Saturday, May 23, 2020

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Ryan Hayes and Edward Hon-Sing Wong discuss both the importance of collective action to protect workers' rights, and the strategies which are proving most effective. Hamilton Nolan writes about the increasingly strong case for sectoral bargaining. And Chelsea Nash examines the gig-worker unionization campaign at Foodora which led it to flee Canada rather than being required to deal fairly with its workers.

- Meanwhile, Samantha Melamed points out how people are being pushed into gig work by a lack of other alternatives. And Kait Bolongaro and Shelly Hagan discuss why Canadian farms are having difficulty recruiting the seasonal migrant workers who are normally relied on to harvest crops - though it's worth noting the problems with a sector being structured to rely on insecure labour.

- Rob Shaw reports that John Horgan is both pushing the federal government to implement paid sick leave so that workers aren't pressured to endanger themselves and others, and planning to ensure B.C. workers have that level of income security if Justin Trudeau can't be bothered. 

- David Bernstein reports on the false promise that massive tax breaks for a new Sears headquarters would lead to any sustainable jobs or economic development. And Christopher Reynolds reports on WestJet's demand to be handed the right to lay off thousands of employees without liability even as it's already receiving a 75% wage subsidy to keep people employed.

- Jack Hicks writes about the travesty that is Saskatchewan's current excuse for a suicide prevention plan.

- Finally, Kai Kupferschmidt writes about the factors which result in the "superspreading" of COVID-19 while many infected people don't pass it along at all. Andre Picard notes that while we should turn mask-wearing into a social norm, it's far from the only action we need to take in order to minimize the harm from the coronavirus. And David Fisman points out that the success we've had in limiting the spread of COVID-19 so far means that there's all the more to lose if we abandon the effort prematurely.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Musical interlude

Royal Canoe - Living a Lie (Glacial)

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Through the newly-developed Progressive International, Grace Blakely writes that we don't have any choice as to whether our future will be planned - only as to whose interest are taken into account in the process:
Our choice is not ‘to plan or not to plan?’ but ‘in whose interests should we plan?’

The case for democratic public planning is clear. The inefficiencies, inequities and corruption generated by state-monopoly capitalism do not result from centralisation in itself, but from centralisation absent the centrifugal force of democratic accountability. There is a strong case to be made that, in the wake of this crisis, the resources by then under the command of the state should be allocated by the public, for the public. Absent this plan to democratize the economy, this crisis — and the suffering of so many millions of people it has caused — will have been for nothing but capital itself.
- The Economist highlights the opportunity to flatten the climate curve along the way. And Marc Lee points out some of the options for a low-carbon reboot of Canada's economy, while Adam Radwanski discusses the push to demand that the Libs make use of them.

- Abacus Data offers a detailed look at the progressive plan Canadians support - including both increased taxes on the rich, and investments in social priorities - as we rebuild from the coronavirus pause. Matthew Yglesias notes that even in the U.S., there's plenty of public support for public spending to finance a recovery - particularly if it's paid for by fair taxes on the wealthy. And Brian Jones also notes the importance of finally ensuring the lucky few contribute to the common good.

- But then, Norman Solomon discusses the class war being waged by the privileged in order to exploit the pandemic to further consolidate their control while denying any meaning to what everybody else is losing. Paul Krugman writes about Donald Trump's plan to sacrifice tens of thousands of Americans in the hope of securing temporary gains in the stock market. Owen Jones points out how the well-connected are able to extract preferential treatment from the business sector with reference to Boris Johnson's circle of close associates. And Eduardo Porter and David Yaffe-Bellany highlight how another generation is facing diminished long-term prospects as it emerges into an economy which is both crumbling generally, and top-heavy in its allocation of any gains.

- Finally, the Globe and Mail's editorial board rightly asks why testing and tracing which has long been promised - and which is known to be the only feasible option to increase activity without enabling the spread of COVID-19 - is still lacking in far too much of Canada. And Bruce Arthur writes about the need to make sure our lockdown actually results in the development of an effective public health strategy, rather than merely hitting the snooze button on an even more catastrophic wave of infection.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Thursday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Robert Reich argues that U.S. corporations need to prioritize the health of their workers over immediate profits. But James Galbraith writes about the wider need to move past disaster capitalism, including through government action to take core economic decisions out of the hands of self-interested executives and capital owners.

- Meanwhile, Heather Vogell reports on the financial sector's latest inflation of asset values in order to justify making loans which could be securitized - this time in the commercial property sector rather than residential real estate.

