Thursday, December 31, 2020

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Fran Quigley interviews Joanne Goldblum and Colleen Shaddox about the entirely feasible steps which could be taken to eliminate poverty in the U.S.:


You devote a good deal of the book to reviewing the data and the stories that describe US poverty, but you always circle back to solutions, refuting the idea we often hear that “the poor will always be with us.” Why do you think we can, as your subtitle promises, end poverty in the United States?


Because poverty is simply not having enough money to meet your needs. There is nothing more complicated about it than that. And we live in the richest nation in the world, where there is plenty of money. So if we have the political will, we could end poverty.

There are lots of different ways to do it. A living wage is necessary, and a universal basic income can help. We talk in the book about universal health care, housing supports, about making water and electricity and heat a public good. Other countries do all this, and there is no reason we could not do so as well. If we just tax people appropriately, we can have the money to do all this.


We write about challenges in affording car insurance in places where you need a car to get to work, the difficulty in keeping the lights on, not being able to afford medicines. Being in poverty is like walking across a rotted floor — there are so many ways you can fall through. And it all comes down to money.

- Meanwhile, Amanpreet Brar, Maria Daniel and Gurbaaz Sra point out how Amazon's warehouse workers have been put at additional risk by COVID while being silenced in efforts to protect their health and safety. 

- Don Braid points out that racists are attaching themselves to the antisocial principles behind anti-public health rallies to try to recruit adherents and claim legitimacy. And Georgina Alonso discusses the importance of Black Lives Matter - and the harm done by systemic racism it seeks to challenge - in rural Canada.

- Burgess Langshaw-Power writes about the folly of relying on a new generation of false promises and pipe dreams from nuclear power proponents. 

- Michael Barnard calculates how planned increases in the federal carbon price figure to clean up Alberta's power grid by incentivizing the replacement of natural gas power with renewable energy. But Lisa Schick reports on the Moe government's evisceration of Saskatchewan's residential solar sector even as it leaves no stone unturned in pushing further fossil fuel development.

- Finally, Kendall Latimer reports on the "quiet revolution" which has followed the more prominent initial discussion of #metoo in Regina.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Deep thought

No one could have predicted that somebody's refusal to accept responsibility for causing another person's death - and indeed insistence that they're entitled to avoid any questioning about it - might speak poorly to their fitness to govern a province.

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Noah Smith examines how even leaving aside such trifling considerations as human welfare, it's a better economic proposition to provide money to people with less money than those with more. And Matt McGrath highlights how any hope of averting a climate breakdown requires that the wealthiest people on the planet eliminate some of the extravagant emissions from their lifestyles.

- But Umair Haque points out how far too many decisions are made by and for remorseless and malicious idiots (in the original sense of the term).

- On that front, Tavia Grant and Kelly Grant note that whatever Ontario is calling a "lockdown" is designed to do nothing to stop the spread of COVID-19 in workplaces which have frequently been the sources of outbreaks. And Jenny Kwan and Daniel Blaikie call for the Libs to avoid damaging clawbacks on CERB payments.

- Ian Sample reports on the conclusion of the President of the UK's Royal College of Psychiatrists that the coronavirus pandemic will have more severe mental health effects than any event since World War II. And Amanpreet Brar, Lawrence Loh and Basak Yanar highlight the unfairness of temporary low-wage workers being forced to accept the worst stresses and risks while making do with meager incomes.

- Finally, Frank Morris discusses how COVID-19 has exacerbated the exodus of medical professionals from small towns in the U.S. (even in the absence of governments actively driving them away).

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Holiday cats.


Tuesday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Emma Ladds, Alex Rushforth, Sietse Wieringa, Sharon Taylor, Clare Rayner, Laiba Husain and Trisha Greenhalgh study the wade-ranging and severe symptoms resulting from "long COVID", while Jennifer Lutz and Richard Carmona point out how a health care system dependent on individual funding is ill-equipped to respond. Andre Picard writes about the absurdity of Ontario taking a holiday from distributing COVID-19 vaccines.

- Meanwhile, Mitchell Anderson discusses the lives lost in Western Canada to decades of propaganda which have built deep antipathy and distrust toward both science and the federal government. And Lee Berthiaume reports on another poll showing that the vast majority of respondents in the prairie provinces have had enough of failed leadership in responding to the coronavirus.

- CBC News points out how we've wasted two decades in the fight to salvage a liveable planet in the face of a climate breakdown. 

- John Harris points out that the UK's current set of self-inflicted crises is nothing new, but instead reflects a history of hubris and poor judgment by the country's ruling class. And Dani Alexis Ryskamp discusses how the U.S. has eliminated the prospect of the modest but secure middle-class lifestyle depicted in the Simpsons and other cultural touchstones.

- Finally, Michael Laxer highlights how COVID-19 has been used as an excuse for class warfare in Canada, with the richest few individuals and largest corporations claiming massive handouts and taking the opportunity to exploit their advantages in wealth and power while people generally are shamed for trying to survive.

Monday, December 28, 2020

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Adam Finn writes about the factors which have allowed for the rapid development of safe COVID-19 vaccines. 

- Helen Tang discusses the stress and frustration she's heard from the people she's had to reach as a contact tracer. Madeleine Cummings tells the stories of single parents navigating the pandemic. And Lisa Wolff and Terence Hamilton examine the support provided to families through Canada's pandemic relief - along with the need for structural change (including a national child care program) to lead our recovery efforts. 

