Saturday, February 19, 2022

On unhealthy outcomes

Not surprisingly, Ryan Meili's announcement that he'll be stepping down as leader of Saskatchewan's NDP comes as a major disappointment.

To be clear, the decision is understandable both from a personal standpoint given the demands placed on a party leader (particularly with a young family living in Saskatoon), and a political standpoint in light of the backbiting Meili has all too often faced from within the NDP.

But as many of us involved in the party's election review process pointed out, much of the NDP's difficulty in finding its footing over the past decade-plus has been traceable to a complete lack of continuity in leadership. And the election review itself was based on the hope that for once, it would be possible to work on organizational growth and renewal without putting party-building on hold to fight as to who would be charting the party's course.

Sadly, that hope is now gone. Instead, we'll find ourselves at the midway point between provincial elections before choosing another leader, and then once again have to scramble to get a political machine in working order as the election approaches. And this time, that's the result of a self-inflicted wound. 

Meanwhile, from the standpoint of the province as a whole, Meili's message in resigning seems to be misplaced. 

Scott Moe's most recent shift in themes - treating the pandemic as over and any talk of further public health protection as divisive - has never represented anything short of sociopathic dishonesty. There's little meaningful evidence that anything more than a small fraction of the public actually wants to sacrifice public health on the altar of "freedumb!"; there's even less evidence that the results of doing so will be anything but avoidable deaths and severe disabilities, particularly for vulnerable populations including young children and immunocompromised people.

Now, I'd expect Meili will keep up the fight to keep people protected in his continued role as interim leader. But the choice to reinforce the "pandemic is ending!" theme - combined with the fact that Meili will be ceding his pary's leadership - only ensures Moe will perceive no possible political cost to giving full expression to his utter contempt for the lives of his constituents. And political risk of course been the only factor that's ever driven him to deviate from the hardest of hard-right governance.

That imbalance in political will in the face of a COVID wave cresting (and a more dangerous one developing) is particularly jarring in contrast to the start of the pandemic, which sadly looks in retrospect like the highlight of Meili's leadership. While Moe slammed the door on any consultation and his party laughed about COVID-19, Meili's response was simply to call publicly for basic steps to protect people's health - and out of self-preservation if nothing else, Moe fell into a pattern of implementing most of Meili's proposals in a matter of days. 

Now, Moe has emerged emboldened in his determination to treat COVID with absolute denial and disdain. And however understandable the motivations for Meili's choice, it's hard to see the result as anything but yet another blow to Saskatchewan's political and social health.

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Jonathan Koltai et al. study the mental health effects of COVID vaccination - finding a justified decrease in stress among people who have been vaccinated, if flagging at the same time the continued mental health burden being imposed by governments who are determined to tear down vaccine passports and other public health protections. And Elizabeth Payne reports on the spread of the more severe and contagious BA.2 Omicron variant in Canada even as the most basic of public health measures are being stripped away.

- Phil Tank reports on the secretive anti-vaxxers who are now setting Saskatchewan's public health policy thanks to Scott Moe. And PressProgress highlights the role of far-right evangelical churches in promoting and stoking the #FluTruxKlan.

- Gabrielle Peters discusses how the convoy and its demands to surrender to the coronavirus represent a unique threat to disabled people. Rachel Snow writes that the racism laid bare and amplified by the kid-glove treatment of violent white occupiers is all too familiar for Indigenous people. And Vinay Menon laments that Canadian governance has been turned into just another symbol in the U.S.' perpetual culture wars.

- Drew Anderson reports that Alberta is well aware that the province's list of contaminated sites is far more severe than publicly admitted - but that the Kenney UCP is fighting tooth and nail to prevent the public from finding out. Justine Calma discusses how the false promise of carbon capture and storage is being used almost exclusively to paper over the continued extraction and burning of fossil fuels. And Melissa Aronczyk notes that oil industry PR holds far too much sway in determining both our terms of reference and policy choices in trying to avert climate breakdown.

- Finally, Grace Blakeley discusses why it's essential for workers to demand wage increases in the face of both increased demands on employees and corporate-imposed price inflation.

