Friday, December 24, 2021

Musical interlude

Agnes - Here Comes the Night

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Katherine Wu, Ed Yong and Sarah Khang write that the Omicron COVID-19 wave is seeing governments make the same familiar mistakes in an accelerated time frame, while Umair Haque laments the continued combination of incompetence, ineptitude and indifference. And the Star's editorial board points out the chaotic set of responses at the provincial level, while Birgit Umaigba, Jesse McLaren and Naheed Dosani highlight the continued risks posed by the absence of adequate sick leave.

- Isabel Teotonio flags the desperate need to ensure that residents and workers in long-term care homes get booster shots to prevent another massacre. And Lisa Cordasco reports on the imminent overwhelming of British Columbia's health care system (like those across Canada). 

- Sander van der Linden discusses the importance of inoculating the general public against the type of misinformation that's served to undermine any effective response. And PressProgress highlights how Twitter has decided to treat bounties on Canadian doctors as an acceptable use of its platform.

- Laura Osman reports that instead of treating the pressures of a pandemic as a reason to question how we overpay for prescription drugs, the Libs are allowing big pharma to delay (if not avoid altogether) even minor steps to rein in the cost of needed medications.

- Finally, Mitchell Thompson points out how the Weston family's fortune is built on exploitation. And Ben Burgis writes about the importance of democratic equality in political and economic power to ensure that concentrated wealth doesn't dictate public policy decisions.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Andrew Nikiforuk distills the four myths which have resulted in Canada's political leaders plunging us into multiple avoidable waves of COVID spread. Isaac Olson and Verity Stevenson report on Quebec's latest set of public health rules to try to rein in an unprecedented number of cases, while Bartley Kives points out that Manitoba's health care system (like Saskatchewan's) is straining under the prospect of another wave without having recovered from the previous one. 

- Susan Delacourt highlights how the Libs' narrowed set of benefits - developed on the assumption that the worst of COVID was far behind us - proved to be obsolete by the time it was introduced. Christine Dobby reports on the especially severe effect on workers who may miss the threshold for even reduced federal relief, while having no say in whether they have access to employment income. And Nora Loreto reports on the 107 workers (to date) who have died of COVID contracted in Ontario workplaces. 

- Meanwhile, Walker Bragman and Alex Kotch expose how the Koch right-wing message machine has been running at full capacity to undermine any public health response to COVID.

- Angela Dewan reports on the similar lobbying and PR effort by fossil fuel interests to lock in long-term reliance on natural gas (and associated carbon pollution). And Erik Reinert writes about Frederick Soddy's prescient recognition of the problems with an economy which fails to properly value and protect our natural environment. 

- Finally, Robert Reich writes that corporate exploitation is the actual cause of the inflation we're experiencing - and that working-class and lower-income people will only be worse off if our policy response is to let even more wealth and power flow to those who already have the most. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Ben Cohen points out some of the ways the Omicron variant deviates from what we've come to assume about COVID-19. And Colin Horgan writes that we should draw lessons from the pandemic in exposing some of the ways our social system is built to collapse. 

- Max Fawcett discusses how Jason Kenney and Doug Ford are proving themselves cowards with their grossly insufficient responses to the impending Omicron wave. But contrary to Fawcett's conclusion that Kenney ranks as the worst premier in the country, Scott Moe's refusal to implement a single public health measure - even in the face of modelling showing how a reasonable government could snuff out the wave entirely - stands out as uniquely callous even among this lot. 

- Kate Aronoff writes that the U.S.' failure to move ahead with even basic climate change legislation endangers the world as a whole. Trevor Melanson notes that the public needs to be better informed about the success stories that have arisen to date. And Julia Rock reports on Enbridge's attempt to squeeze even more windfall profits out of its pipelines now based on the argument that they'll be obsolete in just a decade or two. 

- PressProgress surveys some of the most important fights taken up by Canada's labour movement this year. And the Canadian Labour Congress responds to the Ford PCs' attempt to entrench second-class status for gig workers - including by highlighting the importance of universal social programs in not tying the necessities of life to employment (however it's disguised). 

- Finally, Stephen Maher looks to the history of tobacco companies' public denial of scientific facts in raising the likelihood that social media giants are similarly hiding the deliberately harmful effects of their own products. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Leveled-up cats.

On lockdowns

Richard Raycraft reports on the absurdity that the Libs' latest excuse for a pandemic support (the Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit) is available to precisely zero Canadians even as the Omicron wave crests. But let's note that the problem with it involves a common set of assumptions between the federal government and its provincial counterparts.

After all, the concept of a "Lockdown Benefit" naturally arises out of foundational assumptions about what government should do in the course of a pandemic. It involves a choice whether to focus on ensuring income supports are available for everybody who needs them, or to set narrow conditions to deny relief to the extent possible. And the Libs have obviously shifted their priorities from something closer to the first principle, to a fairly strict application of the second. 