- Robert Reich writes about the importance of an economy based on building up from the bottom, rather than hoping that wealth trickles down from the top. Dylan Penner warns against using the privatized Canada Infrastructure Bank for our post-COVID rebuilding. And Jill Mahoney reports on the lack of attention that's been paid to such basic infrastructure as school ventilation in the midst of a pandemic.

- Jim Elliott points out that contrary to the constant drumbeat of oil industry propaganda, there's plenty of public appetite for a transition to clean energy. Aaron Rutkoff writes that even the world's dirtiest carbon polluters are coming to terms with that reality. And Cheryl Katz highlights how large-scale battery storage is becoming a reality rather than a distant hope.

- Finally, Emily Chung argues against the current pattern of anti-repair design and planned obsolescence which makes our consumption far more harmful to the environment than it needs to be.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Owen Jones writes that the oft-repeated message that the public is responsible for the control (or spread) of COVID-19 serves mostly to deflect from gross failures of government. Grant Robertson reports on the deterioration of Canada's capacity to respond to a pandemic. Roberto Rocha, Inayat Singh and Julianna Perkins point out that provinces which acted sooner have had far more success in limiting case loads. And Michael Baker, Nick Wilson and Tony Blakely examine the superior outcomes from plans which eliminate viral spread, rather than assuming that some level of community transmission is acceptable and controllable.

- Elayne Hyshka and Hakique Verani note that contrary to Jason Kenney's deflections, the rise of drug overdoses in Alberta is the result of precisely the harm exacerbation strategy his government is determined to inflict on the province. And Danny Kerslake reports on the spread of COVID-19 through the Saskatchewan Penitentiary at a rate even worse than that of other federal penitentiaries.

- Pamela Cowan writes that the tragic loss of life which marked 2020 should push us to take far better care of senior citizens. And Brigitte Pellerin similarly argues that we should use what we've learned to ensure we never again ignore marginalized people.

- Terry Gross discusses how the COVID-19 pandemic has turned into a windfall for the people who already had far more than they could possibly need. Noah Smith points out that the growth of inequality isn't limited to the rise of the uber-rich, but also includes increased disparities within the middle class. And Alex Hemingway studies how the underrepresentation of people outside the upper classes in political leadership leads to distorted policy outcomes.

- Finally, Heather McGregor points out how Ontario's most recent anti-poverty plan falls short of offering any useful plans to lift people out of poverty.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your Boxing Day reading.

- Kyle Hanniman and Trevor Tombe examine the relative fiscal positions of Canada's federal and provincial governments - concluding that while there isn't a need for austerity anywhere, there's a lot more room to maneuver at the federal level than in most provinces (though Saskatchewan is a noteworthy exception). And Richard Murphy points out the absurdity of obsessing over deficits as an excuse not to spend on public goods.

- David Dayen is hopeful that the U.S. is seeing a much-needed antitrust revolution against the consolidation of corporate power - particularly in the hands of tech behemoths. But Umair Haque warns tha its foolish devotion to neoliberal economics is needlessly converting a rich country into a poor one. And Branko Milanovic discusses his concern that the Biden administration will do little more than return (to the extent possible) to a status quo ante whose inequality gave rise to Donald Trump's election. 

- Meanwhile, Nick Bano discusses how the UK's housing crisis was the result of deliberate choices to privilege the profits of landlords over people's right to a home. 

- Kenyon Wallace, Ed Tubb and Marco Chown Oved report on the privatized long-term care corporations which have paid out hundreds of millions of dollars in dividends - even as they've cried poor in failing to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic which has killed countless people under their care. And Moira Welsh takes note of the conditions found by a doctor asked to pitch in to save lives where corporate owners wouldn't.

- Badvertising examines the role of ads in pushing us toward needless and environmentally-destructive consumption.

- Finally, Carl Meyer reports on the Cons' determination to gift another set of handouts to the oil patch - this time by turning climate change policy into a subsidy scheme. But Chiara Eisner discusses how existing emissions tracking has grossly underestimated the damage done by leaking methane. And Bob Yirka highlights how Brazil's forest are being turned into net emitters rather than carbon sinks.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- John Klein points out how Doug Ford's combination of abject failure and laughable deflection in response to the avoidable spread of COVID-19 is par for the course among Canada's conservative premiers. And Graham Thomson discusses Jason Kenney's opportunistic use of the pandemic to try to impose an unpopular, hard-right agenda on Alberta - even as he's also failed miserably in responding to the virus itself.

- Peter Zimonjic and Catherine Cullen note that the Libs are acknowledging that their new demands for CERB repayment are inconsistent with the direct message they offered about eligibility - even as they continue with plans to try to wring money out of people who can't afford to have it taken away. And Jordan Press reports on the effect a CERB clawback would figure to have on vulnerable young people.

- Ben Burgis writes that we shouldn't object to polarization in politics in all forms, but instead recognize the need for class to be the primary focus in choosing our battles. And Anita Balakrishian reports on the increase in union organizing resulting from workers recognizing how they've been treated as disposable during a pandemic.

- Brett Forrester reports on the nearly $100 million the Trudeau Libs have spent fighting against First Nations in court in their first three years in power - exceeding even Stephen Harper's propensity for using public money to defend discrimination. And Kristy Kirkup reports on the Libs' latest decision to appeal equal access to services for Indigenous children.

