Saturday, April 25, 2020

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Jane McDonald writes about the lessons we should learn for future crisis management from the coronavirus pandemic. And Jim Stanford discusses both the importance of social trust in response to an emergency situation, and the reason for optimism that Canadians can count on it as a factor working in our favour.

- Tonda MacCharles reports on the massive increase in testing needed before we can viably reduce restrictions in the face of COVID-19. And Melanee Thomas and Lisa Lambert discuss the rationale for punishing the people who put everybody at risk.

- Jason Foster and Bob Barnetson highlight the gross failures of Alberta's occupational health and safety system in allowing the spread of COVID-19 through meat packing plants. And David Carrigg notes that John Horgan is talking to employers about ensuring that workers aren't forced to stay at work while sick - though I'd think we should be able to say that the time for talk rather than government action has long since passed.

- Meanwhile, Arthur White-Crummey reports on the Moe government's choice not to ensure child care is even capable of being made available - let alone actually available - for the employees it plans to push back to work. And the Star-Phoenix' editorial board points out the need to do more to ensure the safety and quality of life of Saskatchewan seniors. 

- Finally, Dianne Saxe discusses the folly behind the federal government's bailout of a dying oil and gas sector based on the false assumption that it can (and must) be propped up indefinitely. And Max Fawcett rightly questions why the oil sector is continuing to fund CAPP and other propaganda and lobbying operations while pleading that it needs public money to make up for a lack of cash.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Musical interlude

CHVRCHES - Out Of My Head

On false choices

Needless to say, I'm not at all surprised to see what resulted from Scott Moe's pre-announcement announcement and subsequent announcement about the additional risks he wants to take in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. But before digging into the details of what Moe plans to open up, let's first look at how he chose to frame the discussion.

Any talk about our options in the face of COVID-19 should be based on two basic points. First, in light of the exponential spread of the coronavirus, there's a distinct imbalance between the risks and rewards involved in scaling back our physical isolation. And second, that there's absolutely no prospect of any return to the previous economic "normal" until the virus is fully under control.

One would expect a leader's statement of any balance to be struck between health and long-term well-being on one side and short-term economic interests on the other to reflect those realities. Instead, here's what we got from Moe:
"If we move too quickly, we risk increasing the spread of COVID-19. If we move too slowly, we risk permanent damage to the livelihoods of thousands of Saskatchewan people. Businesses that never reopen, and jobs that never come back."
In other words, Moe has chosen to flip the risk-reward calculation on its head. It would be bad enough to engage in both-sidesism between lives and short-term profits. But Moe actually went out of his way to attach stronger emotional language to the latter - presumably with the goal of shifting public opinion away from its current recognition of the need for sustained collective action even where it conflicts with business interests.

It's a logical extension of that mindset to see no help whatsoever for workers included in Moe's announcement, leaving Saskatchewan among the stingiest and most callous of provinces in dealing with the needs of people.

And likewise it's less than surprising to see zero recognition that we shouldn't be disadvantaging businesses which are responsible enough to want to stay closed for the benefit of public health - or even those with enough perspective to recognize that that when it's not possible to operate viably, they're better served having that reflected in public policy (with insurers or governments stepping in with enough support to keep them afloat) rather than being told to sink or swim on their own.

The best we can hope for now is that Saskatchewan's people will continue to be more responsible than our premier, even as he sets up incentive structures and public messaging to push us in the wrong direction. But there's a strong chance Moe's business buddies will succeed only in undoing the good that's been done so far.

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Paul Taylor comments on the rifts in our social fabric which are being highlighted by COVID-19. And Graham Riches argues that the food banks which are being pushed to the limit by the pandemic would never have been necessary if our economy wasn't fundamentally broken to begin with.

- George Packer writes that the coronavirus pandemic is only exposing the U.S. as a thoroughly failed state. And Ed Pilkington and Dominic Rushe discuss how after wasting ample opportunity to prepare the U.S. and minimize the damage from the first wave of the virus, Donald Trump is now looking to make matters far worse with his inability to resist pushing for a hasty relaxation of the rules protecting the public.

- Trish Hennessy suggests that social prescribing may offer a helpful model in remediating the damage COVID-19 has done.

- Arwa Mahdawi notes that it's the wealthiest few who have contributed the least who have lined up for the largest bailout demands. Jayati Ghosh notes that less-developed countries are facing far more difficult circumstances than we are. And Kate Aronoff writes that rather than offering any meaningful help, our global institutions have been set up to push developing countries to fail. 

