Saturday, October 10, 2020

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Alisha Haridasani Gupta discusses why so many women have been excluded from the workforce during the course of the coronavirus pandemic. And Kathryn Marshall comments on the epidemic of violence against women - as well as the need to intervene before abuse reaches that point.

- Max Fawcett points out that the threat of Alberta separatism is laughable even as a bluff. And Graham Thomson discusses how Jason Kenney is taking Alberta backward while the rest of the world moves ahead without it. 

- Janice Dickson reports that Canadians are rightly open to welcoming immigrants and refugees. And Trevor Tombe and Daniel Schwanen point out that Alberta (or any province) would benefit from attracting workers to stay in the longer term - which is worth distinguishing from the temporary labour that's so common in much of the province's current model. 

- Jesse Firempong exposes the fossil fuel sector's latest stall tactic against climate action, consisting of trying to demoralize people by claiming that resistance to a climate breakdown is futile. 

-  Finally, Seth Klein writes about the importance of fighting climate change and inequality together, rather than allowing precarious work and life situations to serve as an argument for environmental destruction. And Bill Curry reports on Jagmeet Singh's push for an excess profits tax - among other taxes on the wealthy - to fund our recovery and reconstruction.

Friday, October 09, 2020

Musical interlude

 Modjo - Lady

On irrational forces

As Saskatchewan voters consider our options in this month's provincial election, Alberta's UCP could hardly be more clear in offering reminders of the cost of putting reckless right-wingers in charge. And this week, the most prominent development on that front has been the decision to pay $2 million for some decision-based evidence-making in order to pave the way for a provincial police force.

David Climenhaga has pointed out the strong likelihood that the result would be an aggressive and violent force aimed at attacking civil liberties in the name of property interests. Others have noted that the UCP is brazenly lying about the public's disapproval of the plan, and hand-waving away the much higher cost of operating a provincial force.

But with Alberta barging ahead in the face of all evidence and logic, it's time for a mid-campaign reminder that this is another issue where Scott Moe is serving as an echo for Jason Kenney rather than a leader for Saskatchewan - threatening to pay more for worse services pursue out of little more than manufactured spite toward Ottawa and the desire to cater to Wexiteers.

And as I've noted before, the reasons for concern about effectiveness and cost are even more severe for Saskatchewan than Alberta. We don't have to limit ourselves to theoretical worries about what new police structures might do: after all, Moe's own highway patrol has been caught stockpiling weapons which go far beyond its mandate, as well as handing training contracts to purveyors of hate.

It would be a simple matter for Moe to say that he's not going to waste anybody's time with the preposterous suggestion to pay more for a destructive and ineffective provincial police service - particularly as he claims there's no money around to actually help Saskatchewan's citizens. 

But once again, the Saskatchewan Party is more interested in serving the UCP and the separatist right than focusing on what's best for citizens. And the province's voters should be eager to ensure that warped set of priorities isn't rewarded.

Friday Morning Links

 Assorted content to end your week.

- Joshua Schiffer highlights how the best response to COVID-19 for now involves the use of imperfect but easily-applied means of reducing its spread, rather than doing nothing until some perceived perfect answer is available. And Jessica Corbett reports on Oxfam's new study showing how the lack of policies to assist workers and reduce inequality left many countries completely unprepared to respond to a pandemic. 

-  Austan Goolsbee points out how the largest corporations are using the pandemic as an opportunity to further expand their monopolistic control. And Annie Lowrey writes that the increased wealth at the top is exactly why the Trump administration hasn't so much as recognized any economic problem with the increased precarity facing most of the U.S.

- Alex Hemingway weighs in on the benefits citizens receive from public vehicle insurance as the B.C. Libs try to undermine ICBC for good. And Christine Saulnier offers a reminder of the dangers of P3s in allowing corporate predators to raid the public purse based on the experiences of Newfoundland and Labrador.

- Sir David Attenborough discusses the need to rein in the excesses of capitalism in order to preserve a liveable environment. Reuters examines how thawing permafrost is just one of the byproducts of climate change which may ultimately accelerate a planetary breakdown. Fiona Harvey reports on new research showing how close much of the Amazon is to converting from a rainforest to a savannah - again with devastating effects which would reverberate around the globe.

- Meanwhile, Geoff Leo reports on the continued lack of study or remediation of the site of Regina's long-defunct Imperial Oil refinery.

- PressProgress examines the connections between spurious astroturf attacks on Sikh-Canadians, and fossil fuel-funded efforts to turn India into an increased export market. 

