Friday, July 03, 2020

Musical interlude

Shay Lia - Good Together

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Crawford Kilian discusses Rutger Bregman's work in noting that we can build a better society in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Asun Lera St Clair interviews Jason Hickel about the prospect of redefining our economy based on human-centric measures of development.

- Luke Savage points out how the U.S.' coronavirus response actually reduced poverty by providing much-needed income benefits to people otherwise excluded from any social safety net. But Dan Darrah argues that we need to ensure the public provision of basic services such as housing, rather than relying on income supports alone.

- Jose Antonio Ocampo and Tommaso Faccio write about the importance of making sure wealthy individuals and multinational corporations pay their fair share to sustain liveable societies. And Martin Sandbu examines the case for a wealth tax in the UK.

- Nicholas Kristof argues that refusing to wear a mask in the midst of a pandemic is as destructive and antisocial as insisting on driving drunk. And Wency Leung reports on a push among Canadian doctors and scientists to require mandatory mask wearing in public.

- Finally, Justin Ling argues that care providers rather than police should be our first responders in dealing with mental health reports. And CBC News reports on an outbreak of overdoses resulting from a Saskatchewan government determined to deal with drug policy as a matter of moralistic scolding rather than harm reduction and respect for human life.

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Thursday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Joseph Stiglitz highlights how investing in the green economy provides a viable economic and ecological path forward in recovering from the coronavirus crisis.

- Mariana Mazzucato discusses the importance of socializing successes to make sure that new industries don't exacerbate inequalities in wealth and power. And Matt Bruenig notes that the majority of the U.S.' wealth gap by race comes from the obscene concentration of riches among the wealthiest white households.

- Meanwhile, Paul Keil reports on yet another drop in the IRS' auditing of wealthy Americans as a service starved of funding to combat the tax-evading rich has limited itself to going after easier targets.

- The International Centre for Non-Profit Law is tracking the anti-protest laws being imposed in the U.S. Musa Al-Gharbi discusses how police departments punish whistleblowers to ensure their abuses can continue without accountability. And Royson James writes that the meager consequences for the deliberate assault on Dafonte Miller shows how the law isn't intended to protect far too many people. 

- Deb Perelman points out how a stubborn refusal to address the ongoing lack of child care is forcing parents (and predominantly women) to choose between work and parenting.

- Finally, Alissa Quart, Astra Taylor and Brittany Powell suggest that an appropriate act of recognition and gratitude for the workers on the front lines of COVID-19 would be to forgive outstanding student debt. But Bobby Hristova reports that the response of Maple Leaf Foods (among other corporate giants) has instead been to end "hero pay" in the midst of an ongoing pandemic - leaving workers angry about how symbolic support has given way to callous management. 

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Wednesday Evening Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Sarah Hansen reports on new research showing that the U.S. could save 5% of its GDP merely by imposing a mask mandate during the coronavirus pandemic. (And it's particularly worth noting how that economic impact from a single, simple step to improve public health exceeds even the most inflated estimates of possible gains from decades of regulatory rollbacks in Canada.)

- Gaby Hinsliff discusses how the coronavirus (and subsequent policy response) has turned back the clock decades on women's rights. And Rachel Golden Kroner writes about the environmental destruction being smuggled in under cover of COVID-19 - with Jason Kenney joining the dubious likes of Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro in getting singled out for international attention.

- Meanwhile, Sara Hastings-Simon points out that the largest operators in the tar sands have figured out that they can't build a viable future on fossil fuels.

- Kerry Benjoe offers a needed reminder of Canada's ugly history of institutional racism against Indigenous people. And Michael Bramadat-Willcock reports on Lori Carr's nonexistent response to the threat COVID-19 poses to Indigenous communities (among other crucial issues) as current examples.

- Finally, Paul Krugman comments on the reasons why the ultra-wealthy few exercise a chokehold on the U.S.' political system.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Twisted cats.






On backward thinking

I've previously discussed the telling social budget which saw Scott Moe prioritize golf and pedicures over human well-being. But even if we look only at the Saskatchewan Party's pre-election fiscal budget, that too speaks volumes about a painfully warped set of priorities - even before Moe goes into slash-and-burn mode if he gets the chance after an election.