- Finally, Eric Dolan writes about new research showing a connection between psychopathic tendencies and an affinity for bigotry and authoritarianism.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Hibernating cats.


Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Katherine Scott and David Macdonald take a look at the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on Canada's labour force survey data - confirming that employment dominated by women has seen the most severe losses, and figures to take the longest to recover. Joel Dryden and Sarah Rieger offer a look at the large number of people with "co-morbidities" which are being cited by the likes of the Kenney UCP as reason not to worry about COVID-19 deaths. And Zak Vescera reports on the acute effect of the coronavirus on First Nations and their residents.

- Stephen Buranyi writes that we shouldn't be fooled by the spin of pharmaceutical companies seeking credit for COVID-19 vaccines developed with public support.

- Martin Lukacs highlights how the Libs' insistence on putting a carbon tax at the core of their climate change policy - rather than a Green New Deal which would include tangible benefits for most people - only figures to make the Cons' job easier in obstructing any progress. And Beth Gardiner notes that the best we can say about climate action globally in 2020 is that we didn't quite extinguish any hope of the transition we need.

- Jolson Lim reports on new research by the CRA showing that individuals pay their taxes far more quickly than corporations. And PressProgress highlights a new poll showing how Manitobans are rightly skeptical of for-profit care home operators.

- Finally, Nick Wells reports on the push for a safe national drug supply as the prospect of an even more deadly year looms. And Heidi Atter reports on the work being done by the Nēwo Yōtina Friendship Centre to set up a community-based supervised consumption site in Regina as the provincial government continues to drag its heels.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Steven Lewis writes about the need for firm and decisive public health action to stop the spread of COVID-19, rather than the excuse-making and bothsidesing that have come to be the norm. And Kaitlin Peters discusses how the people already dealing with long-haul COVID infections are being confronted with the reality of an economic system designed to devalue people who can't be put to use as productive bodies.

- Sara Mojtehedzadeh reports on the disconnect between tens of thousands of cases of workplace infection in Ontario even as only a single employer has faced so much as a fine for contributing to the spread of disease. And NPR examines the importance of vaccinating inmates in order to limit the dangers of a pandemic in particularly risky environments, while Dan Zakreski interviews Kyle Anderson about Saskatchewan's failure to properly test and trace in correctional institutions.

- Frank Graves highlights the high levels of disinformation about COVID-19 in Canada's prairie provinces - with Alberta standing out for the highest level of "very disinformed" people, Saskatchewan for a plurality of "mildly disinformed" people over any other category, and Manitoba for barely a third of its population being well-informed. And PressProgress points out how over-exposed anti-mask events are just the latest cry for attention on the part of racist conspiracy-mongers.

- In case it's not still clear that plainly inessential work is still going on in ways which put people at risk, the Canadian Press reports on a COVID-19 outbreak among Coastal GasLink pipeline workers. And the AP reports on the halt to travel to and from the UK due to the development of a new strain of the coronavirus.

- Finally, Jim Stanford discusses how a national child-care plan would work wonders toward a strong post-COVID recovery.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Luke Savage weighs in on the false promise of tax giveaways to the rich as an economic strategy for anybody else.

- Nichole Dusyk argues that it's past time to bridge the gap between Canada's climate change promises and our actual policies.

- Guy Quenneville reports on the early mistakes - including the movement of infected people around the facility and the continued use of 4-person rooms - which have led to a severe COVID outbreak at Regina's Parkside Extendicare long-term care home.

- Meanwhile, Geoff Leo reports on the underinvestment in Saskatchewan's health-care technology which is putting patients' lives at risk. And Jeremy Appel points out who stands to benefit from Jason Kenney's choice to limit any drug treatment to private, abstinence-only programs - with the hand-picked members of an advisory panel ranking among the largest recipients of public largesse.

- Justin Ling reports on Health Canada documents which confirm that the Libs' continued blood donation ban based on sexual orientation has no grounding in evidence.

- Finally, Sean Illing interviews Ethan Porter about his theory that political parties need to approach voters as shoppers rather than citizens. But it's worth noting exactly how that theory plays out, as Porter ultimately argues that voters are more open to making a fair contribution for important services than being persuaded by promises of something for nothing.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Musical interlude

 Lianne La Havas - Weird Fishes

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Jeremy Samuel Faust, Harlan Krumholz and Rochelle Walensky write about the false - and dangerous - assumption that COVID-19 would pose few risks for young adults. 

- David Cyranoski examines how restaurants and other crowded businesses have proven to be regular transmission grounds for the coronavirus, while pointing out how occupancy limits can help to avoid that outcome. But CBC News reports on Dale MacKay's recognition that restaurants and their employees are likely far better off being supported through public relief, rather than having to keep working at limited capacity while increasing the risk of catching or spreading COVID-19.

- Rosa Saba reports on the confusing information given to many Canadians who applied for the CERB and are now receiving CRA warning letters threatening to retrench what little support they've had through a pandemic. Jolson Lim reports on Jagmeet Singh's push for forgiveness for self-employed people caught in a lack of distinction between net and gross income, while Melanie Doucet and Rachel Gouin call for amnesty for former foster children who applied in order to have some income after aging out of care. But Catherine Cullen reports on the Libs' refusal to offer any relief to people who applied based on the advice of the government. 

