Saturday, July 18, 2020

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Murray Mandryk writes about the history behind the possibility of a large-scale irrigation project. But Jason Warick reports that in trying to make a snap decision, Scott Moe completely failed to consult with First Nations who stand to yet again lose land to unilateral decisions of governments who fail to consider their interests. And Jim Elliott questions why the Saskatchewan Party would prioritize an irrigation megaproject over the health and well-being of people.

- Justin Worland discusses how now may be our last chance to avert catastrophic climate breakdown. Jocelyn Timperley reports on Denmark's new law making further climate damage illegal, offering a far stronger blueprint for action than the Libs' theory that it's enough to require single projects to be emission-neutral 30 years in the future. And Paul Burke reports on new research confirming that carbon pricing is one of the ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

- Meanwhile, Mike de Souza reports on how oil lobbyists seized the opportunity of the COVID-19 pandemic to call in favours from Jason Kenney's UCP - and were rewarded with even more exemptions from environmental rules than they even thought to ask for.

- Lorian Hardcastle and Ubaka Ogbogu discuss how Kenney is trying to replace Alberta's public health care system with a morass of commercialism and cronyism.

- Erin Douglas reports on the health risks being dumped on mothers living near natural gas flaring. And Rick Smith offers a reminder that we're all being polluted by the microplastics around us - and all the more so as plastics producers push their wares in the wake of the coronavirus.

- Finally, Steve McKinley and Wanyee Li report on the call from Canada's police chiefs to decriminalize the personal possession and use of drugs.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Musical interlude

Iron and Wine - Passing Afternoon

Friday Afternoon Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Radheyan Simonpillai discusses new polling showing how COVID-19 has caused stress on multiple levels. Al Etmanski writes about the importance of continuing to operate based on a mindset of caring for each other even once the worst of the pandemic is over. And Katharine Viner interviews Naomi Klein about the dangers of merely returning to the status quo after a crisis which has exposed its unconscionability.

- Paris Marx suggests that governments respond to the factors which have led to both failed real estate investment and housing insecurity by turning vacant AirBNB properties into affordable housing.

- Moira Wyton discusses the widespread tragedy of drug overdose deaths in British Columbia, with hundreds of people now losing their lives every month. And Zak Vescera reports on the record number of overdoses taking place in Saskatoon even as Scott Moe's government refuses to fund any harm reduction.

- Meanwhile, Marie Agioritis and Jenny Churchill comment on the need to properly fund mental health and addictions services. And Erin Seatter points out the movement among health professionals calling for police funding to be diverted to public health supports.

- Finally, Thomas Walkom discusses the folly of fearmongering over deficits at a time when government support is necessary to sustain both citizens and businesses through a public health emergency.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

On foreign interference

Of course, while Scott Moe is accepting the plans of pseudo-separatists to hand Saskatchewan over to Jason Kenney, it's also worth asking what he's getting in return for his subservience.

On that front, the Breakdown has reported that public funds funnelled by Kenney into Alberta's War Room have been used to push citizens to hand over their personal data to both partisan and ideological cronies. And Jason Markusoff (citing Taylor Vaisey) has pointed out that the UCP has also been caught violating federal election law by failing to register as a third-party advertiser.

Unfortunately, due to the Saskatchewan Party's choice to keep its coffers full from outside corporate contributions, it's not clear to what extent UCP meddling would actually be a violation of Saskatchewan law. And the War Room's secrecy in particular makes it a certainty that inteference in the election campaign will be impossible to trace until after the fact.

But having chosen to facilitate outside interference, Moe can't expect the benefit of the doubt when it gives rise to questions. And Saskatchewan voters confronted with a blizzard of advertising - from both partisan and pressure-group sources - should be wary of where the money and direction is coming from.

On meritless demands

Mitchell Anderson is right to question why Jason Kenney is so obsessed with betting the pensions of every Albertan on dirty fossil fuels. And that goes doubly when his government's previous exercise in gambling with provincial wealth has produced massive losses due to a grossly flawed risk evaluation strategy.

But while there's every reason to see Kenney's actual plans as worrisome by any standard other than what best serves his corporate masters and donors, there's at least a theoretical argument to be made about exercising local and democratic control over a community's retirement savings.

It's less clear what argument there is to support putting another province's politically-directed and incompetent administrators in charge of the retirement savings of one's own constituents.