- Finally, Betsy Donald and Shauna Brail point out how the disruption of supply chains for vital goods has signaled the need to rebuild Canada's manufacturing sector.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Thursday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Jane McArthur and Filipe Duarte discuss how the response to the coronavirus pandemic is confirming the importance of collective responsibilities. Amanda Harvey-Sánchez writes about the need to shift toward a more caring social model. And Andrew Longhurst and Kendra Strauss point out the need to take the profit motive out of our model for seniors' housing, while Matt Gurney notes that the current catastrophic outbreaks are the result of decades of systemic neglect.

- Emily Pasiuk highlights the Moe government's refusal to address the safety of essential workers - which of course continues in today's push to reopen which places mandatory obligations on workers but not employers. Noam Scheiber reports on the Trump administration's choice to put employees entirely at the mercy of their bosses rather than enforcing health and safety standards. Dahlia Lithwick discusses the problem with treating essential workers as heroic martyrs rather than people who deserve protection, while Karlie Frisbie Brogan notes that grocery store workers (and others) can see through the insincerity of the attempt. And Michelle Paquette and Doug Yearwood write about the need for improved ages and working conditions which last long after the end of the immediate crisis.

- Bill Bostock reports on France's move to join the group of companies ensuring that bailout funds aren't siphoned off into tax havens. But Marco Chown Oved takes note that the Trudeau Libs refuse to provide similar reassurances about Canadian relief funding.

- Josh Taylor reports on Australia's move to ensure that online multinationals are required to share advertising revenue with local media, rather than taking windfall profits from their content. And John Ivison makes the case for Canada to finally do the same.

- Emily Flitter and Stacy Cowley discuss how the U.S.' business support program was set up to allow banks to offer "concierge service" for their wealthier clients, rather than actually ensuring that funds flowed based on need.

- Finally, David Macdonald highlights the growing number of jobless Canadians excluded from income support benefits as the COVID-19 epidemic continues. Toby Sanger makes the case to extend tax filing deadlines to ensure people with lower incomes actually receive the benefits that have been set up. And Zoe Christmas argues that we'd be far better off with a universal CERB than with the Libs' partial, separate program since set up for students and graduates.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

On historical patterns

It's certainly understandable to try to maintain hope that a public address will produce some desperately-needed improvements to the lives of Saskatchewan's essential workers.

But let's remember the track record involved here. So far, Scott Moe's changes to working conditions as a result of COVID-19 include limiting the availability of pay in lieu of notice when employees are laid off, and endangering highway safety by eliminating a limit of 13 hours per day for truckers. And the public emergency leave developed in response to the coronavirus is unpaid - meaning that until the federal government introduced its benefits, even workers trying to avoid spreading COVID-19 or meet care obligations could only do so if they could afford to fund it (or had an employer willing to do so).

Meanwhile, the steps eventually taken to rein in the coronavirus have uniformly been unveiled by the province only several days after they've been publicly demanded by Ryan Meili. But Moe has repeatedly refused Meili's consistent calls to allow anybody outside Moe's self-serving inner circle any input into what his government does at this stage.

So the default expectation has to be that workers will see empty words tonight, combined with excuses to further attack their well-being in the fine print to be unveiled tomorrow.

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Patricia Cohen discusses how the COVID-19 lockdown has exposed the precarious financial position of most Americans - but in the process highlighted that merely returning to the previous debt-laden stagnation is far from sufficient.

- Andrew Nikiforuk writes that there's no getting around the collapse of much of the oil sector - meaning that our choice now is whether to take the opportunity to transition to more sustainable industries, or instead accede to the perpetual demands by Jason Kenney and his oil baron cronies to dump every available nickel into a bottomless pit. David Roberts and Chris Saltmarsh recognize that any bailout aimed at fossil fuels is going to be utterly wasted. Kyle Bakx writes about the day oil became less than worthless, while Neil Irwin discusses what it means in terms of deflationary shocks.

- Meanwhile, Jillian Ambrose points out the potential for a massive return on investment in renewable energy. And Daniel Aldana Cohen and Daniel Kammen note that a Green New Deal can help us repair the effects of the coronavirus and climate change at the same time.

- Ellen Knickmeyer reports on the people facing pollution and disease as a result of Donald Trump's attacks on even basic environmental regulation. And Michael Sainato notes that coal miners and other people whose lungs have been weakened by hazardous work environments will suffer all the more from COVID-19.

- Jonathan Safran Foer and Aaron Gross discuss how factory farms are breeding grounds for pandemics. And Fiona Harvey reports on the growing warnings that COVID-19 may cause severe famines in the developing world.