- Meanwhile, Yves Engler weighs in on the Libs' concurrent refusal to relax intellectual property restrictions to allow less wealthy countries to have access to COVID-19 vaccines within a reasonable period of time.

- Finally, Mike De Souza and Julia Wong report on the Alberta Energy Regulator's warnings that the province's oil industry was polluting land and water - and recklessly failing to set money aside to remediate it - long before the coronavirus hit. And Sharon Riley asks what happens now that leaking for tar sands tailings ponds is becoming common knowledge as the sector faces being wound down.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Thursday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- David Hope and Julian Limberg study (PDF) the effects of tax cuts for the rich  - concluding that they lead to worsened inequality while generating no significant benefits for anybody but the few who are able to hoard wealth as a result. And Danyaal Raza and Edward Xie make the case for a wealth tax to both reduce inequality, and fund needed investments in a healthier society.

- Luke Savage writes about the increasing prevalence of hunger in the U.S. - which has only been exacerbated by a pandemic in which governments have offered little support. The Washington Post examines how the U.S.' largest companies have slashed employment during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic even while continuing to rake in immense profits. And David Doorey offers some suggestions for a substantial rethinking of a labour relations model which has done far too little to empower workers.

- Rosa Saba discusses the state of labour in food and beverage manufacturing - noting that employers' complaints about a lack of workers appear to be based entirely on an expectation that people will take subpar wages to help support their profit margins. And Andrew Lupton reports on the persistently high number of construction workers killed on the job in Ontario.

- Marc Lee and Seth Klein write about the need for a managed wind-down of fossil fuel extraction and just transition to clean energy in British Columbia. And Lee also joins Hadrian Metrins-Kirkwood to point out how the federal Libs' new climate plan rings hollow - and will have less effect than needed - when it's paired with a costly commitment to continuing fossil fuel production. 

- Finally, Robyn Urback argues that we'd be far better off if Scott Moe and his government cared to devote anywhere near the attention and effort to controlling COVID-19 than they've wasted fighting against any carbon tax or price.

On non-goals

The combination of Paul Merriman's appalling use of poll numbers as a measure of COVID success - followed by Scott Moe's feckless response - has rightly been the subject of plenty of criticism. But it's worth a reminder that there's nothing new in either of their messages - such that those criticisms are properly seen as addressing structural problems with the Saskatchewan Party, not personal foibles or slips which can plausibly be minimized.

Let's remember after all that Moe's own reaction to public awareness of the coronavirus was to use it as an excuse to hold a snap election. And even after that plan fell apart, the Saskatchewan Party gleefully attacked Ryan Meili as "Dr. Doom" for attempting to have the government take COVID-19 seriously, delayed and minimized any response to the coronavirus in order when it wasn't convenient for their own budget message...and bragged about polling results which were supposed to show a romp in the making. 

So there's absolutely no air of reailty to Moe's attempt to spin Merriman's message as being a one-time mistake. To the contrary, it fits perfectly into the Saskatchewan Party's longstanding pattern of behaviour prioritizing polls and political interests over the lives of Saskatchewan people.

But the more important part of Moe's attempt at damage control is this:

Moe said he doesn’t know if there is a measure of success when it comes to tackling the virus.


“I don’t know that that’s a measure of success … the answer to that question. What are people going to recall when they talk about COVID in two years is something that I most certainly am thinking about today,” said Moe.

“How do you measure success (against) a virus that we are still sorting out, trying to learn?”

Of course, one answer would be to compare Saskatchewan to jurisdictions which have actually been successful in fully containing COVID-19. And there's no reasonable explanation as to why Moe has chosen needless viral spread and human suffering over real public health measures which would be far better for people and the economy alike.

But even if we assume Moe is incapable of the type of leadership necessary to defeat COVID-19 entirely, one of the issues consistently raised by Meili and the NDP has been the need for clear objective standards and thresholds to inform our reaction to the spread of the virus.

At times, we've received that from the chief medical health officer Dr. Shahab. But it appears that even nine months into a pandemic, Scott Moe still can't even conceive of the possibility that we could set defined markers of our success (or lack thereof) in responding to COVID-19.

Needless to say, a government's refusal to accept that it's even possible to define success makes it virtually certain that we'll make no meaningful effort to achieve it. And that only figures to set the stage for many more abject failures to come.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Wednesday Afternoon Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Elisabeth Rosenthal writes about the need to ensure that our public health messaging includes the graphic details of the severe threat of COVID-19. And Josh Kovensky points out one of the crucial questions still unanswered about the vaccines we're hoping to rely on - as it's not clear they'll prevent transmission even if they protect the people who have been vaccinated.

- Meanwhile, Maclean's highlights how data from the release of prisoners to minimize the spread of COVID offers us a compelling indication that we can significant reduce prison populations without any harm to public safety. 

- CBC News reports that Saskatchewan is predictably in the same position as Alberta when it comes to federal funding for oil well reclamation: having begged for massive amounts of federal money in the name of COVID relief, the Moe government isn't bothering to put most of that money to use until future years. 

- Noelle Allen discusses how protest is crucial to bringing about any meaningful social change. 

- Finally, Lawrence Mishel, Lynn Rhinehart and Lane Windham examine the deliberate choices made to undermine the ability of American unions to organize people toward collective action.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Monday Evening Links

Miscellaneous material for your Monday reading.

