Saturday, March 06, 2021

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- David Graeber wrote (just before his death) about the need to do more than default back to an unacceptable "normal" once the COVID-19 pandemic is under control. 

- Arthur White-Crummey and Lynn Giebrecht have been writing a series of stories on the longstanding lack of regard for residents and workers in Saskatchewan's long-term care homes, while Dylan Scott notes that the U.S. has matched Canada's pattern in seeing more and worse COVID outbreaks in for-profit facilities. And Bryn Levy reports on the push for stronger protection at the Prairie Pride meat-packing plant where an outbreak was hidden from the union as well as the public.

- Brennan Strndberg-Salmon makes the case to give young people the chance to vote in elections which will shape their future. 

- Dianne Buckner reports on the movement to challenge payday lending which traps people in cycles of debt.

- Stephen Leahy examines the potential for the world to shift to 100% renewable energy by 2030.

- And finally, Emma McIntosh reports on the Peter Bryce Prize for whistleblowing rightly awarded to John O'Connor for his work calling attention to cancer around Alberta's tar sands in the face of suppression from industry and governments.

Friday, March 05, 2021

Musical interlude

 Spiritbox - Constance

On breaking solidarity

After nearly a year of a declared pandemic (and several months of inaction before that), far too little has changed in Saskatchewan's political discussion of our response to COVID-19. In particular, the Moe government has regularly insisted on pushing to reopen as much as it can get away with - leaving people to plead for somebody to look out for public health.

That contrast between Moe's message and the realities of a pandemic all the more striking even as it becomes all the more clear that the end is in sight if we remain responsible for just a few more months - or conversely, that we face the risk of more threatening variants if we don't maintain (and indeed tighten up) our existing public health rules.

The main explanation for Moe's position has generally been his well-documented propensity for treating the corporate lobby as the only actor deserving of a say in policy choices, under circumstances where businesses have chosen to prioritize immediate profit over human life. But as we approach a possible endgame in dealing with COVID-19, there's another explanation entering the picture. 

The fight against COVID-19 has generally been recognized (with only the most destructive of opponents) as calling for mass mobilization toward a common goal. And the result has been regular analogies to World War II as the last time we faced that type of all-consuming effort. 

And in making that analogy, it also hasn't escaped attention that the end of WWII gave rise to the strongest welfare state and regulatory structure we've ever seen - as the people who had been called to mobilize to fight a war rightly demanded a peace dividend which recognized their efforts. 

Needless to say, the corporate lobby which spent several decades undermining the progress made in the middle of the 20th century likely isn't eager to see a modern version emerge. And the surest way to avoid the prospect of a popular movement for social change is to undermine any sense of solidarity before the pandemic is over.

We'd fully expect that strategy to include holding out a "carrot" of telling people they won't long need to sacrifice for the greater good. And we'd also expect the longstanding pattern of government handing out niche benefits and minor concessions to the general public - as cover for far greater concessions to the wealthy - to find its way into the handling of COVID restrictions.

From that standpoint, the new round of relaxed efforts against COVID-19 - even as both the promise of vaccination and the threat of variants loom over us - may best be seen as as a plan for premature demobilization to ensure we're not prepared to fight for a new peace dividend. And we should be all the more outraged at the war effort when it involves conceding battles to a common enemy in order to serve one's political financiers at home.

[Edit: fixed typo.]

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Kenyon Wallace reports on new modelling showing a real risk of yet another wave of COVID spread in Ontario - even as widespread immunity just a few months of remotely responsible government away. Julie Steenhuysen and Kate Kelland point out how an increasing number of variants is complicating the fight against COVID-19. And Marieke Walsh and Greg McArthur discuss how Canada's vaccination process has been set back due to our reliance on global supply chains.

- Chris Hedges writes about the multiple prominent examples of social murder in progress - with COVID-19 serving only as a particularly immediate and vivid example of the phenomenon which also defines the climate crisis and other avoidable crises of public health and welfare. And John Calvert discusses the people killed by Texas' reckless deregulation of vital infrastructure - along with the propensity of Canadian conservatives to push us in the same direction.  

- Meanwhile, the Globe and Mail's editorial board calls out Doug Ford for choosing to try to renormalize cash-for-access politics. And Darren Bernhardt reports on the Manitoba PCs' unprecedented power grab in seeking to ram a large number of dubious bills through the legislative process while keeping their contents secret from opposition parties and the public.

- Emmanuel Fulgence Drabo, Grace Eckel, Samuel Ross, Michael Brozic et al. are the latest to demonstrate that a Housing First system which provides residents with a secure home produces a substantial return on investment in social and economic terms.

- Finally, Richard Denniss writes that Australia's regulation of tech giants - which was met with an initial attempt at resistance followed by ultimate acceptance - demonstrates that we're not helpless in the face of the power of large corporations. And Adam Smith discusses the EU's latest move to empower the public by ensuring that consumer electronics are reasonably durable and can be repaired - rather than being part of a cycle of rapid planned obsolescence.

Thursday, March 04, 2021

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Laura Spinney writes about the debate as to whether to eliminate COVID-19 or control its continued spread. And Carl Zimmer reports on the Brazilian variant which represents just the latest new mutation which may complicate any attempt to barge ahead with business as usual in the face of the coronavirus.

- Tzeporah Berman and Nathan Taft point out the deception behind the oil industry's attempt to pitch a misleading "net zero" emissions target as an excuse to keep spewing carbon pollution now (and to encourage end users to keep doing so for decades to come), while Naveena Sadasivam discusses the massive cleanup costs fossil fuel barons are foisting on the public. And Simon Lewis warns against being fooled by businesses trying to turn accounting tricks into carbon credits they can sell.

