Saturday, March 21, 2020

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Adam Tooze writes that the coronavirus pandemic has offered a reminder that the economy (particularly defined in terms of shareholders' interests) can't be given priority over human survival and well-being.

- John Daley discusses three possible options in responding to the coronavirus - and makes the case for a "stop then restart" plan. And Yishan Wong and Lauren Pelley and Adam Miller highlight the need to at least ensure universal testing and tracking, rather than hoping for uninformed choices to control the virus' spread.

- Omar Mosleh highlights how the pandemic is proving particularly devastating for people already living with severe financial and environmental stressors. John Stapleton reminds us that support for the poor is a matter of life and death - and even more so in the midst of a public health crisis. And Manny Fernandez examines the plight of Americans trying to survive as a lockdown and loss of income is stacked on top of existing poverty and deprivation.

- Shawn Vulliez makes the case to suspend the payment of rent while the crisis is in effect, while Iglika Ivanova offers some suggestions as to what needs to follow the first wave of federal announcements. And Johnna Montgomerie writes about the debt emergency which will need to be addressed. 

- Finally, both Don Pittis and Jamelle Bouie write that the pandemic should be reminding us of the importance of effective government. But Scott Schmidt warns that we need to be prepared to push back against Jason Kenney and other reactionary leaders trying to impose further austerity. And Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Annie Karni expose how the Trump administration is trying to impose anti-social Republican policies while the public is distracted.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Musical interlude

Cake - Sinking Ship

Friday Afternoon Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Mike Konczal offers (PDF) a framework for responding to the coronavirus pandemic from a U.S. perspective. And the CCPA is providing ample analysis of the economic and social impacts of COVID-19.

- Dakshana Bascaramurty discusses how the pandemic is revealing and exacerbating Canada's class divide. And Shree Paradkar points out the difference in government reaction depending on the identity of the lives at risk.

- Michael Laxer notes that hoarding and panic buying are fully predictable within a capitalist economic framework. And Lee Fang exposes how Wall Street is putting pressure on medical suppliers to profiteer as a result of the crisis.

- James Meadway observes the need for an anti-wartime mindset which treats demobilization as the top priority. 

- Anne Gaviola makes the case for a national rent freeze to ensure that precarious housing doesn't exacerbate a public health emergency. And Nick Falvo examines the sorry state of housing policy in Canada in advance of the federal budget.

- Finally, Helen Lewis and Moira Wyton both point out how women are struggling with disproportionate burdens in the face of the pandemic.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Civility Police, Arrest This Man

Sure, it's common knowledge (at least among those not politically motivated to the contrary) that supervised consumption sites save lives.

And it's true that it's a matter of government choice whether those sites get funded.

But that doesn't mean we can abide anybody pointing out that life-and-death choices - and a leader's history in making them - represent a valid consideration in evaluating that leader's fitness. Because connecting the dots would be uncivilized.

On safety concerns

One of the great mysteries of Scott Moe’s tenure in power is how he’s evaded scrutiny for a personal track record which has demonstrated a gross lack of judgment - including getting convicted of impaired driving, causing a separate accident which killed another person, and filing for bankruptcy.

In the Saskatchewan Party’s leadership campaign, Moe managed to stay just below front-runner status which might have caused competitors to focus more on his weaknesses. And since he took power, the NDP has understandably focused on the many problems with what Moe’s government has been doing more while in office, rather than his past personal actions.

To be sure, it’s a noble impulse to presume that people can overcome and learn from their past tragedies. But there comes a point where we need to ask whether somebody is repeating the patterns which caused them to happen.

And in Moe’s case, the answer is alarming.

Moe offered a brief media tour when his fatal car crash was raised during the course of the Saskatchewan Party leadership campaign. And his responses then are telling today.

While Moe acknowledged the collision, he avoided humanizing the victim (phrasing his descriptions along the lines of “there was a fatality”). And he's equally plainly dodged any self-awareness or responsibility - recognizing that the RCMP’s investigation determined that he drove unsafely, but portraying the crash as a mere matter of whether he proceeded “a few moments earlier, a few moments later”, rather than something for which he bore any fault.

Moe’s pattern of barrelling ahead with insufficient regard for the safety of himself or others has followed him into power. And now, it’s set the tone for his government.

It would have been telling enough for Moe to pursue a snap spring election at the best of times. Even leaving aside the lack of ethics involved in manipulating a fixed election date for partisan advantage, Canadian political history is rife with leaders who received a rude awakening after indulging in enough hubris to believe that an unnecessary early election was the road to holding power indefinitely.

