Saturday, April 18, 2020

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Amadeus Narbutt discusses the uncertain effect of the coronavirus on the global balance of power. And Adam Tooze notes that the U.S.' damaging response to COVID-19 included vetoing IMF support for governments around the globe.

- Andrew Langille examines how workers with low incomes and precarious work situations have been left out of Canada's coronavirus relief, while Chris Roberts discusses how COVID-19 has further exposed what were already glaring problems in the low-wage economy. And Althia Raj reports on Justin Trudeau's continued insistence that people with no income who have been deliberately excluded from the basic CERB benefit need to keep waiting for him to get around to providing any support.

- Avvy Go writes that the people already living on the margins of society have been displaced all the more by new rules and requirements which ignore their circumstances. And Brett Forester reports that communities in northwestern Saskatchewan have had to set up their own command centre due to the Moe government's complete failure to address their needs.

- Nathan Tankus comments on the merits of payment relief both in alleviating the effects of the pandemic, and generating a more fair economy as we emerge from it.

- Louise Kyle writes that the development of publicly-funded vaccines and treatments needs to lead to universal access, not exploitation by the pharmaceutical industry. And PressProgress reports on how Amazon is cashing in providing warehouse space to a federal government which already has plenty of its own.

- Finally, George Eaton writes that there's no reason for the UK (or any other country) to impose crushing austerity once we emerge from the COVID-19 lockdown.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Musical interlude

Matthew Good Band - Deep Six

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Mark Rowlinson points out how the obvious frailty of our current supply chains highlights the need to develop Canadian manufacturing. And Amanda Follett Hosgood notes the importance of localized food production in particular.

- Bill McKibben calls out the oil industry's attempts to use COVID-19 as an excuse to push through pipeline construction, while Mia Rabson exposes its intensive lobbying to undermine any action on climate change or environmental protection.

- Meanwhile, Rhiana Gunn-Wright offers a reminder that the climate change crisis is no less severe in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. And Brian Kahn reports that the group which worked on Jay Inslee's climate plan has developed a roadmap to ensure that the coronavirus recovery results in a just transition toward cleaner energy.

- Bruce Anderson discusses how the effort to achieve physical distancing has ultimately brought people closer together in a common mission. And the Globe and Mail's editorial board recognizes that the social cohesion needed to overcome the coronavirus shouldn't be used as an excuse for governments to claim extraordinary and unaccountable powers.

- Marc Lee argues that the higher levels of government need to provide immediate supports to local governments and regional authorities which were struggling under the weight of downloaded responsibilities and slashed funding even before the pandemic. 

- Finally, Simon Kuper writes about Thomas Piketty's call for wealth taxes to rectify gross inequality - a cause which is only becoming more important as the world's wealthiest few rake in billions of dollars more while the rest of the world is locked down.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Thursday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Annie Lowrey writes about the long-term effects of the millennial generation facing a second economic shock in the years which would normally serve as the base for personal stability and growth.

- Polly Toynbee weighs in on the holes exposed in social safety nets by COVID-19, while recognizing that reality also raises the prospect of longstanding problems finally being remedied. And Amartya Sen likewise points out what lessons we should be taking for the development of access to food, health care and other necessities.

- But Morris Pearl and William Lazonick lament the U.S.' choice to funnel bailout money to the rich rather than offering any meaningful support to workers. And Patrick Falconer calls out Brian Pallister for taking a pandemic as an opportunity to inflict shock-doctrine cuts to non-profit service providers.

- Eric Grenier writes that a strong majority of Canadians recognize the need to ensure the coronavirus is under control, rather than having any interest in rushing back to the previous normal when lives are at stake. And Paul Krugman points out that the few voices demanding that we sacrifice lives to premature re-opening can be entirely ascribed to greed and misinformation.

- Sara Birrell comments on the emptiness of corporate declarations of friendship and social responsibility. And Tobias Klinge, Rodrigo Fernandez and Manuel Aalbers observe that we can't afford to let people's health be subordinated to pharmaceutical industry profiteering.

- Finally, David Webster discusses the Libs' choice to continue exporting violence and death to the Middle East. And Yves Engler criticizes the Trudeau government's willingness to again side with the Saudi regime against human rights.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Wednesday Afternoon Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Dan Gardner writes that the COVID-19 pandemic is exactly the type of rare but severe event which should be the subject of thorough public preparation. And Eric Neudorf explains why so many governments failed to appreciate and act on the severity of the coronavirus even after its dangers were publicly known.

