Saturday, November 07, 2020

On advance preparation

I've noted before that Scott Moe's spring election posturing prevented Elections Saskatchewan from putting together a full postal balloting system for this fall's provincial election. And I haven't yet heard of any municipalities going to a full vote-by-mail balloting system for their subsequent votes (though I'd be interested to hear if any are trying).

But that doesn't mean voters can't cast a ballot by mail - only that they'll need to be prepared well in advance in order to do so.

With that in mind, here are links to the mail-in ballot application processes for...

- Elections Saskatchewan (Application deadline: October 15)

- City of Estevan (November 9)

- City of Martensville (October 19)

- City of Meadow Lake (October 28 online, November 6 in person)

- City of Melfort (November 9)

- City of Moose Jaw (October 16 online/mail, November 6 in person) 

- City of North Battleford (November 6)

- City of Prince Albert (October 26 online, November 9 in person)

- City of Regina (November 9) 

- City of Saskatoon (October 30 online, November 8 in person)

- City of Warman (November 6)

- City of Weyburn (October 30 online, November 6 in person) 

Note that the timing of an application will be crucial. In most cases cities should be receiving applications by now, meaning that the primary concern is to make sure applications are sent in time to be received by the deadlines above.

Other cities including Lloydminster and Yorkton have approved of mail-in balloting processes, but don't appear to have detailed information available online. I'll update with links as they become available.

[This will be a pinned post throughout election season - I'll plan to update it as registration windows open and close.]

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Tuesday Morning Links

 This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- The Economist highlights the public health steps governments need to be taking while we wait for vaccines and therapies to make the spread of COVID-19 a less severe risk.

- Pete Evans discusses the stress and anxiety placed on CERB recipients due to the Libs' choices both to let it expire, and to prorogue Parliament rather than putting a reliable alternative in place. And Bryan Eneas talks to Peter Gilmer about the need for Saskatchewan to increase its own contribution to the standard of living for people on social assistance - rather than instead using the CERB as an opportunity to line its own pockets at their expense.

- Nick Falvo writes about the obvious dangers facing homeless people as governments cut off temporary supports while doing nothing to address longstanding housing needs. And Sula Greene writes about the plight of renters facing eviction in the midst of a pandemic where isolation at home is imperative for everybody's health.

- Ryan Felton discusses the U.S.' choice to allow polluters to contaminate drinking water with "forever chemicals". And Evan Radford reports on research showing that south Saskatchewan's water is becoming increasingly toxic.

- Finally, Andrew Nikiforuk offers some lessons about the virtually inevitable failure of resource megaprojects - and they're well worth keeping in mind as the Saskatchewan Party pushes a multi-billion-dollar, Diefenbaker-era irrigation scheme.

Monday, September 28, 2020

On telling tests

I've previously posted about the Moe government's painful delay in addressing the limitations in Saskatchewan's COVID testing capacity, even as it promised to more than double that capacity over the month of August. But as others have pointed out, in the absence of any accountability from the Saskatchewan Party, we can go to the federal government's data to see whether those promises (coupled with a massive influx of federal funding) have led to any improvement.

And the answer tells us all we need to know about the Moe government's competence to turn dedicated funding into any results:

Even starting from per-capita capacity well below that of our neighbours, and even with the federal government pitching in millions to try to protect public health as kids have returned to school, the Saskatchewan Party's government has accomplished somewhere between zero and worse than that (given that the previous capacity was up to 2,000 tests per day). 

Needless to say,  Moe's "stay the course" campaign theme sounds downright dangerous when it reflects his government's inaction to protect public health in the midst of a pandemic. And if we rightly think that it's at all possible to do better, then we'll need to ensure the Saskatchewan Party isn't left in power to continue its glaring lack of accomplishment.

Monday Morning Links

 Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Lauren Pelley discusses the importance of making it a habit to weak a mask to protect against the spread of COVID-19. And David Rider points out the giant loophole for private workplaces as sites of community spread, while Jason Warick highlights the futility of Brandt's policy requiring masks only after an outbreak hit its workers.

- PressProgress calls out Doug Ford for valuing profits over health in seeing nothing wrong with $400 private COVID tests.

- Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood argues that the recovery from COVID-19 represents a perfect time to move toward a low-carbon economy. And Andrew Jackson comments on the usual combination of ambitious claims and vague commitments in the Libs' throne speech, while Katherine Scott highlights the desperate need to turn rhetoric into action. 

- Finally, Gary Mason calls out the RCMP for its enabling of white supremacist violence in Ponoka and Red Deer. And James Pitsula offers a reminder of the KKK's history in Canada - including its role in influencing one Saskatchewan election.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Nicole Mortillaro notes that the reduction in pollution due to COVID-19-related shutdowns isn't keeping 2020 from being either the hottest or second-hottest year on record. Nina Chestney reports on new research showing that our current fossil fuel economy is utterly incompatible with any hope of limiting climate change even to 2 degrees. And Mariana Mazzucato discusses what we'll need to do in order to avoid climate lockdowns in the not-so-distant future:

(C)limate change will exacerbate the social and economic problems highlighted by the pandemic. These include governments’ diminishing capacity to address public-health crises, the private sector’s limited ability to withstand sustained economic disruption, and pervasive social inequality. 

These shortcomings reflect the distorted values underlying our priorities. For example, we demand the most from “essential workers” (including nurses, supermarket workers, and delivery drivers) while paying them the least. Without fundamental change, climate change will worsen such problems.

