Monday, July 06, 2020

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Robert Reich discusses how Donald Trump's insistence on pushing reopening without a plan to alleviate an ongoing pandemic has led to disaster both for the U.S.' economy and its public health. And the Economist highlights the need to make basic health precautions into social norms - even as Trump and his party, like Doug Ford and other right-wing politicians bent on pushing infectious masculinity, go out of their way to flout them.

- Yunghi Kim writes about a growing epidemic of hunger in a country more than capable of providing the necessities of life to everybody.

- Bharat Ramamurti and Lindsay Owens make the case for a fair wages guarantee to ensure workers aren't pushed into structural disadvantages as a result of COVID-19. And they particularly contrast that approach against a one-time bonus aimed at strongarming people into permanent low-wage jobs - which, needless to say, is also the Cons' plan.

- Meanwhile, Janyce McGregor digs into what should be the most fundamental criticism of the Libs' attempt to push students into sub-minimum-wage labour by classifying work as "volunteering".

- Susan Wright compares Jason Kenney's sad excuse for a rebuilding plan to the prospect of an energy transition which he refuses to consider. And Max Fawcett points out how Alberta's people are being sacrificed on the altar of supply-side zealotry.

- Finally, Sam Camping reports on the work activists are doing to raise awareness of the suicide crisis which the Saskatchewan Party has blithely chosen to ignore. And Morgan Modjeski reports that in addition to stockpiling prohibited weapons for no remotely plausible reason, Scott Moe's Highway Patrol has also been putting tactical training for its officers in the hands of an anti-LGBTQ trainer.

Sunday, July 05, 2020

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Linda McQuaig writes about the Libs' choice to use infrastructure programs primarily to generate massive returns for private investors, rather than ensuring that public money gives rise to good value and needed results.

- Meanwhile, the BBC reports on the UK Consumer and Markets Authority's (however obvious) conclusion that Google and Facebook exercise excessive control over the flow of information online - with breaking them up raised as one of the possible responses.

- Kim Siever offers a reminder that corporate tax giveaways merely lead to greater concentration of wealth rather than creating jobs. And in contrast, the Canadian Labour Congress notes that employers would benefit substantially from a national pharmacare program.

- John Loeppky discusses how Scott Moe's government is taking advantage of the CERB to strip away benefits from the people who need them most. And David Shield reports on the summer camps which are still waiting for word from the provincial government as to whether and how they'll be allowed to operate.

- Finally, Rebecca Huntley writes about the need to talk about our climate breakdown in emotional terms rather than purely statistical ones. And Darrin Qualman and Glenn Wright call out Moe and others who are using the promise of small nuclear reactors as just their latest delay tactic against any real climate progress.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Josh Eidelson writes about the fleecing of American labour in general over the past five decades, while E. Tammy Kim discusses the systematic exploitation of workers in the U.S.' nursing homes in particular. And Robyn Urback writes that the Ford government is only repeating its failed response to long-term care homes in addressing the recent spread of COVID-19 among farm workers.

- Carolyn Kormann writes about the unprecedented ecological disasters surfacing throughout the Arctic region. And Sandra Laville and Niamh McIntyre report on the regular sewage dumps by the UK's privatized water operators.

- Robert Pollin makes the case for a Green New Deal which would see the fossil fuel sector nationalized to make way for a transition to renewable energy. And Adam Radwanski notes that a focus on vehicle electrification would at least help Canada catch up to Europe's progress while providing needed direction to our coronavirus recovery efforts. But William F. Lamb, Giulio Mattioli, Sebastian Levi and J. Timmons Roberts study the discourses of delay which have been used for decades to prevent us from pursuing cleaner options.

- Graham Thomson writes about the lack of any meaningful direction in Jason Kenney's excuse for a COVID-19 recovery plan. Mitchell Anderson highlights how Kenney - like Donald Trump - is operating from a place of cultivated antagonism that bears no resemblance to the economic realities facing any responsible government. And George Monbiot writes that while Trump and Boris Johnson aren't exactly repeating the playbook of 1930s fascists, there's no less reason to fear where they plan to take their countries.

