Saturday, March 12, 2022

#SKNDPLDR 2022 Overview - No Certainty, or No Contest?

I've posted previously about the loss for party and province that is Ryan Meili's resignation from the leadership of Saskatchewan's NDP. And as I'll discuss in this and posts to come, that factor will cast a long shadow over the new leadership campaign and beyond.

But with Meili stepping down - and with multiple top-tier candidates having ruled out runs or even declined movements to draft them into the race - the main question now is whether the leadership will be contested seriously (or at all).

Anybody else considering entering the race will need to have a plan to compete against a strong frontrunner. Carla Beck has started the campaign by assembling substantial support both within the current caucus and among prominent members. And she easily meets a basic checklist for the leadership position as a well-liked and effective MLA who can boast strong connections throughout the party, an urban base and rural roots, and the appealing prospect of finally breaking the gender barrier for the NDP's permanent leadership.

But then, there's the reminder of the shoes the new leader will have to fill:

For all Beck's merits, it's a high bar for her - or anybody else - to approach Meili's principled opposition, especially when it comes to the fundamental building blocks of a healthy society. And it's unlikely we'll see Beck tested much under the type of safe, low-content campaign which she's run so far - and which she'll have every incentive to continue running as long as there isn't any serious competition. 

I'd thus think even Beck's own supporters would recognize the value in ensuring there's a contest rather than an acclamation. But who can plausibly make that happen?

Most obviously, the past two leadership campaigns have been marked by the success of Saskatoon MLAs against Regina competitors. And that may be in part due to a structural advantage for somebody who starts out with greater name recognition in Saskatchewan's largest city, while also spending enough time in Regina during legislative sessions to make connections. 

With Betty Nippi-Albright having already (if unfortunately) ruled out a run, that still leaves a few intriguing possibilities. I'd view an environmentally-focused campaign from Erika Ritchie as a particularly desirable counterweight to the unfortunate view of some within the party that the next leader should be even more deferential to the oil sector than is currently the normal practice. But any of Ritchie, Jennifer Bowes, Vicki Mowat or Matt Love could run a competitive campaign while offering a voice to people who want to expand the range of possibilities for the party. 

In contrast, any candidate running a campaign based primarily in Regina figures to face an uphill battle due to both Beck's own prominence locally, and the immediate boost to her campaign provided by much of the city's NDP establishment. With the stress on parents of younger children being a major them in both how the campaign was precipitated and who's ruled out a run so far, it may be too much to hope for Meara Conway to throw her hat in the ring - and it's hard to see who outside of caucus would pose much of a challenge. 

Outside of geographic considerations, there's also the question of policy positioning. Beck herself is roughly in the middle of the road within the NDP, and it's hard to see much of a push coming from the neoliberal centre in the absence of a clear path to power. But the progressive wing which helped build behind Meili will surely be looking for somebody to challenge Beck while also building a profile for battles to come. 

There's also the prospect of some generational considerations coming into play. With the party apparatus largely in the hands of an older generation and Beck having taken on the status of the establishment candidate, there's a prospect that younger supporters and voters might work on providing an alternative while carving out their own places within the party. 

Of course, all the arguments for a competitor run into the realities of a campaign in which Beck already has a head start - and where there will be little time in which to try to sign up new members to make up the gap. 

For now, the above leaves more questions than answers as to who else might join the race. But the hope for now has to be that the election of a new leader doesn't devolve into an acclamation - and that both Beck and the party are strengthened for it regardless of how the campaign turns out.

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Zak Vescera looks back at the two-year period since the first COVID-19 cases were recognized in Saskatchewan, while Zeynep Tufecki offers a look at how millions of lives could have been saved in retrospect. Nicola Davis reports on the soaring case levels resulting from the UK's elimination of public health protections, while Max Fawcett is rightly critical of Doug Ford and others who have chosen to unmask their disregard for people's well-being. And Emily Pasiuk discusses the particularly complicated between loss and grief and the COVID pandemic. 

- Meanwhile, Katharine Wu describes long COVID as the pandemic following the pandemic, while noting that we're not doing anywhere near enough to even understand it (let alone treat it). 

- Angelyn Francis reports on new University of Toronto research showing that racialized students are twice as likely to report poor health as white students. And Tingxi Long et al. study the deterioration of the diet of older American adults even over the last couple of decades. 

- Gordon Lafer examines (PDF) how the U.S.' labour law system is biased against union organization - while noting the importance of building an electric vehicle industry and other new industrial sectors which allow workers to defend their interests through collective bargaining. And Greg Jericho notes that Australia's increase in hours worked is the result of people being forced to take multiple jobs in order to stay afloat. 