The climate crisis is also a public-health crisis. Global warming will cause drinking water to degrade and enable pollution-linked respiratory diseases to thrive. According to some projections, 3.5 billion people globally will live in unbearable heat by 2070.

Addressing this triple crisis requires reorienting corporate governance, finance, policy, and energy systems toward a green economic transformation. To achieve this, three obstacles must be removed: business that is shareholder-driven instead of stakeholder-driven, finance that is used in inadequate and inappropriate ways, and government that is based on outdated economic thinking and faulty assumptions.

- Caroline Evans points out how Alberta is seeing substantial expansion of wind and solar power despite the recalcitrance of the Kenney UCP. And CBC News reports on new polling showing strong support for a transition to green energy in Regina.

- Elizabeth Renzetti writes that we won't see a full recovery from the coronavirus pandemic until women are able to return to work. And Armine Yalnizyan and Kerry McCuaig take note of the opportunity to finally establish a national child care system.

- Jordan Press reports on the added stress and anxiety lower-income Canadians have faced due to the Libs' perpetual hemming and hawing over the continuation of coronavirus relief. And Alex MacPherson discusses how CERB recipients face the risk of being excluded from Saskatchewan's Legal Aid system due to a temporary shift to a slightly more liveable income level - highlighting just how many people are cut off from basic legal services. 

- But finally, on the bright side, John Paul Tasker reports on the federal government's plan to send out free automatic tax returns in order to ensure people receive the benefits available to them.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Saturday Morning Links

 Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Charlie Smith talks to Robert Hare about the increasing concentration of corporate control - and deterioration of the public's capacity to provide a needed counterweight - in the decades since The Corporation was released.

- PressProgress exposes the hundreds of thousands of dollars of Saskatchewan Party donations connected to the Rawlco radio network's owners. And the Saskatchewan NDP highlights how Scott Moe insists on preserving an archaic campaign finance system where he's motivated to serve out-of-province numbered companies rather than the people of the province. 

- Marco D'Angelo warns that transit services are in danger of falling into a death spiral just as they're proving especially vital in ensuring fair access to transportation while minimizing carbon pollution.

- Meanwhile, Ian Hanomansing interviews David Suzuki about the Libs' appalling willingness to hype nuclear power, while CBC News reports on their choice to throw hundreds of millions of dollars at offshore drilling - even as they again dither when it comes to meaningful action to avert a climate breakdown.

- Finally, Saskatchewan's Chief Electoral Officer Michael Boda puts a call out for people to work at the polls to ensure everybody has access to the polls.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Musical interlude

 Black Pumas - Colors

Friday Afternoon Links

 Assorted content to end your week.

- Karon Liu offers a basic primer on how to avoid contributing to the second wave of the coronavirus. And the Canadian Teachers' Federation surveys how educators and students have been - and continue to be - affected by COVID-19.

- CUPE is encouraging Saskatchewan's votes to cast their ballots with an eye toward the importance of public services. Adam Hunter reports on the doubling of Saskatchewan's MRI wait-list as the Sask Party's move toward privatized health care predictably did nothing to improve access in the public system. And CBC News reports on the likelihood that Scott Moe's choice to intercept federal CERB funding will end up leaving people homeless.  

- Brian Bethune talks to Michael Sandel about how the language of meritocracy contributes to ongoing (and indeed increasing) inequity.

- Finally, Emily Eaton and Simon Enoch examine how a move toward a renewable Regina can align with the goals of reducing poverty and inequality. And Seth Klein discusses the need to deal with the climate crisis and inequality together:

(C)limate policy purists are wrong. The rebuttal is two-fold.

First, these issues are actually deeply intertwined. Lower income people and countries are more vulnerable to the impacts of the climate crisis. Those with higher incomes and wealth have greater GHG emissions. Conversely, many climate action policies impact lower-income people harder, and thus these impacts must be mitigated.

And second, it is only by linking these issues that we win over and mobilize broad popular support. We cannot ask people to separate their fears about the climate crisis from the other affordability anxieties, economic pressures and systemic crises they face. At a very basic level, inequality undermines trust that “we are all in this together.”

Many doubt that the task at hand will be undertaken in a manner that is fair. It is hard to rally the public if many believe the rich are merely buying their way out of making change—fortifying their homes, walling their communities or purchasing carbon offsets in the hope that others will lower their actual emissions. Equally troubling is a cultural narrative that sees climate action as part of an elite project in which the poor or those currently working in the fossil fuel sector are expendable. 


High levels of inequality undermine social cohesion and promote social divisions, rather than building the social and political trust needed to chart a future based on a sense of shared fate. If climate policies are not perceived as fair, public support will not be sustained, and political determination will shrink accordingly.

The more a robust climate action plan is linked to an exciting plan to tackle poverty and inequality, along with a hopeful and convincing jobs plan, the more we maximize public support. Plus, it’s the right thing to do.


Thursday, September 24, 2020

Thursday Morning Links

 This and that for your Thursday reading.

 - Patrick Brethour discusses houw the effects of the coronavirus pandemic have been anything but fairly or equally distributed. And Katherine Scott highlights how the effect has been to undo decades of already-slow progress in improving the conditions of single mothers.

