Saturday, July 25, 2020

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Crawford Kilian examines a few crucial questions as to what Canada needs to keep, throw away and modify based on the lessons learned from COVID-19. And the Globe and Mail's editorial board agrees with Kilian that austerity belongs on the scrap heap.

- Andrew Nikiforuk writes about the need for masked crusaders to defeat the coronavirus in our communities. And Barb Konstantynowicz calls on Saskatchewan residents to keep doing everything we can to limit the spread of COVID-19 - even in the face of pressures to act as if the pandemic was behind us. 

- Amina Zafar writes about the need for precautions to keep people safe in health-care workplaces in particular. Melody Schreiber examines what's needed to reopen schools safely, while Sarah Gibbens looks at what we know so far about the impact of the coronavirus on children. And Daniella Ponticelli reports on the concerns of parents that children with intensive needs aren't being supported in the Saskatchewan Party's plan for a return to school.

- Kevin Carmichael examines the harm being done to women's careers by a pandemic which has both disproportionately affected female-dominated workplaces, and added to already-unsustainable child care burdens. Ysh Cabana discusses how COVID-19 has exposed Canada's reliance on temporary foreign workers, particular in our food supply chain. And Hayley Brown notes that the pandemic has had especially severe effects on workers with disabilities.

- Finally, Grace Blakeley discusses how the obscenely rich are only consolidating their wealth and power while the rest of the human race confronts a crisis - while noting that everybody else would be better off if we can escape from their domination:
Far from representing its social utility, Amazon’s market value – and Bezos’ personal wealth – reflects its market power. And the rising market power of a small number of larger firms has actually reduced productivity. This concentration has also constrained investment and wage growth as these firms simply don’t have to compete for labour, nor are they forced to innovate in order to out-compete their rivals. 

In fact, they’re much more likely to use their profits to buy back their own shares, or to acquire other firms that will increase their market share and give them access to more data. Amazon’s recent acquisition of grocery store Whole Foods is likely to be the first of many such moves by tech companies. Rather than the Darwinian logic of compete or die, the tech companies face a different imperative: expand or die. 

States are supporting this logic with exceptionally loose monetary policy. Low interest rates make it very easy for large companies to borrow to fund mergers and acquisitions. And quantitative easing – unleashed on an unprecedented scale to tackle the pandemic – has simply served to raise equity prices, especially for the big tech companies.

As more areas of our lives become subject to the power of big tech, the fortunes of people like Bezos will continue to mount. Their rising wealth will not represent a reward for innovation or jobs creation, but for their market power, which has allowed them to increase the exploitation of their workforces, gouge suppliers and avoid tax.  

The only real way to tackle these inequities is to democratise the ownership of the means of production, and begin to hand the key decisions in our economy back to the people. But you would expect that even social democrats, who won’t pursue transformative policies, could get behind measures such as a wealth tax.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Musical interlude


Friday Afternoon Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Amanda Follett Hosgood reports on the environmental damage being done to Wet’suwet’en territory as (pointless) pipeline construction is again being given precedence over environmental protection. And Reuters reports that Zurich has become the latest insurer to decide it doesn't see TransMountain as an acceptable risk, leaving the public holding the bag even as the Libs continue to push forward.

- Leah Stokes reports on the $61 million bribery scandal - including both the Speaker of the House and corporate executives - that resulted in Ohio providing massive handouts to nuclear and fossil fuel power operators while shutting down any transition to clean energy.

- Megha Rajagopalan writes about the cosmetic industry's attempts both to push skin lightening as a necessary cosmetic step, and to bully into submission anybody who questioned it.

- Andrea Germanos writes about the Federal Court of Canada's decision striking down the Safe Third Country agreement between Canada and the U.S. on the basis that the latter doesn't actually provide effective protection for refugees.

- Finally, PressProgress discusses the Saskatchewan Party's reliance on corporate donations from Alberta and elsewhere - and the result that Saskatchewan's citizens have been ignored in favour of oil tycoons.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Edward Xie and Danyaal Raza make the case for a basic services model to ensure people's needs are met as we recover from the coronavirus pandemic:
Meeting universal basic needs for participation, health and independence is not a simple consumer choice. Rather, it’s a minimum condition to ensure a vibrant and thriving democratic society. Sadly, personal income alone cannot create more space in a child-care centre, more beds in a well-staffed care home, or more rail and bus routes. You may have more money, but are you empowered to live and sustain a richer life?

What if more income wasn’t the only path to a better life? A basic service we’ve all experienced is so deep-seated that we take it for granted: we pay taxes for our public health-care system, but it’s free to use when we need it and supported as a matter of civic pride. Our health systems are further supported by monitoring and standards to address the variety of ways the benefits of health can be achieved. As our neighbours to the south know all too well,  trying to purchase a public good like this, out of your own pocket and through private markets, can quickly become expensive in a life-altering way. Yet we haven’t carried this lesson over to other basic services.

