Saturday, June 11, 2022

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Olivia Bowden and May Warren discuss the importance of continuing to wear masks even when it's no longer mandated. And Lisa Schick reports on the recognition (if sorely lacking in Saskatchewan's political class) that long COVID is itself developing into a severe public health crisis.

- Courtenay Brown examines the changes to the U.S.' labour market in the wake of the pandemic - which includes the continued loss of nearly half of the public-sector jobs eliminated over the past two years, even as the private sector has mostly returned to its previous employment level. 

- The Council of Canadians highlights the effort to press Canada to work toward waiving intellectual property restrictions which are preventing the developing world from having access to COVID vaccines. And Global Justice Now points out the similar effort on an international basis as the WTO meets for a conference which could address the issue.

- Dylan Penner discusses why we can't rely on private capital to drive the needed transition to a low-emission economy. Tiffanie Turnbull reports on the glaring underreporting of methane emissions in Australia's coal industry.

- And finally Andrew Freedman reports on another stark consequence of climate change, as much of the southwest U.S. is facing an extremely dangerous heat wave.

Musical interlude

Metric - What Feels Like Eternity

Friday, June 10, 2022

Friday Afternoon Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Ryan Tumulty reports on Theresa Tam's warning that Canada may be headed for another COVID wave this fall. CBC News reports on the warning from Fahad Razakthat the province shouldn't have lifted mask mandates this week, while Jennifer Lee points out that Alberta is facing its deadliest pandemic year to date. Adam MacNeil discusses the need for people to serve as the immune response to a disease which will otherwise circulate unabated. And Anneli Uuskula et al. find that COVID infection results in three times the risk of mortality in a year compared to people who are able to avoid the coronavirus, while Matthew Durstenfeld et al. study how long COVID also reduces exercise capacity. 

- David Hencke reports on the billions of dollars in personal protective equipment which has been deemed unfit for use after being supplied by UK Con-connected businesses. And Emily Leedham reports that Manitoba is among the provinces which saw a conservative government hand massive contracts to businesses affiliated with the Plymouth Brethren for no remotely apparent reason. 

- Rani Molla writes that some of the people being required to return to office settings are gaining little besides long commutes as a result. 

- Rob Merrick reports on Boris Johnson's demand that UK workers bear the brunt of inflation (worsened by his party's Brexit) by accepting pay cuts in the midst of soaring prices. And Nadia Whittome writes that the proper response is instead a living wage to ensure workers can afford a reasonable standard of living. 

- Rishika Pardikar reports on how fossil fuel giants are using trade agreements to bully governments into avoiding effective climate policy - and collecting massive windfalls from those which dare to defy them. Carbon Tracker examines how the resources set aside for remediation of wells in the Gulf of Mexico (as in so many other places) fall far short of what's needed, even as oil companies rake in massive profits. And Mickey Djuric reports on the Moe government's failure to ensure resource companies pay what they owe Saskatchewan for extracting natural resources. 

- Finally, Aditya Chakrabortty writes about the collapse of the UK's collapsing political order - along with the hope (however remote) that something better will emerge from the wreckage.

Thursday, June 09, 2022

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Gloria Oladipo reports on the spread of two new Omicron subvariants (BA.4 and BA.5) across the U.S., while Rahul Suryawanshi et al. find that Omicron infection doesn't provide substantial immunity against other variants of COVID-19 (particularly among the unvaccinated). And Tanya Lewis discusses how a focus on cleaner indoor air would protect against COVID as well as other avoidable health problems. 

- Karen Hawthorne interviews Sue Robins about the need for our health care system to move toward a focus on care rather than business. But Katie DeRosa reports that B.C. is instead seeing (and investigating) the acquisition of medical practices by corporate providers who are looking to create a two-tiered system through individual subscription fees - a reality that's also playing out in Ontario. 

- Greg Jericho points out the obvious unfairness of allowing corporations to grab windfall profits by raising prices, while cracking down on any prospect of wage gains to direct anything to workers. And Alex Cooke writes about the devastating effects of an economy planned to provide less than a living wage to workers. 