At the outset, it's worth noting that governments have had a choice where to put their dollars in responding to COVID-19. And the Saskatchewan Party chose to be exceptionally stingy among Canadian provinces in keeping people and local businesses afloat - while offering up an unusually high money for infrastructure spending in areas where the effect of COVID-19 was relatively light.

Even if a government was bent on infrastructure spending, though, few infrastructure expenses could possibly be less forward-thinking than a bevy of passing lanes which increase carbon pollution by encouraging more highway traffic travelling at higher speeds. But that's the centrepiece of Moe's capital plan. (And any argument about safety rings hollow given that Moe is simultaneously taking steps to eliminate regulations and licensing requirements.)

Likewise, one could hardly imagine a big-ticket capital expense with less social value than a $120 million remand centre - especially when the Saskatchewan Party has been forced to somewhat acknowledge the pointlessness of avoidable incarceration. Yet Scott Moe has chosen to spend more on that than on capital expenses for the province's entire education system.

And I've already highlighted the folly of betting on nuclear power as an industry of choice, in the face of both strong public disapproval and a glaring lack of any plausible path to success.

While there's certainly reason for concern in the Saskatchewan Party's determination to destroy much of Saskatchewan's commonwealth, there's no more reason for confidence in the few areas they've chosen to prioritize in spending public money. And we'll pay the price for a long time to come if we don't put somebody more forward-thinking in charge to chart the course toward recovery.

Tuesday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Jason Markusoff discusses Jason Kenney's race to the bottom as he uses a pandemic as an excuse to sacrifice yet more public money and workers' rights to corporate freeloaders.

- Richard Cannings points out how inequality is a drag on our economy (as well as a source of social ills). And John Loxley studies (PDF) the social impact bonds - including one in Saskatchewan - which have added a pointless, profit-driven frame to any attempt to improve social conditions.

- Evan Dyer highlights how rapid and reliable public support for people has been an essential element of any successful response to the coronavirus. The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour is seeking input into how to take into account the needs of workers as we plan the shape of our future economy and society. And Glen Pearson takes note of the importance of social capital - though I'd question his reluctance to include common ownership of resources as part of the effort of building a society that benefits everybody.

- Finally, Ed Pilkington writes about the COVID-19 calamity in the U.S. And James Fallows discusses how people around the globe have suffered due to the Trump administration's destruction of the public institutions counted on to support humanity in meeting a common threat.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Michelle Girash and Chandra Pasma write from personal experience about the uncertainty COVID-19 creates for workers. Bryan Borzykowski notes that the needed extension of the CERB through the summer has merely delayed the approach to a cliff for people who have rightly relied on public support. And Rachel Aiello reports on the Libs' stingy "volunteer" program for students which will pay less than minimum wage to participants while lining the pockets of a Trudeau-connected non-profit.

- Jean-Pierre Colin points out the opportunity to build a green economy in the course of redeveloping from the coronavirus pandemic. And Glen Pearson argues that we should take the opportunity to move away from an emphasis on growth at all costs.

- Shadia Nasralla reports on new research showing how just one pipeline has been emitting massive amounts of methane into the atmosphere - confirming the folly of allowing natural gas operators to ignore what they spew. Laura Tretheway discusses the "plastic superhighway" of waste finding its way into the environment and our food chain. And Jimmy Tobias reports on the Trump administration's use of cyanide bombs to wage war against wildlife on behalf of businesses.

- Rebecca Gao offers a primer on the definition and reality of systemic racism for the many leaders who seem utterly unaware of it.

- Finally, Sarath Peiris recognizes that police should be a last resort rather than a first option in responding to social ills. And Shawn Fraser writes that spending on remand beds represents an expensive way to avoid addressing the real causes of crime and insecurity.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

On exclusionary measures

Even as Scott Moe and his party have declared they're determined to let people die on Saskatchewan's streets for lack of funding, and warned that there's nothing but further real wage cuts on the horizon for public servants, they've managed to find public resources to keep pushing nuclear power - no matter how clear it is that the public is rightly opposed, and there's no rational economic basis to do it

So how can we explain the Saskatchewan Party's insistence on ignoring the potential to completely transform the province's grid to a renewable one by 2030, and instead dedicating scarce resources to an unproven technology might at best begin to be available as a more costly alternative at that time? 