The truth is that Canada lags other rich countries in social spending for public programs that improve health, assist children and seniors, and protect us from poverty and unemployment. Research shows that we stand to reap large rewards from boosting our basic health and social services. In their absence, COVID-19 has exposed these long-standing gaps as a precarious reality for too many of us in Canada.

Broadening the scope of what might transition from the CERB, a national approach to public “basic services” complements the undisputed importance of income by ensuring our shared needs are securely met in an uncertain world. It’s already supported by experts in the UK and Canada. They point out that the greatest needs are those that form a basic standard of living and support the determinants of health: clean water, pharmacare, safe and affordable housing, good-quality child and long-term care, and transportation and internet services that rapidly connect this vast country, among others. 

Calling them “basic” recognizes that these services are building blocks for a strong society, as essential for a thriving nation as roads and bridges, and an essential responsibility of governments to deliver. For workers stranded by changing trends in labour conditions and the economic shutdown, expanding access to basic services may provide lasting support while maintaining impetus for better employment standards. Ensuring access to high-quality basic services for everyone can also begin to address existing injustices, particularly to Indigenous peoples, with inclusive design and adequate funding from the start.
- Meanwhile, Rosa Saba reports on yet more research showing how residents in for-profit long-term care facilities have suffered far worse health outcomes than those in public or not-for-profit homes.

- The Atkinson Foundation has offered a set of recommendations to ensure that Employment Insurance actually provides replacement income for the people who need it. And Dennis Gruending offers a look at how the NDP has pushed for vital supports in response to COVID-19 in light of the consistent choices of the Libs and Cons to strip EI of needed capacity.

- Van Badham comments on the absurdity of right-wing politicians continuing to attack unemployed people for failing to find nonexistent work in the midst of a pandemic. And Nick Bonyhady reports that some unions in Australia are seeing their membership grow as workers recognize the need for a voice and a power base in the workplace.

- Finally, Emily Pasiuk reports on the Saskatchewan parents who are increasingly (and justifiably) worried about Scott Moe's decision to reopen schools without giving any meaningful thought to how that can be done safely. And Poverty Free Saskatchewan highlights just a few of the elements of the Saskatchewan Party's pandemic budget which cry out for improvement.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Allison Hanes reminds us that there is no escaping the reality of COVID-19 - and any attempt to take a vacation from the measures needed to keep people safe will only ensure that it does more damage. John Michael McGrath argues that Ontario (like other provinces) should be prioritizing education over the reopening of bars. And Katherine Scott examines how any recovery so far has been distinctly weighted against women.

- Meanwhile, Ailsa Chang interviews Monica Gandhi about new research showing that masks protect their wearers as well as the people around them - making them as important from the standpoint of naked self-interest as from a more altruistic point of view. And Marc Frank reports that Cuba's focus on public health has allowed it to stop the local transmission of COVID-19.

- Karen McVeigh reports on António Guterres' call to remediate the gross inequalities exposed by the coronavirus pandemic. And Jason Hickel warns against accepting that we're making meaningful progress in alleviating global poverty based on arbitrary definitions which leave billions short of the necessities of life.

- Liette Gilbert and Anna Zalik discuss why oil spills and train derailments are continuing to happen - with a focus on regulations aimed only at financial risks rather than environmental ones. And Megan Evans writes that corporate forces will never produce just environmental outcomes without governments taking the lead role in regulating and shaping economic development.

- Finally, Emma McIntosh reports on the finding of Ontario's Auditor General that the Ontario PCs have broken the law in granting themselves unilateral authority to gut environmental regulations without consultation or review. And Dan Bloom reports that having plunged their country into both a chaotic Brexit and a public health nightmare, the UK Cons have now voted to allow their public health system to be put on the auction block in trying to salvage trade deals.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Cats at play.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Shannon Daub. Alex Hemingway and Marc Lee examine the strong consensus among the B.C. public that the recovery from COVID-19 should build a more equitable and sustainable society. The CCPA has released its alternative federal budget plan to show how that could look from a national perspective. And Nelson Bennett discusses how home retrofits are one of the key investments to produce both jobs and environmental improvements.

- Andre Picard makes the case that getting children back to school should be our top priority in managing the contact which is permitted and facilitated. And Clare Malone takes note of the lack of any response to a child care crisis which has only been more fully exposed by COVID-19.

- Brittany Andrew-Amofah and Angella MacEwen offer a primer as to what sick leave policies should include. David Sirota writes about the employers who are instead pushing for governments to force workers to jeopardize their health in unsafe jobs for want of any other means of survival. Doug Schmidt reports on the grossly insufficient food and health supports being provided to quarantined migrant workers. And Jim Stanford helpfully offers up some euphemisms which employers will use to mask their exploitation of workers.