Friday, February 18, 2022

Musical interlude

Hooverphonic - Dirty Lenses

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Arundhati Roy writes that pandemics may herald new political directions - though that reality makes the exploitation of compassion fatigue by corporate extractive forces all the more alarming. Gregg Gonsalves discusses the risks of declaring a premature end to a pandemic, while Dan Lett highlights how Manitoba's declaration of a "new normal" is only courting disaster. Adam Taylor reports that Africa may have already seen widespread infection which wasn't documented due to a lack of testing. Ed Stannard reports on new research showing the long-term symptoms of COVID include limited absorption of oxygen from blood. Laura Spinney notes that long-term disabilities are an entirely foreseeable outcome of a pandemic which is allowed to run out of control. And Brenda Goodman reports on the growing evidence of the increased severity of the BA.2 Omicron variant. 

- Meanwhile, Zak Vescera reports on the tuberculosis outbreak in northern Saskatchewan which the Moe government is treating with the same strategy of denial as the COVID pandemic. 

- Joyce Green and Gina Starblanket discuss how police deference to the #FluTruxKlan highlights a grossly unequal view as to whose interests matter, while Anya Zoledziowski writes that the effect of the convoy has been to make BIPOC people all the less safe in their own cities. And Justin Ling reports that authorities allowed the occupation to take hold despite having received ample warning that it was serving as a cover for violent extremists.  

- Finally, Abdul Al-Sayed discusses how corporate greed is the main driver of the inflation currently being used as an excuse to suppress wages and social supports. And Alex Hemingway reminds us about the importance of public planning and investment to ensure outcomes that benefit everybody - not only the few with the wealth and power to dictate decision-making behind closed doors. 

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Sabrina Eliason, Tehseen Ladha and Sam Wong highlight how the elimination of public health protections puts children at particular risk. And CBC News examines what we know so far - and still have yet to learn - about the ultimate impact of long COVID. 

- Umair Haque writes that the #FluTruxKlan may represent the first obvious example of the collapse of democracy in the U.S. sending ripple effects around the globe. Justin Ling reports on the connections between the convoy and the extreme right, while Brian Palmer also looks into the origins of the occupation. And Talia Lavin traces what the participants and their backers have been discussing while rendering Ottawa unliveable (and seeking to do the same across the country) in the name of overturning democracy. 

- Andrew Nikiforuk discusses how the apparent choice between fascism and fecklessness may signal the erosion of democracy in Canada as well. And Innovative Research notes that Canadians are understandably frustrated with both the convoy and the ineffective government response. 

- Jon Stone reports on Michael Gove's admission that trickle-down economics have been an utter failure for any purpose other than further enriching the already-wealthy.

- Finally, Joe Hernandez reports on new research confirming how the fossil fuel sector is greenwashing its continued carbon pollution. Brett Tryon discusses why gas stoves are untenable based on their contribution to air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. And Jennifer Balch et al. study yet another harmful climate feedback loop, as hotter and drier night contribute to the easier spread of wildfires. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Wednesday Evening Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Gavin Yamey, Abraar Karan and Ranu Dhillon write that the COVID pandemic is far from over even in the U.S. where the Omicron wave is receding. Frederik Lyngse et al. study (PDF) the transmission of Omicron and find that vaccination is indeed effective in reducing spread, while Daichi Yamasoba et al. conclude that the B.A2 variant which is becoming the dominant strain pairs the original Omicron's spread with significantly more severity. Lauren Pelley reports on new research showing how vulnerable people are bearing the brunt of the pandemic in Canada, while Ed Yong comments on the plight of immunocompromised people left in limbo. And Sayako Akita discusses the toll of long COVID from a personal perspective. 

- Zak Vescera writes that plenty of businesses recognize the recklessness of the Moe government's declaration of open season, and are maintaining their own vaccination checks even as the provincial app is taken out of service. And Vescera also reports on yet another leaked record number of COVID hospitalizations which are resulting in surgeries being cancelled, while Chris Gallaway notes that Alberta's health care system is similarly being trashed by a callous government. 

- Molly Jong-Fast discusses the U.S. money and organization behind the #FluTruxKlan, while Ryan Cooper notes that it represents an alt-right fantasy made real. Frank Graves and Michael Valpy examine where the convoy's limited support lies - while noting that the number of people seeing potential for true class conflict far exceeds the number actually supporting the occupation. And James Hutt discusses how the citizen action at Billing Bridge can serve as a model to confront and overcome right-wing agitators. 

- Finally, George Monbiot writes that the #FluTruxKlan and its copycat/sibling campaigns of destruction around the globe represent incoherent rage rather than any solidarity or meaningful purpose. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Helpful cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Abdullah Shihipar discusses why one-way masking is far from an adequate solution to the public health problems posed by even the current variants of COVID-19, while Monica Torres points out how far we are from the point where prudent people can reasonably take the invitation to stop masking in the workplace. And Sarah Trick writes that telling immunocompromised people they can isolate themselves completely while a "new normal" develops without them is far from an acceptable position. 