- Don Pittis discusses how New Jersey's wealth tax provides an example for us to follow. And Andrew Jackson makes the case (PDF) for a wealth tax in Canada:

It is both reasonable and practical to add a wealth tax to our current arsenal of fair taxes, to be levied at a low but rising rate on very large fortunes. The aim would not be just, or even most importantly, to raise extra revenues, though these would add to fiscal capacity, but to prevent the accumulation of huge fortunes which give the ultra rich far too much power and undermine democracy. The ongoing shift of taxes away from labour to the owners of capital which undermines the fiscal base needed to support social programs and public services and exacerbates rising inequality must be reversed. While there are some difficulties in levying an annual wealth tax, it is ultimately a feasible political choice and a matter of political will.

- Stephen Gordon and Christopher Ragan discuss the prospect of updating the Bank of Canada's mandate both to better measure inflation, and to account for additional factors including employment. And Marc Lee points out the folly of obsessing over the federal debt in the midst of a pandemic.

- The Star's editorial board writes that it's time to address homelessness by building long-term housing, not only shelters. And Ashwin Rodrigues notes that any effort to rely on private-sector landlords to provide housing will need to contend with new gig-economy structures designed to facilitate evictions.

- Finally, Russell Smith points out how algorithms shape what we read online - including by directing readers away from anything that doesn't fit an arbitrary conception of a significant topic.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Wednesday Afternoon Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Scott Schmidt writes that it's inevitable that a government (like the UCP) which sees cruelty as the point of governance will reflect that attitude in its actions.

- Kate Aronoff points out the destructive alliance between corporate Republicans and the likes of QAnon to spread anti-science conspiracy theories. And Zack Colman and Alex Guillen write about the massive greenhouse gas emission increases to be expected based on Donald Trump's destruction of the environmental regulatory state.

- Patrick Greenfield reports on a new UN study showing that humanity is falling short of every single biodiversity target agreed to in Aichi, Japan 2010.

- Mike Clancy discusses the importance of ensuring health and safety in the workplace as the UK Cons systematically undermine any enforcement of safety standards.

- CTV News reports on the call by the Saskatchewan Medical Association for people to wear masks to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Wency Leung reports on the growing recognition that strokes may be the first symptom of COVID-19 visible in younger patients. And Rebecca Renner writes that while it's true that millennials are contributing to the spread of COVID-19, that reality is the result of the expectation they'll put themselves at risk at work rather than any personal irresponsibility.

- Finally, George Monbiot discusses how Extinction Rebellion is providing a desperately-needed example of how participatory democracy can work.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Monday Morning Links

 Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- David MacDonald examines how millions of Canadians could suffer from being pushed off of the CERB onto EI - both in lost or reduced supports, or more onerous requirements to receive any relief. Kathleen Harris reports on the continuing lack of sufficient programs for people with disabilities. And Zak Vescera and Alex MacPherson follow up on the Moe government's choice to turn federal emergency benefits into a provincial cash cow, including by requiring existing benefit recipients to apply separately both for the CERB for renewed provincial programs.

- The Globe and Mail's editorial board offers some suggestions to ensure the second wave of the coronavirus isn't as catastrophic as the first, while also warning against a complacent, wait-and-see approach to readily-foreseeable spikes in case numbers.

- Jasmine Ramze Rezaee, Carolyn Ferns, Abigail Doris and Janet Davis discuss the need for universal child care in Canada.

- The Star's editorial board makes the case for improving and expanding our public health care system, rather than limiting ourselves to defensive efforts to preserve what we have now. And Bob Hepburn calls out the greed behind the cynical effort to turn Charter rights into a cash cow for would-be corporate health providers.

- Finally, Andrew Leach traces the tens of billions of dollars Alberta has poured into the Sturgeon refinery - including through a familiar pattern of claiming to be transferring risk to the private sector while actually putting public money up at every turn to build a project which will produce corporate profit. Carl Meyer reports on the growing sense that the Trans-Mountain pipeline will likewise prove to be a money pit - making it all the more obvious that we'd be better off investing in clean energy now, rather than putting sustainable development on hold pending some future expectation of profit. And Mark Frauenfelder reports on BP's conclusion that half the identified oil reserves in the world will never be extracted.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Sunday Afternoon Links

 This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Alex Hemingway and Michal Rozworski both study both how Canada's wealthiest few have enriched themselves through the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, and discuss how more fair taxes would ensure they don't exploit a public health emergency to even further entrench their power. Bruce Campbell also makes the case for a wealth tax to be included in the impending Throne Speech. And the Tax Justice Network finds public support to crack down on corporate tax avoidance of 87 to 95% across wealthy countries.

- Eric Levitz reports on new research showing that the upward redistribution of income in the U.S. since 1975 has robbed workers of $2.5 trillion in total income each year (meaning that the total income for the bottom 90 per cent of workers could be nearly doubled), while Nick Hanauer and David Rolf point out the destabilizing effect of that income imbalance on U.S. society as a whole. And Ezra Klein notes that the effect of an undue focus on individualism and corporate control has been to leave most people to choose from among nothing but bad options.

- Dan Sinker discusses the problems with reliance on Zoom school rather than in-person education. Kristin Rushowy writes about new research from Sick Kids Ontario showing how a failure to invest in masks and physical distancing is putting children (and the people around them) at avoidable risk. Shelby Lisk reports on some of the Ontario teachers who have made the choice not to send their children back to school due to insufficient precautions for their health and safety. Kenyon Wallace and Rushowy report on the shock some Ontario parents have experienced in learning their kids' class sizes are bigger than ever, while PressProgress points out the complete lack of improvement in class sizes in Saskatoon.

