Sunday, January 06, 2019

Evangelical Hypocrisy


It's more than ironic that Jerry Falwell Jr. is one of Donald Trump's strongest supporters. Christine Emba writes in The Washington Post:

On New Year’s Day, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. defended his unwavering support of President Trump with a thoroughly confused reading of the Gospel.
Speaking to The Post, the evangelical leader claimed that it was a distortion of Christ’s teachings to suggest that because He taught love and forgiveness, “the United States as a nation should be loving and forgiving.” According to Falwell’s creative theology, Christ “went out of his way to say that’s the earthly kingdom, I’m about the heavenly kingdom,” and loving your neighbor as yourself only applies to the latter.
The man whose institutional mission includes being “a voice for the voiceless” then meditated on the uselessness of the poor — “A poor person never gave anyone a job. A poor person never gave anybody charity, not of any real volume. It’s just common sense to me.” He then suggested that it might be immoral for Christians not to support Trump.
Even the Son of God might have raised an eyebrow at that.

Junior follows smugly in his father's footsteps, convinced that God is on his side and that he has been saved. I don't claim to know how God thinks. But I suspect that He's almightily pissed off with Junior.

Image: The Washington Post

Saturday, January 05, 2019

It Will Do Him In


Art Cullen is from Iowa. That's Steve King country. And, even though King proudly waves his white nationalist credentials, Trump's war on Mexican migrants isn't playing well there:

In Storm Lake, we have come to understand what our neighbors have been through and appreciate that they are here, buoying a rural community that otherwise would wither with the rest. But the main narrative is that refugees somehow erode what Storm Lake or Iowa is, when in fact they affirm the American immigration story. Just what are we about?
Republicans are embarrassed by King and Trump. We hear talk of the state GOP power apparatus looking to fund a primary challenge to King. They should consult Rick Bertrand of Sioux City, who managed about 35% support in his 2016 primary. And, they should consider that the leader of their party, the president, is in lockstep with King. How can you reject King and wave a banner for Trump?
In the heart of King country, dairy farmers are finding that immigrants are handy help at cleaning time. Their consciences cringe just a little when King slanders Mexican teens. They would like a more orderly system, too. Secretly, they might cast a vote for Scholten. Or they might not vote for King and Trump.

Trump thinks that immigration will pave his way to a second term. But it won't. It will, however, get ugly:

There are many people of good will in Washington working on a solution. There cannot be one until this politics of hate is put down, again, as Americans have put it down before. It will get worse before it gets better. This campaign will be among the worst we have seen because the president has determined it is the best way to keep the nation divided.

But resistance is rising:

The stock market is telling him to back off. The midterm elections told him to back off. People from around the globe resettled in Denison, Storm Lake and Marshalltown, Iowa, are getting along fine cutting meat. They don’t like the uncertainty any more than Wall Street does. We all know that the problem is in Latin American poverty and oppression and our own demand for drugs, and in the fact that nobody wants to scoop manure for $10 an hour any more except for the undocumented. 

But Trump can't read signs. The only sign he recognizes is the image he sees reflected in his mirror.

And, in the end, that reflection will do him in.

Image: Time Magazine

Friday, January 04, 2019

Slavery Is Alive And Well


We like to think that we put an end to slavery one hundred and fifty years ago. But it's alive and well -- all over the world. Crawford Killian writes:

Slavery doesn’t include just forced labour. According to the Global Slavery Index, “modern slavery covers a set of specific legal concepts including forced labour, debt bondage, forced marriage, slavery and slavery-like practices, and human trafficking.”
The Index estimates “An estimated 40.3 million men, women, and children were victims of modern slavery on any given day in 2016. Of these, 24.9 million people were in forced labour and 15.4 million people were living in a forced marriage. Women and girls are vastly over-represented, making up 71 percent of victims.”
And that’s likely an undercount: “The Global Estimates comprised two sub-estimates: an estimate of forced labour and an estimate of forced marriage. The sub-estimate of forced labour was then further broken down into three categories: forced labour in the private economy, forced sexual exploitation, and state-imposed forced labour.” It doesn’t include organ trafficking and child soldiers.

Slavery has changed since the days of the American Civil War. And we have our own version of it here:

We do have slaves. According to the Index, “on any given day in 2016 there were 17,000 people living in conditions of modern slavery in Canada, a prevalence of 0.5 victims for every thousand people in the country.” That includes domestic human trafficking of Canadian citizens, “primarily for the purpose of sexual exploitation.” It also includes seasonal farm workers and foreign caregivers. Forced marriage (with lifelong unpaid labour) is another form of Canadian slavery, with girls and young women the vast majority of cases.