- Rahi Abouk, Keshar Ghimire, Johanna Catherine Maclean and David Powell study how marijuana legalization affects workers' compensation claims - concluding that it actually leads to a reduction by offering another form of pain management. And Zak Vescera reports on the need for improved access to naloxone to reduce the damage from opioid overdoses.

- Finally, Molly Scot Cato writes about the positives of taxes in reducing inequality, creating positive behavioural incentives and funding the services we need. Which makes for an important contrast against Stephanie Mudge's observations about Third Way liberalism which made democratic decision-making subordinate to the interests of capital.

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Wednesday Evening Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- The results of Stockton, CA's experiment with a guaranteed income show a predictable improvement in both well-being and economic success for people with income security. Lorne Calvert makes the case to introduce a guaranteed liveable income in Canada. And Will Wilkinson writes about the folly of holding basic supports for children hostage based on the actions of parents.

- Lars Osberg tracks Canada's inequality over the past 75 years. And Ricardo Lamour and Amel Zaazaa examine how taxes and public payments have all too often served to entrench racial disparities.

- Justin Ling takes a look at Canada's profoundly broken system of incarceration. And Brendan Devlin points out how "critical infrastructure" laws are being used to turn legitimate protest into an entry point for the criminal justice system. 

- Daniel Boffey reports on the agreement among EU countries to cooperate in shutting down corporate tax avoidance. And Global Financial Integrity offers its recommendations to embed protections against money laundering into the global economic system.

- Finally, Althia Raj reports on Canada's embarrassing rating at the bottom of the world in protection for whistleblowers.

Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Slumbering cats.


Tuesday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Rob Gillezeau discusses how public health measures offer better results even in sheer economic terms than allowing an excess of activity which causes community spread. Joan Greve reports on the CDC's warning of another COVID wave if the U.S. gets careless while vaccines are still rolling out, while Moira Wyton also notes that the ultimate success of a vaccine still relies on people continuing to comply with public health requirements. And Les Perreaux and Ivan Semeniuk make the case for people to take a COVID-19 vaccine when it's offered, rather than shopping around based on minimal differences in effect.  

- Meanwhile, Ilari Kaila and Joona-Hermanni Makinen discuss how Finland chose to pass on a patent-free vaccine in favour of allowing the pharmaceutical industry to profit from its vaccination program. 

- Chuck Collins argues for a wealth tax based on how the pandemic has resulted in the further polarization of income and wealth. Randy Robinson writes about the differing effects of COVID-19 based on income - with higher-income individuals seeing few employment effects past last summer while other workers continue to see a significant impact. And Amanda Follett Hosgood points out the unfairness in the pattern of injunctions being granted to prohibit protests but not religious services and other gatherings which raise the risk of COVID transmission. 

- Brian Carney reports on e-mails confirming that the exchange of newspapers between Torstar and Postmedia was carried out with full knowledge that both planned to slash jobs and papers. And David Climenhaga juxtaposes that story with Torstar's new plan to operate an online casino. 

- Brett Dolter analyzes the results of a deliberative modelling process showing how Saskatchewan can transition toward a cleaner electricity grid. Max Fawcett notes that any argument for expanding fossil fuel infrastructure depends on wrongly assuming that technological progress will only happen in the dirty energy industry. David Fickling highlights the impact that China's anticipated climate plan figures to have on the global shift toward decarbonization. And Jasper Jolly reports that Volvo is the latest major automaker to confirm a shift to an all-electric fleet. 

- Finally, Sara Birrell discusses the success progressive organizers and candidates had in Saskatchewan's municipal elections. 

Monday, March 01, 2021

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Karl Leffme interviews Jake Lytle about the movement to unionize marijuana-related work in Chicago. And Jay Greene and Eli Rosernberg report on an all-too-rare expression of support for unionization by Joe Biden in the wake of Amazon's attempt to bully and bribe workers out of pursuing collective bargaining.

- Alex McKeen reports on a push by Canada's provincial labour ministers for a national sick leave program. And the Star's editorial board again calls for action at the provincial level as well to ensure workers aren't forced to endanger themselves and others for lack of alternative income supports.

- Andrew Meijers highlights how changes in Atlantic ocean currents may exacerbate the extreme weather expected as part of a climate breakdown.

- Meanwhile, Helen Caldicott points out how nuclear power is neither practical from a cost standpoint, nor desirable from an environmental one. And QMI reports on Quebec Solidaire's effort to convert golf courses into public green space.

- Finally, Greg Palast discusses how Texas' disastrous power deregulation was the result of conscious political choices (with the Bush family playing a prominent role). And Tom Parkin writes about the different incentives and which are leading to the NDP backing a shift to public ownership of long-term care facilities while the Libs seek to go no further than voluntarism and symbolism.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Alex Himelfarb writes about the need to get past obsessing over deficits and taxes when they're necessary to fund the society we want.

- Olivia Stefanovich, Karina Roman and Ryan Patrick Jones report on the Auditor General's report placing responsibility for the continued lack of safe drinking water on First Nations squarely on the shoulders of the federal government.

- Justin Ling discusses Anthony Doob and Jane Sprott's report on the continued use of solitary confinement with no regard for its harm to the people locked away. And Robyn Urback points out how prisoners are the one group of people our governments consider themselves entitled to torture.

- Jag Bhalla highlights the desperate need for the world's wealthiest people to cut carbon emissions in order for there to be any prospect of averting a climate breakdown. But Robert Reich points out that people seeking to protect their concentrated wealth are instead using climate change to stoke class divisions. And Canada News Central notes that the Trudeau Libs are actually increasing federal subsidies for even more carbon pollution. 

- Finally, Christo Aivalis and Tom Parkin both call out Justin Trudeau and his party for voting against even a basic framework for pharmacare in the midst of a pandemic which is only highlighting the importance of access to medical care.

[Edit: fixed wording.]