- Adam Almeida notes that Canada's universal public health care has allowed us to fare far better than other countries who rely on private providers. But Kara Grace Hounsell, Marcella Jones, Melanie Spence, Nisha Kansal and Thrmiga Sathiyamoorthy write that COVID-19 also the need to fight to fill in the gaps in Canada's system.

- Robert Green writes about privatization as a pre-existing condition which has created intolerable dangers for people in long-term care. Bruce Arthur points out how COVID-19 was positioned to exploit our current nursing home structure, while Jonathon Gatehouse reminds us that there have been plenty of warnings which have gone unaddressed (or indeed been met with deregulation and declining standards). Andre Picard calls out the ageism involved in the appalling willingness of operators - and a growing number of right-wing politicians - to sacrifice the lives of older residents. And David Climenhaga discusses the need for improved pay and working conditions for long-term care workers both during and after the pandemic, while Scott Gilmore makes a similar case for all of the essential workers risking their own health to keep us supplied with necessities. 

- Jim Stanford discusses how the Bank of Canada could offer far more effective quantitative easing by investing directly in government bonds, rather than relying on bank-shot secondary funding through private financiers to produce desirable public outcomes. And Frances Bula highlights the difficulties faced by municipalities confronted simultaneously with reduced tax revenue and provincially-imposed obligations to balance their budgets.

- Finally, David Dayen points out that the U.S. is allowing banks to seize relief funding to individuals, meaning that the already-meager assistance on offer might never make it to recipients. And Ricardo Tranjan studies how payday lenders are positioned to exploit the dire straits facing Canadian workers to pad their profits. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Cat amid mayhem.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Miles Corak weighs in on how COVID-19 is revealing and exacerbating existing inequality rather than serving as any leveling force.

- Jessica Yun reports on how the ability to work from home reflects existing privilege, while Sara Mojtehedzadeh notes that already-vulnerable migrant farm workers are being required to sign waivers against liability for coronavirus-related risk. But Steven Chase reports that Canada's union movement is pushing both to make work safer in the midst of the pandemic, and to improve wages and working conditions for essential workers in the longer term. 

- Caryn Lieberman reports on a call from hundreds of Ontario health providers to better provide for homeless people. And Mickey Djuric points out that hundreds of people in Saskatoon remain without a home even as they're being told to engage in physical isolation.

- Anna Dodd suggests that our willingness to follow expert advice in response to COVID-19 - even where it results in a break from the status quo - should push us in the same direction in averting a climate breakdown.

- David Climenhaga comments on the importance of Canada's public health care system in fending off invasive neoliberalism.

- Finally, David Moscrop writes that the Libs' latest decision to continue to arming Saudi Arabia - even in the absence of any ability to point fingers at the Harper Cons - demonstrates their willingness to trade lives and principles for corporate interests.

Monday, April 13, 2020

On absenteeism

The U.S. has seen some of its state elections turned into anti-democratic abominations by the absence of effective absentee balloting - with the lack of effective voting serving as an explicit strategy by Republicans to exclude people from exercising their right to vote.

Fortunately, Saskatchewan doesn't have the extreme exclusions against absentee voting which have been the source of the greatest controversy in the U.S. But voters should nonetheless take note of the limited availability of voting by mail - and ask what the Moe government plans to do about it.

Saskatchewan's elections are governed by The Election Act, 1996, which allows for any voter to request an absentee (mail-in) ballot nine or more days before the election by declaring that they "will be unable to vote at an advance poll or on polling day in the constituency": section 86(2). 

That means voters aren't required to meet a specific standard of age or absence in order to request a ballot by mail. But it does mean that by law, voting by mail is the exception rather than the rule. Even in the midst of a pandemic where any physical interaction creates foreseeable and avoidable risks to public health, Elections Saskatchewan doesn't appear to have authority to make mail-in ballots available in the absence of an individual request.

Other provisions also apply to homebound voters, but with similar limitations (the requirement for an advance request, and a substantial level of advance notice).

Those provisions may have been sufficient during an election period when going to the polls in person could be considered a reasonable default expectation. But it now looks likely - if not inevitable - that this fall's election will take place in the face of a continued need for social distancing.

