Saturday, May 02, 2020

Saturday Morning Links

This and that for your Saturday reading.

- Ed Yong writes about the many complexities surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, including how much we have left to figure out before being able to make any concrete plans.

- Leonardo Trasande and Akhgar Ghassabian discuss how chemicals in our homes may be exacerbating the damage done by COVID-19.

- Claire Kelloway highlights how concentration in food processing and distribution has led to both waste and shortages in the wake of a pandemic which inevitably finds its way into large facilities, while Oliver Laughland and Amanda Holpuch examine how meat plants have become the frontline in the war against the coronavirus. And Licia Corbella discusses how Jason Kenney's government and Alberta meat packers likewise refused to keep workers safe in the face of clear warnings and obvious outbreaks, while Ysh Cabana writes about the abuse and subsequent scapegoating of Filipino workers.

- Edward Ongweso Jr. takes note of the latest research showing that in addition to better protecting health and safety and securing higher wages, unions also make employers more productive. The Los Angeles Times' editorial board highlights the need for improved pay and treatment for food sector workers. But Eric Levitz observes that the Republicans' priority in negotiations around any coronavirus relief is to make workers poorer and less safe, while Steven Greenhouse writes about Donald Trump's choice to order workers to their deaths when COVID-19 spread in overly concentrated workplaces.

- Finally, Justin Ling tests the Libs' claim that they're taking steps to avoid the spread of COVID-19 through Canada's prison system, and finds virtually no work being done to release people whose continued incarceration only endangers themselves and others.

On incentive structures

Sure, this is one possible interpretation of the choices facing low-income parents whose school and child care have been taken away:
But I'm sure your local Conservative would argue people are simply being given appropriate incentives to work rather than parenting. 

Friday, May 01, 2020

Musical interlude

Oasis - Don't Stop...

Friday Afternoon Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Bruce Campbell highlights how corporate greed isn't limited by a public health emergency. And indeed, the Canadian Press reports on a record amount of federal lobbying in February and March as entrenched interests seek to increase their wealth and power as a result of COVID-19.

- Meanwhile, Quinn Slobodian points out that corporate interests are counting on the rest of us doing nothing to push for change as a result of a glaring breakdown of our public health and support systems:
We have seen a world where capitalism stops. But it will start again. When America “reopens,” it will be much like the old America. Big companies will be bigger, ever more beholden to the leader for having saved them. Arguments for austerity will return in the wake of the unprecedented spending.
The next year will be a litany of the “workouts and turnarounds” that bankruptcy specialists are known for, ruthlessly wringing the value out of companies, while ignoring the human or social costs. Distressed debt funds are the loan sharks of the business world, and will feel no compunction about pursuing the bottom line. We have seen a preview of such dispassionate calculation in the last month, as stock values soared alongside record unemployment numbers and mounting deaths. The combination seemed shocking to some people, even scandalous. “The stock market doesn’t care about your feelings,” was the response of a Los Angeles Times business reporter, “nor should it.”

Covid-19 has left the economy in rubble, and we have a brief chance to build anew. But to avoid the vultures, we will have to be creative and work together. Freed from our quarantine, we can use the remains of our old society to construct new buildings, gardens, playgrounds, and, when necessary, barricades too.
- Anne Gaviola reports on the appalling exploitation of Canadians by payday lenders even as coronavirus relief is supposed to include access to affordable credit.

- The American Prospect examines the future of labour following the COVID-19 pandemic. Denise Balkissoon discusses the harm we do by undermining the rights of food sector workers, while Lauren Kaori Gurley reports on today's strikes of many major U.S. retailers. And Brett Nelson points out the need for organizing in response to the issues highlighted by the coronavirus to focus on issues which develop solidarity rather than undermining it.

- Finally, Bruce Arthur writes that we won't be able to defeat the coronavirus without fully working together - while noting that our treatment of people living with homelessness and precarious work falls far short of the mark.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Maxwell Smith, Ross Upshur and James Downar warn us against mistaking a temporarily flattened curve for a final victory over the spread of COVID-19.

- Leilani Farha questions how it's possible for people to help fight the coronavirus by staying at home when they don't have a secure home to begin with. And Duncan Cameron suggests that we can provide needed community housing by repurposing spaces which no longer work for retail businesses.

- George Monbiot argues that we shouldn't be bailing out the fossil fuel sector (including airlines and the auto sector as currently structured) when it's based on a model which causes unconscionable damage to our planet. And in response to Jason Kenney's reactionary attacks on the concept of a Green New Deal, Bronwen Tucker highlights how Alberta would stand to benefit from a transition to clean energy.

- Finally, Ed Broadbent and Rick Smith set out a progressive framework for a COVID-19 recovery plan:
1. Prioritize the needs of people. We need to work with employers to save and create jobs, but the focus should be on bettering the lives of individual Canadians. Financial aid to corporations should be much more conditional than in past rescue packages. Any recovery must ensure by law that public dollars are not diverted into exorbitant executive compensation packages, stock buybacks or increased dividend pay-outs.
2. Reinforce people’s economic and social rights. Temporary fixes must be changed into longer term reforms, such as reconfigured income supports to supplement EI; extension of the scope of public health care to home care, long-term care homes and universal public pharmacare; and the implementation of a “decent work” agenda with paid sick days and liveable wages.
3. Public investment. With families and corporations deep in debt even before the crisis, and with some sectors (such as tourism and oil and gas) very unlikely to recover quickly, public investment will have to drive recovery. Such investment should be focused on job-rich areas that deliver on our collective goals, like green infrastructure (renewables, energy conservation, public infrastructure) and affordable housing.
4. Transition to greater national self-sufficiency in some sectors. The global economy is here to stay, but we need to rebuild Canadian productive capacity to meet key needs such as food security and medical supplies rather than rely exclusively on global markets.
5. Spend what it takes. The Bank of Canada is providing the resources we need short term to support Canadians. A longer-term public investment program intended to address income inequality will also require radical tax reform, including taxation of wealth.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Andrew Nikiforuk highlights where we stand in responding to the coronavirus - including the dangers of declaring victory at a point where there's still every risk of waves of death.

