Saturday, September 19, 2020

Saturday Morning Links

 Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Jack Goldstone and Peter Turchin offer an introduction to what they anticipate will be the Turbulent Twenties, while noting the need for the U.S. to develop a new social contract to shift from its current path.

- Meanwhile, Hadley Freeman rightly challenges the propensity of people in power to claim that any attempt to pursue accountability represents unreasonable politicization.

- Reuters examines how Big Pharma has sought to covertly undermine any effort to rein in prescription drug prices (including those related to a COVID-19 vaccine). And the New York Times reports on the Trump administration's interference with CDC reports to make supposedly neutral information fit the Republican agenda.  

- Sarath Peiris writes about the Moe government's grossly insufficient response to the public health dangers of HIV and addictions. And Jennifer Francis reports on the end of Tristen Durocher's brave trek to advocate for action against suicide - and Moe's callous unwillingness to cross the street to meet Durocher after his walk from Air Ronge.

- Finally, Jacob Hamburger writes about the mass cruelty which forms the basis of the U.S.' immigration detention system. And Aaron Holmes reports on the use - and abuse - of a predictive algorithm by a Florida sheriff's office to criminalize entire communities.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Musical interlude

 Louise Burns - Just Walk Away

On misleadership

When the COVID-19 pandemic was first declared, there was relatively little pushback against the most extreme (if necessary) steps which were taken out of a lack of knowledge of the coronavirus. 

At that time of uncertainty, we generally accepted that the only responsible response was to shut down non-essential activity until we had a better idea how to control its transmission. And indeed, a strong majority of people remain willing to do the same should it prove necessary.

Fortunately, the scientific understanding of COVID-19 has advanced to the point where we know it's possible to limit transmission while permitting a substantial number of activities which had been prohibited - as long as people wear a mask in the process. And a strong majority of people are willing to do that as well.

But given the high level of social responsibility actually expressed by the general public, it's absolutely unconscionable that so many governments continue to refuse to take basic steps to restrain COVID-19's spread. 

It of course only takes a small group of irresponsible people to cause a superspreading event. Which means that for the moment, some of the most important decisions leaders face involve their willingness to make clear that the public interest in controlling COVID-19 outweighs the dubious complaints of an ill-informed few. 

Yet Saskatchewan has seen Scott Moe not only refuse to mandate that people wear masks, but go out of his way to contradict his own public health officials by telling people it's fine not to bother wearing one. 

Instead, he's pointing to what appear to be outdated assumptions about physical distancing as being the sole precaution needed, while sending a continuous message that people shouldn't have any hesitation to prioritize their own comfort or aesthetic preferences over the dangers of a lethal disease. 

It's hard to see what Moe thinks he's accomplishing with that position. At this point, the number of people bothering to publicly object to mask requirements in Saskatchewan is strikingly similar to the death toll seen in adjacent states which haven't kept COVID-19 under reasonable control.  

But for now, one of the key layers of protection against the coronavirus relies on on Saskatchewan's people being far more responsible than their premier. And there's every reason to hold Moe responsible for putting us all at readily-avoidable risk.

Friday Morning Links

 Assorted content to end your week.

- David Roberts examines a few of the ways to conceptualize the share of responsibility for climate change. And while the most crucial reality is the need for everybody to take steps (and not just incremental ones) to avert a climate breakdown, Vernon Loeb, Marianne Lavelle and Stacy Feldman highlight how a second Trump term alone could do irremediable damage to our planet.

- Moira Wyton writes about the roles of connectedness and resilience in mitigating the health effects of the damage we've already done. And CBC News talks to George Monbiot about the importance of a politics of belonging to reclaim power from the wealthy few.

- Hiroko Tabuchi reports that the longtime deception from the fossil fuel sector is far from finished, as oil executives privately acknowledge they're doing little if anything to stop especially-harmful methane emissions.

- Leslie Evans Ogden discusses the long-anticipated growth of geothermal power as a source of baseload electricity in Canada. And Arthur White-Crummey reports on the Saskatchewan NDP's commitment to prioritize geothermal development as part of its work to develop a clean energy grid.