- Finally, Marc Lee discusses Vancouver's moves to encourage more dense housing development, while noting the need to ensure a city's revenue matches the need for more concentrated services. And Randy Burton calls out the backward thinking behind Rob Norris' attempts to torpedo the construction of a new Saskatoon central library.

Thursday, October 08, 2020

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Marc Lee examines the folly of the B.C. Libs' plan to slash the province's PST rather than investing in any recovery. And Chris Giles reports that even the IMF is pushing governments to boost public spending, rather than going through still more harmful rounds of austerity and tax cuts. 

- Max Fawcett discusses the emerging recognition that Canada has little to fear from right-wing threats about fiscal discipline. And Jason Hickel suggests that MMT is entirely consistent with both a move toward responsible degrowth, and a fairer distribution of income and assets.

- Amberley T. Ruetz, Evan Fraser and John Smithers make the case for a national school food program as part of Canada's recovery. And the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer studies (PDF) the eminently affordable cost of ensuring everybody has access to dental care. 

- Jeff Tollefson discusses how U.S. science could take decades to recover from the damage inflicted by Donald Trump in a single term.

- Finally, Mark Campanale and Tzeporah Berman propose a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty to prevent bad actors from undermining any effort to avert climate catastrophe. And Jillian Ambrose reports on the energy sector workers who are eager to be part of a lasting transition to clean energy as long as reactionary governments aren't standing in the way.

No time like the present

 Shorter Scott Moe (with an uninformed boost from Murray Mandryk):

An election is no time to assess the suitability of candidates for public office.

Needless to say, we've heard a similar proclamation when it came to policy. And we can only hope Moe's view of keeping political matters away from voters is met with the same electoral response.

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

On healthier politics

While Saskatchewan's election campaign is noteworthy in part for the callousness of the incumbent, it's particularly significant due to the contrast between the leaders of the two primary parties.

Others have already written plenty about Ryan Meili's defining traits as a leader. Of note, I'll point to Tammy Robert's post which is again making the rounds...

Ryan genuinely cares about everyone’s wellbeing. For example, he and I used to clash about needle exchange programs and safe-injection sites all the time, until he finally asked me why I was so okay with unsafe-injection sites all over the province, since they’re far more dangerous to and expensive for the rest of us.

That shut me up and changed my mind pretty quick. Some may say (they’re wrong, obviously) that isn’t an easy thing to do. But it did cement my theory that Ryan would be a great premier of Saskatchewan. He often spins his take on how government impacts our daily lives as the metrics of a healthy life (or something like that, I don’t know), but to me it’s just compassion plus common sense: two qualities which, in my mind, embody leadership. well as Stephen Whitworth's campaign interview:

Meili — a family doctor and community organizer who won the party leadership in 2018 after unsuccessful runs in 2009 and 2013 — has a lot to say. Over a half-hour or so we discussed issues that don’t seem to be priorities for Scott Moe’s Saskatchewan Party government but matter a lot to those of us who want Saskatchewan to be somewhere people love to live, as opposed to a worksite handing out resource paycheques that get cashed in other provinces.

More than any election since I’ve lived in Saskatchewan, Meili’s common-sense policy platform embodies the NDP at its best: practical ideas that work and make regular people’s lives better. 

And for those looking for a summary of Meili's candidacy from his own perspective, I'll point to 20:30 of his fireside chat with Aleana Young. 

I'll then take the opportunity to add my voice as well. (And while it isn't news that I've long been a supporter of Meili's, I've continued to be impressed at how he's adapted to the pressures of leading a party without losing sight of what has motivated people to support him.)

This isn't merely the typical election featuring a right-wing party with obviously-dangerous plans, and a milquetoast centre-left-ish party whose best argument is that it represents the most plausible means to limit the damage.  

Instead, Meili stands out among the NDP's recent leaders - not just in Saskatchewan, but anywhere in Canada with the possible exception of Gary Burrill - in offering a powerful and cohesive vision, along with the judgment to work toward it in ways that are both practical and sustainable. And that's led in turn to the cultivation of a strong group of candidates who both share and enhance it.

That distinction between Meili and other nominally progressive leaders doesn't mean I'll agree with his choices on everything. Indeed, the one controversy manufactured by the Sask Party during the campaign represents an example of Meili taking an arguably pragmatic line (which I'll acknowledge is also consistent with the expressed will of NDP members), rather than adopting what I'd see as the superior policy stance. 

But it does mean that rather than voting for the lesser of two evils, we actually have a chance to elect a government which will move the needle in a positive direction. 