- Steven Greenhouse and Harold Meyerson argue that established unions can and should do far more to build organizing capacity among younger workers, rather than limiting their focus to a failing effort to cling to what they have now. And Lee Fang discusses how one of the cynical corporate responses to any attempt at unionization has been to co-opt the language of social justice to claim there's no need for organization in the interest of equity and inclusion.

- Finally, Alex Williams discusses how the inflation we're seeing now is the result of conscious choices to eliminate physical productive capacity in all but the most exploitative jurisdictions in the name of goosing corporate profits. Liat Olenick warns that the U.S.' baby formula shortage is just a preview of the precarity of all kinds of food supplies as our climate breaks down. And Umair Haque writes that we can't plausibly treat the multiple, overlapping and substantially-unanswered crises we're facing as anything less than a collapse in progress. 

Wednesday, June 08, 2022

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Nathalie Schwab et al. study the results of autopsies, and find that COVID-19 appears to be the actual cause of death even for many patients treated as having died of other causes. Eva Hejbol et al. examine COVID's wide range of effects on muscles as one explanation for the fatigue it causes. And Deborah Dowell, William Lindsley and John Brooks make the case for improved ventilation to reduce the harm from COVID and other airborne dangers. 

- Kenny Stancil writes about the growing demand for a windfall profits tax based on price gouging by the oil and gas sector. John Woodside highlights how continuing (and even increasing) reliance on fossil fuel assets is setting Canadian investors up for a collapse, while Eszter Matyas, Laura De Rosa and Marek Jozefiak point out the folly of pouring even more money into gas infrastructure which couldn't responsibly be used for anything approaching its full lifespan. 

- Meanwhile, Christopher Flavelle discusses the spectre of the Great Salt Lake drying up as an example of the imminent and devastating effects of climate change and associated environmental negligence. 

- Ian Welsh discusses Emmanuel Wallerstein's work in asking whether capitalism is reaching a breaking point where there's nobody left to exploit. And Moises Canales-Lavigne reports on the wide range of necessities whose prices are being inflated beyond the means of Canadians. 

- Stephen Wentzell writes about Doug Ford's increased majority based on big-money donations and a complete lack of democratic accountability. And Andrea Houston discusses the need for electoral reform to ensure minority-of-a-minority parties can't exercise absolute power, while Max Fawcett makes the case for mandatory voting to ensure everybody's voice is included in electoral decision-making. 

- Finally, Kisha Supernant and Sean Cameron push back against the residential school denialism which is being lent wholly undeserved credence by the corporate media. 

Tuesday, June 07, 2022

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Sociable cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Jason Hannan discusses why the gaslighting campaign to get people to forget about the deadly disease being left to spread unchecked is so dangerous to democracy, while Daniel Chang reports that essential workers have borne the brunt of the damage of the workplace spread of COVID-19. And Matt Gurney writes that Ontario's health care system is so threadbare that even unrealistically optimistic assumptions about COVID being "no worse than the flu" could still lead to its triggering systemic collapse. 

- Meanwhile, Thomas Homer-Dixon and Robin Cox discuss the need for British Columbia (and other jurisdictions) to recognize and address the common sources of increasingly-regular calamities. 

- Jaryn Vecchio reports that workers in Prince Albert (among other places) are having perpetually more difficulty affording even the necessities of life. And Paula Duhatschek reports on the growing identification of poverty as a crucial factor in medical care. 

- Christiana Figueres, Yvo de Boer and Michael Zammit Cutajar write that we shouldn't accept any more excuses for delay in halting our contributions to a climate breakdown. But Tracy Sherlock reports on how foreign oil lobbyists have been setting the agenda for Canada's federal government. And Lori Lee Oates discusses how Newfoundland and Labrador is just one of many jurisdictions implausibly proclaiming the exceptionalism of its own fossil fuel sector as an excuse to keep drilling. 

- George Monbiot writes about the environmental disaster of dead crabs and lobsters washing ashore off the coast of England - and the refusal of the Con government to investigate to determine what's causing mass fatalities of wildlife.

- Finally, Justin Brake discusses the fight to hold off the privatization of post-secondary education as for-profit actors try to use the disruption of the pandemic to push further into universities. 