- Melissa Perri and Naheed Dosani discuss how the coronavirus pandemic has exposed the plight of homeless people. But Juliana Nnoko-Memanu writes that the temporary relief offered initially may soon give way to a wave of people being pushed out of their homes by lenders.

- Anna North observes that employers are rushing to withdraw "hero pay" even while continuing to demand that their workers put themselves at risk.

- Finally, Devi Sridhar writes that a push to reopen businesses without a plan for testing and tracing will mean our efforts to contain COVID-19 to date will do nothing but delay mass infection. And Elizabeth Renzetti argues that masks will need to become the norm as part of any attempt to increase social activity.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Linda McQuaig warns us not to tolerate yet another around of austerian demagoguery when investment in people's well-being is a positive step toward every end other than the goal of pushing people into additional precarity. And Marilyn Watkins examines how Washington state was left far less resilient by needless austerity following the last corporate crash.

- Jeanne Morefield reviews Jessica Whyte's The Morals of the Market, including by noting that neoliberalism has hijacked the language of human rights to serve the purposes of wealth accumulation. And Rutger Bregman discusses what may come next if the neoliberal era is finally at an end. But Nesmine Malik warns that the wealthy and powerful won't give up their privileged positions without a fight.

- On that front, Matthew Chapman notes that the Trump administration is using the COVID-19 pandemic to enable predatory financial institutions to extract even more from consumers. And John Bennett reports on Trump's more recent plan to use the crisis to utterly demolish regulation in the public interest, while Mark Winfield catches Doug Ford doing the same.

- Kim Kelly discusses how meatpackers' lives have been put at risk by exploitative employers and uncaring governments. And Colin Gordon writes about the role of decades of union-busting in trashing wages and worker protections.

- Finally, John Christensen writes that climate justice and economic justice are both inseparable, and essential to a sustainable future.

[Edit: fixed typo.]

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

On crossed lines

Shorter Scott Moe:
Would-be bombers shouldn't be threatening locked-out workers. That's my job.

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Fluffy cat.

Tuesday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Ian Welsh highlights the false choice between lives and the economy which is being used an excuse to concentrate the power of the wealthy at the expense of both. And Paul Krugman makes the obvious point - yet one seemingly controversial among Republicans and Cons alike - that it's a success to help workers rather than condemning them to death.

- Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon reports on the latest move by the right to suppress facts about the coronavirus to that end, as the architect of Florida' lauded dashboard has been pushed out for insisting that it be used to provide accurate data. Caitlyn McGlade reports on Arizona's refusal to name nursing homes with known COVID-19 outbreaks because it might be bad for business. And Peter Geoghegan and Mary Fitzgerald discuss the UK culture war aimed at attacking the concepts of science and expertise.

- Shannon Osaka discusses the sleight of hand used by fossil fuel giants to claim to be pushing toward carbon neutrality while omitting the carbon pollution generated by their products.

- Shawn McCarthy notes that the pandemic only highlights the desperate need to act to rein in climate change. Michael Enright interviews Charles Taylor about his hope that we'll win the battle against a climate breakdown. And Akshat Rathi discusses the growing consensus as to the value of recovering from the COVID recession through a Green New Deal.

- But Mia Rabson reports that the Libs have decided to put even their already-meager environmental plans on hold while catering to the corporate class. And Beatrice Britneff reports that a modest increase to Old Age Security is likewise being delayed in favour of one-time relief, turning what would have been a predictable source of income into a single payment.

- Finally, Noah Berlatsky comments on "vice-signaling" as a prominent and growing facet of conservatism.

Monday, May 18, 2020

On breaches of trust

Among other lessons to be learned from the coronavirus pandemic, we should be taking the opportunity to ask ourselves what we expect from our leaders - and whether they're living up to the standards we need to set for the public good.

That represents more than a matter of choosing ideal leaders. It's been well documented that social trust is one of the crucial factors in allowing a society to survive a collective action problem. And while a single government alone may not be able to establish or eradicate trust altogether, its choices figure to heavily influence how people react to a crisis.

Which brings us to the multiple breakdowns of trust under Scott Moe and the Saskatchewan Party government - all of them directly affecting the decisions Saskatchewan people make, and all posing grave threats both in their first-order effects, and in their resulting damage to social trust.

Let's start with the simple matter of the facts about COVID-19, and the Saskatchewan Party's seeming conclusion that we're better off not knowing where we're at the most risk.

It was dubious enough when a previous outbreak at Lloydminster's hospital was suppressed from the public for a period of days. (And it's hardly any consolation that part of that time was the result of a lack of communication within the government which is supposed to be looking out for everybody.)

