like floating currencies became critical to curbing labor.

At the same time, ideological projects to privatize and deregulate created unemployment. So, unemployment at home and offshoring taking the jobs abroad, and a third component: technological change, deindustrialization through automation and robotization. That was the strategy to squash labor.

It was an ideological assault but also an economic assault. To me this is what neoliberalism was about: it was that political project, and I think the bourgeoisie or the corporate capitalist class put it into motion bit by bit.- Ian Johnston discusses how the privatization of health care in the UK is leading to far worse health outcomes, including decreased overall access to public services and worsening inequality as serious health problems are ignored in favour of delivering less important services to cherry-picked patients. 

- Larry Buhl highlights the disproportionate effect of environmental damage among minority populations - and the policy choices being made to facilitate that harm. (And needless to say, the Wall government's choice to wave through new pipelines without even considering their environmental impacts looks to fall under that category.) But that discriminatory effect also opens the door to dealing with environmental destruction through existing human rights mechanisms - and John Vidal reports on the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines' move to address the effects of climate change.

- Finally, Nathan Robinson comments on the futility of trying to pitch a "stay the course" message to the public which has been sacrificed in the name of the corporate class. And Erika Shaker discusses the need to offer solutions to citizens' underlying complains, lest voters otherwise settle for punishing scapegoats instead.

Thursday Morning Links

Thu, 07/28/2016 - 08:12
This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Branko Milanovic argues that there's plenty of reason to be concerned about inequality even if one puts aside a utilitarian comparison of individual needs and benefits:
(I)nequality of opportunity affects negatively economic growth (so we now have a negative effect going from my third ground back to the first) which makes inequality of opportunity abhorrent on two grounds: (1) it negates fundamental human equality, and (2) it lowers the pace of material improvements for society.

My argument, if I need to reiterate it, is: you can reject welfarism, hold that inter-personal comparison of utility is impossible, and still feel very strongly that economic outcomes should be made more equal—that inequality should be limited so that it does not strongly affect opportunities, so that it does not slow growth and so that it does not undermine democracy. Isn’t that enough? - Brad Delong takes note of Barry Eichelgreen's timeline of the development of inequality over the past three centuries. Marvin Shaffer discusses British Columbia's inequitable growth favouring those who already have the most, while Josh Hoxie notes that the U.S.' generation of young adults is bearing the brunt of grossly unequal distributions of income and wealth. Emma Burney points out the OECD's latest report (PDF) on how tax policy can rein in inequality. And John Hood comments on the UK's seeming consensus on the need to address inequality - though it remains to be seen how (if at all) that will be translated into meaningful policy choices.

- George Hoberg rightly argues that the federal government needs to step up and develop an effective national climate change policy due to the wholly insufficient results of trying to push the issue down to the provinces. But Alex Emmons notes that the oil industry's lobbying at the Republican National Convention represents just one more example of the large amount of money being burned in an effort to stall progress wherever possible. 

- Megan Sandel and Laurel Blatchford discuss the connection between investment in adequate housing and a reduction in health care expenses. And Stephanie Dickrell comments on the massive individual and social costs of child homelessness.

- Finally, Michael Geist studies the Trans-Pacific Partnership's intellectual property rules, and find that they'd impose new and gratuitous burdens and costs on the public in the name of lining corporate pockets.

New column day

Thu, 07/28/2016 - 07:49
Here (via PressReader), on how the North Saskatchewan River oil spill may not lead directly to a needed reevaluation of the risks of pipelines - but a public expectation that we'll shift away from dirty energy may be more significant in the long run.

For further reading...
- I've previously posted about Brad Wall's response to the spill here. John Klein and David Climenhaga offer their own justified criticism of Wall's choice to hide behind oil-industry spin rather than recognizing the social and environmental damage caused by the spill.
- The Leader-Post reports that North Battleford and Prince Albert aren't interested in letting Wall hold photo ops to savd his own skin now. Betty Ann Adam notes that affected First Nations are being kept out of the loop.
- Carrie Tait examines the public impact of contaminated drinking water sources. And Jesse McLaren notes that there's been a much faster move to clamp down on individual water users than to ensure any accountability for Husky as the source of the spill.
- CBC follows up on Emily Eaton's observation that spills from Saskatchewan pipelines are a regular occurrence.
- Jordon Cooper highlights the Sask Party's tendencies toward corporate self-regulation, while Justin Fisher discusses the urgent need for far more effective monitoring of hazardous industries. And Elizabeth McSheffrey reports that the province's neglect has resulted in the federal government having to step in and investigate the spill.
- Finally, Abacus Data's poll on how Canadians see our own future is here - with people expecting that in the next two decades we'll see storage of solar and wind energy (86%), a majority of vehicles being electric (66%), and sharp declines in carbon emissions from Canada (59%) and the world (51%).