- Finally, Gregory Beatty writes that the pro-virus protests in the U.S. - however overplayed by the media - reflect years of alt-right, anti-science messaging. But Adam Gabbatt points out that the pro-disease extremism is being funded by the usual cadre of Republican donors who value retaining power and concentrating wealth over human life.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Couch cat.

Tuesday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Daniel Markovits argues for a wealth tax to fund the relief and rebuilding effort needed in response to COVID-19, while Paul Mason points out the need to not only tax existing wealth but build new economic structures which deter extreme wealth accumulation. Bill Bostock reports on the rightful refusal of Denmark and Poland (so far) to direct public support toward companies which have refused to keep up their end of any social contract. Amir Barnes writes that we shouldn't allow public bailout money to be diverted toward enriching executives or buying back shares. And Robert Reich notes that the real moral hazard in the U.S. involves the exploitation of both booms and busts by the rich.

- David McDonald discusses the need for stronger public institutions to meet the basic needs which have been highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic. And Marc Andreessen makes the case to start working on building the society we want, rather than accepting cuts and tinkering as the limit of our ability to alter the status quo.

- Sara Mojtehedzadeh reports on the continued use of temp agencies to avoid ensuring either secure employment or safe long-term care facilities. David Climenhaga points out how the UCP's willingness to run interference for dangerous workplaces - including both tar sands operations and slaughterhouses - has exacerbated the spread of COVID-19 in Alberta. And PressProgress questions why the Trudeau Libs have put a corporate monolith with a cavalier attitude toward the safety of its own employees in charge of storing and distributing needed supplies. 

- Catherine Kim writes about the U.S. cities which are only dealing with homelessness in the face of the coronavirus, while Emily Pasiuk reports that Saskatchewan has thus far fallen short of even that basic response.

- Finally, Lana Payne offers her suggestions to make Employment Insurance into a far stronger and more accessible income support.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Monday Afternoon Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Bruce Campbell writes that we have a needed opportunity to reimagine how our economy and society are organized, while Gregory Beatty rightly argues that we need to push for better than merely getting back to the previous normal. Alfredo Saad-Filho points out how the coronavirus pandemic has exposed many of the weaknesses of a neoliberal model. Mathew Lawrence, Adrienne Buller, Joseph Baines and Sandy Hager discuss the need for corporations to be restructured to serve the common good, rather than enriching shareholders and executives at the expense of communities and workers. And even Mark Carney recognizes the need for markets to reflect people's interests and values, rather than being given priority over them. 

- Sharon Riley discusses the Libs' plan to put the public on the hook for remediation costs which have been neglected by the oil sector. And Duncan Cameron writes about the futility of dumping ever more public resources into the fossil fuel money pit.

- Rebecca Smith reports on how UK residents are making do with less food - including by making better use of the food already produced - in the wake of COVID-19.

- Stephen Bush writes that the pandemic is highlighting the importance of having a means to deliver a basic income to everybody, rather than requiring the development of new distribution mechanisms. And Andrew Langille discusses how Canada's CERB is continuing to fall short of the needs of people with precarious work and low incomes.

- Finally, Melanie Bechard and Thara Kumar discuss the importance of universal medical care in a pandemic. And Ralph Benmergui interviews Katy Kamkar about the need to strengthen our mental health system as people face a traumatic reality without being able to seek out the usual social supports.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Andrew MacLeod writes about the importance of patience in the face of astroturfed demands to put more workers' lives at risk in the absence of effective vaccines or treatments against COVID-19. And Rachel Miller highlights the importance of taking social distancing seriously, rather than looking for loopholes and workarounds which put people at risk. 

- Andrea Yu interviews Aaron Orkin about the need for change in Toronto's shelter system to provide homeless people with viable options in the face of the pandemic. And Judy Fudge discusses how the long-term care system is still woefully inadequate to protect residents and workers alike.

- Rachel Sugar writes about the U.S.' belated efforts to ensure that school closures don't leave children to go hungry. And Mike Blake and Christopher Walljasper report on the deliberate destruction of produce by farmers lacking their usual restaurant customers, while Jessica Corbett juxtaposes growing food insecurity with the deliberate destruction of food due to the breakdown of private supply chains.

- PressProgress points out the health dangers of the scab work camp at the Regina Co-op refinery. And Charles Smith makes the case for anti-scab legislation in light of the protracted lockout.

- Finally, Bob Lord and Chuck Collins point out how the richest few Americans pay far less taxes as a proportion of their wealth than they did four decades ago. And Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman make the case for a progressive wealth tax to start bridging the gap between the plutocrats and the rest of us.