- Robert Palmer notes that the combination of upper-class tax slashing and general austerity remains thoroughly despised by the general public when accurately presented as such.

- Finally, Sara Birrell reports on new research as to the devastating public health impacts of the Saskatchewan Party's shuttering of STC.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Thomas Christopher Lange studies (PDF) the costs and effects of two dental care options, and concludes Canada would be best served with a universal dental care system. And Colleen Floyd and Jane Philpott highlight how increased reliance on private payments would do nothing but harm to our health care system.

- Greg Jericho rightly points out that a willingness to relax coronavirus restrictions does nothing to help anybody's economy if the virus continues to spread. Rachael D'Amore reports on the obvious risk that we'll see a spike in poverty in Canada as relief is terminated while a pandemic continues to rage. And Jennifer Yang and Brendan Kennedy discuss the impossible dilemma facing lower-income families who have to choose between their health and their children's education.

- Meanwhile, Forward Together proposes a plan to ensure that Canadians are taken care of through the continuing pandemic and its aftermath, while the Atkinson Foundation offers some pillars for a federal throne speech. And the Canadian Press reports on Toronto's first step to offer a dedicated shelter for people unable to self-isolate at home.

- Alyson Krueger warns that the demands developing around work from home under a quarantine threaten the concept of time off work as we know it.  

- Amina Zafar discusses the toll COVID-19 has taken on female immigrant health care workers in particular. And Indi Samarajiva calls out the racism underlying media coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

- Finally, CBC News reports on the record number of children dying in the care of Saskatchewan's child welfare system. 

Monday, September 14, 2020

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Bruce Campbell makes the case for the federal throne speech to be ambitious in dealing with our concurrent crisis of public health, climate breakdown and inequality. But Karl Belanger writes that all signs instead point to the Libs using the opportunity to play political games.

- Georgina Hayes reports on new research showing that face masks serve to reduce the COVID-19's severity as well as its spread. And Renée Filippone writes about the success of Denmark's return to school - though it's worth noting the significance of their underlying choice to prioritize public health and education over reopening businesses.

- On that front, CTV News reports on the continued lack of testing capacity in Saskatchewan even as Scott Moe makes implausible promises. Arthur White-Crummey points out how the coronavirus is affecting Saskatchewan's election campaign.

- Peter Gleick writes that the current wave of explosive wildfires should offer an urgent climate wake-up call for anybody who wasn't yet paying attention. And Elizabeth Renzetti comments on the need not to pretend the disasters we're experiencing are anything close to natural.

- Finally, Laura Sullivan exposes how much of the pitch for recycling plastics has been a con by the oil industry seeking to pretend their products weren't known to cause long-lasting environmental damage.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Heather Scoffield writes that contrary to the spin from corporate mouthpieces, workers have been eager to find work when it's been available in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. And John Cartwright comments on the need for a recovery to be just and equitable for everybody.

- Instead, Anand Giridharidas highlights how it's billionaires who have taken advantage of the coronavirus to line their pockets with unprecedented fortunes, while Oxfam examines how COVID-19 has exacerbated inequality and allowed employers to put even more extreme pressure on workers. And Ed Yong writes about the U.S.' coronavirus death spiral.

- Paul Vallely discusses how philanthropy serves the wealthiest few, rather than the people who are supposed to benefit from charitable contributions.

- George Monbiot discusses how the UK is relying on little more than corruption for its political and economic foundation. And Deirdre Mitchell-MacLean points out how the model of "fiscal conservatism" at the base of Western Canada's right-wing parties involves brutal austerity for the people who can least afford it, but extremely loose spending when it comes to political friends and donors.

- Finally, Dan Fumano reports on the successes of British Columbia's new regulator which has been taking long-needed steps to improve the condition of rental housing since the province finally elected a government interested in the public's well-being. And Jordan Press reports on the push from municipalities to ensure that available housing is made affordable for people who need it, rather than turning into a cash cow for already-wealthy property managers.