Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Quebec Goes Its Own Way

If Andrew Scheer was planning on making inroads in Quebec, Chantal Hebert writes, his opposition to a carbon tax has doomed his efforts:

In Quebec, the anti-carbon pricing platform Scheer has been spending the fall shoring up is dead on arrival both in the National Assembly and on the ground.
As for his commitment to the Energy East pipeline — a project designed to transport oil from the Prairies through Ontario and Quebec to the Atlantic Coast — it amounts to a target on the back of his candidates as well as an incentive for Quebec’s premier to keep at a safe distance from the federal Conservatives.

The passion which used to be spent on Quebec sovereignty is now finding voice in environmental activism:

Tens of thousands of Quebecers took to the streets this weekend to call for more decisive action on climate change. In Montreal alone, 50,000 took part in the demonstration.
In the short space of a week, more than 150,000 signed a pledge that commits them to reduce their carbon footprints but also demands more proactive leadership on the issue from governments.

Newly elected premier Francois Legault has taken note and intends to ride the wave:

Among the right-of-centre premiers and leaders who have emerged since Justin Trudeau became prime minister, Premier Fran├žois Legault already stands alone in support of the federal climate-change framework. The Quebec cap-and-trade system put in place under previous governments is there to stay.

Quebec has always gone its own way. And, on the issue of the carbon tax, it will do so again.

Image: The McGill Tribune

Monday, November 12, 2018

Trumpian Contempt

The President of the United States likes to trumpet his support for the military. But this past weekend, Max Boot writes, Trump showed his contempt for the military:

On Saturday afternoon, the president was scheduled to attend a ceremony at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, where 2,289 U.S. soldiers are buried — a small part of the 116,000 Americans who gave the last full measure of devotion during World War I. It was the sort of solemn occasion that U.S. presidents have considered an integral part of their duty at least since the Gettysburg Address. But Trump couldn’t be bothered.
The White House explained that bad weather grounded the helicopters that Trump and his entourage were planning to take. Yet somehow bad weather did not prevent French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel or Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from attending outdoor ceremonies commemorating the end of World War I that afternoon. Somehow bad weather did not stop Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and retired general John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, from attending the very ceremony that Trump could not make.

But he loves to turn his country's soldiers into political props:

Trump shows what he really thinks of the troops by using them as political props. He deployed 5,600 troops just before the midterm elections to guard against the supposed threat posed by a few thousand unarmed refugees hundreds of miles from the U.S. border. He even suggested that the troops should commit the war crime of opening fire on migrants who threw rocks.
The Pentagon grandly dubbed this Operation Faithful Patriot and circulated pictures of troops in full “battle rattle” stringing barbed wire, only to quietly drop the ludicrous moniker amid Election Day. Conveniently enough, Trump and his friends at Fox essentially stopped speaking about the caravan once the votes were cast. But, as the New York Times reports, the troops are still in the field, without electricity or hot meals — or a mission. They will likely spend Thanksgiving away from their families.

This is a man who worked overtime to stay out of Vietnam. So, Boot writes, when Trump says he  is pro-military, don't believe him:

He has no understanding of what soldiers do or the honor code by which they live. His idea of military service is marching in a parade — and he is peeved he couldn’t have one in Washington this Veterans Day. Through his words and deeds, the commander in chief shows his contempt for the men and women in uniform.

Contempt is the operative word. Trump has plenty of it -- for everyone and everything that isn't labelled Trump.

Image: Medium.com

Sunday, November 11, 2018

On This Remembrance Day

Today marks the one hundredth anniversary of the end of The Great War. It was supposed to be the war to end all wars. And it's true that, since 1945, there have been no world wars. But there have been plenty of proxy wars -- in Korea, in Vietnam and in Afghanistan -- the longest war of the modern era.

The Great War was supposed to Make The World Safe For Democracy. And today democracy is threatened around the world.

So, what are we to make of today? Some might say that we've made precious little progress. And, on my darker days, I'm inclined to agree. Perhaps we've just been lucky. My father -- a veteran of World War II -- used to say that he survived because of "pure dumb luck."