Which means that it will fall to Moe and his government to decide whether to update the law to make sure that Saskatchewan's residents can vote without jeopardizing public health - or whether they'll choose to force citizens to choose between their votes or their lives as their Republican allies have done so callously south of the border.

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Tobias Jones discusses how COVID-19 has emphasized the importance of social interaction to human well-being:
It seems callous to suggest that this tenebrous pandemic is letting the light in, and daft to offer immediate consolations amid so much grief. But there is a sense that, with the world having ground to a halt, our fantasies are finally taking flight.

Much of what we have always been told was impossible is actually happening: the homeless are (in some places) being housed in hotels while prisoners are (in others) being released. Kids are told not to go to school and to forget exams. Massive government spending is ensuring that people are guaranteed an income even if they can’t work. Private hospitals in Spain are being nationalised. A hospital has been built in London under a fortnight. In Portugal, tens of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers have been “regularised” and given full rights. It’s not quite a revolution, but it’s an epic conceptual awakening.
The penny has also dropped that wellbeing isn’t individual but social. We are not actually independent at all, but dependent. We can make each other sick and we can try to make each other well. We’ve understood that a healthy community (as Wendell Berry wrote in his essay Health Is Membership) isn’t merely human, but also “its soil, its water, its air”.

It has been fascinating to see the speed at which other attitudes have changed. The indignation expressed towards people not respecting social distancing (from those who would never normally describe themselves as moralists) has been understandably shrill: here too we’ve suddenly realised that the wellbeing of the group is endangered by indifferent individuals, and that community – for which we’ve yearned for so long – means originally simply a pooling of duties.
- Laura Spinney writes that inequality doesn't just exacerbate pandemics, but also plays a role in causing them. Don Pittis writes that the coronavirus pandemic offers an important test of a government's willingness to invest in avoiding impending catastrophe - and that the results so far look worrisome based on the even larger threat of climate breakdown. And Gregory Beatty discusses how the U.S. in particular is seeing greed and political posturing overwhelm even the most basic of responses to COVID-19.

- Robert Reich points out how many of the "philanthropic" announcements made by billionaires in response to COVID-19 represent little but self-aggrandizement on the part of people who are actively exacerbating the crisis through their mistreatment of workers. 

- PressProgress calls out the Fraser Institute's attempt to use a pandemic to justify the long-term use of environmentally-destructive plastic bags. And Regan Boychuk argues that the oil companies who have made billions polluting Alberta shouldn't be allowed to "dine and dash" as part of a recovery effort.

- Finally, Sara Mojtehedzaden reports on the payday lenders exploiting a mass crisis with the explicit encouragement of the Trudeau government. Rupert Neate and Jasper Jolly note that hedge funds are extracting huge amounts of wealth betting on chaotic markets, while Lawrence Delevigne exposes one investment firm's attempt to abuse relief funding to take in windfall profits. And J. David McSwane and Yeganeh Torbati report on the Trump administration's choice to dole out sole-source contracts.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Lauren Leatherby and David Gelles examine how people are spending money differently in the midst of a pandemic, while Lucia Mutikani reports on a massive drop in prices as declining consumer spending outweights any disruption to supply chains. And Armine Yalnizyan comments how COVID-19 represents a brand-new economic crisis centred on service work, a disproportionate impact on women, and a limited prospect of rapid growth once the shutdown is done.

- Claire Cain Miller wonders whether our increased recognition of both the importance of service workers and the precarity of their work situations will be a first step toward righting what's wrong with the U.S.' system of labour relations. And Dr. Dawg's contributor ForgotToBuyTinfoil comments on the potential to shape a new economic system which actually puts people before profits, while Robert Green notes that the willingness of governments everywhere to spend whatever it takes to respond to a fast-moving crisis signals that they're equally capable of investing in the slower (but no less severe) fight against a climate breakdown.

- Tom Wall reports on the connection between subpar housing on the spread of the coronavirus.
Andre Picard discusses the importance of ensuring that the horrors of private long-term care which have been exposed in the face of a pandemic aren't repeated. And David Yaffe-Bellany and Michael Corkery write about the simultaneous rise of hunger and destruction of massive amounts of food due to a lack of coordination between production and needs.

- Finally, Tae Hoon Kim argues that South Korea's success in beating COVID-19 can be traced to a greater degree of government accountability to its populace. And Sarah Kendzior points out how the coronavirus is only exposing the disease pervading the U.S.' political system.