- Janyce McGregor reports that it was the Trudeau Libs who came up with the idea of trying to foist sub-minimum-wage pay on young people even as they set up a program to allow a well-connected charity to take a substantial cut of any money provided. And Jordan Press reports on the Libs' plans to use the coronavirus recovery as an opportunity to turn social programs into corporate profit centres. 

- David Carden writes that we can fund our pandemic recovery by recovering the wealth hidden in tax havens. And Kimberly Clausing, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman study (PDF) how to recoup the "tax deficit" of multinational corporations which have exploited a race-to-the-bottom mentality to avoid paying their fair share.

- Finally, Melanee Thomas writes about the rampant sexism underlying Alberta's power structure reflected in the surveillance of Shannon Phillips by police as she carried out her duties as a cabinet minister. And Emma May discusses how even the supposed boom times for the province have been marked by thoroughly toxic masculinity, rather than substantial improvements in the lives of women.

Monday, July 20, 2020

On evident waste

There doesn't seem to be much dispute that the Saskatchewan Party is thumbing its nose at the movement to defund the police by making a point of announcing funding increases without any consideration as to how services could better be delivered through other organizations.

But one doesn't have to be part of the defunding movement to see how that allocation of money reflects an obvious misallocation of provincial resources.

After all, some of the obvious effects of the COVID-19 crisis have been to reduce the need for a police footprint in many areas.

Traffic tickets in particular fell by more than half in the wake of the coronavirus (and traffic generally dropped precipitously), as people have made the responsible choice to stay home rather than following normal traffic patterns.

And crime in general is down significantly, even as the dangers to health and life from drug overdoses (which police departments aren't equipped to address) have soared.

Even leaving aside any discussion of whether our police structures should be revisited on a systematic basis, then, all evidence is to the effect that our current operations have less need for financial resources than usual.

That makes funding bumps a matter of politically-motivated government waste, as well reflecting the Saskatchewan Party's obsession with the security state. And the voters who stand to see their social supports cut if Moe gets the opportunity after an election - or who want to see the province ensure that additional COVID-19 costs are funded in sectors including education and health care - have every reason to vote out a government devoted to spending on unneeded policing instead.

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Scott Gilmore wonders whether we'll use the lessons of COVID-19 to set up our own "tsunami stones" to prevent future crises. But Tom McCarthy notes that the U.S. - thanks largely to an administration that has gone out of its way to avoid acting based on scientific information - is first set to be swamped by a second wave. 

- Sussanne Skidmore discusses the win-win outcomes that result when workers have access to paid sick leave.

- Nick Pettigrew writes about the life of an UK "antisocial behaviour officer" in a system designed to restrict access to the resources people need to live healthy lives.

- David Shukman writes about the impending threat that our climate breakdown could render summers too hot for humans. And Rakteem Katakey reports on Shell's announcement that it's fine with the UK imposing an outright ban on new gasoline-powered vehicles by 2030 - signalling the utter folly in building pipelines with no purpose other than to keep pushing oil into a nonexistent market for decades beyond that time.

- But Arthur White-Crummey reports that even as Scott Moe throws every nickel that isn't tied down at extractive fuel sectors, the Saskatchewan Party has destroyed the residential solar energy industry which represents the future of energy in the province. 

- Finally, Stephen Maher discusses how the RCMP may be broken (or obsolete) beyond repair. And Doug Cuthand highlights the need to make recompense for a history which was intended to exclude Indigenous people (and other minorities) from full involvement in Canadian life.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Iglika Ivanova examines who has lost jobs to COVID-19, and who needs public support to be able to return to the workforce. Tara Deschamps reports on an RBC study showing women's participation in the workforce has been set back three decades by the coronavirus pandemic and the male-focused policy response. And the Economist makes the case that school reopening is at the top of the priority list in determining what interactions should be allowed and funded.

- Kathryn Blaze Baum reports on the Libs' failure to enforce rules which would have protected migrant workers from COVID-19.

- Larry Summers and Anna Stansbury write about the importance of empowering workers to bargain collectively for better than they can force employers to offer by themselves. William Harris discusses the value of building working-class cultural institutions beyond labour and tenants' unions. And David Frayne argues that the disruption to an already-problematic status quo should lead us to rethink the insistence that only people with traditional paid employment be treated as worthy of public support.

- John Ibbitson discusses how the Trudeau Libs resolutely refuse to learn any lessons from scandals borne out of an overarching sense of entitlement. And Yves Engler notes that the real problem with the WE scandal is the development of tourist volunteerism intended to bolster the status quo as a substitute for grassroots organizing to actually pursue change.

- Finally, Gil McGowan discusses the growing authoritarian tendencies of right-wing politicians - and need for citizens to force a reversal of that pattern both at the ballot box and in their communities.