- Finally, Seth Borenstein reports on new research showing how kindness (rather than competition) is the basis for the function of human society.

Friday, July 03, 2020

Musical interlude

Shay Lia - Good Together

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Thursday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Wednesday Evening Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Twisted cats.






On backward thinking

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 29, 2020

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 28, 2020

On exclusionary measures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 26, 2020

Musical interlude

Whale and the Wolf - Touch

Friday Afternoon Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Lee Stevens writes that the coronavirus pandemic has exposed longstanding weaknesses in our social safety net which have caused large amounts of avoidable poverty:
A generation ago, our income support and social service programs were working (albeit not perfect) since it was possible to get a good job with just a high school diploma and support a family with the earnings from that job. But the economy of today is much different. Wages have stagnated while the cost of living has not; more people have a university education but are still having to assemble a range of temporary, contractual and freelance work just to make a living. Those full-time, long-term jobs are few and far between, leading to a rise in what is being referred to as shorter-term “gigs,” and our social safety net has not kept up. This has left many people without any type of income security, paid sick leave or labour protection — a disaster in a public health crisis.

Those who have worked all their lives and have suddenly found themselves dependent on government benefits are beginning to question their beliefs that “having a job” is the best social program. It’s a bitter pill to swallow when you “did all the right things,” finished school, secured a job (or jobs), only to realize that everything that you worked for has disappeared. And, while many of those people probably don’t see themselves as living in poverty, they are certainly in need, and it wasn’t because they made bad choices in life. The chasm between “those people” and the rest of us is becoming smaller, and that’s a little scary. So, it’s no surprise to see a sudden rise in citizen engagement and cries for a Just Recovery as systemic inequalities are becoming painfully clearer during COVID.
- Ewa Krajewska, Veronica Sjolin and Teagan Markin write that there's no valid reason to use rhetoric about civil liberties to avoid life-saving mandatory masking rules. Victoria Gibson reports on the Ford government's plans to endanger public health by allowing people to be pushed out of their homes. And Marilyn Slett, Judith Sayers and Joe Alphonse call attention to the need for even basic precautions for Indigenous people in British Columbia.

- Scott Gilmore suggests responding to Donald Trump's anti-immigration policies - most recently including the cancellation of workers' visas - by ensuring that workers able to work remotely have an opportunity to live in Canada.

- Meanwhile, Ethan Cox notes the importance of ensuring that unscrupulous employers don't turn remote work into a means of slashing wages. And Meagan Day interviews Erin Hatton about the foundation of economic coercion underlying the capitalist relationship between employers and workers.

- Lily Batchelder highlights the need to make sure the rich and their heirs pay their fair share. And the New York Times' editorial board writes about the gap between a the concentration of wealth at the top, and the stagnation of wealth for everybody else.

- Finally, Linda McQuaig makes the case to nationalize the production of necessary medicines in Canada.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Simon Enoch studies how P3 projects result only in public money subsidizing private profits. And a new report from the Canadian Labour Congress warns about the dangerous consequences of privatizing public goods and services.

- Amanda Follett Hosgood examines how the authority of courts is being used to protect corporate interests at the expense of people's freedoms of speech and assembly. And Carol Linnitt exposes the predictable astroturfing behind the anti-environment Canada Action, which falsely claimed to be a "grassroots" organization while being funded by the oil industry.

- Richard Denniss and Matt Grudnoff study the effects of free child care as both a form of immediate stimulus, and a means for women to fully participate in a sustainable economy. But Bryce Covert highlights the risk that in its absence, women will be left behind in a transition to an environment of increased work from home.

- Robert Russo argues that a path to permanent residency is essential to protecting the rights of migrant farm workers.

- Finally, Seth Klein makes the case to ensure young people have opportunities to shape their future - including by being able to vote.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Richard Shearmur discusses the risk that employers will use an increase in remote work to extract even more value from workers. And Tara Deschamps reports that the plan may extend beyond offloading costs to outright cutting pay.

- Meanwhile, Inayat Singh reports on the systemic failure of employers and regulators to recognize COVID-19 as a safety issue meriting protection for workers. And PressProgress exposes Ontario's explicit position that employees need to wait for known cases of the coronavirus in their workplace before being able to refuse work.

