Saturday, November 20, 2021

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Sarah Zhang writes that the three factors which will determine the path of the COVID pandemic over the winter are our own immunity, the adaptation of the virus, and our own behaviour. And Phil Tank reports on the warning from Saskatchewan doctors that easing up on existing restrictions (and caution) will lead to another wave.

- DW reports on the billions being made by vaccine manufacturers by marketing to wealthier countries while denying any help to much of the world. And Alyson Haslam et al. study the drastic difference the source of research funding makes in assessments as to whether oncology drugs are cost-effective - with corporate money generally assuring the outcome that will allow for future profits.

- Kari Paul discusses the list of conservative web sites which serve as the primary distributors of online climate denial. Dion Rabouin points out how much money the U.S. shoveled into a job-slashing, profit-taking fossil fuel sector over the course of the COVID pandemic, while Jean Chemnick notes that it stood in the way of any talk of a climate liability fund which would result in anybody paying for the damage they've caused to our planet.

- Jen Gerson highlights how increasingly frequent and severe disasters are leaving us no choice but to reckon with both the immediate costs of a climate breakdown, and our systemic inability to deal with crises with a hollowed-out public sector. And Ed Struzik examines the future of flooding in Canada as a whole, while CBC News reports on the dangerously low levels of the Bow River.

- Finally, Alex Tabarrok discusses the effect of mass resignations of workers on the UK's already-strained public health care system. And Emily Williams writes that health care workers are among the professionals fleeing Alberta after seeing how little they're valued and respected by the Kenney UCP and its corporate backers.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Musical interlude

Men I Trust - Tree Among Shrubs

Return of the Talking Head

I appeared on CTV's News at 5 with Matt Young today, around 24:00 in this show

And of course, there were a few points I didn't make in the process, most notably this: pathetic though it is that Scott Moe's plan for Saskatchewan "autonomy" is copied from Jason Kenney, it's all the more embarrassing that Moe's chosen to plagiarize from someone who's flunking out of the class.

Friday Afternoon Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Guy Quenneville reports on Dr. Saqib Shahab's warning that Saskatchewan needs to improve its vaccination rates and minimize social mixing to avoid a fifth COVID wave this winter. And Kelly Skjerven reports on modelling showing that delays in testing and seeking treatment are resulting in the majority of COVID admissions to ICU are happening within a day of admission to a hospital - signaling that people are ending up with more severe cases after delaying testing and treatment. 

- Meanwhile, Trevor Wilhelm reports on the belated arrest of an anti-vaxxer who bombed a Windsor assembly plant. 

- Arno Kopecky writes that the multiple calamities which have hit British Columbia this year should warn us what awaits everybody if we don't take immediate action to avert a climate breakdown, while Judith Lavoie discusses the connection between clear-cutting and the recent floods and landslides. And Damian Carrington reports on new mapping showing the natural carbon sinks which need to be preserved to avoid exacerbating the climate crisis. 

- Finally, Linda McQuaig warns that big oil continues to dictate the terms of any climate discussion. Cameron Fenton calls out the new language of climate denial grounded in delay and inaction, while Paul Dechene examines those principles as they apply to Regina's reluctance to accept even a statement of intention to join other municipalities in pursuing net zero emissions. And Rebecca Solnit offers some tips for confronting the climate challenge without losing hope. 

Thursday, November 18, 2021

On priorities

While I've pointed out the absurdity of yet another round of anti-coalition scaremongering, it does seem clear that any discussion between the NDP and the Libs will instead involve a confidence and supply arrangement. And that may well be for the best, as it maximizes the policy outcomes the NDP can expect to generate from an agreement. 

That said, in determining which priorities should be given precedence, it's worth keeping in mind what can realistically be achieved in that type of arrangement - particularly in light of the dynamics it would create between the parties involved. So let's look at a few of the criteria by which we can evaluate possible points of agreement - and which options might best fit within a deal.