Wednesday Morning Links

Wed, 07/27/2016 - 06:17
Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Andrew Jackson discusses the challenge of ensuring that stable jobs are available in Canada:
Good jobs are a central mechanism in the creation of shared prosperity.

What matters for workers is not just being able to find any job but also security of employment, level of pay, working conditions, and the opportunity to develop talents and capacities.

Unfortunately, as has been documented in many studies, the long-term trend in Canada has been towards a much more polarized jobs market in which there has been a disproportionate increase in low pay, precarious jobs, and a concentration of income growth among higher-paid professionals and managers, especially the top 1%.
...
Many lower wage workers live in families with decent overall incomes, and income from wages is boosted by government programs such as child benefits and unemployment insurance. Still, the numbers show that a  significant minority of Canadians work in jobs which are insecure, and a surprisingly high proportion work in jobs which are low paid or very modestly paid. Indeed, the proportion of low paid workers in Canada, defined as earning less than two-thirds of the median wage, is, at 21.8%, the third highest in the industrialized world, according to the OECD.

Raising wages for lower-paid workers will require boosting minimum wages to at least $15 per hour and widening access to union representation, especially for workers in private sector sales and service jobs. These measures are critical to any realistic strategy to “grow the middle-class.” - Anna Louie Sussman points out that stagnant wages even in the face of U.S. job growth can largely be traced to a lack of demand for additional labour. Richard Dobbs and Anu Madgavkar write about the UK's backsliding standard of living between generations. And Jim Stanford outlines a possible progressive response to the combination of stagnation and upward redistribution that's come to be treated as our economic norm.

- Andrew Mitrovica argues that a breakdown in trust arising out of the Iraq war paved the way to spread the politics of violence in the U.S. and the Middle East alike. Robert Reich emphasizes the need for Hillary Clinton to recognize the justified spread of anti-establishment sentiment while making the case against the bigoted form on offer from Donald Trump and the Republicans. And Doug Saunders reminds us that the most important problems facing the U.S. are wholly lacking from the Republicans' message.

- Steven Chase examines the connection between the arms industry and think tanks which are regularly put forward as commenters on military purchasing.

- Finally, Tom Parkin discusses how electoral reform can be expected to change the face of Canadian elections - and how a status quo which is easiest for party strategists isn't what's best for the public.

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Tue, 07/26/2016 - 20:43
Couched cats.




Tuesday Morning Links

Tue, 07/26/2016 - 08:40
This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Lana Payne comments on the combination of low wages and nonexistent security attached to jobs for younger workers. And Catherine Baab-Muguira examines the spread of the side hustle economy as a means of bare survival.

- Roderick Benns discusses how the isolation of remote communities represents a barrier to access to needed social supports - and how that can be remedied in part through a basic income. And Emily Badger writes about new research showing that no other housing policies will put a meaningful dent in the lack of decent housing in the absence of major public investment in construction and maintenance.

- Paula Simons notes that the Husky oil spill into the North Saskatchewan River should highlight the importance of a safe water supply, while the Canadian Press reports that it will be months before North Battleford, Prince Albert and other affected communities will be able to exercise that right. David Fraser reports on the Saskatchewan Party's wanton slashing of the regulator responsible for pipelines - which led to the province having no idea when the pipe which spilled was last inspected. And Emily Eaton points out that oil spills are in fact the norm across Saskatchewan even if they don't gather as much attention as one which flows directly into a major river.

- Meanwhile, David Brumer and Jayme Poisson document the decades of poison still being inflicted on the people of Grassy Narrows First Nation due to mercury contamination by poorly-regulated industries.

- Abacus' latest survey into the future expectations of Canadians shows that the public - unlike the political class - fully expects major greenhouse gas emission reductions in the very near future. And Joe Romm points out how the plummeting cost of solar power may make that possible.

- Finally, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression comments on the desperate need for serious analysis of the rights violations embedded in Bill C-51. But Michael Harris recognizes that Justin Trudeau couldn't seem less interested in reversing the Harper Cons' steps toward a surveillance-and-disruption state.

Monday Morning Links

Mon, 07/25/2016 - 08:33
Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- David Blanchflower notes that there's virtually no dispute that the UK is headed into an economic downturn - meaning that there's also no excuse to hold off on fiscal relief for the public. And Brad DeLong points to a new study on the effectiveness of government spending in generating immediate economic growth well beyond the money actually spent.