- Finally, Stephen Wentzell reports on Gord Johns' work to end the criminalization of personal drug use as part of a strategy to end the epidemic of drug poisonings. 

Friday, March 11, 2022

Musical interlude

The Knocks w/ Dragonette - Slow Song

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Caroline Chen discusses the reasons why we're still waiting for COVID vaccines for children under 5 - leaving the people least able to protect themselves to bear the full weight of irresponsible declarations of surrender against the pandemic. Benjamin Ryan reports on the research showing that even mild COVID cases can lead to brain damage and reduced cognitive function. And Phil Tank writes that Saskatchewan's citizens are understandably losing hope and faith as a result of the Moe government's callous disregard for their health and well-being. 

- Meanwhile, Zak Vescera reports on the continued overload in Saskatchewan's health care system even as even the slightest public health measures are eliminated. And Linda McQuaig calls out Doug Ford and his Ontario PC government for joining Moe and Jason Kenney in using the pandemic as an excuse to privatize health care. 

- David Macdonald writes that the provinces making excuses to slash public services have plenty of money available to improve the lives of their constituents. And Clarisa Diaz discusses how part of the story of inflation includes corporations supplying less of their products while charging the same or more out of sheer opportunism. 

- Mitchell Anderson writes about the need for a detox from Russian state propaganda which has been put on Canadian airwaves for profit. Walker Bragman examines how business lobby groups have bought support from U.S. judges by painting corporatist ideology as neutral legal education. And David Suzuki discusses how the fossil fuel sector continues to sow doubt and denial in order to allow it to keep polluting our planet, while Alice McCool and Thomas Lewton point out the use of "Indigenous-washing" in particular to deflect from the real costs of locking in new pipelines. 

- Finally, D.G. discusses the conspicuous contrast in how police have treated violent white supremacists compared to peaceful land defenders. And Kelly Hayes talks to Harsha Walia about the radically different treatment being offered to refugees from Russia's attacks on Ukraine as opposed to people seeking to escape war in the Middle East - as well as the organizing necessary to make sure everybody has the opportunity to seek a better life. 

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Terry Gross discusses how COVID has brought some needed attention to other chronic illnesses. But Sarah Trick writes that the reckless elimination of public health protections represents a betrayal of people with disabilities who face especially stark risks from others' callous choices. And Nathaniel Dove reports on the reality that the abdication of responsibility by governments is shifting extra burdens to individuals to try to make up for a lack of social protection, while Gillian Findlay interviews Nili Kaplan-Myrth about the frustration responsible people rightly feel as a result. 

- Laura Meckler reports on the CDC's latest study showing that mask mandates have in fact been essential to reducing COVID-19 transmission in schools. And Armine Yalnizyan writes about the lack of change for the better after two years of pandemic tumult. 

- Raymond Zhong and Nadja Popovich discuss how decades of deliberately racist zoning choices continue to reverberate in the distribution of the consequences of air pollution.  

- Susanna Twidale and Nina Chestney report on the International Energy Agency's recognition that energy-related greenhouse gas emissions continue to reach record highs. Amy Westervelt highlights how dirty energy profiteers have tried to hijack free speech rights to prevent anybody from holding the oil industry accountable for deliberately and fraudulently concealing the damage it's done to our planet, while Emily Leedham discusses how industry-funded climate denialism remains particularly widespread in Alberta and Saskatchewan. And Janet French reports that the oil industry's property taxes left unpaid to Alberta's rural municipalities have ballooned to $253 million even as the sector is rolling in windfall profits. 

- Finally, Andrew Jackson rejects the right-wing argument that we have to choose between averting a climate breakdown and ensuring that people have a reasonable standard of living. Brendan Haley writes that there's no reason to treat temporary inflation as an excuse not to invest in a just transition to clean energy - particularly when the end result would be to eliminate one of the most volatile components of most people's expenses. And Hannah Westwater reports on Jack Monroe's participation in a panel pointing out the need for income supports to deal not only with immediate inflation, but also structural poverty. 

Wednesday, March 09, 2022

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Sarah Bartsch et al. study the costs and benefits of face mask use, and conclude that even without factoring in improvements to public health mask mandates produces positive outcomes from a financial perspective, while Caroline Alphonso reports on Ronald Cohn's exhortation for Ontario not to abandon its protection through masks. Evangelos Oikonomou et al. examine yet another acute and lasting symptom of COVID-19, as it impairs the ability of patients' arteries to increase blood flow. Patrick Martin writes about the growing evidence that the Omicron BA.2 variant may be the most dangerous version yet even as governments stick to a "let 'er rip" policy toward it. 