More than that, we benefit from slave labour elsewhere:

We mostly benefit from slave labour through the pipeline supplying cheap goods from slavery-friendly countries. In the great tradition of supporting our sweet tooth with forced labour, we import a quarter-billion U.S. dollars’ worth of sugar cane from Brazil and the Dominican Republic. Slavery in the cocoa-growing countries of Africa is so common, some chocolate bars are marketed as slavery-free.
We also buy over US$4.5 billion worth of clothing produced by slaves from Argentina to China to Vietnam, US$1.5 billion in slave-dug gold from Peru, and almost half a billion dollars’ worth of slave-caught fish from at least eight different countries.

We tout our democratic principles. But those principles are applied selectively -- very selectively.

Image: The Tyee

Thursday, January 03, 2019

A Helluva Year


It looks like 2019 will be the worst year of Donald Trump's life. As Lawrence Martin sees it, there could be six possible outcomes:

We’ll start with his worst, a public hanging. It foresees the Democrats having enough ammunition with the findings of the Robert Mueller probe to launch impeachment proceedings. To succeed, they would need a two-thirds majority in the Senate. That would require about 20 Republicans deserting Mr. Trump. But if his support level, low to begin with, is falling, such a number could well conclude they cannot win with him and join hands with the Democrats to bring him down.
Another is a Trump makeover. New chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who has more political smarts than the outgoing John Kelly, convinces the President that he can’t win by constantly pandering to his narrowing nativist base. Mr. Trump, who has never shown himself capable of pulling in his horns, does so. His number of dumbo eruptions is reduced by half. He gets a deal with China. The economy holds. Mr. Mueller’s findings aren’t crippling. The President nudges up in the polls, positioning himself for a possible triumph in 2020.
A third potential outcome sees an escalation of the current chaos, dysfunction, scandals, and a President as unhinged as ever. But Republicans cower. They see that his fiercely loyal base, although shrinking somewhat, is still with him. They refuse to challenge him. They march with him toward oblivion.
Scenario four is the great schism. The Grand Old Party finds itself so embittered at having become the Trump Party that it splits. Rebels backed by the best minds on the right form a new conservative party. They realize the split will ensure an election of the Democrats but reason that defeat is inevitable anyway.
Upshot number five finds Mr. Trump in a legal nightmare, facing charges for which he is clearly culpable. There is only one escape. He cuts a deal to hand over the presidency to his Vice-President in exchange for a pardon.
A sixth possible denouement may well be the most likely. Mr. Trump’s year unfolds badly. It’s hell on wheels. Disgusted Republicans decide they can’t win with him, but they don’t want to go to such extremes as impeachment.
Instead they mount a different form of mutiny. They mount a strong internal challenge in the primaries. The party flocks to his opponent. A ferocious primary fight ensues. The mad king is toppled.

The first scenario would be the most satisfying denouement. But it's the least likely. The second scenario is truly frightening. I'm betting that Trump will resign.

But that's still a long shot. Whatever happens, it will be a helluva year.

Image: Eric Spitznagel

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

The Election Will Be About The Environment


We're having an election this year. And Leyland Cecco writes in The Guardian that the environment will be -- among all the issues -- front and centre:

When Canadians cast their votes next October, they will do so amid standard electoral issues: jobs, the economy and foreign policy. But in a country largely dependent on resource extraction, a pair of politically fractious additions have risen to the top: carbon taxes and pipelines.

Trudeau's carbon tax kicked in yesterday, and Andrew Scheer echoed Ontario premier Doug Ford's claim that it was "the worst tax ever." Scheer has no plan for the environment. He says it will come later. That should comes as no surprise. Conservative policy and rhetoric has, for decades, been a mixture of cynicism and anger.

But Trudeau is also being attacked from the left:

“The only true test of a climate change plan, after all, is whether carbon is going up or down,” said the NDP leader, Jagmeet Singh, in a statement about his frustrations with the Trans Mountain Pipeline, which runs from Alberta to the British Columbia coast.

So it will be all about how the argument is framed -- and how well Canadians understand the frame:

The tax could end up being particularly appealing from an electoral standpoint, said Nelson Wiseman, a professor of political science at the University of Toronto. All proceeds from the levy will be remitted back to households in the form of a cheque, the first of which will arrive in July – a date Wiseman suspects will be close enough to the election that people will take notice.
But Wiseman, who has studied the country’s elections for generations, cautions: “We’re still a long way off. And things can change on a dime in politics.”