- David Macdonald rightly recognizes a few important steps toward reducing poverty in Canada through broadly-available income supports.

- Jeff Guo highlights the connection between an increased workload and other job stressors, and overall health impacts on workers.

- Angella MacEwen and Laura Macdonald examine the Trans-Pacific Partnership's toxic effects on labour throughout the participating countries. And Greg Keenan reports on John Holmes and Jeffrey Carey's research showing how the TPP would harm Canada's auto sector.

- Finally, Joel French examines the massive amounts of public money being funneled into exclusionary private schools across Canada. And Morgan Modjeski reports that basic site elements including playgrounds have been left out of any design or funding for Saskatchewan schools - which both places the burden on individuals to fund-raise for community services, and effectively ensures disparity based on the wealth of a given neighbourhood.

Polluted by crimes, but torn by no remorse

Sun, 07/24/2016 - 18:19
Shorter Brad Wall on what's truly important as an oil spill pollutes drinking water along the North Saskatchewan River:
I only hope this monster running amok doesn't make it harder to sell new reanimation technologies.Or in graphic form...


New column day

Thu, 07/21/2016 - 12:53
Here, on how the City of Regina's actual treatment of key information runs contrary to its stated commitment to open government.

For further reading...
- Natascia Lypny's report on the City's delays and denials of access to information about Regina's new stadium and wastewater treatment plant is here
- I previously wrote about the City's initial open data policy announcement here, featuring this warning which seems particularly on point:
(E)ven the most cynical governments are often eager to use selective “open government” (in the form of limited operational data) as a distraction from opaque political decision-making – with a one-way flow of politically-convenient information substituted for any particular effort to interact with citizens or respond to their concerns. So while we should look forward to what can be done with the information that is included in the city’s data portal, we should keep an especially close eye on what’s left out and how information is handled going in the opposite direction. - And the new policy discussed in the column is found here (PDF).

Light blogging ahead

Wed, 07/20/2016 - 06:26
Off hither and/or yon for a few days. Try to entertain yourselves.

Wednesday Morning Links

Wed, 07/20/2016 - 06:25
Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Lucy Shaddock offers a response to the Institute for Fiscal Studies' report on poverty and inequality in the UK, while McKinsey finds that hundreds of millions of people in advanced economies are seeing their real incomes stagnate or decline. And Mariana Mazzucato and Michael Jacobs provide their take on what the UK needs to reduce inequality:
Can May succeed in building an economy of broadly shared prosperity? Only if she is willing to govern with the revolutionary zeal seen in that speech. To address the problems she identified will require a complete departure from Osborne’s failed plans. But more than that, it will require a departure the orthodox economics that shaped them.

Policymaking over the past half-century has relied on a narrow school of economic thought, dominated by a simplistic idea of “markets” and “market failures”, of “competition” and “shareholder value”. May’s new agenda will need to draw on a much richer palette.

...(M)arkets are not external forces that bind firms to inevitable choices. They are created by the decisions made inside private and public institutions, as well as pressures from civil society. So not only can policymakers fix “market failures”, but they can also actively reshape and create markets for better ends.- Andre Picard rightly argues that global targets to reduce the spread of AIDS can't be met without a thorough effort to fight poverty and prejudice.
 
- Chris Hatch weighs in on the need to revamp how Canada evaluates and regulates pipelines and other environmental risks. Will Horter notes that there's no reason for optimism based on the Libs' attempt to paper over the National Energy Board's failings. And the Toronto Star criticizes the Libs' lack of follow-up on a loud announcement about removing and banning asbestos.

- Jim Bronskill reports on the Communications Security Establishmen's newfound refusal to provide even statistical data about the sharing of information which may lead to torture.

- Finally, Marc-André Miron, Marie-Claude Bertrand and Cym Gomery point out that the typical talking points against proportional representation lack any basis in reality.

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Tue, 07/19/2016 - 17:34
Clingy cats.