- David Macdonald calculates how executive bonuses could fund a fair wage for the front-line grocery workers facing the risks of the coronavirus on a daily basis. And Anita Elash examines some of the lessons we can learn from the (however temporary) economic security provided by the CERB.

- The Guardian notes that even the world's fossil fuel giants recognized that their days are numbered - even as they lobby furiously for handouts and regulatory exemptions to do as much damage as possible while they can. John Quiggin charts a path for Australia to quickly end its reliance on coal power. And Emily Gosden discusses the case for large-scale electrification as part of our plan to recover and rebuild from COVID-19.

- Finally, Angella MacEwen highlights how Canada can readily afford the cost of a well-planned recovery - and indeed can't afford to skimp on the effort. And Greg Rosalsky recognizes that reopening businesses alone won't accomplish anything while a public health menace continues to loom, while Patrick Cain reports on the close link between mandatory mask wearing and control over the spread of COVID-19.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Restful cats.





Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Anca Matei writes that the coronavirus pandemic has provided us with another vivid example of how the accumulation of wealth (particularly in a small number of hands) has little to do with social health and well-being. And Rosa Pavanelli writes about the importance of rebuilding public services in the wake of COVID-19.

- Meanwhile, Richard Warnica reports on how Doug Ford's budget cuts and poor management undermined Ontario's public health agency just when it was needed most. And Phillip Inman points out that the UK Cons are treating a public health crisis as an opportunity to hold a fire sale of public land.

- Catherine Pearson reports on polling showing how teenagers have been affected by the pandemic - and the implications for already-insufficient mental health supports. 

- Michael Prince proposes that Canada establish a federal basic income for people with disabilities, with any savings to the provinces then allocated to personal supports and community services.

- Finally, Adam Galinsky discusses the brutality that results when police are equipped and trained to be military forces - though reports on the RCMP's plans to keep stockpiling armoured vehicles even in the face of additional scrutiny. And Philip Moscovitch writes about his reasons for never again calling police to check on his son's well-being.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Monday Afternoon Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Julia Horowitz discusses how the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated wealth inequality in the U.S. And Jason DeParle writes that the U.S.' temporary COVID-19 relief resulted in a lower poverty rate in the midst of a pandemic-induced recession than would normally exist - signalling both how easy it is to ensure people have the necessities of life, and how inhumane it is to refuse to do so.

- Justine Hunter discusses how British Columbia's work on the health and safety of migrant workers - including by directly providing quarantine services rather than counting on employers to ensure the safety of people all too often seen as disposable - resulted in it avoiding the major outbreaks which have become commonplace in Ontario.

- Laurie Monsebraaten reports on Child Care Now's push for child care funding as part of any effective plan to safely reopen parts of the economy which depend on women's labour. And Barbara Biasi and Heather Sarsons study (PDF) both the continued gender pay gap, and the reality that employer "flexibility" serves only to exacerbate it.

- Finally, Fiona Harvey writes about the International Energy Agency's recognition that we only have a matter of months to chart a path toward avoiding a lost-pandemic surge in greenhouse gas emissions. And Mark Paul, Carla Santos Skandier and Rory Renzy make the case to nationalize the fossil fuel sector in order to eliminate its undue influence over public policy. 

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- PressProgress examines the strong public support for the ability for all workers - including gig workers - to be able to engage in collective action to improve their pay and benefits. And Anthony Forsyth notes that the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the importance of unions as a voice for workers. But Alec Stromdahl writes that far too many governments (including the federal Libs) are instead focused on using the power of the state to undermine workers' ability to stand up to employers - even as Kevin Carmichael writes about Galen Weston's refusal to pay fair wages unless governments force him to.

- Alexandra Mae Jones reports on the additional care work burden - and resulting anxiety - forced on women in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. And Julie Bosman reports on the WHO's warnings that we're entering another extremely dangerous phase in dealing with the coronavirus, even as far too many right-wing governments try to pretend that any risk has passed. 