We live in interesting times.

Image: The Toronto Star

Monday, December 31, 2018

Thinking Of Our Children and Grandchildren


David Leonhardt writes, in  this morning's New York Times, that the number one story of the year has been climate change. It's been a year where the evidence of climate change has been everywhere:

I’ll start with the alarming parts of the story. The past year is on pace to be the earth’s fourth warmest on record, and the five warmest years have all occurred since 2010. This warming is now starting to cause a lot of damage.
In 2018, heat waves killed people in Montreal, Karachi, Tokyo and elsewhere. Extreme rain battered North Carolina and the Indian state of Kerala. The Horn of Africa suffered from drought. Large swaths of the American West burned. When I was in Portland, Ore., this summer, the air quality — from nearby wildfires — was among the worst in the world. It would have been healthier to be breathing outdoors in Beijing or Mumbai.

Yet most of our politicians are dinosaurs:

Amid all of this destruction, Trump’s climate agenda consists of making the problem worse. His administration is filled with former corporate lobbyists, and they have been changing federal policy to make it easier for companies to pollute. These officials like to talk about free enterprise and scientific uncertainty, but their real motive is usually money. Sometimes, they don’t even wait to return to industry jobs. Both Scott Pruitt and Ryan Zinke, two now-departed pro-pollution cabinet secretaries, engaged in on-the-job corruption.

During the recent Ontario election, California governor Jerry Brown came to the province to plead with its citizens not to ditch the cap and trade program which had been built by his state, Ontario and Quebec. Newly elected premier Doug Ford immediately killed the arrangement when he came to power. For the most part, those who govern us are wilfully ignorant. They focus on here and now. Future generations are, at best, a twinkle in someone's eye.

It's the young who will condemn us:

Deep down, do you really believe that future generations of your own family will be immune from climate change’s damage? Or have you chosen not to think very much about them?

We should be thinking of our children and grandchildren tonight.

Happy New Year.

Image: Tunis Daily News


Sunday, December 30, 2018

Roubini On Trump



I'm one of those people who pay attention to what Nouriel Roubini writes. He predicted the 2008 meltdown long before it happened. And, these days, he's not happy with what he sees:

Mr. Trump is now the Dr. Strangelove of financial markets. Like the paranoid madman in Stanley Kubrick’s classic film, he is flirting with mutually assured economic destruction. Now that markets see the danger, the risk of a financial crisis and global recession has grown.

As always, his evidence is exhaustive. But he particularly focuses on what Trump has done in the last three months:

More than anything else, though, the sharp fall in U.S. and global equities during the past quarter is a response to Mr. Trump’s own utterances and actions. Even worse than the heightened risk of a full-scale trade war with China (despite the recent “truce” agreed with Chinese President Xi Jinping) are Mr. Trump’s public attacks on the Fed, which began as early as the spring of 2018, when the U.S. economy was growing at more than 4 per cent.
As matters stand, the risk of a full-scale geopolitical conflagration with China cannot be ruled out. A new cold war would effectively lead to deglobalization, disrupting supply chains everywhere, but particularly in the tech sector, as the recent ZTE and Huawei cases signal. At the same time, Mr. Trump seems to be hell-bent on undermining the cohesion of the European Union and NATO at a time when Europe is economically and politically fragile. And special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Mr. Trump’s 2016 election campaign’s ties to Russia hangs like a Sword of Damocles over his presidency.

There were some who foolishly took comfort in the fact that there were adults in Trump's Oval Office. But anyone who knows anything about Trump's rakish career knows that he fiercely rejects adult supervision:

For one thing, until now, investors had bought into the argument that Mr. Trump is all bark and no bite. They were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt as long as he pursued tax cuts, deregulation and other policies beneficial to the corporate sector and shareholders. And many trusted that, at the end of the day, the “adults in the room” would restrain Mr. Trump and ensure that the U.S. administration’s policies didn’t jump the guardrails of orthodoxy.
But things changed radically in 2018, especially in the past few months. Despite corporate earnings growing by more than 20 per cent (thanks to the tax cuts), U.S. equity markets moved sideways for most of the year, and have now taken a sharp turn south. At this point, broad indices are in correction territory (meaning a 10-per-cent drop from the recent peak), and indices of tech stocks, such as the Nasdaq, are in bear-market territory (a drop of 20 per cent or more).

The baby has overturned his bassinet. It's going to be quite a new year.

Image: NJ.com