In many ways, the history of war is a chronicle of pure stupidity. But it's worth remembering that the United Nations was founded as an antidote to war. And, despite its failures, it still tries to rein in our darker angels.

Something to think about on this Remembrance Day.

Image: Filipino Caregiver

Saturday, November 10, 2018


Tom Walkom writes that Donald Trump is desperate to leave his mark:

He wants to be remembered as more than just a crude blowhard with funny hair. All presidents want to leave a legacy. But Trump’s need for acceptance and praise is so achingly obvious as to be almost pitiable.
He is desperate to make a mark. If a hung Congress means he can’t do it the usual way, he will find another.

So if he can't work with Congress, what could he do?  Walkom suggests a couple of strategies:

Expect Trump to focus more on matters over which Congress exercises little control, such as foreign and military affairs.
The president is already saber-rattling against Iran. He has unilaterally pulled out of the nuclear accord with that country and is warning of dire consequences should Iran fail to accede to American demands.
He has also sent U.S. troops to the Mexican border to thwart would-be illegal immigrants from Latin America. As commander-in-chief of the U.S. armed forces, he could make that deployment permanent.
Conversely, he is talking nice to North Korea and has not ruled out inking some kind of peace accord with its leader, Kim Jong Un.
Will he take the even bolder move of negotiating a peace deal with Afghanistan’s Taliban, thus putting an end to America’s longest war? Don’t dismiss the possibility out of hand. The U.S. has been quietly trying to make peace with the Taliban since Barack Obama’s presidency. Trump’s overwhelming vanity might be enough to push this effort to a successful completion.

And then there are those executive orders:

The other broad power a president enjoys is the ability to issue executive orders — legally binding edicts that do not require Congressional approval. Obama made use of this power to bypass a Republican-controlled Congress and impose pollution requirements on the use of coal.
Look for Trump to try something similar in areas that concern him. He has already mused about issuing an executive order that would deny the automatic right of citizenship to any person born in the U.S.
Such a move would be immediately challenged as unconstitutional. But that wouldn’t necessarily prevent Trump from trying it anyway.

Trump knows that Mueller and the Democrats are coming to get him. As his desperation grows, any number of things could happen.

Image: The Washington Post

Friday, November 09, 2018

Tony's Travails

Social Conservatives have a problem with the member from Parry Sound-Muskoka. They thought he was -- sort of -- on their side. Martin Patriquin writes:

Never a diehard social conservative, Clement happily aligned himself with the movement when it suited his purposes. Notably, he voted for a 2006 motion to reopen the debate on same-sex marriage, even though the principle had been ensconced in law for a year and a half at that point.
The motion, born to fail, ultimately failed, thereby allowing Stephen Harper to appear to defend “traditional” marriage without actually defending it. And Clement was a willing participant in this cynical game — just as he hedged his bets on abortion by describing himself “a six or a seven out of 10” when it comes to a woman’s right to end her pregnancy. As Christian newspaper The Interim put it in 2004, “He will go only as far right as he thinks he needs to in order to get the votes of social conservatives, but not an inch further.”
He has often cleaved to social conservatives throughout his career. Campaign Life Coalition (CLC), one of the more prominent social-conservative organizations in the country, lists 22 pieces of legislation “relating to life and family issues.” Clement has endorsed CLC positions for 15 of them, including voting against euthanasia, marijuana legislation, and a 2012 bill that would have made it illegal to discriminate against the transgendered. (He did support a similar bill in 2016, thus angering the CLC.)
Arguably his biggest gift to social conservatives was his decision, as health minister in 2008, to come out against safe-injection sites like Vancouver’s Insite. The life-saving attributes of these sites are indisputable. Since its inception in 2003, Insite intervened in over 6,000 overdoses.
Safe-injection sites are endorsed by the majority of the country’s physicians, as well as the World Health Organization. Clement called Insite an “abomination” and refused to renew the exemption the organization required to allow illicit drugs on its premises.