Monday, June 06, 2022

#SKNDPLDR Candidate Profile - Carla Beck

On paper, Carla Beck's track record covers nearly every group the NDP should be looking to attract into its fold. She's a well-respected veteran member of the Legislature, with prior experience as a school board trustee who can thus point to a history of collaborative government. And she can combine rural roots with a political base in one of the party's most important urban strongholds. 

Moreover, she was able to get organized from the outset of the NDP's leadership campaign, resulting in only one challenger entering the field. And it's no surprise that a front-running campaign has been able to assemble endorsements from within any group a leadership hopeful could want to attract - giving nearly any type of voter some validation to accept her as an option.

All of those factors mean that Beck has been in the driver's seat of the campaign from day one, and still looks like an overwhelming favourite to win the Saskatchewan NDP's leadership. But there are still a couple of crucial questions which are making her campaign positively painful for some of us to watch. 

The most basic question has been how Beck's experience and skill would translate to being the face of the party on a provincial level. And on that point, there don't look to be any strong answers in either direction: her work speaking to voters may not be the most comfortable yet, but there's no reason to think she isn't up for the job in an election campaign. 

More problematically, there's been uncertainty as to Beck's decision-making process in deciding what the NDP's messages and priorities should be. And while that may not affect the outcome of the leadership race, it raises alarming prospects for the party if Beck does cruise to victory. 

From the moment Beck's campaign launched in an oil and gas supplier's business, there's been reason for concern from the beginning that she's accepted a dangerous interpretation of the results of the 2020 provincial election. 

In that respect, it's worth another reminder that the Saskatchewan Party's spin about the NDP's platform has never borne even a remote resemblance to reality, particularly as it involves the oil and gas sector in the province. 

Under the leader regularly branded by the Moe government (and its media allies and puppets) as being opposed to oil-sector jobs, the NDP explicitly said (PDF) the "(o)il and gas is an will remain a strong pillar of our economy", announcing that its ambition was limited to "chang(ing) our energy mix" by moving to renewable and non-emitting electricity. And the NDP never put together the type of climate plan which would actually affect the fossil fuel sector's carbon pollution - a point which plenty of people within the party recognized as a weakness before the campaign. (After all, it's a lot easier for opposition spin about your positions to stick when you don't have a clear answer as to what you actually have planned.)

One could hardly imagine a more self-destructive choice for a political party than to fully buy into opponents' framing of the political debate. But Beck (if hardly alone) seems to have accepted the view that resistance to the complete domination of Saskatchewan's political scene by the oil sector is futile - and that there's nothing to be done other than to supplicate the party to its wishes, rather than hammering its own message about the difference in interests between oil workers and the billionaires simultaneously trying to exploit and eliminate them. 

It's from that starting point that subsequent events have looked particularly worrisome - including an oil show photo-op which did little but validate the fossil fuel barons who already have multiple fully-owned political parties at their disposal, and a distinct turn toward the austerian in answering questions as to whether there's any room to increase public revenue with the claim that it's possible to fund the change Saskatchewan needs merely by finding efficiencies (among other rhetoric that would more comfortably be found coming from the CTF than the NDP). 

Of course, there's no lack of outside voices who have been telling the NDP constantly that what it needs is to brand itself as the Sask Party Orange. But that's always been at best a dubious proposition even from the standpoint of trying to make the case for change - and a downright destructive one for anybody who actually wants to accomplish anything for the province's people in the process. And if Beck continues with that mindset, the risk isn't limited to the outcome of the leadership campaign, but extends to the prospect that people will conclude the NDP has given up on providing a meaningful progressive alternative. 

#SKNDPLDR Candidate Profile - Kaitlyn Harvey

The flip side of Carla Beck's position as the ultra-establishment candidate - backed by most of the NDP's existing organizational structure, and using that position to play to those with the most wealth and power within the province - has been an obvious opening for an outsider candidate. And Kaitlyn Harvey has taken up that mantle with at least some success so far.

It helps that Harvey has a solid background for her campaign message, raising the prospect of representation for long-neglected groups (including a personal stake in the Saskatchewan Party's politics of neglect) combined with a strong professional background which leaves no room for question as to her credentials. 