- Jeff Berardelli reports on the unprecedently hot temperatures in Siberia - including the first-ever 100 Faherenheit temperatures ever measured north of the Arctic Circle. And Emily Eaton examines some of the steps Regina can take to transition fully to renewable energy.

- Thomas Wiedmann, Manfred Lenzen, Lorenz T. Keyber and Julia K. Steinberger find that a disproportionate amount of damage to our climate is being done by the discretionary spending of the wealthy few.

- Finally, Lisa Van Dusen discusses the similarities between denial of systemic racism and climate denialism - particular in their common goal of delaying any meaningful action. And in another important parallel, Patrick Sharkey writes about the deliberate choices to impose racist structures which are now perpetuated largely thanks to the perception that it's too much work to transition to less harmful policies.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Saturday Morning Links

This and that for your weekend reading.

- Jason Markusoff writes about the absurdity of Jason Kenney's continued bluster about attacking the rest of Canada rather than working on improving the lives of Albertans. And Shama Rangwala and Danielle Paradis discuss the warped idea of "freedom" underlying the ideology of extractive capitalism.

- Julia Raifman, Laura Sampson and Sandro Galea study how higher rates of gun ownership lead to a higher number of completed suicides. Which means it's especially antisocial for Scott Moe to be funding a position pushing the proliferation of assault rifles and undermining municipal efforts at gun  control, while opposing any additional work on suicide prevention.

- Meanwhile, PressProgress highlights Moe's defunding of vaccines and protections for workers in the midst of a pandemic. And Arthur White-Crummey reports that the Saskatchewan Party's combination of free-flowing money for the oil sector and the police state with austerity for anything that might benefit people is only leading to cuts in Saskatchewan's credit rating.

- Finally, Matt Simon writes about the environmental threat posed by microplastic rain which is reaching even into remote and protected park areas.

Musical interlude

Tame Impala - Glimmer

Friday, June 19, 2020

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Duncan Cameron makes the case for a transition to a more fair and democratic economy. And Paris Marx proposes the development of publicly-owned options - including the increased use of passenger trains along with more accessible transit - as part of an improved transportation network.

- Rick Smith discusses how COVID-19 has been used as an implausible excuse to eliminate environmental protections. Guy Quenneville, Dave Seglins and Joseph Loiero highlight the continued pattern of rail disasters following . And Graham Thomson writes that Alberta's associate minister responsible for "red tape reduction" has no reasonable explanation for any of the regulatory destruction being imposed by his government.

- Emily Eaton, Andrea Olive and Angela Carter write about Saskatchewan's importance in the fight to avoid climate catastrophe.

- Karen-Marie Elah Perry and Jennifer Whiteside examine the failings of privatized assisted living care in British Columbia. And Marc Lee writes about the need to push back against short-term rental operators who are making needed housing unavailable to residents.

- Finally, Denise Balkisoon writes about her experience trying to call out racism in both staffing and coverage at the Globe and Mail.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Thursday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Eric Levitz points out how the damage COVID-19 has caused to the U.S.' economy arises largely out of underlying ailments, including its dependence on discretionary spending by people with extreme wealth. And Robert Reich highlights how Donald Trump's racist demagoguery has distracted Americans from the continued entrenchment of the power of the corporate elite.

- Meanwhile, Nigel Wodrich and Aidan Worswick model the seemingly-underestimated amount of wealth in the hands of Canada's richest few. And Andrew Jackson discusses the need for a wealth tax to both reduce gross inequalities and wealth and power, and fund the country we want to build.

- Jared Odessky writes about the civil rights implications of allowing employers to terminate workers' employment at will. And Matthias Doepke and Ruben Gaetani study how the U.S.' college wage premium arises out of the unwillingness of employers to provide workers with either training or long-term employment.

- Finally, Emily Chung reports on the trend toward mandatory mask requirements in Canada. And the Globe and Mail's editorial board makes the case to apply them generally.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Thomas Walkom writes about the Libs' dangerous efforts to turn the page on COVID-19 as Canada's primary political concern.

