Saturday, March 26, 2022

On barriers to cooperation

It's for the best that the NDP and Libs have been able to come to terms on a supply and confidence agreement which should at least provide for substantial material gains for people who need them, and may go further in setting up core elements of a universal health care system which have long been lacking. And it's particularly gratifying to see at least some recognition of the leadership that requires. 

But while it's well worth celebrating what looks like a turn for the better, it's also worth a reminder as to what - and who - has prevented that type of cooperation from happening in the past.

Remember that Jagmeet Singh's message after the 2019 election was one of willingness to work with the Liberals on shared priorities. And Justin Trudeau's response reject any systematic cooperation with a single party, as he preferred piecemeal politics and perpetual Parliamentary chicken to acceding to any NDP priorities in exchange for ongoing confidence.

After last year's election, Singh again floated the possibility of closer cooperation, while apparently seeing it as futile to even suggest a formal confidence agreement. But even with that lesser possibility on the table, the Libs expressed at most "not a closure" in response, with nothing coming of it until talks between the leaders this year. 

And lest there be any doubt, that disparity in interest in working together is all too familiar for anybody who has hoped that Libs would treat minority Parliaments as opportunities to achieve progressive outcomes. From Paul Martin sneering that Jack Layton was "two votes short" of being worth talking to, to Pierre Trudeau torpedoing a functional confidence arrangement to manufacture a majority for himself, the history of the two parties is rife with theoretical possibilities which fell victim to the Libs' hubris and/or self-interest. 

Needless to say, that leaves reason for concern that the same factors will affect both the length of time the current agreement figures to hold up, and the expectations as to what will be achieved while it does. And while the points of agreement may make some major achievements seem like real possibilities, there's a lot of work to be done to keep pushing toward actually bringing them to life before the Libs decide to go it alone.

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- David Wallace-Wells examines the massive global toll of excess deaths from COVID-19 (likely far exceeding even the already-alarming official counts). Nele Brusselaers et al. examine how Sweden's choice to ignore science in favour of wishcasting and a strategy of deliberate infection resulted in avoidable tragedy, while Heidi Ledford looks at the possibilities and uncertainties in trying to medicate our way around long COVID. And Dr. Thomas Piggott discusses why he's still making sure to mask up to avoid not only illness for himself, but potentially deadly consequences for people who can't protect themselves. 

- Stewart Lansley examines the causes and consequences of the UK's model of extractive capitalism - with the predictable result being the concentration of wealth and power in a lucky few while everybody else faces perpetually more precarity. And Erica Pandey notes that the executive class is far more eager to force employees back to the office in person than workers are to take avoidable risks in the midst of an ongoing pandemic.

- Meanwhile, Laura Chinchilla and Maria Fernanda Espinosa discuss the importance of ensuring that the women who stand to bear the brunt of climate change are at the table in determining how best to avert and adapt to it, while Jeremy Appel writes that we can't afford to doom ourselves to a climate breakdown as part of a toxic masculinity contest with Vladimir Putin. And Donna Lu reports on satellite data showing that Antarctica's Conger ice shelf has collapsed. 

- David Moscrop writes about the hopeful prospect that the NDP-Lib supply and confidence agreement will lay the groundwork for a universal drug plan. And Jacques Gallant reports on the Libs' recognition that increased health care investment needs to be tied to specific priorities and outcomes, rather than being redirected to suit the political purposes of premiers. 

- Finally, Scott Schmidt examines the constant internal bickering and backstabbing within conservative parties which seems to have completely overtaken any interest in discussing policy choices. Graham Thomson reminds us that Jason Kenney has spent his entire time in Alberta politics courting the lunatics he now claims to need to control. And Taylor Lambert reports on the background to Jason Nixon's ascent to environment minister - featuring one of the UCP's trademark appointments of the person with the absolute worst combination of qualifications and suitability to oversee a government department. 

Friday, March 25, 2022

Musical interlude

 Gorgon City, DRAMA - You've Done Enough

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Winnie Wan Yee Tso et al. study the severity of the Omicron BA.2 COVID variant, and find that its rate of deaths and severe outcomes is no less severe than previous variants in children from 0-11 in particular. Guy Quenneville reports on the connection between the elimination of public health rules and Ontario's spike in cases. Kumanan Wilson examines the history of vaccine passports in Canada, as well as the continuing need for them even as provincial governments abandon them in favour of pandemic denialism. And Russell Wangersky writes that there's no reason for the Moe government to reject an inquiry which would allow Saskatchewan to learn from the pandemic and help keep people healthier.   