- Michelle Ghoussoub writes about the confluence of disasters that's leaving people to guess whether respiratory problems are the result of a pandemic, a climate change-fueled disaster or both. And based on the connections between COVID-19 and the climate breakdown, there's no reason to pretend that the existence of the former represents any excuse for continuing to slow-walk action to mitigate the latter - particularly when Abacus Data's polling shows two-thirds of Canadians as seeing the pandemic as calling for major changes in economic and social policy. Mia Rabson reports on the support from a cross-partisan working group for a $55 billion investment in climate policy. Doug Cuthand comments on the folly of torching our planet in an effort to bail out fossil fuel investors whose industry is dying of natural causes. And Don Lenihan and Andrew Balfour discuss what will be needed to make a just transition work - including the voice for people outside of the corporate elite which was conspicuously left out of the free trade movement of recent decades.

- Finally, Lauren Pelley discusses how the "bubble" strategy to mitigate COVID-19 risk is becoming less effective due to the return to school and the absence of other readily-available options to reduce viral spread. Elizabeth Payne warns that the problems with long-term care homes which cause so many fatalities in the first wave look far too likely to resurface. And CBC highlights how health care workers are running on fumes as a year that's already been packed with unforeseen stress and anxiety stands to get all the worse.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Saturday Morning Links

 Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Jack Goldstone and Peter Turchin offer an introduction to what they anticipate will be the Turbulent Twenties, while noting the need for the U.S. to develop a new social contract to shift from its current path.

- Meanwhile, Hadley Freeman rightly challenges the propensity of people in power to claim that any attempt to pursue accountability represents unreasonable politicization.

- Reuters examines how Big Pharma has sought to covertly undermine any effort to rein in prescription drug prices (including those related to a COVID-19 vaccine). And the New York Times reports on the Trump administration's interference with CDC reports to make supposedly neutral information fit the Republican agenda.  

- Sarath Peiris writes about the Moe government's grossly insufficient response to the public health dangers of HIV and addictions. And Jennifer Francis reports on the end of Tristen Durocher's brave trek to advocate for action against suicide - and Moe's callous unwillingness to cross the street to meet Durocher after his walk from Air Ronge.

- Finally, Jacob Hamburger writes about the mass cruelty which forms the basis of the U.S.' immigration detention system. And Aaron Holmes reports on the use - and abuse - of a predictive algorithm by a Florida sheriff's office to criminalize entire communities.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Musical interlude

 Louise Burns - Just Walk Away

On misleadership

When the COVID-19 pandemic was first declared, there was relatively little pushback against the most extreme (if necessary) steps which were taken out of a lack of knowledge of the coronavirus. 

At that time of uncertainty, we generally accepted that the only responsible response was to shut down non-essential activity until we had a better idea how to control its transmission. And indeed, a strong majority of people remain willing to do the same should it prove necessary.

Fortunately, the scientific understanding of COVID-19 has advanced to the point where we know it's possible to limit transmission while permitting a substantial number of activities which had been prohibited - as long as people wear a mask in the process. And a strong majority of people are willing to do that as well.

But given the high level of social responsibility actually expressed by the general public, it's absolutely unconscionable that so many governments continue to refuse to take basic steps to restrain COVID-19's spread. 

It of course only takes a small group of irresponsible people to cause a superspreading event. Which means that for the moment, some of the most important decisions leaders face involve their willingness to make clear that the public interest in controlling COVID-19 outweighs the dubious complaints of an ill-informed few. 

Yet Saskatchewan has seen Scott Moe not only refuse to mandate that people wear masks, but go out of his way to contradict his own public health officials by telling people it's fine not to bother wearing one. 

Instead, he's pointing to what appear to be outdated assumptions about physical distancing as being the sole precaution needed, while sending a continuous message that people shouldn't have any hesitation to prioritize their own comfort or aesthetic preferences over the dangers of a lethal disease. 

It's hard to see what Moe thinks he's accomplishing with that position. At this point, the number of people bothering to publicly object to mask requirements in Saskatchewan is strikingly similar to the death toll seen in adjacent states which haven't kept COVID-19 under reasonable control.  

But for now, one of the key layers of protection against the coronavirus relies on on Saskatchewan's people being far more responsible than their premier. And there's every reason to hold Moe responsible for putting us all at readily-avoidable risk.

Friday Morning Links

 Assorted content to end your week.

- David Roberts examines a few of the ways to conceptualize the share of responsibility for climate change. And while the most crucial reality is the need for everybody to take steps (and not just incremental ones) to avert a climate breakdown, Vernon Loeb, Marianne Lavelle and Stacy Feldman highlight how a second Trump term alone could do irremediable damage to our planet.

- Moira Wyton writes about the roles of connectedness and resilience in mitigating the health effects of the damage we've already done. And CBC News talks to George Monbiot about the importance of a politics of belonging to reclaim power from the wealthy few.

- Hiroko Tabuchi reports that the longtime deception from the fossil fuel sector is far from finished, as oil executives privately acknowledge they're doing little if anything to stop especially-harmful methane emissions.

- Leslie Evans Ogden discusses the long-anticipated growth of geothermal power as a source of baseload electricity in Canada. And Arthur White-Crummey reports on the Saskatchewan NDP's commitment to prioritize geothermal development as part of its work to develop a clean energy grid.