  • Public Benefit - Needless to say, the core consideration for anything the NDP requests needs to be a tangible benefit for people. While this might seem obvious, remember that the Libs once considered it a good idea to keep the Harper Cons in power in exchange for partisan progress reports on stimulus spending. The NDP hopefully knows better than to pursue process points over substance - but in case there's any doubt, it needs to view the contents of a policy deal as embodying the belief that political choices can improve people's welfare. 
  • Immediacy - Any supply agreement will necessarily be for a limited period of time, with a risk that Justin Trudeau will see an opportunity to call an election early no matter what time period is agreed on. And that means whatever concessions the NDP can win will need to be capable of implementation within a period of a year-plus. That likely rules out anything which would require starting any major program design or public consultation from scratch without a fairly well-understood end goal. And so while a basic income or electoral reform would make for worthwhile demands on the merits, they may not be practical as core components of a supply agreement. 
  • Durability - That said, there's also reason for concern if any agreement fails to have a lasting impact. For example, while improved pandemic benefits are rightly an important consideration for now, there's surely little value in committing to support a government past the point when they may cease to be necessary. This may be where the NDP's past success in pushing for Medicare, the Canada Pension Plan and Petro-Canada serves as a precedent as to what's possible. And while there may be limits on the structural change the Libs are willing to accept, the NDP should be keeping an eye on ensuring that the effects of any agreement last beyond the Parliament in which it's reached. 
  • Acceptability - Of course, any demand made by the NDP is futile if it's beyond what the Libs can be pushed to accept. And while the Libs aren't setting up any particularly strict lines at the moment, there's a real risk that they'll see options to stay in power by other means (particularly by daring the Cons to bring them down) if the price for a supply agreement is seen as too high.
  • Differentiation - By the same token, however, the NDP surely wants to be able to claim justified credit for the results of any agreement, rather than facing any plausible argument that the Libs would have done the same if they'd had a majority. And there may be particular value for the NDP in being able to claim to have pushed the Libs to action in an area where they'd otherwise proven reluctant to live up to their promises or stated principles. 
  • Progressivity - Finally, different isn't necessarily better - so it matters which types are chosen for emphasis. While platform development always includes some effort to be everything to everyone, the terms of a supply deal will be taken as the ultimate declaration of the NDP's priorities. And it would be a waste of the balance of power to use it to pursue policies which tend toward political gimmickry rather than the expression of supporters' values.  

Not surprisingly, the main goals mentioned by Jagmeet Singh since the election (action on housing, dropping litigation against Indigenous children/providing compensation, and climate action) can meet each of the above criteria depending on the steps chosen. But even on those topics, the nature of any agreement may make a world of difference: indeed, a housing plan oriented toward subsidies for purchasers could easily fail the public benefit, differentiation and progressivity tests. 

Conversely, the best option may be one which isn't at the forefront of Singh's current messaging. The Libs have already put some effort into determining what a national pharmacare program could look like, meaning that it's as "shovel-ready" as any national benefit program is likely to be. But they've abandoned any commitment to following through or funding it, presumably due largely to industry pressure. 

That means the NDP can be the driving force behind a crucial national program which would carry both individual and systemic benefits, and which the Libs would have little reason to oppose directly (even if they haven't been willing to spend their own political capital implementing it). 

With pharmacare (ideally coupled with public-sector pharmaceutical capacity) along with a substantial contribution to a climate change plan (say, redirecting the value of fossil fuel subsidies to the NDP's proposal for a Civilian Climate Corps and green infrastructure investments?) as the centrepieces, there would then be room to add further elements which are either more limited in duration, or more distant in implementation. 

It remains to be seen exactly how willing the Libs are to pursue a more formal arrangement. But there's room for both the NDP and the country to benefit immensely if they can be pushed to do so - and after an election campaign where an immense amount of energy was spent to accomplish very little, it would be for the best if some well-selected pressure now can remind people what effective cooperation can achieve. 

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Andrew Gregory reports on a new meta-study showing which options have been most effective in controlling the spread of COVID-19 - with mask-wearing ranking as the single most effective measure, though numerous other ones have also been important. And CBC News reports on the impending Canadian approval of a pediatric vaccine dose for ages 5-11, though Stuart Trew points out how Canada is acting as a barrier to the availability of vaccines in developing countries which desperately need them.  

- Kathryn Blaze Baum and Matthew McClearn discuss why British Columbia is trapped in cycles of extreme weather arising out of the climate crisis. And Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes document how the oil industry has systematically deceived the public about the dangers of climate change for decades, while Amy Westervelt writes that overcoming that deeply-embedded disinformation remains one of the key steps in working to avert a total climate breakdown. 

- Paris Marx discusses why we can't rely on self-absorbed and avaricious billionaires to save us from the climate crisis. Mitchell Thompson notes that Canada's business elite has long had a soft spot for fascism when there's money to be made (or leftists to be attacked). And Armine Yalnizyan warns against using interest rate hikes being demanded by capital owners to address inflation when that will only result in even worse outcomes for people with lower incomes.  

- Umair Haque writes that the U.S.' structural inequality - in which any economic gains are more than skimmed off the top by the already-wealthy - has sent it into a civilizational death spiral of despair and distrust. And Eric Ohrn studies (PDF) how the spoils of corporate tax breaks have been directed toward executive compensation rather than wages for the working class. 

- Finally, Shannon Proudfoot writes that any attempt to limit child care to being boutique women's issue misses the broader importance of making it available.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Ed Yong writes about the damage to people's health as care workers flee their jobs in the wake of the COVID pandemic. Kenyon Wallace and May Warren discuss how more infectious variants have made masks more important than ever as a form of personal protection. And Alanna Carlson Sinclair writes about her experience with long COVID to encourage people to get vaccinated. 

- Meanwhile, as many countries continue to lack access to vaccines, Jake Johnson highlights how the money lost to tax abuses by the rich could pay to vaccinate the world three times over. 