Tuesday Morning Links

Tue, 07/19/2016 - 08:06
This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Armine Yalnizyan points out the choice between a basic income and the provision of basic services, while making a strong case to focus on the latter:
At the federal level, the cost of raising everyone’s income above the poverty line is an estimated $30 billion a year. The Alternative Federal Budget shows we could permanently expand the stock of affordable housing, child care, and public transit; and almost eliminate user costs for pharmacare, dental care and post-secondary schooling for half the annual cost ($15 billion).
After a decade, we would have expanded access to more high-quality, affordable necessities of life, not just for the poor but for everyone.
A little more, and you could have free access to community and recreation centre programming, expanded mental health services, universal access to low-cost internet, and more legal aid. The net result: greater participation, greater mobility, greater potential, greater health.
Both a basic income and a basic service model put more money in people’s pockets, one with a cash transfer, one by offsetting the costs of necessities.
Basic income requires everyone to pay more to provide a small number of our most vulnerable neighbours more choice and more dignity. Basic service also requires we pay more, and also helps the most vulnerable, but benefits everyone by making incomes and markets matter less. It builds both potential and solidarity, and is a far easier sell in an era of slow growth.
Basic income talk has fired imaginations across the globe. Mr. Segal’s exercise offers a unique opportunity to test whether we’re better off when we have more income, or need less of it.- Meanwhile, Susan Prentice, Linda White and Martha Friendly offer a useful outline to build a national child care system. And Bill Curry reports on this week's health care summit - though there's reason for concern in both the Libs' unwillingness to negotiate funding with the provinces, and their apparent inclination to eliminate universality in favour of means-testing. 

- And in case we needed a reminder as to the importance of shared knowledge of problems, Elizabeth Payne reports on how a week of management eating the meals previously served to patients at the Ottawa Hospital led to a revamping of the menu.

- Larry Elliott reports on the Institute for Fiscal Studies' report showing that the insecurity now facing middle-class families in the UK is comparable to the burden on households recognized as living in poverty a generation ago. But on the bright side, Jessica Elgot writes about Labour's plan for a national investment bank to both spur economic development, and give the public a greater stake in prosperity.

- Finally, Andrew Mitrovica points out why we should be skeptical of the security state's attempts to proclaim itself essential in the wake of attacks which it can never prevent.

Monday Morning Links

Mon, 07/18/2016 - 07:34
Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Alana Semuels examines new research showing a decline in U.S. social mobility within an individual's working life:
Carr and Wiemers used earnings data to measure how fluidly people move up and down the income ladder over the course of their careers. “It is increasingly the case that no matter what your educational background is, where you start has become increasingly important for where you end,” Carr told me. “The general amount of movement around the distribution has decreased by a statistically significant amount.”

Carr and Wiemers used data from the Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation, which tracks individual workers’ earnings, to examine how earnings mobility changed between 1981 and 2008. They ranked people into deciles, meaning that one group fell below the 10th percentile of earnings, another between the 10th and 20th, and so on; then they measured someone’s chances of moving from one decile to another. But the researchers wanted to see not just the probability of moving to a different income bracket over the course of a career, but also how that probability has changed over time. So they measured a given worker’s chances of moving between deciles ​during two periods​, one from 1981 to 1996 and another from 1993 to 2008.​

They found quite a disparity. “The probability of ending where you start has gone up, and the probability of moving up from where you start has gone down,” Carr said. For instance, the chance that someone starting in the bottom 10 percent would move above the 40th percentile decreased by 16 percent. The chance that someone starting in the middle of the earnings distribution would reach one of the top two earnings deciles decreased by 20 percent. Yet people who started in the seventh decile are 12 percent more likely to end up in the fifth or sixth decile—a drop in earnings—than they used to be.
Overall, the probability of someone starting and ending their career in the same decile has gone up for every income rank. “For whatever reason, there was a path upward in the earnings distribution that has been blocked for some people, or is not as steep as it used to be,” Carr said.- Meanwhile, Alissa Quart notes that precarity and economic insecurity reach a long way up the income spectrum. Trish Kelly discusses the growth of working poverty in Vancouver. And Rachelle Younglai reports that an increasing number of Canadians with advanced degrees are mired in poverty despite the work they've put into their education.

- Laurel Gregory reports on the lack of accessible child care for lower- and middle-income families.

- Tom Parkin examines the record amount of lobbying happening at the federal level - and it's particularly worth noting the anti-social causes which are being pushed repeatedly. And the CP reports on the ongoing effects of the Cons' moves to undermine regulations.

- Finally, Aldo Caliari comments on the importance of establishing and enforcing international standards for fair taxes, rather than allowing the wealthy few to exploit tax havens.

Sunday Morning Links

Sun, 07/17/2016 - 08:27
This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Aditya Chakrabortty sums up George Osborne's legacy - and give or take a Brexit vote, it looks awfully familiar for corporatist governments in general:
The multi-million-pound spending spree wasn’t justifiable, admitted Osborne, according to Laws’ recent memoir, Coalition. “It will only really be of help to stupid, affluent and lazy people, who can’t be bothered to put their savings away into tax-efficient vehicles!” said Osborne. “But it will still be very popular – we have polled it.”

