Saturday, October 02, 2021

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- The Globe and Mail's editorial board discusses the need to consider whether to lift public health measures with care rather than stubborn anti-social ideology. Adam Miller writes that Alberta's failure to do anything of the sort in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic has made it a cautionary tale, while Andrew Nikiforuk highlights the need to hold Jason Kenney (among other politicians) accountable for his lethal negligence in exercising the responsibility placed on a government to keep people safe. 

- Laura Osman reports on Theresa Tam's recognition that the Delta variant means we need higher vaccination rates to avoid catastrophic COVID surges. And Apoora Mandavilli discusses how the COVID variants appear to be getting more efficient at spreading through the air. 

- The Canadian Institute for Climate Choices examines how Canada's infrastructure isn't prepared for catastrophic climate change - making clear that any temporary failure to invest in transition and adaptation is going to be a false economy. 

- Duncan Kinney and Jake Pesaruk expose how multiple levels of government are instead funnelling money into a company combining fossil fuel extraction with environmentally-destructive crypto currency mining. And Geoffrey Morgan reports on the closure of the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association as a prime example of how governments are propping up fossil fuel projects which are seen as unproductive by private-sector standards. 

- Finally, Maximillian Alvarez, Jen Pan and Paul Prescod trace the decline of collective action to Ronald Reagan and his corporate backers. And Luke Savage interviews Patrick Wyman about the role of local tycoons in consolidating power and suppressing popular organization at the community level. 

Friday, October 01, 2021

Musical interlude

CHVRCHES & Robert Smith - How Not to Drown

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Anand Giridharadas writes about the dangers of letting political discussions become primarily a matter of process and personalities, rather than the real impact decisions have on people's lives. 

- Graham Thomson calls out Jason Kenney for his consistent refusal to acknowledge the reality of COVID - both in communicating with the public and in making decisions about how to respond to a deadly pandemic. And Tanya Lewis points out the need to upgrade face masks to deal with more infectious COVID variants. 

- Kristian Nielsen examines the role privileged people will play in determining whether we're able to avoid a climate catastrophe. Max Fawcett discusses Canada's choices in its approach to the upcoming United Nations climate change conference - noting that all available evidence suggests that it's countries who get ahead of the inevitable transition to clean energy who will be best off in the long run. And Rebecca Leber discusses how Republicans are ensuring their states will be left behind by prohibiting municipalities from implementing any effective climate action. 

- Meanwhile, Heather Scoffield writes that investors and financial institutions are recognizing that the future is renewable as well - though they may need a boost from public policy to fully incorporate the into their decisions. 

- Douglas Todd writes about the reemergence of inheritance culture, as the children of families with wealth to spare are nearly alone in their ability to afford a home in Canada's major cities. And Chris Lehmann reviews Matthew Stewart's The 9.9 Percent as an important description of the group of workers outside the wealthy elite which works to preserve its privilege. 

- Finally, Melissa Ridgen interviews Murray Sinclair about the path toward reconciliation. And Martin Lukacs writes about the Defenders of the Land who are challenging the exercise of colonial power and pointing the way toward reconciliation based on the mutual recognition of rights.  

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Thursday Morning Truth and Reconciliation Day Links

A few links and reports for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

- Rose Lemay writes that reconciliation requires systemic change at the level of individual assumptions and awareness. Murray Sinclair notes that the proclamation of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is just one small step in a journey which will take lifetimes to complete. And Drew Hayden Taylor observes that one day is nowhere near enough to respond to centuries of colonialism - particularly when so many provinces have refused to participate. 

- Meanwhile, Ross Diabo writes about the history of deliberate and systemic abuse and devaluation of Indigenous peoples going far beyond the residential school system alone.  

- Meghan Grant highlights the victims of the 25 Alberta residential schools acknowledged in the Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. 

- Suzanne Shoush and Lisa Boivin recognize that acknowledgment of the truth requires that we accept the anger and outrage of people historically mistreated by our governments, not look to deny or minimize the harm. 

- Finally, Chris Tyrone Ross offers his perspective as to how best to spend the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation - both in learning about the reality of Canada's treatment of Indigenous peoples, and acting to change our relationship for the better. Pratush Dayal lists of some of the events being held around Saskatchewan. And the summary of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's final report - including its calls to action - can be found here (PDF). 

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

The difficult journey upstream

One of the signature messages of Ryan Meili's work in activism and politics has been the concept of upstream thinking - described in extremely brief form here:

To imagine a different approach, it’s helpful to start with a classic public health parable:

Imagine you’re standing on the edge of a river. Suddenly a flailing, drowning child comes floating by. Without thinking, you dive in, grab the child, and swim to shore. Before you can recover another child comes floating by. You dive in and rescue her as well.

Then another child drifts into sight. . . and another. . .  and another.  You call for help, and people take turns fishing out child after child. Hopefully before too long some wise person will ask: Who keeps chucking these kids in the river? And they’ll head upstream to find out.

Every time we have to clean up an environmental disaster, every time a young person winds up in jail, every time people have to take medicines to make up for the fact that they couldn’t afford good food, we’re suffering from the results of downstream thinking.