- But then, Zak Vescera reports that the Sask Party is continuing to show its lack of interest in avoiding easily preventable deaths by refusing to fund Prairie Harm Reduction. And Connor O'Donovan reports that nine of the people who found refuge in Regina's Camp Hope have died of drug poisonings since it was eliminated. 

- Mitchell Thompson highlights the Ford PCs' plan to demand that health support services in the education system be carried out by staff without health training.

- Kate Aronoff discusses how designing our living environments to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels would produce massive improvements in our quality of life. But in case anybody was hopeful we'd take steps in that direction in Saskatchewan, Bryan Eneas reports that the Moe government is planning to funnel carbon price dollars to the oil sector rather than either allowing people to receive the rebates now available, or investing in a transition to clean energy. And Sharon Riley reports on Alberta's refusal to ensure fossil fuel operators clean up their own messes when they can instead extract profits and leave the public to pay for their liabilities. 

- Finally, Katherine Scott et al. examine whether the supply and confidence agreement between the NDP and Libs may lead to a new Pearsonian era of progressive government. But Geoff Dembicki notes that Pierre Poilievre is looking to plunge both the Cons and our political system as a whole into the Trumpist gutter instead. 

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Katherine Wu warns that another U.S. COVID wave may severely test what's already proven to be an alarming willingness to accept injury and death. Sophia Stocklein et al. find that the effects of COVID-19 include impeding prenatal lung development. Amanda Follett Hosgood reports on B.C.'s failure to track spread in and from work camps. Jessica Wong reports on polling showing that over two thirds of parents recognize that governments have overlooked children's health and wellness, while Alicia Abelson and Sarah Jacobson report on a court's conclusion that the political blocking of masking measures is discrimination against immunocompromised students. And May Warren discusses the options for individual "risk budgeting" - though it's pathetic that our political leaders have refused to engage in the task at the social level. 

- Dylan Short reports on the exodus of doctors from Jason Kenney's Alberta already - and the prospect of far more following suit if the UCP isn't replaced by a government with some interest in a functional medical system. 

- Markham Hislop writes about the International Energy Agency's plan to quickly slash fossil fuel use - with the twin benefits of both facilitating a clean energy transition, and making people less vulnerable to oil sector price gouging. And both Alex Chapman and the Guardian's editorial board point out the comparative folly of cutting gas taxes, which redistributes wealth upward, incentivizes continued pollution and enables the fossil fuel sector to seize even more windfall profits

- Finally, Amanda Schepak discusses Mary Annaïse Heglar's work trying to break the oil industry's stranglehold on public policy decisions. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Dayne Patterson discusses the continued recognition among doctors that the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over (and indeed approaching another particularly dangerous phase). Sumathi Reddy reports on new research showing a starkly more severe risk of diabetes following infection. Nathaniel Dove reports on the spread among Saskatchewan children, while Reuters highlights how Italy has been able to reduce transmission in schools by 82% with proper ventilation. And Nicola Davis reports on Danny Altmann's warning that the prevalence of long COVID (and lack of any meaningful effort to address it) stands to create a generation of people with avoidable disabilities. 

- Armine Yalnizyan discusses why temporary inflation is likely to resolve itself with time, rather than serving as a basis for attacks on wages and social supports. Stephen Wentzell takes note of new CCPA research showing that provincial deficits during the pandemic have been a matter of choice rather than structural concern. And John Nichols discusses how the richest few have been the beneficiaries of a massive pandemic windfall. 

- Aaron Wherry examines how the supply and confidence agreement between the NDP and Liberals will allow the current Parliament to function - much to the apparent chagrin of other parties and pundits eager to posture over the constant threat of an election. But Adam King notes that there's plenty of work to be done in holding the Libs to their commitments, including to finally implement anti-scab legislation. 

- Dan Calverley and Kevin Anderson find that an equitable transition will need to include a rapid phaseout of fossil fuels by wealthier countries, while George Monbiot writes that UK Con spin about a just transition being unaffordable is being proven wrong by successes across Europe. David Wethe points out that oil sector workers aren't seeing their wages keep pace with windfall profits, and are increasingly eager to find better career opportunities.  And Sara Hastings-Simon notes (PDF) that electric vehicle adoption is happening at a faster pace than was previously assumed to be possible. 