- Murray Mandryk highlights how Scott Moe's budget accomplishes nothing either to address our immediate crisis, or to chart a long-term course for Saskatchewan. And Sareth Pereis writes that a budget intended to paper over severe social, health and economic challenges until after election day only ensures that we'll face far more pain in the future.

- Robyn Urback rightly slams large grocery chains for trying to take back pay increases from their workers while a pandemic continues to put them at risk every day. And Rosa Marchitelli exposes how Colliers is among the employers engaged in systematic wage and time theft from employees - but faces none of the consequences common when the shoe is alleged to be on the other foot. 

- Bryan Labby reports on new polling showing that Albertans are increasingly willing to pay a sales tax in order to properly fund public services. 

- Jennifer Koshan, Lisa Silver, and Jonnette Watson Hamilton challenge the Jason Kenney UCP's attack on peaceful expression and assembly. And Brandi Morin reports on the racial targeting underlying Bill 1.

- Finally, Owen Jones discusses how the toppling of statues is forcing the UK to confront its own ongoing racism.

On imbalanced budgets

This week’s resumption of activity in the Legislative Assembly has given rise to a familiar back-and-forth over the provincial budget. As usual, we’re seeing the government and opposition spar over how much to invest in our province, and which services should take precedence.

But over the past few months, we’ve witnessed another crucial exercise in budgeting - one which hasn’t followed on established patterns of political operation, and which may be far more telling in analyzing the priorities of Scott Moe’s Saskatchewan Party government.

Once the severity of the coronavirus pandemic was finally recognized in March, the province faced a brand-new task: budgeting the social activity which could be permitted, based on an inexorable tradeoff between personal freedoms and public health dangers.

At the outset, there was a great deal of uncertainty as to what level of activity would risk the uncontrolled spread of COVID-19. And contrary to the oft-used theme of a “lockdown”, it was never possible to entirely eliminate the risk of community spread due to the need to preserve access to the basics of life.

By April, available modelling offered some indication that we had room to open up. Based on estimates made public by the Province of British Columbia (PDF, see p. 20, 22), it was possible to keep the infection curve flat at about 70% of normal social contact, and lower it with further restrictions.

It’s then been a matter of government discretion to determine what activities would be allowed to resume within those constraints. And Moe’s choices along the way are telling.

The first phase began with a focus on golfing, recreational fishing and boat launches. While work, school and nearly all other activities outside of the home remained on hold for the vast majority of the province, these few, male-skewed, profit-making leisure activities were made the top priority for reopening.

In contrast, despite massive public outcry from families, playgrounds remained off limits until last week. And when they were finally reopened, it was without any specific health precautions on the government’s part other than to shut off water fountains.

A month after retailers and malls were allowed to resume business, libraries and museums still haven’t been able to open their doors. And day camps were given a green light only after it was too late for many to organize for the summer.

Elective medical procedures were kept on hold until after cosmetic personal care treatments were reopened, reflecting an emphasis on perception over health.

And people in in-patient care or long-term care went an extended period of time with little or no access to family caregivers before restrictions were finally eased this month.

In effect, anything which wasn’t top of mind for the business class was ignored until that became politically impossible. Executives’ recreation was given precedence over childhood development, retail sales over public services, and business interests over connection to family. And we’ll be facing the social and mental health fallout from those choices for a long time to come.

Now, it would be nice to pretend those choices are behind us. But that’s far from a safe assumption.

The ongoing management of COVID-19 includes maintaining existing distancing protocols, and supporting new precautions such as the widespread wearing of masks. And efforts to change the subject to infrastructure announcements, or otherwise claim the worst is behind us, will implicitly contradict the need for ongoing public action.

Which is to say that our COVID budget may yet be our most important political consideration. And there’s reason to doubt that we’ll see the right choices from the Saskatchewan Party anytime soon.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Cats getting comfortable.





Tuesday Evening Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- James Galbraith offers a reality check to anybody counting on an immediate U.S. economic bounceback in the midst of an ongoing pandemic:
(P)eople do distinguish between needs and wants. Americans need to eat, but they mostly don’t need to eat out. They don’t need to travel. Restaurant owners and airlines therefore have two problems: they can’t cover costs while their capacity is limited for public-health reasons, and demand would be down even if the coronavirus disappeared. This explains why many businesses are not reopening even though they legally can. Others are reopening, but fear they cannot hold out for long. And the many millions of workers in America’s vast services sector are realizing that their jobs are simply not essential.