So with that in mind, I'll again encourage readers to donate (which again can be done from across the country), to volunteer, and to get the word out about the healthier society the Saskatchewan NDP is offering. And if we do our part now, it may not be long before Saskatchewan can once again help to chart the course toward a more just and equitable Canada.

Wednesday Morning Links

 Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Matt Gurney laments Ontario's utter failure to use months of lead time and information from around the world to make any meaningful preparations for a foreseeable fall wave of the coronavirus, while Bruce Arthur notes that Doug Ford is too busy denying the problem to do anything to ameliorate it. And the editorial boards of the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix and Regina Leader-Post make the point that vigilance in controlling the spread of COVID-19 is the only way to win any freedom as long as it's around.

- Lydia Wheeler and Paige Smith report on the lingering effects of COVID-19 even after people are declared to have recovered. And Shanita Hubbard writes about the realities of COVID-19 for families who don't enjoy Donald Trump's access to top-level, publicly-provided health care. 

- Grant Robertson reports on the federal government's awareness of the risks it created by dismantling its existing pandemic alert system. And Camille Bains points out that a failure to engage with the workers who deal with COVID-19 on the front lines was yet again a source of weakness in government responses.

- Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, William Kimball and Thomas Kochanexamine the preferences of American workers - and find strong support for unionization (under existing and new models) even as public policy is set up to preclude that possibility. And Adam Dean, Atheendar Venkataramani and Simeon Kimmel find that unionized nursing homes have better outcomes for residents than those with no counterweight to corporate control.

- Don Pittis discusses the looming likelihood of a K-shaped recovery, in which any growth in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic will be concentrated at the top of the income pyramid. And Peter Whoriskey, Douglas MacMillan and Jonathan O'Connell  chart how the U.S.' bailout was targeted to hand far more money to the people who needed it least.

- Finally, Chris Alders writes about the Kenney UCP's choice to push Alberta toward authoritarianism. But Scott Payne offers some hope that Kenney's war on women in particular may end his stay in power after a single term.

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

 Cuddly cats.

The emptiest of words

I've posted before about the emptiness of Scott Moe's statements about the vehicle crash in which he killed one innocent person and injured another. But as the story has resurfaced in the course of Saskatchewan's election campaign, it's worth noting that Moe's response is only looking weaker by the minute.

While Moe's talking points regularly include a statement about living with the consequences every day of his life, he's conspicuously avoided any substance as to what that means. 

One might ask whether having been responsible for a death would lead to greater appreciation and concern for human life. But Moe has fairly clearly ruled that out by thumbing his nose at attempts to get his government to reduce the mounting death tolls from overdoses and suicides

One might think he'd be particularly vigilant about highway safety. But after briefly introducing some additional measures in the wake of the Humboldt Broncos tragedy, Moe used COVID as cover to announce that truck drivers could stay on the road more than 13 hours per day. 

And one might think that while repeating a message which consistently mentions the other family affected, Moe might have made some effort to reach out to them to take responsibility and offer his apologies. But Steven Balog's apparent shock at just now learning that Moe was responsible would appear to rule that out. 

So all indications suggest a complete disconnect between the lessons one could plausibly draw from being responsible for a tragedy, and Moe's personal and political choices thereafter. (Indeed, it's always seemed bizarre that anybody could walk away from such a tragedy and be inspired to do everything in one's power to further enrich the corporate donor class.)

Ultimately, it seems that if Moe has learned a lesson, it's that no amount of harm he does to others will lead to meaningful consequences for himself. And it's hard to imagine a more dangerous mindset in a premier.

Tuesday Morning Links

 This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Elizabeth Kolbert examines three of the main scenarios for our climate future - with the option of using existing technology to make a full transition to a clean society in time to limit our climate breakdown remaining on the table for now. And Katy Daigle writes about Katharine Hayhoe's work to make sure people understand - and can find hope in - the path toward a sustainable future.

- But Don Pittis discusses how Alberta (and by implication any pathetic echo thereof) is lagging behind the rest of Canada in clinging to fossil fuels as the rest of the world shifts to cleaner energy. And Gregory Beatty points out the utter failure of the Saskatchewan Party to take responsible steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

- Elizabeth Elkin reports on a new move by Wall Street to commodify water through futures contracts. And Matthew Rozsa examines how the U.S.' suppression of protesters has included the deployment of so many chemicals that it's affecting water supplies.

- Jeremy Simes highlights how Saskatchewan teachers are facing impossible demands to educate and protect students in overstuffed and underfunded classrooms.