Even worse, though, Moe was positively gleeful in taunting the NDP and the province about calling an election at a time when any avoidable person-to-person contact exacerbates the risks of a public health emergency - while his party also mocked the NDP's well-founded efforts to point out how dangerous that would have been.

Having reluctantly ruled out the snap election plan (while again refusing to admit he could possibly have been in the wrong), Moe has continued to demonstrate a glaring lack of attention to dangerous driving conditions, insisting on presenting budget documentation for political consumption long after anybody could possibly think it bore any resemblance to reality. It was only this week that he finally and farcically decided to erase the revenue side of the ledger altogether from a spending plan - which figures to allow his party to advertise its election platform on the public dime.

That’s all consistent with the Saskatchewan Party's political strategy of making loud announcements, spending millions of corporate dollars on slanderous attack ads, and hoping to have people make surface judgments based on a lack of information. (And if Moe had been able to get his way, an election held during a pandemic might well have helped in creating that political environment.)

And the problem goes far beyond Moe himself: as he's set the example, his passengers in cabinet have chosen to egg him on. Gord Wyant has taken to shouting insults at any passer-by brazen enough to suggest that Moe keep his eyes on the road; Don Morgan and Jim Reiter have gone out of their way to moon Meili and the NDP, rather than focusing on some of the most important cabinet roles in a public health crisis.

The end result is that Moe’s reckless joyride is endangering everybody in Saskatchewan. And as a province, we need to ask how many people have to get killed by our premier’s unsafe driving before we finally wrestle the keys away.

Thursday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Frances Woolley points out how the coronavirus pandemic is exposing the effects of decades of austerity on Canada's health care system. Martin Regg Cohn discusses how the spread of the coronavirus is requiring us to seriously rethink how much of our society and economy are set up. And George Eaton highlights how COVID-19 has offered a reminder of the unique power of government to act in the social interest, while Mariana Mazzucato offers some suggestions as to how the coronavirus response can help us restore democratic governments to a lead role in shaping the economy.

- The ILO highlights the brutal impact of the pandemic on workers, while Jim Stanford points out how it has exposed the undervaluing of the people who are now ensuring the continued provision of the necessities of life even as much of our economy shuts down. Evelyn Kwong reports on the workers who are being forced to keep putting themselves and their loved ones at risk by employer demands. And both Reid Rusonik and Rebecca Long-Bailey discuss the need for a basic income to ensure personal security.

- Both Stanford and David Macdonald examine the response so far from Canada's federal government, including how it falls short both of covering all the people who need help and distributing benefits fast enough to deal with immediate needs.

- Andrew Nikiforuk offers his advice as to be an engaged citizen - rather than a selfish consumer - in a public health emergency.

- Finally, Craig Altemose examines how things would be different if we responded to the slower-moving but equally-dangerous climate crisis with the same urgency as the coronavirus. Jeff Sparrow discusses the irreconcilable conflict between growth and environmental limitations which can be seen in both crises. Kate Aronoff points out the value in making green jobs the focus of our rebuilding after the coronavirus recession. And Jason Hickel argues that a transition to a clean economy offers an opportunity to refocus on quality of life rather than GDP.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Wednesday Afternoon Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- David Roberts points out that the coronavirus has rendered it imperative to provide supports for people faced with circumstances beyond their control. And Tess Kalinowski and Laurie Monsebraaten report on the community service providers trying to ensure people's basic needs are met in the midst of a pandemic.

- Duncan Cameron discusses how COVID-19 is exposing fissures within Canada, while Doug Cuthand notes that First Nations will be particularly vulnerable to its effects.

- Eric Klinenberg writes that our response to the coronavirus needs to include social solidarity, not merely physical distancing. And Kirstie Brewer assembles some mental health tips to help through a period of social isolation.

- Stephanie Wood reports on the ten-figure liabilities facing B.C.'s public for mine cleanup and reclamation. And Wallis Snowdon reports that future loans won't make up for the damage done to Alberta landowners by the operators of derelict oil wells.

- Finally, Roger Harrabin reports on research which (not surprisingly) concludes that the richest people bear the most responsibility for contributing to climate change.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

A dearly departed Tigger...