Meanwhile, US household debts – rent, mortgage, and utility arrears, as well as interest on education and car loans – have continued to mount. True, stimulus checks have helped: defaults have so far been modest, and many landlords have been accommodating. But as people face long periods with lower incomes, they will continue to hoard funds to ensure that they can repay their fixed debts. As if all this were not enough, falling sales- and income-tax revenues are prompting US state and local governments to cut spending, compounding the loss of jobs and incomes.

America’s economic plight is structural. It is not simply the consequence of Trump’s incompetence or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s poor political strategy. It reflects systemic changes over 50 years that have created an economy based on global demand for advanced goods, consumer demand for frills, and ever-growing household and business debts. This economy was in many ways prosperous, and it provided jobs and incomes to many millions. Yet it was a house of cards, and COVID-19 has blown it down.

 “Reopen America” is therefore an economic and political fantasy. Incumbent politicians crave a cheery growth rebound, and the depth of the collapse makes possible some attractive short-term numbers. But taking them seriously will merely set the stage for a new round of disillusion. As nationwide protests against systemic racism and police brutality show, disillusion is America’s one big growth sector right now.
- Armine Yalnizyan and Laurell Richie discuss why cancelling the CERB would figure to prove disastrous (and it's hardly to the Libs' credit that they've kicked the can down the road only another couple of months). And Heather Scoffield rebuts the arguments against a secure income in a time of crisis.

- Michael Grabell, Claire Perlman and Bernice Yeung expose the lobbying carried out by U.S. meatpackers looking to keep their employees' lives at risk. And Michael Corkery and David Yaffe-Bellany report that loud warnings about domestic meat shortages were in fact used to goose pork exports to China.

- Alice Walton reports on new research showing how face masks may be the key to controlling the spread of COVID-19 while allowing for somewhat more social interaction.

- Finally, Alex Hemingway writes that a wealth tax on the ultra-rich is within reach (and would result in plenty of beneficial outcomes). And Karl Nerenberg looks at some of the many ways to ensure the wealthy pay their fair share toward relief and recovery efforts.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Monday Afternoon Links

Assorted content to start your week.

- Jonathan Watts reports on new research showing that even existing worst-case scenarios may underestimate the severity of the climate crisis. Anna Kanduth and Justin Leroux write about the need to start developing policy based on carbon stocks or budgets, rather than single-year flows which push action out into the future. Mitchell Beer interviews Seth Klein about the strong public support for a transition to a clean economy, even as politicians drag their heels. And Jessica Corbett writes that strong climate policy is even more popular when it's linked to improved social justice and decreased inequality.

- Rod Nickel and Jeff Lewis report on tar sands operators who are using the pandemic as excuse to stop funding emission reductions, ensuring that they continue spewing carbon pollution.

- Kelly Grant, Les Perreaux and Caroline Alphonso examine the effect of physical distancing on children, while Dakshana Bascaramurty points out how unequal access to recreation has made the pandemic far more traumatic for children already facing structural disadvantages. And Nicholas Kristof examines how countries led by women are doing far better in combating COVID-19. 

- Kyle Wiggers takes note of research showing systematic racial biases in the pricing of Uber, Lyft and other ride-share apps. And Michaelle Jean writes about the racism which imposes burdens on Black Canadians.

- Teresa Wright reports on the growing pressure on Justin Trudeau to finally keep his promise to revoke the discriminatory ban on blood donations by gay and bisexual men.

- Finally, Campbell Clark questions how the RCMP had the gall to claim that a videotaped, violent assault on Chief Allan Adam should be swept under the rug.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Christine Berry offers a reminder that protecting public health is absolutely necessary for us to see any economic recovery in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. And Mike Moffitt reports on the prospect that widespread mask use could prevent future waves of transmission - though it's worth noting the importance of actually encouraging and normalizing the use of masks to make that happen.