- Finally, Adam Morton reports on Andrew Macintosh's warning that Australia's carbon credit scheme is an utter failure in actually reducing carbon emissions. And Rosa Lee and Carla Ellern report on the risks of gas infrastructure both a threat to cause explosions, and as a constant source of greenhouse gas emissions. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Cats dreaming big.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Crawford Killian writes about the dangers of becoming unduly relaxed about a new COVID wave (with particular reference to South Korea's experience). Bruce Y. Lee notes that Austria has reinstated mask mandates based on its belated recognition that it couldn't afford to abandon public health measures. And Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon reports on a push for improved case reporting and transparency in New Brunswick, while David Shield reports that the lone source of ongoing reporting which Scott Moe hasn't been able to squelch is showing an explosion of transmission driven by the BA.2 Omicron variant. 

- Meanwhile, Zak Vescera reports on the growing number of children being born with syphilis and/or HIV in Saskatchewan as the Moe government ignores the need for prenatal care. 

- William Barber writes that the participation of poor and marginalized voters is a must for any remotely democratic system. 

- Lindsay Owens highlights how businesses are engaging in blatant price-gouging while falsely blaming inflation and other economic factors. Abe Asher discusses how the fossil fuel sector is taking its cue from anti-BDS laws to try to stifle any climate action based on holding corporations responsible for the damage they're doing to our planet. 

- Finally, in a column which is obviously relevant to how we view recent developments in Canada, John Harwood discusses how Obamacare has become an accepted fact of life in the U.S. even among the Republicans who once railed against it. 

Monday, March 21, 2022

Monday Afternoon Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Umair Haque discusses how the corporate-driven surrender to COVID - like so many of the choices which value profit over well-being - reflects idiocy in the original sense of the word. Davide Mastracci discusses how we're learning nothing more now than how to suffer from or die with COVID. And John Michael McGrath warns that Ontario's trajectory toward another wave is probably locked in - particularly given a stubborn government's unwillingness to take steps to protect people no matter how obviously they may be needed. 

- Jillian Kestler-D'Amours weighs in on the deference of authorities to the #FluTruxKlan and its white supremacist organizers. 

- Fiona Harvey reports on the scientific community's justified alarm in the face of simultaneous unprecedented heat waves at both of the Earth's poles. The Observer points out how the UK Cons' elimination of energy efficiency policies is imposing ongoing costs on every household in the country. And Harvey also reports on a call by hundreds of academics for universities to stop accepting money from - and being subservient to - fossil fuel companies. 

- Dan Darrah discusses the social pressures and predatory lending practices designed to force people into unmanageable debt. 

- Finally, John Hogan offers a hopeful view that the success of organizing campaigns at Starbucks in the face of gross corporate abuses may bode well for the prospects of far more widespread unionization. 

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Lauren Pelley and Adam Miller discuss the reality that Canada has never seen its previous COVID wave fully recede even as a new one looms, while the Ottawa Citizen asks people to exercise the responsibility and judgment that's sorely lacking from their governments in taking precautions to avoid further spread. And Ziyad Al-Ali interviews Stephanie Desmond about the reality that even mild cases can result in prolonged heart issues, while Jessica Wildfire writes about the folly of surrendering to a disease that affects people's cognitive function in all walks of life. 

- Meanwhile, Alison reviews Nora Loreto's Spin Doctors as an essential read on the pandemic and how it's been misdiagnosed in the media even as right-wing governments seize on the harm to our health care system for their own ideological ends. Jake Johnson discusses how a growing takeover by private equity has led to resident neglect in U.S. care homes. And a group of labour federations calls for the public to take action against any move toward U.S.-style profit-driven health services. 

- Karl Nerenberg makes the case for Canada to stop allowing oligarchs to shelter their fortunes in secrecy here. 

- Christine Berry highlights how corporations are making a killing by raising prices while falsely blaming outside economic factors. And Megan Devlin reports on Mark Lee's call for a windfall profit tax to prevent the fossil fuel sector from profiteering in the face of war and a pandemic. 

- Drew Anderson reports on the plight of a Yorkton family which has seen the value of its home and business lost to environmental contamination, while the two corporate giants responsible stonewall and the government tries to relieve them of any liability. 

- Finally, Ian Welsh offers a concise summary of the features which make for good leadership - and which are all too often lacking in the people who do exercise authority.