- Paul Wells writes that the Libs' latest climate announcement represents at least some break from their tendency to take the easy way out on tough policy choices, while Canadians for Tax Fairness offers a thumbs-up to the first national plan to meet any (however insufficient) climate target. But if we're looking for other readily-available steps to make a Canadian contribution to the protection of a liveable planet, the Financial Times reports on the UK's plan to stop subsidizing overseas fossil fuel extraction. And Jeremy Appel asks why we haven't paired a carbon tax with a Green New Deal (particularly as the cost of cleaner energy is plummeting), while Maria Fernanda Espinosa notes that we have an opportunity to transition to a cleaner environment by putting climate progress at the heart of a COVID recovery. 

- Ian Sample reports on new research showing how COVID-19 causes the production of "auto-antibodies" which severely exacerbate its damage. And Krysia Collier and Dawna Friesen highlight how the coronavirus can damage the brain. 

- Meanwhile, Richard Cuthbertsen writes about the readily-foreseeable financial cliff looming in front of people who were facing poverty before now-expiring relief programs were put in place.

- Danielle Groen examines what needs to be done to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine around the globe. And Geoffrey York discusses the eminently reasonable fear that wealthier countries will hoard the vaccines that are being developed and produced.

- Finally, Lana Polansky writes about the use of intellectual properly laws to create cultural monopolies while stifling any genuine creativity.

On preferential treatment

Chris Selley's thread trying to justify a fully effective anti-COVID strategy does manage to make an extremely strong statement. But it's not the one he means to - and it speaks volumes about Canada's warped priorities if we accept his examples and reasoning in the context of the violent law enforcement that we have been told to accept for far less valid purposes. 

The core of Selley's argument is this:

So let's unpack the problems with this line of thinking.

The first issue is the assumption that any excessive enforcement action taken by Australian police is a necessary component of a full lockdown strategy. And that's a readily disputable point.

Some of us don't see a contradiction between recognizing the harmful excesses and wrongful choices associated with the pursuit of a necessary cause - least of all to the point of abandoning the latter in the bare hope of avoiding the former.

By way of analogy, Canada has rightly apologized for the heinous internment of Japanese-Canadians during World War II. But that wrongful treatment of people in the name of an underlying conflict doesn't serve on its own as anything approaching a full answer to the question of whether that conflict as a whole was worth pursuing. And indeed, most of us would rightly be ashamed of the former while recognizing the justification for the latter. 

That said, Selley is also glaringly wrong in assuming that the tactics he decries don't surface in Canada. And it's telling when they're actually used, and what consequences tend to result.

There are plenty of more recent instances of protesters being dispersed and mass-arrested, often in a violent manner, for the exercise of free speech rights, most of them fitting into the same pattern described below. 

But let's remind ourselves of perhaps the most prominent example in the past few decades: the mass arrest and kettling of 1,100 people protesting the 2010 G20 summit in Toronto.

So what devastating consequences were there for the architects of that calculated assault on civil rights? Well, a single officer ended up facing some loss of paid vacation days. And the chief in charge saw his career derailed to the point of finding his way into the federal cabinet with responsibility for public safety. 

Of course, those were mass arrests in the interest of protecting powerful and privileged people from being exposed to the existence of dissent. Which brings us to the question actually raised by Selley's examples. 

Is it the case that we're willing to grant a superpriority to the convenience of the wealthy and powerful in all circumstances - both in allowing for the use of force to insulate them from criticism, and in rejecting any law enforcement which might ensure they don't blithely endanger the entire population with their disregard for public health?

Or do we have enough of a sense of social cohesion to recognize that even the richest may have to face some change to the life they normally purchase when the common good is at stake?

Selley may well be right as to where the lines are currently drawn. But if so, that speaks to a desperate need to redraw them - not to a reason to claim we can't do what Australia has already done.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Andrew Jackson summarizes and discusses Lance Taylor and Ozlem Omer's new book showing how the combination of wage suppression and growing inequality is the result of the conscious policy choice to weaken workers' collective bargaining power:

Taylor and Omer argue that the period since about 1980 has been one of persistent wage repression, the result of steadily falling union bargaining power and political influence over issues such as labour rights, the minimum wage and unemployment insurance benefits. Downward pressure on wages has meant that real inflation adjusted wages have risen little for the bottom 90%, and by less than the rate of growth of productivity. 

Taylor and Omer calculate that the share of capital in US national income has risen by eight percentage points of GDP since 1970. While the share of labour has correspondingly fallen. This has contributed massively to the rise of the income share of the top 1%, who have household incomes now averaging over $3 million per year and receive the majority of income from capital. 

The argument that extreme economic inequality is a major cause of economic stagnation is not new. But Taylor and Omer connect the dots in the data to confirm the diagnosis. Their analysis suggests that capital has become far too strong to sustain a robust economy and that an increase in labour bargaining power should be welcomed rather than resisted.

- Chuck Collins and Omar Ocampo point out that the billionaires seeing their fortunes grow thanks to pandemic profiteering can easily afford to share the spoils with the workers who enrich them - including by offering needed protection from COVID-19 rather than exposing them to injuries and illness. And Aidan Harper makes the case for a four-day work week (without a drop in salary) as a huge step in both increasing the relative power of workers, and allowing for desperately-needed balance between what's expected of workers and what they can realistically provide.