- Janice Braden writes that the Saskatchewan Party's idea of reopening the province involves little more than prioritizing recreation for Scott Moe and his pals while failing to account for the needs of most of the province. And Michael Bramadat-Willcock reports on the particular fear in northern Saskatchewan that declarations that business is going back to the previous normal will undermine the region's attempt to control an existing outbreak.

- Gideon Meyerowitz-Kratz sums up the true nature of "herd immunity" (absent a vaccine) as the sacrifice of human lives to a preventable disease.

- The Globe and Mail's editorial board argues against obsessing over the money which will need to be borrowed to keep people afloat. And as part of a debate within the Star, Martine August highlights how it's far more realistic to expect landlords to forego some rent than to insist on tenants finding a way to pay it in the midst of a lockdown.

- Finally, PressProgress reports on the UPC's move to grab Alberta pensions and funnel them into the hands of AIMCO to fund its oil-sector donors. And Mitchell Beer discusses the appalling demands being made by the fossil fuel lobby to try to capitalize on the COVID-19 crisis.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Surrounded cat.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Paul Wells explores how extensive planning for foreseeable pandemics was discarded or forgotten just as it mattered most.

- Ryan Meili highlights the importance of putting people first in determining how to ease restrictions in the wake of the coronavirus, while Missy Johnson looks at a few of the options to ameliorate our current level of inequality in the wake of a pandemic which has shown how precarity weakens us all.
And Adam Tooze writes that we shouldn't be obsessing over deficits or debt, particularly when it's being raised primarily as an excuse to push cruel austerity measures.

- Nafeez Ahmed notes that the coronavirus may provide the economic system shock which permanently shifts us away from dirty fossil fuels. And Brendan Haley discusses the need for public investment in clean energy systems to ensure a durable and sustainable recovery, while James Wilt argues for decommodifying public transit.

- Andrew Nikiforuk points out that the meatpackers which have become some of Canada's most dangerous vectors for the spread of COVID-19 ignored plenty of warnings to reach that point.

- Bill Blaikie makes the case to fulfill the promise of complete universal health care by ensuring people have the medicine they need.

- Finally, Dominic Rushe and Mona Chalabi discuss how the wealthiest few are exploiting the pandemic to make themselves even richer. And Jo Snyder provides responses to the Koch-funded talking points being used to argue for reckless disregard for the continued dangers of COVID-19.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Rochelle Baker interviews David Suzuki about the lessons from the coronavirus pandemic which we should apply equally to the threat of a climate breakdown. And Mike Layton writes that we need a Green New Deal as our recovery program once the pause on physical interaction has passed.

- Meanwhile, Joe Cressy points out how cities need support to recover from a crisis which has dramatically undercut their revenues without affecting their provincially-imposed obligation to balance budgets.

- Richard Warnica discusses how confined residences including care homes, prisons and shelters have become the most dangerous transmission points for COVID-19 in Canada. And Michael Enright interviews Pat Armstrong about a long-term care system which has been set up to prioritize operator profit over the health of residents.

- Jo Snyder writes about the quarantine privilege which divides people between those who can engage in meaningful physical distancing and those whose work and life circumstances make it impossible to do so. Robert Reich makes a similar point while breaking down the latter group into the "essential", the "unpaid" and the "forgotten". And Kara Voght examines how the the U.S.' coronavirus relief package is designed to perpetuate existing inequalities and exclusions.

- Lisa Graves points out that the already-paltry "reopen" events are almost entirely the result of right-wing astroturfing. And Colin Horgan notes that there isn't a reality-based argument to ignore or facilitate the spread of a pandemic. 

- Finally, Branko Milanovic writes that Donald Trump represents the end point of neoliberal ideology as a boss who doesn't hesitate to dismiss the lives and safety of the people he perceives as his servants.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Heather Scoffield points out some of the people who have been systematically excluded from any discussion about what steps need to be taken next in response to the coronavirus pandemic, while Althia Raj focuses on self-employed Canadians in particular. Simon Enoch is rightly aghast at the Saskatchewan Party's development of a "reopening" plan which makes no mention of, and fails to take into account, the needs of workers. And Laird Cronk writes about the importance of ensuring that the new society we build on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic recognizes and values the contributions of essential workers.

- Moira Walsh and Omar Mosleh report on the court ruling Ontario nurses had to win in order to be able to determine which personal protective equipment was required to keep them safe in long-term care homes. And Noam Scheiber and Michael Corkery report on the lawsuit seeking to ensure that Smithfield workers aren't ordered to endanger themselves and their colleagues.

- Jesse Drucker exposes some of the handouts to big business and the wealthy buried in the terms of the U.S.' meager relief packages. Emily Flitter and Peter Eavis document some of the corporations which have demanded bailouts after draining what should have been more than sufficient cash reserves. And Karl Nerenberg discusses the Libs' choice to make public funding available to tax haven abusers, rather than ensuring that businesses benefit from public supports only if they've paid their fair share.

- Finally, Chuck Collins notes that the world's wealthiest people are so removed from everybody else that they've managed to accumulate even more while most people have been in lockdown. And Alex Hemingway makes the case for an excess profits tax to ensure that businesses can't retain the spoils of profiteering based on a public emergency.