- Robert Palmer notes that the combination of upper-class tax slashing and general austerity remains thoroughly despised by the general public when accurately presented as such.

- Finally, Sara Birrell reports on new research as to the devastating public health impacts of the Saskatchewan Party's shuttering of STC.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Thomas Christopher Lange studies (PDF) the costs and effects of two dental care options, and concludes Canada would be best served with a universal dental care system. And Colleen Floyd and Jane Philpott highlight how increased reliance on private payments would do nothing but harm to our health care system.

- Greg Jericho rightly points out that a willingness to relax coronavirus restrictions does nothing to help anybody's economy if the virus continues to spread. Rachael D'Amore reports on the obvious risk that we'll see a spike in poverty in Canada as relief is terminated while a pandemic continues to rage. And Jennifer Yang and Brendan Kennedy discuss the impossible dilemma facing lower-income families who have to choose between their health and their children's education.

- Meanwhile, Forward Together proposes a plan to ensure that Canadians are taken care of through the continuing pandemic and its aftermath, while the Atkinson Foundation offers some pillars for a federal throne speech. And the Canadian Press reports on Toronto's first step to offer a dedicated shelter for people unable to self-isolate at home.

- Alyson Krueger warns that the demands developing around work from home under a quarantine threaten the concept of time off work as we know it.  

- Amina Zafar discusses the toll COVID-19 has taken on female immigrant health care workers in particular. And Indi Samarajiva calls out the racism underlying media coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

- Finally, CBC News reports on the record number of children dying in the care of Saskatchewan's child welfare system. 

Monday, September 14, 2020

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Bruce Campbell makes the case for the federal throne speech to be ambitious in dealing with our concurrent crisis of public health, climate breakdown and inequality. But Karl Belanger writes that all signs instead point to the Libs using the opportunity to play political games.

- Georgina Hayes reports on new research showing that face masks serve to reduce the COVID-19's severity as well as its spread. And Renée Filippone writes about the success of Denmark's return to school - though it's worth noting the significance of their underlying choice to prioritize public health and education over reopening businesses.

- On that front, CTV News reports on the continued lack of testing capacity in Saskatchewan even as Scott Moe makes implausible promises. Arthur White-Crummey points out how the coronavirus is affecting Saskatchewan's election campaign.

- Peter Gleick writes that the current wave of explosive wildfires should offer an urgent climate wake-up call for anybody who wasn't yet paying attention. And Elizabeth Renzetti comments on the need not to pretend the disasters we're experiencing are anything close to natural.

- Finally, Laura Sullivan exposes how much of the pitch for recycling plastics has been a con by the oil industry seeking to pretend their products weren't known to cause long-lasting environmental damage.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Heather Scoffield writes that contrary to the spin from corporate mouthpieces, workers have been eager to find work when it's been available in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. And John Cartwright comments on the need for a recovery to be just and equitable for everybody.

- Instead, Anand Giridharidas highlights how it's billionaires who have taken advantage of the coronavirus to line their pockets with unprecedented fortunes, while Oxfam examines how COVID-19 has exacerbated inequality and allowed employers to put even more extreme pressure on workers. And Ed Yong writes about the U.S.' coronavirus death spiral.

- Paul Vallely discusses how philanthropy serves the wealthiest few, rather than the people who are supposed to benefit from charitable contributions.

- George Monbiot discusses how the UK is relying on little more than corruption for its political and economic foundation. And Deirdre Mitchell-MacLean points out how the model of "fiscal conservatism" at the base of Western Canada's right-wing parties involves brutal austerity for the people who can least afford it, but extremely loose spending when it comes to political friends and donors.

- Finally, Dan Fumano reports on the successes of British Columbia's new regulator which has been taking long-needed steps to improve the condition of rental housing since the province finally elected a government interested in the public's well-being. And Jordan Press reports on the push from municipalities to ensure that available housing is made affordable for people who need it, rather than turning into a cash cow for already-wealthy property managers.

Saturday, September 12, 2020


Particularly as parents face difficult decisions in determining how to handle a return to unsafe schools in the midst of a pandemic, it's no surprise that the Moe government's secrecy about the infrastructure deficit it's accumulated in the education sector is raising some outrage. But it's particularly jarring to see how the choice to withhold that information affects the province's impending election campaign.

In the Information and Privacy Commissioner's report (PDF) recommending the release of that information, the government used these excuses to claim it was entitled to keep Saskatchewan in the dark about the investment needed to ensure a safe education for our province's children:
- that the numbers should be considered "recommendations" as to needed investment which could affect educational budgeting: para. 15;
- that the numbers could form the basis for budgeting decisions, both overall and between school divisions: para. 23; and
- that the numbers could harm the government's interests by revealing that funding being provided for deferred maintenance actually isn't being used for that purpose: para. 31.

While all of those submissions were rejected, it's worth highlighting how appalling it is that they were made at all.

After all, Saskatchewan's voters will have to decide this fall whether the government is living up to public expectations in managing government institutions (as well as local authorities under its jurisdiction). And it would seem obvious that in order to make any informed decision, we'll need to be able to make comparisons between what investment is needed to make schools safe, what's been allocated, and what's actually been put to its intended purposes.