Disabled people could kill themselves to put an end to the government’s reign of terror, and the chancellor would shrug. Working-class kids could live on foodbank lunches and ministers would claim they had no alternative. But shovelling cash at the people seen as undeserving by their very own benefactor? That, Mr Austerity would happily do. Anything to buy votes.
...
Osborne’s fiscal rules have been either broken or discarded, and where their replacement should be is instead a complete vacuum. The man praised for his “strategic grip” by his former permanent secretary admitted last month that he hadn’t bothered coming up with a post-Brexit strategy. Britain is adrift in what could be the choppiest waters in decades without a fiscal policy, a paddle – or even a map.

None of this is accidental. All of it could have been foreseen – indeed, was foreseen by some of us. But it is the direct result of a sniggering callousness that punished the poor while rewarding the rich, that promised greater power for the provinces while shunting ever more money to central London, that bilked the young of their futures while bribing their grandparents all the way to the ballot box.- Jeffrey Sachs, Brooke Güven and Lisa Sachs point to TransCanada's claim against the U.S. for rejecting Keystone XL as a prime example of how trade agreements give the corporate sector unacceptable power over governments acting in the public interest.

- Peter Hannam reports on Australia's problem with abandoned gas wells, showing that the resource industry's expectation of being able to take profits while leaving messes for someone else to clean up is far from unique to Canada. And Natasha Geiling finds industry spokesflacks again trying to claim that oil spills are an economic plus due to the work involved in cleaning them up.

- Mia Rabson discusses how criticism of people living in poverty is generally based on nothing but ignorance and misinformation.

- Finally Doug Cuthand writes that it's long past time to start reversing the damage done by the Cons' dumb-on-crime agenda. But it's worth noting that as in so many other areas, that means more than just resetting laws to where they stood before while allowing their consequences to remain in place.

Saturday Afternoon Links

Sat, 07/16/2016 - 15:15
Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Abi Wilkinson argues that we can't expect to take anger and other emotions out of political conversations when government choices have created nothing but avoidable stress for so many:
Actions can certainly be morally unacceptable. In my opinion, emotions cannot. Really, it’s a manifestation of extreme privilege to insist that people engage with politics in a calm and emotionless way. The further you are from experiencing any negative effects of the policy you’re debating, the more cushioned and secure your social position, the easier it is to adhere to the Oxford Union norms of cool detachment and skilful argument.

MPs might only be human, but they also hold a power over the lives of 70 million fallible, vulnerable human beings. Telling people that they’re wrong to feel anger towards an individual who voted to restrict housing benefit and place them at risk of homelessness is patently absurd. Similarly, journalists hold an unusual level of social power that makes them a reasonable target of scrutiny.
...
Broadly speaking, there are two forms of political argument. Either you defend a specific policy as the rational, logical option in the circumstances that exist, or you question the rules of the game. People on the political right are prone to presenting things such as spending cuts as morally neutral decisions, determined by economic reality. Leftwing criticism commonly argues that logic presented as natural is really no such thing, but rather that it’s a question of priorities. Political priorities are, unavoidably, a moral issue.

None of which is to say that I think calling Theresa May a “monster” is a productive, useful form of political commentary. I simply think that anger is a natural, human response to circumstance. Condemning petty name-calling more vigorously than we condemn the suffering and disempowerment that often leads to such expressions of frustration seems topsy-turvy to me. Jo Cox wasn’t simply any politician, she threw herself into defending refugees, migrants and other marginalised groups. No MP deserves to be a victim of violence, but what the politicians actually do with their power does matter. - Meanwhile, Maude Barlow comments on the increasing public skepticism of free trade dogma.

- Ryan Meili and Christine Gibson weigh in on how fair wages lead to far better social and health outcomes for children. And Josh Cohen discusses how the expectation to cling to a rung on the upper middle class ladder creates undesirable pressures on children.

- Dean Beeby reports on Policy Horizons Canada's recommendations on how to create a social safety net which will provide security for precarious workers.

- Jeremy Nuttall points out several of the Libs' most prominent promises which have thus far dropped off the radar since they won power. And Tom Spears notes that contrary to any promises of transparency, the RCMP is backsliding both by destroying documents which were supposed to be released, and ending their policy of making past disclosures publicly available.

- Finally, Chris Tollefson makes the case to start from scratch in developing an environmental assessment system which will have both the credibility and the mandate to meaningfully evaluate proposed developments.