Unfortunately, Harvey started the campaign at a severe disadvantage in name recognition and internal support, and it's doubtful that she'll be able to close the gap in a way that will affect the outcome of the campaign. And that isn't entirely attributable to the structure of the campaign. 

Even for some period of time after she entered the race, Harvey's campaign had little apparent public impact, including the glaring lack of public endorsements within the province until recently. While she's now starting to hold frequent events and receive visible shows of support, there looks to be too small a time frame in which to transition from convincing her natural core of activists to reaching the full breadth of the party membership - particularly when the voting window is already open.

In addition, there's also some reason for question whether Harvey's choice of messaging is right for an effort to convince voters to support an insurgent alternative. 

From the standpoint of a completely neutral, dispassionate observer, a mindset of risk assessment and mitigation would represent a highly valuable asset in the leader of a government. But there's precious little evidence that the message will resonate with anybody who needs to be convinced of the need for change.

Instead, there's inevitably at least some gap between what makes for the most responsible decision-making in power, and what will convince voters to offer their support. On that front, Harvey's message seems to have all the possible down-sides of Ryan Meili's evidence-based approach (which precluded definitive statements about possibilities which seemed to merit study rather than immediate promises), without the overarching positive vision of a "healthy society" as the end goal to be pursued. And her presentation in person tends toward a higher level of frustration (and lower level of optimism) than would seem ideal for a candidate whose success depends on the promise of something better. 

That said, Harvey is doing plenty both to raise questions which deserve discussion within the leadership campaign, and to boost her own profile as somebody who can shape the direction of the NDP and the province. And even the party stalwarts who have thrown in their lot with Beck would do well to ensure that Harvey and her critiques play a major role in the NDP's future. 

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Judy Melinek notes that the physical effects of long COVID include irreversible organ damage, while Rob Chaney discusses its devastating impact on people's lives. But Brigid Delaney writes about the social death of a pandemic which is still very much a live threat to the people ignoring it. And Irelyne Lavery reports on one of the latest steps in the process of disappearing awareness of COVID-19, as Canada's federal government is planning to stop making rapid tests available by the end of the year regardless of how much human suffering continues to circulate. 

- Elizabeth Payne discusses some of the Ontario family doctors who are leaving their practices behind due to government neglect when it comes to basic health care. 

- Adam Miller writes that decriminalization of possession is only a small first step in saving lives when poisoned drugs are already baked into the supply chain for widely-used substances. 

- Drew Anderson reports on the continual growth of the toxic tailings ponds holding the liquid residue from Alberta's tar sands. 

- Finally, Creeden Martell reports on the pitiful excuse for housing support - deliberately designed to exclude Saskatchewan's poorest people - introduced last week by the Moe government. And Stewart Lansley writes about the need to put basic infrastructure and services back in the hands of citizens rather than extractive capitalists. 

Sunday, June 05, 2022

Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Tom Brodbeck writes about the need to treat the victims of the COVID-19 pandemic as human beings, rather than mere statistics to be reported once and never thought of again. 

- Gabriel Favreau discusses how the pandemic (combined with a negligent government response) has left Alberta's public health care system in worse shape than ever. And Chris Hannay reports on the corporate takeover of all kinds of health services - and the predictable result that patient visits are directed toward high-profit options rather than medical needs.

- Henry Fountain notes that another year of record carbon pollution has predictably caused a new peak in CO2 concentrations in the Earth's atmosphere. Damian Carrington reports on research showing the dangers of air pollution caused by tires even in vehicles which limit tailpipe emissions. And Jon Queally reports on an OECD warning that plastic pollution is only projected to increase over the next few decades if radical action isn't taken now.

- Wilfred Chan reports on the failure of the U.S. to extend a school lunch program needed to keep millions of children from going hungry.

- Finally, Dell Cameron reports on the Privacy Commissioner of Canada's findings about Tim Horton's app being used to illegally track customer movements for no legitimate purpose. And Kyle Chayka discusses how corporatized social media has turned people into content machines, serving the purposes of tech giants more than their apps serve users.