- Kelly Grotke discusses how Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine is an all-too-logical extension of the privatization of political power. And Jillian Kestler-D'Amours calls out Canada's petro-provinces for seeking to use a war rooted in resource politics to line the pockets of the fossil fuel sector. 

- Fiona Harvey discusses the meager response to the IPCC's latest and most urgent warning about a the need to immediately stop our climate breakdown. Emily Chung summarizes the state of fossil fuel subsidies in Canada. And Randy Robinson highlights how the spike in fuel prices is traceable to our avoidable reliance on dirty energy, not to carbon prices which (a) have changed minimally if at all and (b) make up only a small portion of any price as a whole. 

- Tara Carman writes that the choice to stop funding co-operative housing and other non-market options in the 1990s continues to reverberate in a lack of affordable housing today. 

- Finally, Nicole Williams reports on the Ford government's decision to let penalties arising out of the #FluTruxKlan's takeover of Ottawa expire, confirming their deference to white supremacist occupiers at the expense of the people who saw their city taken over. 

Tuesday, March 08, 2022

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Cats playing games.


Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Ed Yong rightly questions how the U.S. (like Canada) has come to see a large number of preventable COVID-19 deaths as normal. Hannah Rosenblum et al. study the effects of coronavirus vaccines and find that even reported adverse events were largely mild. And Pam Belluck reports on the growing body of research showing that COVID has can do lasting damage to the brain. 

- Meanwhile, Elizabeth Chuck reports on new research showing that about half of the U.S.' population has suffered neurological damage from lead in gasoline. And Andre Picard discusses how the COVID pandemic resulted in a surprising increase in traffic violence.

- Mark Howden, Joy Pereira and Roberto Sanchez discuss how we're falling further and further behind the steps needed both to avoid a complete climate breakdown, and to adapt to the damage we've already done to our planet. And  Keith Stewart writes that the way to put an end to wars caused by fossil fuel supplies is to stop relying on them. 

- Finally, David Moscrop notes that the #FluTruxKlan has offered us yet another indication of the need for a stronger response to right-wing extremism. 

Monday, March 07, 2022

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- The Associated Press reports on the continued disparity in COVID-19 vaccinations between countries which is exacerbating the risk of new and more severe variants for everybody. 

- David Moore and Donald Shaw report on the threat of industrial chemicals at risk of being spilled or discharged due to extreme weather - and the array of corporate forces fighting to keep endangering the public rather than being responsible to address the impending disasters they've created. And Amy Westervelt discusses how a grossly insufficient set of climate policies is the result of corporate-owned governments allowing fossil fuel lobbyists to dictate our policy choices. 

- Kendall Latimer reports on the growing gap between a suppressed Saskatchewan minimum wage and the cost of an acceptable standard of living. 

- Meanwhile, Bruce Campbell points out how the Trudeau Libs' failure to do anything about the growing inequality they recognized in taking power played a major role in the development of the #FluTruxKlan. And Sheila Wang reports on a single loophole being used by some of the wealthiest Canadians to avoid millions of dollars in taxes. 

- Finally, Carole Cadwalladr writes about the irony of Vladimir Putin's failing effort to control the flow of information about Russia's unconscionable attack on Ukraine after funding the disinformation apparatus which has done so much to toxify politics in the rest of the world. 

Sunday, March 06, 2022

Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- James Tapper reports on the UK's soaring rates of long-term illness caused by COVID-19, while Tara Madden writes about the utter uselessness of people trying to substitute admonitions toward positive thinking for a plan to help people suffering from long COVID. And Denise Balkissoon writes that far too little attention is being paid to the transmission of COVID within animal species (and back into people).

- David Moscrop writes that there's no valid reason to make workers and citizens pay the price for inflation fearmongering through wage cuts or avoidable austerity. Cam Scott writes that the #FluTruxKlan reflects little but an active attempt to push social regression. And Markham Hislop notes that the rise of fascist activity is the result of economic despair being preyed on by the Cons and their allies. 

 - Max Fawcett offers advance warning of the preposterous "freedom oil" propaganda now being used to try to avoid any transition away from dirty fossil fuels. And Drew Anderson notes that even if somebody was desperate to try to push Canadian oil and gas in the European market, there's little practical way to make it happen.

- Finally, Corey Mintz discusses how the Ford government has chosen to legislate away employment protections in order to serve the interests of the apps exploiting precarious workers.