- Meanwhile, CBC News reports on the need for additional income supports to put an end to food insecurity. And Nick Falvo highlights how single people in particular face benefit amounts which are grossly insufficient.

- Eric Adams refutes the right-wing claim that there's some tension between Charter rights and effective public health measures. And Stephanie Taylor talks to Kyle Anderson about the desperate need for Saskatchewan to reduce viral spread as the holiday season approaches, even as the Moe government continues to drag its heels on any effective break in transmission.

- Patty Winsa reports on the increasing presence of poorly-regulated for-profit COVID test providers in Ontario. And Niclas Rolander reports on the vicious cycle of overwork and burnout among Swedish health workers facing the consequences of COVID-19.

- Finally, Emily Mertz reports that Saskatchewan ranks just behind Alberta as the provinces facing the most stress and the worst psychological health - even as the governments of both refuse to lift a finger to address either root causes or treatment. 

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Tracy Fuller talks to Emily Oster about the process people can follow in minimizing COVID risks in the absence of full information. And Sarah Zhang writes about the impending period of vaccine purgatory as a limited number of people begin to be protected.

- Mickey Djuric compares the current coronavirus response plans of the prairie provinces - though none offers an overall plan and result deserving of much credit. Nicholas Frew reports on the spread of the virus in Saskatchewan through multiple hockey and curling events. And Joel Dryden reports on the importance of regular testing to protect residents of long-term care homes.

- J. Edward Les points out the social and health implications of COVID-19 patients who need to rely on an already-strained health care system for treatment. 

- Achal Prabhala, Arjun Jayadev and discuss how relaxed intellectual property rules would facilitate the development and distribution of vaccines. And Ronald Labonte and Mira Johri call out Canada's role in prioritizing intellectual property barriers over the control and treatment of COVID-19 - particularly in less-wealthy countries.

- Jane Lytvynenko discusses how decades of misinformation have destroyed the U.S.' ability to respond to COVID-19 and other crises by undermining both institutions and social trust.

- Finally, Claire Porter Robbins writes about Jason Kenney's selective interest in Charter rights as he seeks to protect anti-maskers and COVID cranks while attacking activists seeking to protect our planet and the people who inhabit it.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Musical interlude

 Tracey Thorn - Sister

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Carl Meyer writes about Denmark's move to finally and fully shut down oil and gas production as part of a transition to clean energy. And Abacus finds strong public support for Canada to also be a world leader in that process - even as the Libs drag their heels and the Cons demand total fealty to a dying oil sector. 

- Brandi Morin rightly questions the Trudeau Libs' willingness to throw billions at oil pipelines, while breaking promises to spend far less bringing potable water to First Nations. 

- Kyle Bakx reports that after spending years demanding that the federal government foot the bill for abandoned oil well sites and finally getting their way in the name of COVID relief, Alberta hasn't bothered to spent the vast majority of the money promised. 

- Meanwhile, as existing environmental damage remains unaddressed, Kyle Anderson reports on the Kenney UCP's plan to divert already-strained water resources in order to use it for coal mining. And Stephanie Wood reports on the CCPA's research showing how British Columbia has subsidized coal mines which threaten endangered caribou while producing minimal economic impact. 

- Carla Shynkaruk discusses how Saskatchewan stands to face disproportionately severe effects from continued climate deterioration.

- Finally, the Star Phoenix reports on FSIN's call for the provincial government to stop selling off Crown land without consulting with First Nations. And Doug Cuthand writes about the continued impact of a colonial mindset on Indigenous children.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Thursday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Umair Haque discusses the tragic mistake governments in Europe and North America have made in refusing to make plans sufficient to wipe out COVID-19 altogether, rather than assuming a substantial level of spread could be controlled. Sarah Rieger talks to Stephen Duckett about the effect of Australia's lockdown which has now allowed much of that country to return to a relatively normal state. And Graham Thomson writes about Jason Kenney's sorely-belated recognition that he can't bluster and deny his way out of a public health disaster.

- Tom Parkin writes that the Trudeau Libs shouldn't be seen as having successfully dealt with COVID-19 merely because they've cleared the bar of being less destructive than the Trump administration. Nicole Thompson reports on the Canadians seeking student loan relief who have been unable to reach an overwhelmed National Student Loans Service Centre. And Peter Zimonjic and Catherine Cullen report on the shock to people who applied for the CERB based on the simple threshold of having $5,000 in income in the previous 12 months, only to be facing repayment demands based on the theory that qualification had to be based on net income from 2019 alone.

- Meanwhile, Kamyar Razavi and Mike Le Couteur report on the success of the CERB in demonstrating the value of an unconditional basic income - making the later retrenchment all the more frustrating.

- Shikha Gupta and Mary Ann McColl discuss how Canadians are forced to ration and underuse prescribed medicine for lack of pharmacare to cover the cost of prescriptions.

- Finally, the Star's editorial board calls out Erin O'Toole and the Cons for effectively endorsing anti-vaxx scaremongering.

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Marco Ranaldi and Branko Milanovic study the relationship between inequality of inputs and inequality of outcomes - finding in particular that countries with relatively equal sources of income reliably produce comparatively fair income levels as well. And they also note that it's possible to achieve greater equality by ensuring the regular redistribution of concentrated wealth - reflecting Matt Elliott's case for Toronto to follow through on a vacant residence tax. 