- Nora Loreto rightly raises the question of why the Trudeau government has applied the Emergencies Act only to protect commercial transit, but not to keep tens of thousands of people from dying as a result of a pandemic. An anonymous Ottawa resident describes how citizen activism was able to do what police failed or refused to do in blocking the #FluTruxKlan, while Vanessa Balintec notes that the occupation of Ottawa has only exacerbated some of the health concerns arising out of the COVID pandemic. And the Angus Reid Institute finds overwhelming public opinion in opposition to the convoy of disease and hate.  

- Henry Giroux writes that the purpose of the convoy is to destroy the ability of democratic governments to act for the common good, while Paul Krugman notes that the only "right" being effectively asserted is the right to destroy. And Tom Cardoso reports on the financial backers - both Canadian and foreign - offering up millions of dollars toward those ends, including fossil fuel interests looking to undermine acceptance of science generally. 

- Finally, Charlotte Grieve reports on the less-than-surprising revelation that the gas industry is just as deceptive in seeking approval for continued carbon pollution as the coal and oil industries have been to put us on the precipice of climate breakdown. And the Associated Press reports on the U.S.' "megadrought", along with its roots traceable directly to climate change. 

Monday, February 14, 2022

Monday Afternoon Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Doug Cuthand writes that falsely pretending we're "back to normal" in the midst of a pandemic does nothing but put people at needless risk. CBC Radio talks to experts about what we should be doing with vaccine passports, and finds that if any change is in order it's to ensure that the definition of being vaccinated includes the receipt of booster doses. And Ian Welsh writes that there's no way to describe people fighting against public health protections other than unambiguously pro-death.  

- Mohy-Dean Tabbara, Jennefer Laidley and Garima Talwar Kapoor point out how single people living in deep poverty have been neglected in the design of pandemic supports (even before governments started slashing those in the name of forcing people back to unsafe work).  

- Robert Danisch warns that a foreign-funded extremist movement should push Canada to start reckoning with the collapse of democracy in the U.S. CBC Radio discusses the perversion of the concept of "freedom" fuelling the #FluTruxKlan's rhetoric. And Mitchell Thompson writes about Ted Byfield's legacy as one of the people most responsible for laying the groundwork for reactionary extremism in Canada.  

- Finally, George Monbiot calls out the UK Cons for using crocodile tears about affordability for the poor as an excuse to shovel profits toward the fossil fuel sector. And The Energy Mix highlights how a methane feedback loop may be causing a climate breakdown on an even more rapid pace than we'd previously anticipated. 

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Robin McKie and Michael Savage write about the warnings of UK scientists that the reckless elimination of public health protections will lead to far more preventable deaths. Alanna Smith reports on a letter from public health experts recognizing the dangers of the Kenney UCP's similar recklessness in the face of the Omicron wave. And Nathaniel Dove reports on the Saskatchewan Party's systematic hiding of COVID data (even from the province's health authority).

- Scott Schmidt is understandably frustrated that coddling the #FluTruxKlan has been added to the Alberta/Saskatchewan cycle of belated public health measures and premature celebration of the end of a pandemic which isn't going away. And Yasmine Ghania reports on the much-needed backlash against Scott Moe for indulging anti-science bigots.

- Meanwhile, recognition that the #FluTruxKlan itself is largely the product of foreign interference has begun to surface around the globe - with Ben Collins, Steve Reilly et al., and Zack Beauchamp each highlighting how it reflects cynical manipulation rather than public opinion. And Emma Graham-Harrison and Tracey Lindeman discuss the reality that the convoy isn't about COVID measures.

- The Star's editorial board calls out the Cons for their eagerness to join and promote the most hateful and evil of what the convoy has to offer. And Chauncey Devega talks to Joe Walsh about the reality that the Trump movement would happily destroy its own country in an expression of anger.

- Finally, Molly Shah reviews Donald Cohen and Allen Mikaeilian's the Privatization of Everything as a warning of how much more difficult it is to work toward the common good when our key social and economic infrastructure is built around the concentration of profits and wealth. But Rosa Saba points out one promising sign, as Canadian unionization rates are beginning to rise as workers recognize neither their employers nor their governments will work to keep them healthy and safe.