...and a mourning feline friend.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Owen Jones writes that the coronavirus is offering a stark lesson in how inequality kills:
The coronavirus pandemic is about to collide with this engine of inequality. The super-rich are fleeing on private jets to luxury boltholes in foreign climes, while the well-to-do may deploy their private health insurance to circumvent our already struggling and soon to be overrun National Health Service. Meanwhile, Britain’s army of precarious workers have nowhere to hide, including from employment that puts their health at risk. Uber drivers, Deliveroo riders, cleaners: all in low-paid jobs, often with families to feed. Many will feel they have no choice but to keep working. While many middle-class professionals can protect themselves by working from home, supermarket shelves cannot be stacked remotely, and the same applies from factory workers to cleaners. How many could truly afford to live on £94.25 a week, which is our country’s paltry statutory sick pay?
We know that depression and stress weaken our immune systems, and the research is clear: those on low incomes are disproportionately likely to suffer from poor mental health. Poor diet is another factor, and one that is strongly linked to poverty. What, too, of our most impoverished, those who are homeless with poor nutrition, weaker immune systems and a lack of access to good hygiene? And what happens to the 1.5 million children eligible for free school meals if our education sector is temporarily closed? Many could soon find themselves with hungry bellies.
A decade of austerity, and a social order that deprives millions of citizens of a comfortable existence, will mean many more deaths in the coming weeks and months that could have been avoided. The government’s determination to discover a vaccine for coronavirus must be accompanied by a renewed commitment to addressing poverty. Like every crisis, this one is likely to affect working-class and poor people worst. That is not inevitable. It’s a choice – and one within our power to stop, if only we had the will to do so.
- Jon Parsons writes that our response to the pandemic needs to be based on an ethic of collective care. Ian Welsh offers his take on what we can expect from the coronavirus and its aftermath. Ella Bedard, John No and Amy Brubacher discuss the need for additional supports for workers in order for social distancing to be effective. Rossana Rodriguez, Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, Byron Sigcho Lopez, Daniel La Spata and Jeanette Taylor note that the holes in the social safety net being exposed now signal the urgent need for enduring systemic change.

- Both Campbell Clark and Jerry Dias highlight the need for our political leaders to do more rather than less in the face of a crisis which gets exponentially worse for every day it's left unaddressed. And Jacques Gallant and Alyshah Hasham point out how incarcerated populations stand to be particularly hard hit if the pandemic reaches them.

- Caroline Orr notes that the war on truth by the wealthy and powerful has made it all the more difficult to inform the public and get people to act in response to a pandemic. Andrew Nikiforuk connects corporate globalization to the spread of the coronavirus. Carl Meyer reports on the activist push to ensure that Canada's policy response doesn't focus solely on further enriching the wealthy. And Scott Duke Kominers discusses how big business is exploiting the crisis through price gouging on sanitizer and other needed products - and isn't seeing the same public opprobrium as the individuals doing the same.

- Finally, the CCPA's Alternative Federal Budget offers a plan to protect workers and the public, while transitioning to a more secure and sustainable society. And Avi Lewis points out how a Green New Deal represents an ideal plan for rebuilding and modernizing our economy in the wake of the coronavirus.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Emmanuez Saez and Gabriel Zucman call for (PDF) governments to act as buyers of last resort to minimize the economic fallout from the coronavirus. Andrew Jackson offers his take on the appropriate public policy response to ensure that workers' incomes aren't decimated at the worst possible time, while David Macdonald points out how different types of workers stand to be affected in radically different ways. And Sara Mojtehezadeh reports on the plight of lower-income workers who lack paid sick leave.

- Anne Appelbaum discusses how the spread of the coronavirus challenges some of the U.S.' most fervently-held beliefs about itself. Robert Reich laments the destruction of the U.S.' public health system just as it's needed most. And Max Fisher and Emma Bubola point out how the crisis will both affect people differently based on existing inequality, and exacerbate that inequality.

- Andre Picard is hopeful that social solidarity will see us through. But the Globe and Mail's editorial board writes that we'll need to do everything we can to stop the spread of the virus - not delay in the hope that anything will resolve itself.

- Finally, Jenna Moon examines the many occasions risking the transmission of the coronavirus in the course of a single morning commute. And Ambrose Evans-Pritchard takes note of the obvious dangers to health care workers.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Jim Stanford offers his take on how our governments should respond to the coronavirus epidemic - including an emphasis on health, income security and debt relief, along with a plan for reconstruction. And Armine Yalnizyan and Jennifer Robson provide some more specific details toward exactly those ends.

- Meanwhile, Kelly Crowe and Charlie Warzel each discuss the importance of social distancing as the most important contribution individuals can make. And Mattia Ferraresi warns us not to make the same mistakes as Italy in continuing business as usual until it was too late.

- Taylor Scollon points out how a pandemic is exposing the glaring weaknesses in our welfare state, while Dan Kois notes that it's also demonstrating the arbitrariness of the U.S.' security theater. And Kate Aronoff, Alyssa Battistoni, Daniel Aldana Cohen and Thea Riofrancos discuss the type of transformation we should be demanding as we emerge from it.

- Finally, Andrew Leigh reviews Thomas Piketty's Capital and Ideology, with particular emphasis on how inequality in education and childhood support propagates inequality between generations.