We are all less than paragons of virtue.  And we all get in trouble when we pose as paragons of virtue. Clement is in a very uncomfortable place. It would be uncomfortable regardless. But his alliance with social conservatives seems particularly hypocritical.

There is a lesson here for all of us. But those who make an issue of their virtue should take note.

Image: VOCM

Thursday, November 08, 2018

How They Do It

Donald Trump thinks he won the midterm elections. He completely ignores the results in the House of Representatives and focuses on the Senate. But the number of votes for Senate seats tells a different story. Sabrina Siddiqui writes in The Guardian:

Among the most eye-catching was a statistic showing Democrats led Republicans by more than 12 million votes in Senate races, and yet still suffered losses on the night and failed to win a majority of seats in the chamber.
Constitutional experts said the discrepancy between votes cast and seats won was the result of misplaced ire that ignored the Senate electoral process. But some expressed frustration with a system they suggested gives an advantage to conservative-leaning states.
The real concerns for Democrats, they said, could be found in a combination of gerrymandering and voter suppression tactics that might have prevented them from winning an even larger majority in the House and some key statewide elections.
“The rise of minority rule in America is now unmistakable,” said Laurence Tribe, a constitutional law professor at Harvard University.
“Especially with a sitting president who won a majority in the electoral college [in 2016] while receiving roughly 3m fewer votes than his opponent, and a supreme court five of whose nine justices were nominated by Republican presidents who collectively received fewer popular votes than their Democratic opponents and were confirmed by Senates similarly skewed.”

Voter suppression is an old story in the United States. For decades, in the Old Confederacy, poll taxes and literacy tests kept black people from voting. If those strategies failed, the Klan hauled Negroes out of their shanties, strung them up, and burnt those houses to the ground.

They've come up with new strategies. In Georgia, the Republican candidate for governor is also the Secretary of State, which means that he is also the referee. He has taken ten of thousands of Georgians off the rolls. 70% of them are black.

 The future is reflected in the results in the House of Representatives. The future is women, people of colour, Native Americans, LBGTQ members. They're not Republicans -- who are dinosaurs. But they are the majority.

They are the Big Bang -- which will eventually lead to the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Image: Pinterest

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

The Morning After

Every day in the United States, millions of children place their hands over their hearts and pledge themselves to "one nation, under God, indivisible. . ." Yesterday confirmed the notion that the United States is now two nations -- and divisible is the operative adjective. The next two years are going to be very raucous south of the border. Still, the Democrats took back the House of Representatives. Frank Bruni writes:

I’ll take it, and I’ll let others quibble over whether it amounts to a big wave, a modest one or a slosh of something wet and reassuring. It’s enough for the time being, even if doesn’t make me feel as good about America as I’d like to or as sure about the future as I yearn to.
It won’t humble Trump as thoroughly as he needs humbling. He’ll dwell on the Republicans’ success in the Senate, where they built on their majority. He’ll brag that he concentrated his own campaign-trail energy on that chamber of Congress and on those races, and he’ll be right. He’ll note — or others in his party will — that Democrats didn’t fare as well in these midterms as Republicans did two years into Barack Obama’s presidency, when they picked up 63 House seats. Now that’s a tsunami.
Trump needed a comeuppance, and the decisive swing of the House into the Democratic column was precisely that. You know what else was? The profiles of the Democrats who made that swing happen.
Many of the candidates for the House who turned red seats blue were women. A record number of them ran for Congress this year, and it seemed likely early Wednesday morning, even before all the counting of ballots was done, that the next Congress would also contain a record number of them: more than the 107 currently there. So a president who has acted and spoken with such vulgar disregard for women will deal with more female lawmakers than any of his predecessors did. That’s a measure of sweet justice.

There were plenty of disappointments. The black candidates for governor in Georgia and Florida were defeated. But there are now Democratic govenors in formerly Republican states. Electoral districts will be withdrawn and the Republican effort to disenfranchise voters will be slowed.

But make no mistake. The Republican Party -- now the newly confirmed Trumpian Party -- is dangerous and deadly. Things will not change in the United States until the Trumpians are reduced to an ineffective frat house.

Image: Time Magazine