- Finally, Karen Howlett reports on the private clinics exploiting the failure of governments to ensure people have access to COVID-19 testing. And it's worth noting that Babylon Health - which has been the subject of many serious questions in Alberta - is being rolled out (and heavily advertised) as an alternative to public health care in Saskatchewan and elsewhere as well.

Monday, October 05, 2020

Monday Morning Links

 Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Alex Himelfarb, Andrew Jackson and Brian Topp write about the need for a tax system which collects a fair share from the wealthiest in order to fund the recovery and renewal we should be demanding. And Ben Steverman reports on Raj Chetty's work showing how the coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately hurt people who were already falling behind.

- Bruce Campbell writes about the positive ideas hinted at in the federal throne speech, while also warning of the Libs' propensity for deferring to elites who would rather see everybody else's lives get more precarious as long as it enhances their own wealth and power. And Scott Schmidt highlights W. Brett Wilson as a prime example of how the reactionary instinct is based on nothing more than trying to protect undeserved and unfair wealth and privilege based on the assumption that it's normal:

COVID presented a new way of looking at our society and oligarchs like Wilson desperately need you to forget the realities you’ve been presented with this year. Before the pandemic, it wouldn’t be hard for a man like Wilson to convince the public that the unemployed or down-on-their-luck were on their own, that they somehow contributed to their situation and the rest of us weren’t responsible for getting them back on their feet.

The pandemic should have shattered that mirage entirely the moment we hit lockdown and sent millions of our family, friends and neighbours into unemployment.

“Wait a minute,” we were supposed to say. “Could it be that people aren’t always at fault when they lose their job? Is it possible that circumstances beyond one’s control can thrust them into poverty? Maybe we should ensure these people have nothing to worry about financially in case this happens to me one day.”

Wilson wants you to forget that. Wilson wants you competing, blaming, fighting; he wants it because that’s how he’ll gain even more wealth. People like Wilson want society back to where it benefits them the most – one where individuals are in constant competition.

Wilson wants to own businesses where he can pay people low wages at part-time hours so he can maximize profits for his already massive bank account, all the while acting like he’s just another boot-strap go-getter who scraped and clawed his way toward that fortune. And now he’s claiming to be mad at the government for paying people to stay healthy and safe because that’s apparently more than he is willing to offer those same people to spend their days feeding his profits.

It’s been a long, trying year for everyone – especially those who lost their job – and it’s easy to see why people want to “get back to normal.” Just remember that the “normal” Wilson wants is the one where he gets rich off your labour and then sticks you with a bill when he’s done.

- Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood points out how the Libs aren't showing any of the needed urgency when it comes to abating a climate breakdown. David Suzuki draws a connection between carbon pricing and soap in a pandemic as a simple and necessary (if insufficient) part of an overall plan to improve outcomes. And Emily Eaton writes about the desperate need for a realistic appraisal of climate change in Saskatchewan to replace myths designed to excuse as much carbon pollution as the oil sector can spew.

- Finally, Indi Samarajiva writes that the U.S. is facing a decline familiar to people who have lived through descents into violence and war. And Scott Gilmore discusses the parallel sicknesses facing Donald Trump and the U.S. generally.

Sunday, October 04, 2020

Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Chris Bauch, Dillon Thomas Browne, Madhur Anand and Brendon Phillips write about the multiple harms caused by large class sizes in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. 

- David Macdonald finds that nearly 2 million Canadians are better off as a result of the improvements to COVID supports won by the NDP. But Dean Herd, Yuna Kim and Christine Carrasco study how our system of social supports continues to leave out singles living in deep poverty - which remains a problem with coronavirus relief as well due to the Libs' arbitrary dividing lines.

- Kate Bezanson, Andrew Bevan and Monica Lysack weigh in on the need for a national child-care system to improve Canada's prospects of recovery and rebuilding. And Kelly Cryderman discusses how Jason Kenney has made a deliberate choice to spend COVID relief and recovery money on male-focused work even though women have been hit far harder by the pandemic.

- Alanna Smith reports on Kenney's continued refusal to lift a finger to reduce the harm from an unsafe supply of opioids - no matter how many people die as a result. 

- Finally, the AP reports on California's moves to lower prescription drug costs - including their progress toward setting up a public manufacturer.

On consistent standards

It's certainly for the best that Scott Moe has removed at least one Saskatchewan Party candidate based on the recognition that the people running to govern the province should be held to a standard which precludes pushing easily-discredited conspiracy theories.

But we'll have to wait to see when he follows up by repudiating and retracting the patently false "Ryan Meili = TRUDEAU CARBON TAX!!!" big lie at the core of his own party's campaign.