But Scott Moe is once again so locked into his role as Kenney's servant that he's outright saying there's somehow some merit in letting Alberta steal Saskatchewan's pensions for its own purposes. And the summer before an impending provincial election would be an ideal time for Saskatchewan's voters - along with responsible citizens across the country - to recognize their mutual interest in ensuring Moe doesn't have the opportunity to sell out Saskatchewan.

Thursday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- German Lopez surveys the growing body of research showing how masks help to slow the spread of COVID-19. John Michael McGrath points out the importance of focusing on making school settings safe, rather than prioritizing restaurants and bars. And Hannah Jackson reports on polling showing that Canadians are prepared to accept another shutdown if necessary to stop a second wave - though obviously responsible government now would be preferred over needing to respond to outbreaks later.

- Shelby Prokop-Millar highlights how a wealth tax would be both popular and productive in funding Canada's recovery from COVID-19.

- Meanwhile, Mia Rabson reports on the appalling bias of recovery funding toward boosting dirty fossil fuels rather than clean energy (or any other sustainable form of development). And Barry Saxifrage comments on both the continued rise in global greenhouse gas emissions, and Canada's embarrassing placement as one of the worst per-capita offenders.

- Anna Gross reports on new research showing how man-made emissions have caused Siberia's unprecedented heat wave. And Harry Cockburn discusses the catastrophic effects which could be produced by the melting of a single Antarctic glacier which is currently at risk.

- Finally, Fiona Odlum reports on how conditions in Saskatchewan's jails are even more inhumane than usual due to restrictions arising out of COVID-19. Alyshah Hasham discusses how a single criminal charge can trap a person in a cycle of legal restrictions and barriers. And Michael Spratt argues that we should view mandatory minimum sentences as not just pointless, but downright destructive of community safety.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Justin Ling discusses the dangers of the U.S.' fever swamp conspiracy theories as they get shared - and warped - for Canadian marks. Ryan Cooper writes about the conservative victimhood complex which has made it impossible for the U.S. to be governed in the public interest. And Megan Garber notes that the rise in media echo chambers - and connected decline in local news - has kept far too many people from having credible sources reporting on the world around them.

- Laurie Adkin and Ricardo Acuna highlight how Jason Kenney's UCP has taken direct aim at democratic rights and norms in Alberta to replace it with an unaccountable kleptocracy. Gil McGowan warns against Kenney's plans to replace any labour rights with U.S.-style anti-worker laws. And CBC News reports that the Municipality of Wood Buffalo is having to sue tar sands operators to pay taxes owing - even as the UCP shovels more and more money to the fossil fuel sector based on the laughable promise that it will pay off at some point.

- Greta Thunberg offers a travel diary from her efforts to motivate the world to finally act to avert climate breakdown. And Nerilie Abram, Matthew England and Matt King discuss the threat posed by the destabilization and disappearance of Antarctica's ice sheets.

- Meanwhile, Kevin Ma reports on the perpetually-increasing amount of electronic waste being disposed of every year.

- Finally, John Muscedere and Russell Williams write that seniors deserve far better than to be warehoused in for-profit long-term care operations - and that much of the answer may lie in ensuring supports are available to allow people to remain safely in their own homes.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Laundered cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Patrick Brethour, Caroline Alphonso and Dave McGinn write about the no-win situation facing parents being pushed back to work by governments who haven't bothered to match that demand with any effort to ensure the availability of child care. And Denise Ryan discusses how women in particular are being pushed out of the work force.

- Hamdi Issawi offers an indication as to what a return to school may look like this fall based on British Columbia's early efforts. And Pam Belluck, Apoorva Mandavilli and Benedict Carey take a look at what has and hasn't worked internationally.

- Mariana Mazzucato discusses the importance of ensuring the public shares in the gains from the economy it fosters.

- But Matt Stoller examines how the U.S.' trend toward monopolistic businesses pushed by private equity have instead concentrated wealth while leaving people and governments to manage losses. And Jane Mayer writes that the Trump administration has used a pandemic as an opportunity to further enrich corporate tycoons by dumping costs and risks onto workers.

- Jamil Zaki and Mina Cikara discuss the value of virtue signalling in shaping the social norms and expectations which can actually lead to improvements in substance. And Amna Akbar writes about how the new demands arising out of this year's chaos - including defunding police and cancelling rent - signal the potential for revolutionary change.