- But Juliana Kaplan and Dominic-Madori Davis remind us that charity on the part of people who retain extreme wealth and power shouldn't be treated as a substitute for structural equalization.

- Marc Lee and Seth Klein discuss the need for oil and gas royalty regimes to account for an industry on the wane. And Roger Harabin reports on new research showing how the UK can eliminate the vast majority of its greenhouse gas emissions by 2035 based on an eminently affordable investment - though sadly the Trudeau Libs are falling far short of even their own unambitious promises to build a greener energy system. 

- Of course, any transition to clean energy also has to reckon with the fossil fuel industry's propaganda machine. On that front, Naomi Klein calls out Jason Kenney's latest conspiracy-mongering around any effort to plan a clean energy transition. And David Lapp Jost writes about the culture of death it has deliberately fostered in the U.S. to devalue the lives of drivers, pedestrians and people affected by pollution in order to keep the emissions spewing.

- Finally, Taylor Balfour asks how many more Saskatchewan people will die of the opioid epidemic (as her sister did). And Sarath Peiris implores Scott Moe to finally start listening to public health experts rather than letting short-sighted business lobbyists condemn his constituents to death as a result of COVID-19.

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Feline festivities. 

Tuesday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Adam Miller writes that it's more important than ever to protect frontline workers as the prospect of a COVID-19 vaccine approaches. Pat Armstrong and Marcy Cohen discuss what the pandemic has exposed about the need for improved standards in long-term care facilities. And Keenan Sorokan reports on the growing calls to release people from incarceration rather than confining them in outbreak zones.

- Bruce Campbell discusses how the Libs' fiscal update falls far short of what we should expect in responding to inequality and climate change. And David McKie, Declan Keogh, Charlie Buckley and Robert Cribb write about the effect a climate breakdown in progress is having on the mental health of young people.

- Anne Casselman and Michelle Theodore make the case for a universal affordable child care system - particularly as a pandemic has exposed the consequences of failing to ensure care is available.

- James Wilt interviews Mike Bagamery about Brian Pallister's attack on Indigenous sovereignty by suppressing peaceful public action.

- And finally, Anna Silman points out that the defeat of Donald Trump can't be expected to produce a return to normalcy when countless Americans have become radicalized to hate their fellow citizens.

Monday, December 07, 2020

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Elaine Godfrey writes about Iowa's disastrous COVID-19 spread as a prime example of what happens when a government chooses to do nothing about a collective action problem. David Climenhaga compares Australia's successful strategy of containment and clear direction to Alberta's calamitous reliance on personal responsibility to paper over a refusal to take action. And Adam Hunter contrasts Scott Moe's insistence on pitching the relaxation of public health standards against the alarming reality of Saskatchewan's second wave. 

- BBC News reports on Argentina's wealth tax which has been passed to ensure that COVID benefits are funded by those who can most afford to pitch in. Christo Aivalis writes that the Libs, Cons and Bloc have shown who they work for by voting down the NDP's modest wealth tax proposal - even as Luke Savage points out that Canada's wealthiest few are accumulating all the more wealth by profiteering off a pandemic.

- Oliver Moore and Shane Dingman report that Toronto is the next Canadian city examining a vacant house tax to ensure that housing is used proportionately more to meet human needs, and less as an investment vehicle. But Douglas Todd writes about the role of hidden foreign money in inflating the gap between Vancouver's incomes and housing prices. And Tim Kiladze notes that apartment buildings are the next targets for capital in seeking to turn needed homes into fully-exploited profit centres.

- Finally, Andrew Leach discusses how Alberta's reliance on regular oil booms looks to be sorely out of date.

Sunday, December 06, 2020

Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Rachel Gilmore reports on polling showing that Canadians recognize (contrary to the spin of right-wing politicians looking to deflect blame) that there's no realistic prospect of a COVID vaccine being approved and distributed quickly enough to avert the need for public health measures in the meantime. And CBC News reports on the foreseeable delay in vaccinating children in particular due to a lack of testing to this point. 

- Meanwhile, Steven Wilson and Charles Wiysonge point out how social medial misinformation is fuelling anti-vaxxer sentiment - raising the risk that enough people will refuse to accept vaccines to sustain the unnecessary spread of COVID-19. And Leandro Herrero offers some rules to encourage people to adopt behaviours which help stop viral transmission.

- Brian Pfefferle calls for police enforcement of Saskatchewan's public health orders in order to ensure that the calculations behind them actually reflect reality. 

- Kyle Benning reports on Second Street's research finding that hundreds of people were dying while waiting for surgical procedures in Saskatchewan - even before the Moe government allowed COVID to overwhelm our health care system.

- Peter Apps writes about the UK's Grenfell Tower inquiry - which is predictably finding that multiple corporations downplayed known risks about the cladding whose blaze resulted in 72 deaths.

- Finally, Julie Lalonde writes about the need to recognize and call out misogyny as the source of violence against women.

Saturday, December 05, 2020

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Thomson Reuters reports on the latest UN research showing that planned fossil fuel production far exceeds what we can afford if we want to avoid catastrophic climate change. And the Canadian Press reports on a study by the Institute for Climate Choices documenting Canada's failure to prepare for the harmful effects of a climate breakdown. 