Instead, the Saskatchewan Party government's explicit position is that the public has no business knowing the scope of the problems it will be shouting about having addressed. And even more tellingly, it's willing to go on the record saying that the government's interests will be damaged if people learn how the funding earmarked for school maintenance is actually being spent.

Needless to say, that should set off massive alarm bells whether or not the numbers are released in advance of the election - particularly as we see the real-life effects of the Saskatchewan Party's underinvestment. And we should be eager to take the opportunity to vote out a premier who thinks that what the province needs and how funding is actually being spent are matters which should be concealed from the public.

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Patrick Greenfield reports on a new study from the Zoological Society of London showing how wildlife populations are plummeting in the face of environmental destruction. Charlie Warzel makes the seemingly modest request that people care about the large swaths of the western U.S. on fire as a result of climate change. And Martin Dunphy reports on new research showing the nearly immediate damage to human health caused by wildfire smoke.

- Seth Klein offers seven lessons from Canada's World War II mobilization effort which we'd be applying if we were approaching the threat of a climate breakdown with anything close to the seriousness it deserves. Charlie Smith reviews Klein's A Good War - including in its emphasis on being able to point to a better future as a reward for pursuing a difficult struggle. And Sara Hastings-Simon warns us not to accept delay in climate action (generally presented through distant and implausible substitutes for immediate means of transitioning to a cleaner economy) which produces the same substantive effect as outright denial.

- Meanwhile, in case there was any doubt that mere people are ill-served by a status quo which puts fossil fuel development ahead of human interests and environmental stability, Kim Siever debunks the claim that oil and gas is the economic foundation even of Alberta alone - let alone Canada as a whole. And James Wilt highlights how the public oil resources taken from Alberta for private profit result in pitifully little provincial revenue. 

- Jim Stanford writes about the resiliency of Canada's labour movement in the face of decades of neoliberal attacks. But Jeff Labine reports on Jason Kenney's latest attempt to undermine the effectiveness of collective action by treating uninterrupted business as sacrosanct.

- Finally, Michael Smart writes that it's less than vital to obsess about reducing Canada's national debt when there are urgent needs to be addressed immediately. And Bruce Campbell notes that a wealth tax would both help to rein in Canada's existing inequality, and held to fund the society we want to build.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Musical interlude

Deftones - Ohms


Shorter Trudeau Liberals last month, trying to justify shutting down Parliament and setting up a game of Parliamentary chicken over a throne speech:
It's absolutely vital that we talk about VISION! And LONG-TERM PLANNING! And a FRESH MANDATE FOR CHANGE!!!
Shorter Trudeau Liberals now:
On second thought, this is no time for vision and planning.

Friday Afternoon Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Lance Taylor summarizes his new book documenting how and why U.S. inequality has ballooned over the past few decades. And Heather Scoffield writes about Tiff Macklem's attention to inequality and the plight of marginalized people - as well as how it represents a (necessary) departure from the basis for Canada's previous monetary policy.

- Patricia Cohen highlights how debates over the effect of social programs tend to involve evidence that benefits for people out of work tend to help everybody, weighed against rhetoric from employers who assume they'll be better off if workers are desperate for lack of any alternatives to low-paying work. Alex MacPherson and Zak Vescera follow up on Scott Moe's choice to turn federal benefits into a provincial cash cow rather than allowing any expanded programs to benefit recipients. And Joseph Hall notes that wage subsidies may likewise have served mostly to goose profits rather than to help workers.

 - Crawford Kilian observes that the aftereffects of the coronavirus will last for decades whether or not people have experienced severe medical symptoms in the short term. And Kyle Benning reports on Kyle Anderson's warnings about the growing number of untraceable COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan. 

- Jemima McEvoy discusses the multiple U.S. teachers who have already died of COVID-19 in only a month since their classes resumed. And PressProgress takes note of the attempt to substitute "arm's-length" measurements and an attempt to have students face the same direction for adequate physical distancing in Regina public schools.

- Andre Picard discusses how people living with dementia have been hit harder than anybody else by the coronavirus pandemic.

- Finally, Monetta Bailey writes about the important role of protest in expanding the range of choices available to people who have been structurally denied the opportunities others take for granted.

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Diane Peters discusses how everybody has a stake in the safe reopening of schools this fall. And Masks4Canada is tracking cases of school infection across Canada while Support our Students does the same for Alberta in particular - though Don Braid rightly questions why we need crowdsourcing to provide that information for want of open and effective public reporting.

- Meanwhile, Zak Vescera reports on the Moe government's appalling stinginess with essential care workers in Saskatchewan who received less than half of the money trumpeted as a wage supplement.

- Andrew MacLeod reports on both the corporate push into British Columbia's primary health care system, and the shift toward private health care generally with the goal of diverting comparatively easy work from an increasingly strained public system. And Jason Warick reports on the audit showing over 200 separate problems with the Sask Party's P3 hospital in North Battleford - even as the Moe government continues to insist there's nothing wrong with a brand-new facility being unsafe and unsanitary.

- Michelle McQuigge reports on UNICEF's rankings showing Canada ranking toward the bottom of the world's wealthier countries in caring for children.

- Amy Harder writes about the climate feedback loops which make it all the more urgent to stop adding to our ongoing carbon pollution. And Keith Stewart points out the positive developments in investors electing not to fund further climate damage. But Mia Rabson reports that the Libs are once again breaking a promise to reduce Canada's methane emissions.