One obvious difference between renewable energy and nuclear power arises in terms of the inputs. While renewable energy requires only a one-time installation and subsequent maintenance, nuclear power would match its fossil fuel predecessors in requiring a constant supply of fuel - ensuring continued reliance on a rip-and-ship economy.

Any reasonable observer would see that as reason to avoid nuclear. But a government which has never overcome its addiction to oil seems bent on finding an alternate vice.

We can also add another distinction to the mix, particularly compared to the Saskatchewan NDP's Renew Saskatchewan plan for distributed renewables.

Particularly as work continues to be done on storage options, the essence of any system based on renewable energy is one of interconnection. Since no one location can rely on constant solar or wind energy, energy security comes from a willingness to build and tie into a larger, more stable system than can be built in a single community (or even province).

And with that come some opportunities: for activists and community organizations to influence who benefits from power development, and for unions to organize a workforce which can be expected to remain in place over a relatively long time span.

In contrast, to the extent modular nuclear power has any plausible niche, it's as the form of energy most easily disconnected from the people and structures around it.

Looking to build a mine and associated company town which can maintain a plausible threat of picking up and leaving at any time? A luxury bunker for the wealthy which goes out of its way to minimize any ongoing connection to the rabble outside? Those are the scenarios where there's an obvious advantage to a single power source which is highly concentrated, easily moveable and suited for operation apart from any wider grid.

In other words, Moe's fixation on nuclear power figures to ensure that neither the generation nor the operation of Saskatchewan's future power system benefits anybody beyond the investor class more than can possibly be avoided. And voters will have their choice this fall between a party offering systematic benefits for everybody, and one looking to make sure power (in every sense of the term) is even more concentrated in the hands of the few.

Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Alex Hunsberger writes that the CERB may be a flashpoint in determining whether the cost of the coronavirus pandemic will be borne primarily by people who can afford it, or people who merely can't avoid it. Alison Pennington highlights how Australia's government - like so many others - has chosen to use the pandemic to reverse decades of progress for women. And Jamelle Bouie points out the importance of combating economic inequality in order to make any progress against systemic racism.

- Levon Sevunts reports on polling showing a majority of Canadians in support of a 30-hour work week. And Joe Jones looks to the activism of the 19th century as a precedent in pushing for reductions in working time.

- David Climenhaga writes about the need for Alberta to start providing support for research aimed at something more than propping up a dying oil and gas sector. And PressProgress highlights the Sask Party's trumpeting of an anti-worker oil lobbyist as the type of "entrepreneur" they see representing the province. 

- Graham Thomson discusses the cynical political calculations behind the UCP's push for government-controlled referenda. And Charles Rusnell reports on the UCP's gutting of any review of legislation which transferred total power into the hands of its cabinet.

- Finally, Josiah Mortimer notes that the UK's first-past-the-post system has resulted much of the country being written off for electoral purposes.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Mark Smolinski writes that wearing a mask to limit the spread of COVID-19 is best characterized as a sign of mutual respect. (But sadly, that goes a long way toward explaining the anti-mask movement among adherents to political movements built on exclusion and dehumanization of others.) And John Michael McGrath argues that Ontario should be moving toward a rule requiring masks, rather than resting on its laurels in having merely flattened the curve.

- Iglika Ivanova examines how different types of workers have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic in British Columbia - with people already facing precarious work situations suffering the most. And Bruce Arthur comments on how migrant farm workers in Ontario have been left to bear the risks of COVID-19 with no support from the employers or governments who have chosen to put them in danger.

- Nick Falvo examines the stingy social policies in Canada and other English-speaking countries - including a pitiful ratio of 15 units of affordable housing being lost in Canada between 2011 and 2016 period for every subsidized unit created.

- Meagan Day writes about the increasingly-recognized connections between race, class and police violence. Elizabeth Renzetti discusses how Indigenous women are all too often hurt rather than helped when they seek assistance from law enforcement, while Kim Beaudin and Justin Piché note that the continued mass incarceration of Indigenous people is an insurmountable obstacle to reconcilation. And David Bell reports on the violence used by Calgary's police against a man who was sleeping peacefully until their arrival.

- Finally, Nora Loreto discusses how Canada too easily avoids answering for its own structural racism by pointing to the U.S.' failings.