- Paul Taylor discusses the connection between the climate crisis and food insecurity - even before British Columbia's catastrophic flooding and mudslides cut off any connection between Western Canada and most global trade. Leyland Cecco points out the role corporate-driven forestry practices have played in causing fires and floods. Nina Lakhani reports on the concerns raised by Indigenous activists that carbon trading schemes may only incentivize damaging megaprojects rather than emission reductions and the preservation of our natural environment. 

- John Lin et al. study the massive methane leakage in Utah which results in reported emission levels severely underestimating the damage done by oil and gas extraction. And Oliver Milman reports on the Biden administration's choice to advance massive new offshore drilling leases in the wake of Glasgow. 

- Meanwhile, Robert Kuttner notes that the U.S. is working on making climate progress compatible with industrial goals through a transition to green steel. 

- Joan Baxter reports on the abuses inflicted on citizens by Canadian mining companies in Guatemala - and the stain on the country as a whole as we enable them. 

- Finally, Nicole Lyn Pesce reports on yet another record set of bonuses set to be siphoned off by the financial sector. And Len McCluskey discusses the need for workers to be strong and organized to counter the constant drive by employers to exploit labour. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Attentive cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Nora Loreto writes about the need for governments to make COVID management plans which take into account pockets of anti-vaxxers who will create significant risks for the general population. Andre Picard discusses why parents will need to ensure their children get vaccinated, while Matt Gurney wonders how children will react if a continued failure to take reasonable precautions foreseeably results in the loss of core activities. And Zak Vescera reports on research showing significant damage to the health of Saskatchewan people who have avoided care as a result of the poorly-handled pandemic. 

- Meanwhile, Jim Stanford studies the effects of paid sick leave, and finds that employers could ensure people don't have to work while sick with no measurable cost in competitiveness or profitability. 

- Adam Tooze's alarming takeaway from COP26 is that the world is trusting the same businesses who have created the climate crisis to solve it with little government action - though Simon Dyer notes that even the minimal commitments made to date make new oil and gas development completely untenable. Jason Hickel discusses the approach we'd be taking if we were actually treating climate breakdown as an emergency, while Seth Klein offers his suggestions as to what a Lib throne speech would look like if it wanted to meet that standard. And Julia Rock points out how pension funds are being hijacked to prop up the fossil fuel sector as capital which isn't under political control looks for investments outside of a dying industry. 

- CBC News reports on the widespread damage to British Columbia as torrential rainfall has combined with weakened natural drainage to produce floods and mudslides. And Carolyn Jarvis reports on the Ontario government's reluctant release of data showing the air pollution being inflicted on the Aamjiwnaang First Nation.

- Finally, Richard Swift wonders what value there is in the Pandora Papers and other revelations of the abuse of wealth and power when they don't lead to any investigations or prosecutions. 

Monday, November 15, 2021

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Eric Topol writes about the new wave of COVID-19 decimating Europe - and the level of denial required to pretend that the U.S. or any other region can escape it without taking steps to protect public health. And Zak Vescera talks to public health experts about the reality that Saskatchewan's best-case scenario (assuming current rules remain in place) involves a plateau over the coming months rather than a substantial reduction in the strain on our health care system. 

- Meg Oliver reports on the devastating effects of long COVID on children, while Jennifer Fereira takes note of the downstream impact on mental and physical health when a pandemic is met with insufficient measures. Omar Mosleh reports on the two subvariants which are spreading in western Canada. And Natalia Goodwin reports on the spread within deer populations, while Michael Le Page discusses the broader dangers of transmission within and by wildlife around the globe. 

- Meanwhile, Branko Milanovic highlights what our experience with COVID tells us about the possibilities (and implications) of making the systemic changes needed to avert catastrophic climate change.

- James Galbraith weighs in on the source of supply disruptions and associated inflation - being a matter of fragile logistics used by choice, rather than any effect of providing people with bare minimum incomes to survive a pandemic. 

- Finally, Sam Smart discusses (and documents) the right-wing elite's takeover of Canada's media. 

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- John Vidal discusses how the results of the Glasgow climate summit represents a failure by our leaders to act seriously in the face of a closing window to avert catastrophe, while George Monbiot writes that there's no choice but for citizens to pursue direct action as a result. Patrick Galey points out that the same governments dragging their heels on agreement to save our planet have had no hesitation locking themselves into trade deals which create obstacles to action at the national level. And Robert Hiltz reminds us of Canada's history of failing to live up to its climate change promises.

- All of which leads to Umair Haque's worry that we're approaching a point of civilizational collapse which we're unwilling to even acknowledge (let alone reckon with).

- Jonn Elledge points out the exclusionary classism of UK Cons looking to declare people living in poverty as unduly privileged while claiming that a far higher standard of living is unacceptable for themselves.

- Rainesford Stauffer and Abdullah Shihipar make the case to ensure workers have access to paid leave whatever their reason for needing to make use of it. And Justin Chandler discusses how employers can facilitate working from home for the benefit of all concerned - rather than instead forcing people back into a zero-flexibility requirement to work within an office space.

- Finally, Doug Cuthand highlights how preposterous Scott Moe's demand for "nation" status is coming from the premier failing in the most basic functions of provincial governance.