Saturday, April 23, 2022

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Renee Graham writes that the elimination of masking protections as a matter of privileged people's comfort in the midst of a pandemic that endangers everybody shows how painfully cruel and selfish much of the U.S. (like Canada) has become. 

- Phil Tank is rightly unnerved by the Moe government's propensity for catering to conspiracy theorists rather than making decisions with any grounding in reality. And Stefan Labbe writes about the first steps in tracking climate anxiety and distress among Canadian youth, while Simon Appolloni offers some suggestions to help ameliorate matters. 

- Al Jazeera reports on the imminent danger that tens of millions of people in Africa may starve as a result of extreme drought. 

- Ivan Semeniuk reports on a new study showing how a reduction in pollution from traffic could substantially help Canadians' health, while CBC News reports on the federal government's plans for an expanded electric vehicle tax credit which may at least reduce the proportion of vehicles on the road which are needlessly spewing carbon pollution. And Brett Tryon discusses how to transition away from using natural gas in one's home. 

- Alex Hemingway discusses how a public investment in rental housing to make sure everybody has a home can pay for itself (while drastically improving people's lives). 

- Finally, Brynn Bourke points out that the underground economy is costing both public revenues and labour and employment rights for workers. And DT Cochrane writes that it's long past time to start requiring corporations to pay their fair share in order to fund the social infrastructure we desperately need. 

Friday, April 22, 2022

Musical interlude

Dash Berlin - Oceans

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Nadine Yousif writes about the growing frustration people are experiencing as they're told to manage their own risks in the midst of a pandemic with obvious social dimensions, and all while being denied the information needed to do so. Dylan Scott similarly laments being stuck in the choose-your-own-adventure phase of the pandemic. Aaron Carroll writes about some of the options to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 which should still be on the table even if protective masking is (needlessly) ruled out. And Maija Kappler reports on the shortest known interval between COVID infections in an individual at 20 days - signaling that the people getting infected now won't have any reason for confidence they'll avoid further harm within a matter of weeks. 

- Clarrie Feinstein and Rosa Saba discuss the need for wages to catch up to inflation - not be pushed down in an effort to ensure only the wealthy benefit from price increases. Josh Bivens points out how the U.S.' inflation has been disproportionately the result of profiteering - with supply chain issues as the other substantial contributing factor, and wages playing hardly any role. And Dean Baker calls out the corporate spokesflacks trying to ignore that reality in seeking to suppress workers' income. 

- Meanwhile, Bert Blundon notes that the Libs' budget offers minimal (and less-than-promised) improvement in securing revenue from the people with the most, while also imposing Harper-style attacks on the public sector. 

- Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood and Marc Lee discuss the continued confusion in the Libs' climate policy, with loud declarations of climate leadership paired with free money and regulatory approvals for major sources of additional emissions which our planet can't afford. And Shawn McCarthy notes that Canada's history of climate policy under the Trudeau government has been one of the worst among developed countries.  

- Finally, David Sirota discusses how U.S. Democrats devoting their time and effort to declaring that government is powerless to do anything but continue catering to the wealthiest few are Jokerfying a generation of voters who saw the 2020 election as the last best hope for better. 

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Liz Szabo discusses how improved ventilation has plenty of additional benefits beyond limiting the spread of COVID - making it the COVID policy equivalent of the familiar image:


- Meanwhile, the Globe and Mail's editorial board writes that there's no excuse for pretending that two past COVID-19 vaccine doses are still sufficient for people to be "fully vaccinated", while Sonia Furstenau and David Fisman question why public health authorities are abandoning their core responsibilities while a global pandemic rages on. And Penny Daflos reports on the lack of available treatment for long COVID - and how for-profit providers are taking advantage where public health care systems are failing to meet people's needs. 

- On that front, Doreen Nicol warns that Conservative premiers are working their way through the health privatization playbook by failing in their responsibilities and encouraging people to pay for help elsewhere. And Mitchell Thompson reports that Doug Ford is also actively outsourcing responsibility for social assistance to businesses - with the intention to strip away the benefits which currently keep people alive while also setting up a corporate profit stream. 