For many people inclined to look for smarter and more effective ways of carrying out the work of helping people, this has been an extremely powerful analogy. But it may be time to examine its limitations in the broader political context - and to highlight what those say about the work to be done in bringing about change in Saskatchewan and elsewhere. 

It's well and good to start from the perspective of people whose first inclination is to try to save people who are floundering - particularly when Meili is able to speak personally about his work trying to improve people's health as a doctor, and reach out to audiences of engaged activists looking to do good through their actions. 

But once we probe a bit more into the question of what happens when you "head upstream to find out" why people are being thrown in the river, we can't escape the reality that there are some ugly answers.

Contrary to what we might hope, it isn't the case that merely identifying how people are being thrown into the river will necessarily lead to action to stop it - either in the sense that the people currently in charge will welcome the opportunity to do so, or that the general public will care enough to take power away from anybody so callous as to keep up the carnage. 

To the contrary, what the journey upriver reveals is a well-fortified complex designed to ensure that the child-chucking process can continue, along with a general population which at best needs to be convinced that there's a problem. 

That phenomenon has been readily observable on all kinds of issues in Saskatchewan politics - from the systematic deprivation inflicted on First Nations and Indigenous peoples, to the refusal to work toward harm reduction as a matter of health policy, to the obstinate refusal to be anything but a barrier to action to avoid global climate breakdown. 

But it may resonate all the more in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic - based on both its widespread impact, and our ability to compare public information to government and business actions. 

The relative success of strong public health measures at the beginning of the pandemic proves that we know exactly how to limit the human toll of COVID-19. And the available knowledge has only improved since then, meaning that our government could end the flow of kids into the river based on well-proven techniques if it had any interest in doing so. 

But the constant focus of the Saskatchewan Party government (along with its corporate donors and political base) has been to try to get back to the usual business of child-chucking as soon as possible. And now, we've reached the stage where the people willing to dive in to save those who are struggling are not only being devalued by those with power, also but being conscripted to explain and justify Scott Moe's decision to chuck people in the river and then let them drown. 

To be clear, none of the above is to suggest that we can afford anything but a determined focus on what's happening upstream. Even if we assume that changing the party in power is on its own a meaningful outcome, it's doubtful that we'll do any better convincing people to vote for an alternative if all we try to offer is a slightly more efficient and consultative rescue service. And more importantly, temporary political success won't actually resolve the underlying problems absent the needed focus on root causes. 

But it also isn't enough to innocently and naively wander toward the source of the underlying problems and expect that exposing them will lead to change. 

There's far more to Meili's political project than a walk along the riverside to a quick diagnosis and course of treatment. And it seems like we're starting from scratch even in some of the most basic assumptions about how a society needs to function - even as those had been highlighted by the pandemic which still serves as an everyday stressor.

That means we need to work on building our capacity to demand systemic change through all available mechanisms, and brace for relentless attacks from the entrenched politicians and business interests - along with compliant media and citizens who have been pushed to defend child-chucking as essential to their incomes and identity. And in seeking to persuade the public, we need to be prepared to do a great deal of work explaining why people should care that children are being chucked in the river in the first place. 

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Lara Herrero offers a quick guide to what we know about the Delta variant - and how it should change our previous perspective on the fight against COVID-19. And Andre Picard highlights why parents shouldn't be at all hesitant to get children vaccinated at the earliest opportunity. 

- Kieran Leavitt discusses how the choice to stop governing in the midst of a pandemic has led to catastrophic results in both Saskatchewan and Alberta. David Climenhaga notes that Jason Kenney's track record of delay followed by panic makes it impossible to believe his assurances in any direction, while Max Fawcett warns that Kenney appears more interested in privatizing health care than ensuring people survive COVID. And Colleen Silverthorn interviews Brett Wasko about the need to start again limiting indoor gatherings to reduce community transmission. 

- Meanwhile, Alex McKeen writes about the efforts of Canada's COVID Zero movement to get us to stop accepting avoidable losses of life and health in the name of imaginary economic gains. 

- Hasan Sheikh writes that the Trudeau Libs have no more excuses when it comes to finally delivering on their decades-old promise of national pharmacare. 

- Bruce McAdams and Rebecca Gordon recognize that any spin about a "labour shortage" in face reflects the refusal of employers to provide acceptable pay and working conditions. 

- Finally, Luke Savage interviews George Monbiot about the effect decades of atomization have had on the willingness and ability of people to resist conspiracy theories. And Jeremy Corbyn writes about the need for social movements to lead the push for change where political parties abandon the cause. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Interactive cats.


Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Danny Westneat discusses Steven Taylor's work on the psychology of pandemics which has proven prescient as we've responded to COVID-19. And Umair Haque writes that people are understandably burned out on collapse - even as there's little prospect of some of the slow-motion catastrophes being resolved in the foreseeable future. 

- Murray Mandryk calls out Scott Moe for engaging in photo ops rather than pandemic management, while Adam Hunter reports on the Saskatchewan Party's failure to ask for available help from the federal government. And Phil Tank documents the change in the Sask Party's messaging toward grudgingly acknowledging the ongoing calamity, even as it's refused to move within shouting distance of even the measures which were used earlier in the pandemic. 