- Jim Stanford notes that once again, employers are trying to use the power of the state to force people to work for wages and working conditions which are unacceptable on their own rather than offering improvements.

- Matt Lundy examines the obstacles to getting people back to work even when both employers and employees would prefer that they return. And Vidya Shah and Erika Shaker comment on the specific difficulties raised for schools and child care centres where physical distancing isn't a realistic expectation.

- Tess Kalinowski points out how the Libs' choice to threaten jail time for CERB recipients will serve primarily to discourage people with valid claims from making them. Josh Rubin notes that in many cases, people aren't finding jobs available even as benefits are being allowed to expire. And Allan Sloan examines the far greater amounts of pandemic relief handed to U.S. businesses than to mere citizens even before the Republicans decided to obstruct any further support for people. 

- Marguerite Ward reports on polling showing that only a quarter of Americans actually think capitalism is good for society - even as its primacy is an article of faith among the political class. And Cody Feldman discusses how sovereign wealth funds could ensure that future economic development actually provides benefits for everybody.

- Finally, Jason Nickerson writes about the need to ensure that our pharmaceutical system prioritizes people's health over big pharma's profits - particularly as we face imminent questions as to how to develop and distribute vaccines and treatments for a pandemic.

[Edit: fixed typo.]

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Aaron Wherry discusses the dramatically different effects of the COVID-19 pandemic based on inequalities in income and privilege. And Katherine Scott draws on Canada's most recent monthly jobs report to highlight the need for a recovery centered on women.

- Meanwhile, Heather Scoffield points out the tone-deaf whining about deficits from Cons who are happy to see people suffer in order to clear government balance sheets for corporate tax cuts.

- Jonathon Gatehouse reports on Doug Ford's refusal to identify the experts who are supposed to be behind his government's ineffective response to the coronavirus. And Kim Siever reports on the UCP's choice to throw millions of dollars at McKinsey to provide cover to attack and privatize Alberta's postsecondary education system.

- Carl Meyer writes about the connection between Canada's subsidies to the fossil fuel sector, and the gap between promises and reality when it comes to climate change.

- Finally, Doug Cuthand writes about the racism embedded in Canada's justice system as it stands. Crawford Kilian examines what might come next after defunding and dismantling existing police institutions, including the prospect of ensuring that our safety is protected by genuine peace officers. Michelle Stewart discusses some of the functions currently in police hands which would be ripe for rethinking. And Wesley Lowery notes how the institutional power of existing police remains largely undisturbed even as the public has reached its breaking point.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Musical interlude

Wide Mouth Mason - You Get Used To It

Friday Evening Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- George Monbiot writes that the UK Cons are using their own botched Brexit as an excuse to set up a disaster capitalist's paradise.

- Canadians for Tax Fairness discusses how the Libs' inclination to attach draconian penalties to their pandemic income benefit signals the gap in treatment between the wealthy and the rest of us. And the Tax Justice Network takes note of the modest progress that's been made in so much as registering the beneficial ownership of wealth.

- Kim Siever discusses two of the most important problems in relying on billionaires' charity rather than taxes to fund social priorities.

- Alex Bozikovic wonders why Toronto is refusing to take a golden opportunity to build more affordable housing. And Jolson Lim discusses the risk of a wave of homelessness if the protections set up as COVID-19 first spread are allowed to expire.

- Finally, Meagan Day discusses the connection between ending mass incarceration and strengthening the labour movement. Ratna Omidvar and Leslie Seidle offer their take as to the changes needed to support migrant workers, while Kathleen Harris reports on the employer abuse and risk of disease which represent the status quo. And Allison Hurst examines the diminished wages and working conditions for long-term care workers in British Columbia.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Edward Lempinen reports on new research showing that the response to COVID-19 in just six countries has prevented 500 million infections and millions of deaths. And Amanda Follett Hosgood writes that stopping the spread of the coronavirus is especially important in remote areas whose limited resources make them particularly vulnerable to infectious diseases. 

- David Macdonald notes that Canada's job losses from the coronavirus are reaching Great Depression levels, and reflecting a shift from temporary to permanent unemployment. And Beatrice Britneff reports on the open questions as to how Canadians are expected to make ends meet when CERB benefits expire this summer.