- Danyaal Raza, Ritika Goel and Suzanne Shoush write about the need to push toward racial justice within our health care system as it stands. And Rachel Browne reports on the stark (if unsurprising) difference in arrests for drug possession by race. 

- Finally, Armine Yalnizyan writes that there's no reason to treat temporary inflation as an excuse for another round of '90s-style austerity. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

On mere opinions

There's been plenty of attention - and indeed enthusiasm - in response to the Saskatchewan Liberals' petition seeking a plebiscite on a COVID inquiry. So let's take a look at what might be accomplished through that process - as well as where it's likely to fall short of how it's being billed.

To start with, there have been some questions raised as to whether it's even possible to collect valid plebiscite signatures through a website rather than a physical petition. 

On that front, the authority to determine the validity of signatures lies not with an independent agency such as Elections Saskatchewan, but with the minister responsible. And in the absence of any substantial plebiscite drives in the province's recent past, there's no clear guidance as to what will or won't be accepted. While some familiar with Elections Saskatchewan's rules have pointed out their requirement for physical signatures, there is also legislation which generally provides that electronic signatures are valid for most purposes.  

The more fundamental limitation, though, is that a plebiscite under the Referendum and Plebiscite Act is limited to an expression of opinion. And that fact seems to have been missed both in how the petition has been presented, and in much of the associated media coverage. 

Even if the signature requirement for a plebiscite is met - and even if a vote is ultimately held - the best-case scenario would be purely symbolic. The greatest possible success in the plebiscite drive would be a majority of votes providing a "yes" answer to the question raised in the petition as to whether an inquiry should be called. 

But nothing about the plebiscite process actually binds the government to call an inquiry. (This is in contrast to the referendum procedure under the same legislation; that can produce binding outcomes, but may only be initiated by the government.)

And unfortunately, the Libs' message seems designed to evade acknowledging that glaring gap in their plan. It's thoroughly misleading to offer references to show that plebiscites and public inquiries are legal (yes, that's part of their message), while eliding the reality that one can't legally require the other. 

Which isn't to say there isn't still some merit in organizing around the need for far more transparency - both on an ongoing basis in the midst of a pandemic which continues despite the Moe government's efforts to deny it, and on a retrospective basis as the human toll of the Saskatchewan Party's poor choices continues to escalate. But it's worth avoiding any promises which don't match what's actually on offer - lest the result be to foment even more of a sense of futility among opposition organizers which only serves Moe's purposes in the long run. 

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Abdullah Shihipar discusses why there's every reason to resist the pressure from self-serving politicians and business groups to succumb to COVID-19. Hannah Flynn discusses the long-term brain injuries traceable to long COVID in primates. And Steve Schering examines the hospitalization rates for children during the Omicron wave (with vaccinations offering some, but not bulletproof, protection). 

- Ian Welsh writes about the folly of the petrochemical age on a historical scale - even as so many of our politicians desperately try to avoid discussing how to shift to remotely sustainable forms of social and economic organization. And Deepa Shivaram notes that the U.S. has seen one important first, as wind power has exceeded that from coal and nuclear sources for the first time. 

- Nina Lakhani, Alvin Chang, Rita Liu and Andrew Witherspoon discuss how our food system is grossly unprepared for the effects of climate change. And Gisele Yasmeen notes that far too many people already face food shortages and insecurity - though due to inequality and war rather than a lack of sufficient production to feed everybody. 

- Jacqueline Best points out the problems with Pierre Poilievre's quack monetarism as an excuse to engage in austerity and economic self-sabotage in the name of fighting modest inflation. And Michael Roberts notes that most of the conversation around inflation ignores the reality of supply shocks which can be relieved through direct public investment in productive activity - with the added bonus of ensuring that what's produced best serves the needs of people. 

- Meanwhile, Umair Haque comments on the concentration of wealth and power that inevitable results when we allow - and even encourage - public goods to be put under private control. 

