Saturday, July 30, 2016

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Stephen Hawking discusses the crucial distinction between seeing money as a means of pursuing worthy ends versus treating it a goal in and of itself - and notes that we should be wary of political choices based on the latter view:
Money is also important because it is liberating for individuals. I have spoken in the past about my concern that government spending cuts in the UK will diminish support for disabled students, support that helped me during my career. In my case, of course, money has helped not only make my career possible but has also literally kept me alive.
So I would be the last person to decry the significance of money. However, although wealth has played an important practical role in my life, I have of course had a different relationship with it to most people. Paying for my care as a severely disabled man, and my work, is crucial; the acquisition of possessions is not. I don’t know what I would do with a racehorse, or indeed a Ferrari, even if I could afford one. So I have come to see money as a facilitator, as a means to an end – whether it is for ideas, or health, or security – but never as an end in itself.
I hope and believe that people will embrace more of this cathedral thinking for the future, as they have done in the past, because we are in perilous times. Our planet and the human race face multiple challenges. These challenges are global and serious – climate change, food production, overpopulation, the decimation of other species, epidemic disease, acidification of the oceans. Such pressing issues will require us to collaborate, all of us, with a shared vision and cooperative endeavour to ensure that humanity can survive. We will need to adapt, rethink, refocus and change some of our fundamental assumptions about what we mean by wealth, by possessions, by mine and yours. Just like children, we will have to learn to share.

If we fail then the forces that contributed to Brexit, the envy and isolationism not just in the UK but around the world that spring from not sharing, of cultures driven by a narrow definition of wealth and a failure to divide it more fairly, both within nations and across national borders, will strengthen. If that were to happen, I would not be optimistic about the long-term outlook for our species.

But we can and will succeed. Humans are endlessly resourceful, optimistic and adaptable. We must broaden our definition of wealth to include knowledge, natural resources, and human capacity, and at the same time learn to share each of those more fairly. If we do this, then there is no limit to what humans can achieve together.
- Linda McQuaig sees Bernie Sanders' progressive populist movement as a crucial force in pushing back against rule by the .01%. And Branko Milanovic offers some theories as to how our economic system should change to better account for public well-being, rather than merely focusing on corporate demands.

- Lola Okolosie notes the connection between the decline of social mobility and school systems designed to preserve and exacerbate inequality.

- Nancy Macdonald examines the woeful exclusion of indigenous people from Saskatchewan's governing institutions (among other indicators of the desperate need to close the opportunity gap).

- Finally, Charlie Smith reports on the Trudeau Libs' choice to ram through Christy Clark's Site C dam with no regard for affected First Nations. And Matthew Behrens discusses how the Libs are continuing the Cons' attacks on human rights.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Musical interlude

Broken Bells - Holding On For Life

Friday Morning Links

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, July 28, 2016

Thursday Morning Links

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

Here, 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%).

[Edit: updated link.]

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Wednesday Morning Links

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, July 26, 2016

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Couched cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

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, July 25, 2016

Monday Morning Links

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.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Polluted by crimes, but torn by no remorse

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...