But this past week's news from Regina's Pasqua Hospital establishes a pattern of COVID-19 cases in hospitals being suppressed. And this time, that secrecy came with the added bonus of Moe cutting off the normal flow of COVID-19 reporting for the long weekend to avoid answering questions about it.

That deliberate non-disclosure creates immediate risks for anybody who decides to attend to an hospital without being told that there's a known issue on site. But even more perniciously, it also creates reason for suspicion everywhere else: if we can't count on cases being reported when they arise in medical facilities, then people may avoid necessary care when it could safely be provided. (And we should fully expect addressing a backlog in needed-but-not-urgent care to be a far higher priority than the recreational businesses at the top of Moe's priority list for reopening.)

Beyond what Moe's government deigns to tell us, our trust is also necessarily affected by its competence (or lack thereof) in responding to a pandemic.

There, Moe has blindly followed Alberta in ritual Ottawa-bashing aimed at Health Canada, only to wind up ordering tests that don't work because he wouldn't allow a federal regulator to do its job. The Saskatchewan Party failed utterly to provide needed resources for mental health generally and suicide prevention in particular, even while using those systemic problems as an excuse to reopen businesses and increase the risk of community transmission of COVID-19. And it's provided pitiful excuses for relief out of provincial coffers, even as Moe has postured about allowing the federal government to help at all without his say-so.

Finally, we come to a government's willingness to listen and accept both suggestions and criticism. And there too, all evidence is that both the interests of deeply affected people and vital lines of communication have been cut off by choice - paired with deception and denial as to who's been kept in the loop.

Just ask the essential workers who are being told at best that they have to use paid sick leave in order to follow public health orders, and at worst that they're not allowed to try to protect their health at all.

Or the leaders from Northern Saskatchewan who were forced to set up their own response team after urging the province take some action to stop an outbreak which they could see coming - only to have Moe ignore them entirely at the beginning, then falsely assert they'd been included once the public health damage was too obvious for him to say nothing.

And of course, the people's mechanism for holding the government to account remains shut down due to the personal whims of the Premier, even as he tries to point the finger at a party which doesn't have authority to reopen the Legislature. Once again, the pattern is both to reject the basic structures of social cohesion and response, and to be dishonest about how he's chosen to undermine them. 

Fortunately, Saskatchewan voters have the option of a leader whose reaction to a crisis is to do everything he can to help, rather than to try to keep the public strictly isolated from the truth. But it's tragic that we're having to see the consequences of the avoidable erosion of trust first.

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Martin Birt writes that we can never again ignore the importance and value of the people performing essential work. And Jennifer Keesmat argues that the patterns of life made necessary by the coronavirus point the way toward a far greater focus on building liveable neighbourhoods.

- John Stapleton highlights how many provinces are using the CERB and other COVID-19 benefits to reduce their own contribution to public health and welfare.

- Jonathan Freedland points out how authoritarians around the globe are using the coronavirus as an excuse to tighten their stranglehold on power.

- Christian Favreau discusses how the NDP has served as the effective opposition (in multiple sense of the word) to ensure people haven't been left behind in coronavirus relief measures. And Premila D'Sa reports on Charlie Angus' justified criticism of the Libs handing control over the distribution of vital public health supplies to Amazon.

- Scott Larson reports on how COVID-19 is exposing and exacerbating racism in Saskatchewan.

- Finally, Max Fawcett writes that Norway's disinvestment from the oil sands is just the latest indication that it's long past time for Alberta to stop denying both the climate crisis and its impact on investment decisions.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Yves Engler discusses how Canadian corporations have shown a consistent pattern of pursuing profit with no consideration of the public good.

- Marco Chown Oved, Kenyon Wallace and Brendan Kennedy analyze how corporate care homes have paid out massive executive compensation and brought in billions in profits while leaving their residents vulnerable to COVID-19. And Kevin Donovan reports that Ontario isn't bothering to track the spread of COVID-19 among personal care workers who are among the most likely to be exposed to it.

- Brittany Scott writes about the need to develop workers' power as part of the effort to make workplaces - and by implication, the public - more safe in the midst of a pandemic. And Steven Greenhouse notes that even in the U.S.' distorted media environment, the public is well aware that the deck is stacked against workers.

- Moira Wyton reports on the lack of any meaningful response to First Nations who have sought help in responding to the coronavirus.

- Karl Nerenberg highlights how the federal NDP has ensured that seniors, students and many others weren't left to fend without any coronavirus relief.

- Finally, Ashley Martin reports on the Regina activists finding new ways to reach people when physical protest is either impossible or less likely to be seen.