- Finally, Bill Blaikie highlights a few of the firsts in the supply and confidence agreement between the NDP and the Libs. And Aaron Wherry writes that the appropriate frame of reference in evaluating the deal is to assess whether and how it produces durable changes in policy. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Hunting cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Mustafa Hirji discusses how basic public health protections offer the best chance of controlling the spiraling harms from COVID-19 without resorting to lockdowns. Andrew Woo writes that the elimination of regular testing and reporting at the provincial level is making it impossible for people to know the level of risk they face. And John Smith comments on the absurd combination of a devastating wave of infections, hospitalizations and deaths in the midst of a global pandemic, and a government response aimed at denying the problem and demanding that citizens do the same. 

- Andre Picard weighs in on how the pandemic should have pushed us to ensure that long-term care actually provides for the health and well-being of residents. But Megan Messerly and Krista Mahr report that instead of the recognition of our shared fate pushing us to take better care of each other, the contrived backlash against public health measures is undermining longstanding protections such as standard vaccines.  

- Eric Holthaus discusses the challenges of communicating about the approaching and worsening dangers of climate change when we're still stuck in a pandemic. Bob Berwyn writes about the IPCC's warning that it's now or never to avert catastrophe. And Hannah Patros writes about the young climate activists stepping up to stop the exploitation of fossil fuels which otherwise stand to cause irreversible damage to our natural environment. 

- Brian Platt points out the challenge of trying to encourage the construction of new houses in the absence of sufficient workers to do the job - though that reality points out just another consequence of prioritizing resource exploitation over any other goal. And Margot Roosevelt reports on the success of unionized grocery workers in California who have successfully pushed for raises of up to 31% in new contracts. 

- Finally, Anya Zoledziowski reports on the right's continued genocide denial surrounding residential schools, as even a (however indirect) apology from the Pope hasn't put a dent in the determination of white supremacists to minimize or outright deny our past (and continuing) colonialism. 

Monday, April 18, 2022

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Delphine Strauss and Jamie Smyth highlight how long COVID is already preventing millions of people from working - with far more likely to face the same fate due to governments' mass infection strategies. Emily Leedham points out how Saskatchewan's combination of sops to the corporate sector - including a low minimum wage and a lack of health and safety protections - is harming the health of workers. And Adam Miller and Lauren Pelley discuss the difficulty navigating risks on an individual level when the few tools still available are less effective at preventing infection than they once were.  

- Meanwhile, Dean Baker writes about the abuse of the patent system by big pharma to entrench and exploit monopolies at the expense of people's health. 

- Dan Darrah writes that the shortage of available homes in the U.S. and Canada will only be met by prioritizing social housing over market interests, while Stephen Wentzell laments that the Libs' budget focuses more than it should on supply-side funding which will only drive prices and profits higher. 

- Finally, Jonathan Haidt discusses how the U.S.' public discourse has become uniquely stupid over the past decade as increasing numbers of people are utterly disconnected from accurate information about the world around them. And Umair Haque warns that the same forces are producing the prospect of a fascist and anti-democratic wave around the globe. 

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Sam Gindin discusses the need to push back against the narrative that inflation caused by supply chain disruptions and corporate greed will somehow be ameliorated by punishing the working class. And Adam King writes that the response to inflation represents just another facet of the distributive battle between the rich and the rest of us. 

- Monia Mazigh argues that the Libs' minimal steps on housing are doomed to fail as long as we allow the housing sector to serve the interests of financial institutions rather than the people who need homes. And Julia Kane reports on new research connecting the number of oil and gas wells to racial discrimination in zoning. 

- The New York Times notes that the U.S. is looking at antitrust law as a means to challenge corporate collusion to lower wages. 

- Ted Rutland reports on the Libs' use of public resources to push poll against the appetite of the Canadian public to defund police forces. 

- Finally, Evan Scrimshaw examines the utterly dishonest attempt by the Cons and their right-wing allies to stoke fear about a "truck tax" whose only treatment by the federal government was to reject it, along with the media's mindless repetition of the talking point.