- Finally, Matthew Rosza looks at the latest research showing the connection between wealth and an inability to empathize with others.

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Keener cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Linda Silas writes about the need to invest in improved care and better jobs in order to build a health society. And Linda McQuaig reviews Seth Klein's A Good War as outlining how to turn a pandemic response into an opportunity to make desperately-needed changes to an unsustainable society.

- Paul Karp reports on new research confirming that tax giveaways to the rich do nothing to improve matters for the rest of us.

- Andre Picard warns that Canada's COVID-19 curve is on the rise even before the return to school this fall, while Dominic Rushe and Amanda Holpuch discuss how the U.S. is still far away from meaningfully containing the threat as the winter approaches. And Eric Reguly wonders why governments aren't doing more to ensure the use of masks and rapid testing which have represented the most effective means of allowing some additional activity while limiting the spread of the coronavirus.

- Astrid Helene Kendrick observes that we can't expect to ensure students' well-being by imposing pandemic-related rules which aren't backed with investment in their health and welfare, while Aaron Saad writes that many of the avoidable risks being faced by students, staff and their families are the result of decades of underfunding of public education. The Langley Advance Times highlights the contrast between months of discussion of the importance of physical distancing, and a direction that schools be reopened without any meaningful effort to make that possible. Susan Wright examines Alberta's pitiful excuse for a back-to-school plan. Nigel Bariffe writes about the need to make child care seamless with school access. Melissa Corrente points out the importance of addressing teachers' mental health. And Madi Cyr questions the lack of consideration for students with developmental disorders.

- Finally, Michael Prince makes the case for a national income program for people with disabilities. But lest we think the federal government can accomplish much without provinces acting in good faith, Zak Vescera and Alex MacPherson report that Saskatchewan is among the provinces which has clawed back every nickel it could from federal CERB benefits, while Roberta Bell focuses on the similar clawback from people with disability income - each turning federal emergency relief for people into a provincial windfall which does nothing for its nominal recipients.

Monday, September 07, 2020

Monday Morning Links

Assorted content for your Labour Day reading.

- Gregory Beatty discusses the class struggle as it's playing out in the time of COVID. Jim Stanford offers a reminder as to how collective action is more important than ever, while Jerry Dias discusses how the labour movement is exercising its strength. Megan Brenan writes about the combination of high approval for unions on a historical scale, combined with a low number of workers actually putting the desire for unionization into effect. The Philadelphia Inquirer's editorial board comments on the realities of a Labour Day in which millions are out of work due to the poorly-managed coronavirus pandemic. And Gil McGowan writes about the fight to ensure Alberta doesn't fall into full-blown Trumpist authoritarianism and kleptocracy.

- Meanwhile Hadeel Abdel-Nabi discusses the removal of Sandeep Lalli as president and CEO of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce for the crime of insufficient fealty to Jason Kenney and climate change denial. And Derek Craddock reports on the Kenney UCP's choice not to bother passing a federally-funded top-up along to essential health care workers.

- Pairs Marx reminds us that there's nothing inevitable or inescapable about a capitalist economy. And Yanis Varoufakis proposes true economic democracy as an alternative to a capitalist system which has manifestly failed to sustainably meet people's needs.

- Kim Siever writes that it's top-end tax cuts - not taxes themselves - that we should treat as a theft from our common wealth.

- Finally, Meara Conway and Dan LeBlanc write about the Saskatchewan Party's use of the power of the state to silence Tristen Durocher and other Indigenous voices, while Jeremy Simes reports on a petition to ensure space in Wascana Park is available for Indigenous ceremonies. Murray Mandryk writes about the Cons' embarrassing attempt to demonstrate in favour of genocide. And Angel Moore reports on the continued and flagrant racism in private RCMP social media groups.

Sunday, September 06, 2020

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Don Pittis discusses how the spread of modern monetary theory is challenging some stale assumptions about government budgeting. And Sarath Peiris highlights how the Saskatchewan Party's plans for severe austerity are utterly unworkable without the federal government riding to the rescue of people who would otherwise be left without needed supports. 

- Ian Waddell points out that Justin Trudeau can easily avoid an unnecessary election by finding some much-needed tolerance for working with willing partners in the public interest. And while he accepts more of the Libs' spin on the relationship between the two parties than he should, Aaron Wherry takes note of the opportunities to work toward what the Libs constantly profess to be common goals. 

- PressProgress examines five of the biggest problems with Scott Moe's underfunded and poorly-thought-out orders for sending students back to school. And Alexandra Mae Jones discusses the importance of ventilation in limiting the spread of COVID-19 in schools. 

- Meanwhile, Nykole King comments on the gendered impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

- David Thurton reports on the Commission for Environmental Cooperation's study showing that tar sands tailing ponds are contaminating Alberta water supplies. And CBC News reports on a diluent pipeline spill near Fort McMurray.

- Finally, Tim Alberta writes about the fallout from a U.S. Republican party which has fully abandoned values and principles in favour of becoming an elite-funded personality cult. And Adnan Khan offers his take on the U.S.' ongoing implosion.

Saturday, September 05, 2020

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Joseph Stiglitz discusses the divides which have been exposed and exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. And Anand Giridharidas talks to Varshini Prakash about how a plan to deal with the climate crisis will contribute to solving many of the other issues we're currently facing.