- Pete Hudson discusses Brian Pallister's determination to use the coronavirus as an excuse for austerity at a time when it's even more damaging than usual. 

- Andrew MacLeod reports on MiningWatch's findings as to how mining corporations have worsened the spread of COVID-19. And Nicole Hong, Barry Meier and Ronen Bergman report that the intimidation tactics of the dirty fossil fuel sector now include paying mercenaries to attempt to hack activists and journalists. 

- Finally, Gary Mason highlights why we should be outraged at the RCMP's treatment of Chief Allan Adam. Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor emphasizes the need to move beyond questioning specific acts of police violence when it reflects longstanding - and police-enforced - racial and social inequality. Canadians for Tax Fairness points out the role a more just tax policy can play in eliminating systemic racism. And Sandra Hudson sets out some options for defunding police across Canada, while Hadeel Abdel-Nabi makes the case to pursue that possibility in Calgary.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

On obstructionism

I'll give Yaroslav Baran credit for explaining in this thread how Parliament's standard procedures have been modified over the summer. But it's hard to see how that offers any justification for the Cons' contrived outrage over Parliament being "shut down".

In essence, the process boils down to two elements.

First, it's possible for the government to advance and pass legislation in special sessions - but only with all-party consent. To the extent a single party disagrees with a bill moving forward, it has the ability to withhold consent, bringing that process to a halt.

In other words, under the special order they're determined to criticize, the Cons can singlehandedly prevent the passage of any legislation which they don't believe should be approved through an adapted procedure.

And if there's a need to pass legislation which can't secure all-party agreement? That would lead toward what Baran inexplicably describes as a "loophole", being...a return to the normal Parliamentary procedure in full, with MPs being required to attend in person in order to conduct business.

Baran is right that in that event, MPs wouldn't be able to comply with social distancing rules. But that's exactly why it's been necessary to develop alternative procedures in the first place (over the Cons' consistent refusal to cooperate), rather than clinging to the assumption that Parliament has to function exactly as it has in the past. And it's nothing short of asinine to complain about the risks of meeting in person, while simultaneously bleating that anything other than that means Parliament has been forcibly "shut down". 

Of course, the Cons' utterly unconstructive response to the question of how Parliament can best operate in a pandemic mirrors their similarly obstructive position on how the federal government should respond to COVID-19 generally. And Canadians who have had to do their best to be constructive through a period of uncertainty and unfamiliarity should expect better from the official opposition than to stomp their heels and refuse to do anything of the sort.

Wednesday Afternoon Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Brink Lindsey discusses what the coronavirus pandemic has revealed about the failings of both libertarian philosophy, and the public sector apparatus left after decades of neoliberal neglect.

- Paul Krugman writes that the U.S. is failing the marshmallow test when it comes to maintaining protections against the spread of COVID-19. Alexis Madrigal and Robinson Meyer warn about the apparent plan to give up on fighting against the pandemic. Marc Santora warns that far too many governments are choosing to declare business at usual in the face of a continued threat - even where the coronavirus is already far from under control. And Laurie Monsebraaten and Kristen Rushowy report on the impossible demands Ontario is making of child care centres in throwing them open without warning, consultation or funding, while Bruce Arthur writes about the risk that creates for parents.

- Meanwhile, Kate Kelland reports on new research suggesting that widespread mask use could prevent a severe second wave.

- Jennifer Koshan, Lisa Silver, and Jonnette Watson Hamilton rightly criticize the UCP's attempt to legislate the principle that pipelines trump the freedoms of expression and assembly. And Brandi Morin and Anya Zoledziowski highlight the response by Indigenous communities who haven't been consulted about numerous new laws prioritizing tar sands development over human and environmental health.

- Finally, Yellowstone to Yukon notes that UCP's closure of parks and recreational facilities looks to be connected directly to its desire to ramp up coal mining for little apparent purpose other than to spew as much carbon pollution as possible. And that comes as new research shows that it won't cost the U.S. a dime to transition to 90% clean energy by 2035, including by phasing out coal power entirely.