- Megan Cassella writes that some American lawmakers are drawing important lessons from the drop in poverty, hunger and bankruptcies when the U.S.' social safety net was bolstered in response to COVID-19. But Matt Lundy reports on the dwindling number of Canadians supported by Employment Insurance - and the cliff facing many workers as pandemic supports are scheduled to disappear next month. 

- Sara Mojtehedzadeh reports on the first Ontario prosecution of an employer for failing to keep employees safe from COVID. And Peter Loewen and Blake Lee-Whiting discuss what gig workers generally want - which largely amounts to the types of stability and protection gig work has been designed to evade. 

- Matt McManus discusses how the promotion of capitalist "liberty" represents little other than the choice to facilitate private domination by the wealthy. 

- Finally, Jonathan Watts writes about the environmentally disastrous race to extract resources from deep sea. And John Woodside exposes how Canadian banks are funding the continued spread of fossil fuel infrastructure which endangers our living atmosphere. 

Monday, September 27, 2021

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Don Braid discusses how Alberta's health care system and polity are both collapsing under the weight of a UCP government which has utterly failed to protect either from readily-preventable damage. And Emily Pasiuk reports on Jason Kenney's continued excuses for letting COVID-19 run rampant rather than doing anything to stop a catastrophe in progress. 

- Meanwhile, Allison Jones reports on the comparative success of continued public health measures in reining in a fourth wave in Ontario. Carly Weeks reports on the new research confirming the reality that children are far more vulnerable to the Delta variant than to previous iterations of the coronavirus, while Ontario's Science Table studies the lasting symptoms and disabilities facing people who suffer from long COVID. 

- David Pugliese reports on the latest revelations showing that Canada's military treated the pandemic as an opportunity to push a propaganda and surveillance campaigns against citizens without authorization or oversight. 

- Jongsay Yong et al. study how Australia's push to privatize long-term care predictably resulted in worse results for residents. And the AP reports on Berlin's move to bring thousands of apartment units under public control to ensure they're used to benefit people. 

- Rest of World surveys the realities facing gig workers around the globe. And Laura Lam and Kam Phung discuss the need for Canadian labour and employment policy to respond by empowering the workers involved. 

- Finally, Robert Reich offers a reminder as to why "corporate social responsibility" is a delay tactic aimed at allowing capitalists to continue their exploitation, not a means of solving social problems. 

#Elxn44 Roundup

News and notes from Canada's federal election campaign.

- Dru Oja Jay discusses how activist movements can maximize their impact in a second consecutive minority Parliament by demanding meaningful and lasting change as the price for NDP support. 

- Andrew Jackson notes that timidity in presenting a sharp progressive contrast to the Libs' platform may have led to the softening of NDP support when it mattered most. Olivia Stefanovich discusses a few perspectives on the strengths and weaknesses of the NDP's campaign. And Tyler Shipley writes about the limitations on pursuing a left agenda through electoral politics in their current form. 

- Meanwhile, John Michael McGrath points out the need for the Libs to engage in some reflection of their own - particularly as to the public's recognition that nothing mattered more to them than reinforcing their own power. 

- In a similar vein, Liam O'Connor and Sara Birrell discuss the frustrations of young voters with the prospect of having action to make housing available kicked down the road yet again. And Kai Nagata writes that the election ultimately left us right back where we started while exposing some of the obstacles to progress. 

- Finally, Colin Walmsley notes that a first-past-the-post electoral system exacerbates geographic divides, including an entrenched rural-urban divide in Parliament. 

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Ian Austen takes Alberta's shame to the international stage by pointing out how the UCP's "best summer ever" has given rise to the fourth wave of COVID-19. Adam Hunter points out how similarly disastrous pandemic mismanagement hasn't yet produced the same political consequences for Scott Moe as for Jason Kenney, while Doug Cuthand calls out Moe for putting politics over public health. And Zak Vescera reports on the Moe government's decision to start withholding modeling information which has demonstrated how reckless it's been.

- Meanwhile, Mackenzie Read talks to Nazeem Muhajarine about the need for more public health steps to get Saskatchewan's fourth wave under control. Lynn Giesbrecht reports on the hundreds of cases already known to have arisen in two weeks following the return to schools this fall. Dan Jones reports on the responses to Moe's attempt to point fingers at other for his failure to get people vaccinated in Northern and rural areas. And Jaela Bernstein discusses how underpaid frontline workers are bearing the brunt of anti-vaxxer rage.

- Supriya Dwivedi writes that the recent federal election highlighted the Canadian media's lack of recognition of how to deal with far-right disinformation. And Michael Spratt notes that while a manufactured controversy over a question about discrimination was turned to the advantage of right-wing parties, it also served to confirm the distinct and ongoing problem of racism in Quebec.

- Aaron Saad discusses how Canada's governing political parties have prevented their bases from fully understanding and engaging with the climate crisis. And Chris Hatch comments on the climate implications of the federal election.

-Finally, Loren Balhorn writes about the continued importance of working-class political parties to provide voters with a plausible mechanism for social change.