- Terry Sunderland writes about the environmental damage wrought by our poor food choices. And Emma Howard discusses Donald Trump's attempt to push plastic products into Africa through trade deals - though David Roberts notes that any prospect of prolonging oil development through plastics is likely doomed in any event.

- Annina Claesson makes the case for us to follow Finland's lead in examining the prospect of a six-hour work day.

- The Star's editorial board makes the case to reduce class sizes to help limit the spread of COVID-19. But the Canadian Press reports on the effect of Ontario's education funding system in ensuring that class sizes stay high due to "collapsed" classrooms even if fewer students are attending school in person.

- Finally, Jonathan Wang, Saba Vahid, Maria Eberg, Shannon Milroy, John Milkovich, Frances C. Wright, Amber Hunter, Ryan Kalladeen, Claudia Zanchetta, Harindra C. Wijeysundera and Jonathan Irish study the surgical backlog caused by COVID-19 in Ontario - with the conclusion that it will take upwards of a year and a half to get back up to date figuring to apply to other provinces as well.And the Los Angeles Times' editorial board weighs in on the reality that any talk of "herd immunity" means nothing more than facilitating avoidable deaths.

Thursday, September 03, 2020

Thursday Evening Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Harold Varmus and Rajiv Shah write that the CDC's willingness to parrot the Trump administration's desire for less COVID-19 testing is forcing states and other actors to take up the job of providing appropriate public health advice. And David Climenhaga points out the rightful frustration of Alberta parents and education workers who have been told that the social distancing rules applicable to every other building in the province will be ignored in schools - even as the U.S. sees soaring rates of infection among children.

- Leilani Farha and Kaitlin Schwan offer a reminder that homelessness is a matter of life and death in the midst of a pandemic. Victoria Gibson discusses the Toronto families being torn apart by inadequate housing. And Dan Darrah highlights the problems with a real estate market administered primarily to build stores of wealth, rather than to ensure that people of all income levels have a reasonable place to live. 

- The Economic Policy Institute studies the advantages in wages, sick days and health benefits held by union workers compared to unorganized labour. But Bob Hennelly writes that with corporate wealth getting more concentrated and unions losing ground, workers in general are being treated as perpetually more expendable.

- Finally, Philip Oltermann highlights how Germany is significantly better off for having welcomed far more refugees than other wealthy countries.

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Missing in action

Shorter Sask Party when it comes to using steel as an excuse for pipeline approvals:
It's vital that we uncritically cheerlead for EVERY SINGLE PIPELINE PROPOSAL for the sake of Saskatchewan steel jobs!
Short Sask Party when it comes to ensuring Saskatchewan steel is actually used for pipeline construction when another producer from offshore is undercutting our workers:

Wednesday Afternoon Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Dean Russell and Jamie Smith Hopkins write about the mental health consequences of the disasters the world is wrestling with at the moment.

- Milan Polk surveys doctors about the need to revise our current reliance on six feet of social distancing as being sufficient. And John Michael McGrath points out how public health is suffering due to the delayed approval of self-testing for COVID-19.

- Jesse Winter reports on British Columbia's tragic number of drug overdoses and deaths, while Alicia Bridges reports on soaring rates in Regina as well. And Tracy Giesz-Ramsey discusses how the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the existing overdose crisis - which makes it all the more galling to see Justin Trudeau declare that he isn't interested in decriminalization as a means of reducing harm if it isn't a silver bullet for all possible concerns. 

- Igor Derysh reports on the pharmaceutical executives who turned pandemic contracts from the Trump administration into windfall share sales. PressProgress reports on a push by medical groups to ensure that critical care drugs are available. And Andrew Richter's criticism of the Libs' lack of concrete steps to secure access to COVID-19 vaccines likewise highlights how much we'd stand to gain from a public pharmaceutical manufacturer.

- Josh Eidelson writes about the employers who are endangering everybody by imposing COVID-19 gag orders on their workers, while the Star's editorial board makes the seemingly obvious case to have Ontario's government warn people about workplace outbreaks. Kate Aronoff exposes Tesla's stunning assertion that it can avoid employment standards by labeling its mistreatment of workers as "trade secrets". And Eidelson and Spencer Soper report on Amazon's job posting specifically aimed at trying to impose SLAPP suits on labour organizers, while Lauren Kaori Gurley and Joseph Cox report on its spying on closed Facebook groups.

- Finally, Asher Schechter interviews David Dayen about the harm monopoly corporate power inflicts on the public.

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Outreached cats.

Tuesday Evening Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Jim Stanford discusses the need to ensure corporations pay their fair share for the social infrastructure which allows them to thrive.

- Jennifer Garrison writes about the gender imbalance in Alberta's back-to-school plan. And Heather Scoffield highlights how Justin Trudeau's prorogation of Parliament is contrary to any respect for the interests of Canadian women whose needs in the pandemic were being studied by one of the committees whose work was cut short.

- Meanwhile, Stephanie Ross and Larry Savage write about the women who are changing the face of the Canadian labour movement.

- Nafeez Ahmed reports on new research showing that the oil industry's expected life span is measured in only a few decades - with no need for new supplies in the meantime. And David Keith, Sarah Hastings-Simon and Ed Whittingham point out the futility of pouring money into a dying tar sands sector.

- Dylan Penner examines the disturbing connections between the fossil fuel sector and the militarization of police forces.

- Finally, Alexandre Tanzi writes about the massive benefits from reduced commuting as people were able to work from home in light of COVID-19.