But what makes the lockdown benefit all the more problematic is that it operates only where a province or region actually imposes one. 

By now, it should be absolutely clear that most of our provincial governments are themselves opposed to anything of the sort, relying instead on claims of "personal responsibility" and bending over backward to keep businesses open with little regard for the effect on public health. Indeed, the governments most aligned with anti-vaxxers and anti-science cranks are busy claiming that even the barest restriction on business operations should be treated as a "lockdown" to be avoided at all costs.

So that's where we're left: being admonished to make socially responsible decisions for ourselves, while also being told that the ostensible individual freedom to choose whether to limit the spread of the Omicron variant justifies depriving people of access to social supports. 

The result of governments with a reflexive aversion to government action or support at both the federal and provincial levels is thus to place the burden on individuals to absorb the cost of trying to stop the most dangerous variant yet. And whether people end up lacking the necessities of life through a pandemic winter or continuing to circulate for want of available income sources, we'll have a far less healthy society as a result. 

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Ben Cohen writes that we shouldn't take a negative rapid test as license to stop taking every possible precaution to limit community spread. The Star's editorial board asks whether people are ready to make vaccinations mandatory. Supreya Dwivedi laments the innumeracy and delay which are making Ontario's Omicron wave far worse than it needs to be, while Richard Murphy highlights how stupidity in government has led to catastrophe in the UK. And Andrew Longhurst discusses the need for far stronger action in British Columbia as well. 

- Arnaud Boehmann makes the case to engage in a wartime-style mobilization against a climate breakdown. And Charlie Smith notes that the crank court challenges by petro-provinces against the federal carbon pricing system have opened the door for the federal government to play a substantial role in guiding a transition away from fossil fuel production. 

- Jim Stanford calls out the Ford government's choice to treat gig workers as second-class citizens rather than providing them the same protections as other employees. And Josh Kaye points out the New Brunswick NDP's push for a four-day workweek as an example of a meaningful gain for workers which may be well within reach. 

- Astra Taylor interviews David Wengrow about his research showing that inequality is far from inevitable in a developed society and economy. 

- Finally, Robert Hiltz writes that SaskTel should serve as a model for a country which is desperately lacking for affordable and reliable access to basic communication services due to a corporate oligopoly. 

Monday, December 20, 2021

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Umair Haque is rightly frustrated that we haven't learned and applied obvious lessons about how to fight COVID after two years, while also warning against any assumptions that the Omicron variant will go easy on us. Ian Bogost writes about the realization that due in large part to reckless government choices, we may never make it to a post-COVID future. But Nesrine Malik pushes us to keep fighting to limit the damage we do to the people around us. And CBC News interviews David Fisman about the role of improved masking in stopping the spread of a more contagious variant. 

- Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon talks to Colin Furness about the need to finally acknowledge - and act on - the reality that ventilation systems need to be upgraded to respond to an airborne pathogen. And Kathryn May reports that the federal government has delayed plans to push public employees back into common office spaces. 

- Matt Stoller discusses how the factors causing the U.S.' supply chain disruptions include warped corporate incentives which make it profitable for some companies to cause a cargo traffic jam.

- Paul Mason writes that the fall of Boris Johnson is the result of a toxic party ideology which is incapable of acting in the public interest.

- Brandon Doucet argues that it's long past time for Canadians to have truly universal health care, including public coverage for prescription drugs and dental care. And Alex Hemingway writes that fiscal responsibility means making positive investments in people's health and well-being - not imposing punitive austerity. 

- Finally, Patricia Callahan, James Bandler, Justin Elliott, Doris Burke and Jeff Ernsthausen trace how wealth concentrated in the Scripps, Mellon and Mars families in the early 20th century has turned into a twelve-figure pile of assets steered away from any tax responsibilities.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Dr. Katharine Smart highlights the crucial choices which need to be made to avoid a calamitous fifth COVID-19 wave, while Chelsea Nash writes that the most important failings from previous waves have been those of the people with power to make decisions at a social level. And Phil Tank reports on Tara Moriarty's expectation that Saskatchewan has suffered far more COVID deaths than have been reported.

- Meanwhile, Zak Vescera's Trapped series offers a desperately-needed look at the lives being lost to drug poisonings and related dangers to individual health and well-being. And Lilian Shyman et al. study the connection between social determinants of health and depression.

- Drew Costley reports on new research showing how many lives have been saved by reductions in carbon pollution from more efficient vehicles. But Barry Saxifrage notes that even as alternatives to natural gas in home energy supplies are readily available, the continued use of dirty fossil fuels in Canadian homes remains the norm. And Olivia Rosane discusses our constant - if usually unknown - consumption of toxic microplastics.

- Hamilton Nolan discusses how unions can save lives when they provide a counterbalance to employers who are willing to risk workers' safety in the name of profit margins. 

- Finally, Beatrice Brooke writes about the desperate need for the wealthiest and most privileged few to contribute their fair share to the societies they exploit.