- Bruce Campbell discusses how corporate obstructionism has contributed to the gap between what we need to do and what's currently on offer. And Evan Dyer reports on the back-door agreement struck by the Libs with the Trump administration to evade an international treaty on plastic waste.

- And in case there was any doubt what we stand to gain by pushing back against the self-serving statements of corporate actors, Binnu Jeyakumar highlights how contrary to the spin of fossil fuel lobbyists, Alberta is set to reach the goal of a coal-free electrical grid years ahead of schedule and at a cost savings to the public.

- Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman offer a reminder of the need for a wealth tax as the most effective way to reduce the dangerous concentration of money and power. And Brett Wilkins points out the US.' strong public support for taxes targeted at the 1%.

- Finally, Louise Champoux-Paillé, Anne-Marie Croteau and Steven Appelbaum discuss the need for more women leaders - as borne out by the pattern of effective responses to COVID-19. And Scott Payne writes about Alberta's choice between responsible government, and the exact opposite under the UCP.

Friday, December 04, 2020

Musical interlude

Whale and the Wold - Midnight Riot

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Jim Stanford examines how a national child-care program would boost Canada's post-COVID recovery and rebuilding. And Michael Roberts points out the value of being able to manufacture vaccines and vital goods for ourselves, rather than depending on foreign corporations for public health necessities.

- Nick Falvo discusses how our current social programs are set up to be grossly insufficient for single people. And Max Fawcett writes about the future of any middle class in Canada - including the need to define its well-being in terms of quality of life rather than material ownership (particularly where that's financed by debt).

- Matthew Remski offers a warning as to what to expect as Qanon and related conspiracy theories spread in Canada. And tcnorris discusses the connection between systematic errors in U.S. polling and the fomenting of distrust in institutions by Donald Trump and his followers. 

- The remarxist examines the ongoing grift that is the manufactured culture of western alienation - which is of course creating a fertile breeding ground for the most dangerous kinds of wingnuttery. And Mitchell Anderson discusses how Jason Kenney's obsession with oil interests and right-wing identity politics over people's well-being has proven disastrous for Alberta in a pandemic. 

- Finally, Patricia Treble discusses the community buy-in which has enabled the Atlantic provinces to suppress COVID-19 - and thus regain some social and economic normalcy. 

Thursday, December 03, 2020

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Max Fawcett writes that equivocal posturing about personal responsibility (from Jason Kenney among others) has offered no resistance to the spread of the coronavirus. And Rebecca Haines-Sah calls out Kenney's choice to treat lives as disposable in the face of COVID-19 as long as people have any additional health condition, while Haiqa Cheema addresses Kenney's racist scapegoating as another attempt to distract from his own glaring failures.

- Pete Evans discusses how the Libs' fiscal update does effectively nothing to address the disparate gender impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, while Rita Trichur is exasperated at the Trudeau government's continued delays in acting on child care (rather than continuing to offer rhetoric unsupported by real-world results). And Robert Hiltz points out that frontline workers - and particularly renters - are being left to weather a devastating second wave without government supports. 

- Luke Savage highlights how Canada's richest few are getting even richer over the course of a pandemic which has seen most people plunged into even more precarious circumstances. Shawn Langlois points out the same phenomenon at a global level as the sheer size of a capital pool leads to larger returns. Fred Hahn writes that Doug Ford has been deliberately reinforcing that trend by using COVID-19 as a distraction while pushing through favours to the already-privileged few. And Toby Sanger and Erika Beauchesne make the case (PDF) for progressive taxes to rein in extreme wealth inequality.

- Finally, Linda McQuaig reminds us that Canada has been a leader in pharmaceutical and vaccine research and production through a Crown corporation before - and can be again if we value public health over big pharma's profits.

Wednesday, December 02, 2020


The Saskatchewan Party government's public health expectations for the mid-pandemic jet set willing to shell out for private testing:

"It's been challenging to provide timely results for asymptomatic travelers, especially within the tight timelines required by airlines and international destinations," Howey said in part. 

"[Quantum Genetix] have the technology to provide PCR COVID-19 testing for anyone requiring proof of a negative COVID-19 test before travelling."

Their expectations for everybody else:

The price of negligence

In case there was any doubt that COVID testing serves as the ultimate microcosm of the Saskatchewan Party's mismanagement of health care, we've seen the endgame released today.

Remember that it was just a few months ago that Scott Moe was trumpeting a plan to massively increase public capacity, while saving for the fine print the fact that he was relying on federal money to achieve it. 

It didn't take long for word to leak out that nobody had bothered to do the work needed to meet them in time. And that hasn't been a matter of merely taking too long to ramp up, but of systemic failure to do what Moe promised.

Which leads us where we are now. Thanks to Moe's mismanagement, Saskatchewan's testing and tracing system is collapsing under the weight of gross negligence in managing the spread of a deadly disease. Which has led for-profit testing to allow the rich to cut to the front of the line (featuring provincial officials talking up the need to help those lucky and irresponsible enough to go travelling in the midst of the pandemic), and a do-it-yourself tracing system for everybody else.

To be clear, none of this should represent any surprise to anybody paying attention to the Sask Party's track record or campaign messages. But it does provide a vivid example for current action and future reference - and hopefully a lasting reminder that Moe and his party lack can only be counted on to enrich the well-connected few at the expense of the health and welfare of the many.