- Finally, Billy Bragg writes that the backlash against what's manipulatively termed "cancel culture" reflects little more than entrenched privilege seeking to avoid being challenged by voices who have recently been shut out.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Monday Afternoon Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Mariana Mazzucato and Robert Skidelsky propose a new economic framework in which our elected governments actually set priorities and ensure that development is carried out in the public interest.  Seema Jayachandran reminds us that social programs can more than pay for themselves, while also improving the well-being of people who would otherwise be left behind. And Seth Klein writes that the rapid and effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic should confirm that we can answer the climate crisis with a similarly positive transition to a law-carbon economy.

- Chris Varcoe highlights how Jason Kenney's large-scale bets on fossil fuels are already proving to be disastrous for Alberta. Mark Vandevelde discusses how much of our economy is built on an unsustainable foundation of corporate debt due to "financial engineering" designed to extract short-term value rather than create lasting prosperity. Richard Wolff writes about the dangers of obsessing over efficiency when it means failing to invest in preparation for foreseeable risks. And Ann Pettifor argues against Paul Wallace that our expectations in rebuilding from the coronavirus pandemic should involve a new and better system, not merely a return to business as usual.

- Alyse Kotyk reports on the effects of Vancouver's tax on empty homes - which has resulted in the construction of 269 affordable housing units for people who actually need them. 

- Jim Stanford calls out the corporate sector's laughable complaints about the availability of labour when any inability to hire is readily traceable to a refusal to offer reasonable wages and benefits.

- Finally, Jocelyn Solys-Moreira reports on new research showing how people mistake their own privilege for merit.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- T.M. Scanlon analyzes the dangerous effects of wealth inequality. And Philip Alston discusses how COVID-19 has only exposed an existing pandemic of poverty and inequality which was previously masked by grossly insufficient poverty lines:
The consequences of this highly unrealistic picture of progress against poverty have been devastating.

First, it is attributed to economic growth, justifying a “pro-growth” agenda characterised by deregulation, privatisation, lower taxes for corporations and the wealthy, easy movement of money across borders and excessive legal protections for capital. In my six years investigating governments’ anti-poverty efforts for the UN, I encountered this convenient alibi time and time again. Everything from tax breaks for the super-rich to destructive mega-projects that extract wealth from the global south are lauded as efforts to reduce poverty, when they do no such thing.

Presenting the agenda of the wealthy as the best road to poverty alleviation has entirely upended the social contract and redefined the public good as helping the rich get richer.

Second, the progress narrative has been used to drown out the appalling results so often brought about by this perversion of pro-growth policies. Many of the countries that have achieved great growth in GDP have also experienced exploding inequality, rising hunger, unaffordable health and housing costs, persistent racial wealth gaps, the proliferation of jobs that don’t pay a living wage, the dismantling of social safety nets and ecological devastation. These phenomena, directly related to neoliberal policies, are unaccounted for in the tale of heroic gains against poverty.
Until governments take seriously the human right to an adequate standard of living, the poverty pandemic will long outlive coronavirus. This requires them to stop hiding behind the World Bank’s miserable subsistence line and abandon triumphalism about the imminent end of poverty. Deeper social and economic transformation is imperative, to avert a climate catastrophe, provide universal social protection, achieve redistribution through tax justice and ultimately to really get on track to ending poverty.
- Robert Watcher discusses how California's initial strong response to COVID-19 gave way to carelessness and then massive outbreaks. Robert Reich writes about the difficulty in trying to respond to crises while the U.S. Presidency and Senate are controlled by men bent on destroying effective government. And Pankaj Mishra notes that both the U.S. and UK have deliberately undermined their own public capacity just in time for its absence to hurt as much as possible.

 - Nik Koskal interviews Lezlie Lowe about the need for publicly-available washrooms - particularly in the midst of a pandemic where sanitization is even more vital than usual.

- Jordan Press reports on the justified push by Canadian labour to ensure essential workers receive a living wage while risking their health for the public.

- David Climenhaga discusses how the Kenney UCP is looking to take Alberta back to the era of child labour. And CBC News reports on how a shift toward increased health care privatization will ensure that treatment is only available to people with money to burn.

- Finally, Rob Mahon reports on the Saskatchewan NDP's criticism of Scott Moe's choice to hand outside businesses and workers the bulk of SaskPower's construction work. And Wayne Mantyka reports that the Sask Party is going far out of its way to break the promise that it would stop at privatizing liquor retailing, but leave warehousing in the hands of the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority.